In Japan, we have a vegetable called Goya (also called Bitter Gourd or Bitter melon) that we use in various dishes, starting from stir-fries to super-healthy salads. You might be wondering why I am talking about a bitter vegetable in a coffee blog, and I will tell you why. Several days ago, I was going through one of those days that I was craving a bitter Japanese dish to rekindle the taste of home in my kitchen. However, it turned out that it was not so easy to get hold of a good-quality fresh bitter gourd right away, and I started to brainstorm for an alternative. Then, after about half an hour of rummaging through the cupboards and my memory, I had the biggest Eureka moment – Coffee!
Once I started cooking with coffee, there was no turning back. The first dish I made with coffee turned out so well and delicious that what I considered a substitute for a vegetable turned out to be one of the best cooking ingredients that I have been missing out on! So, I researched, improvised, and experimented with using different kinds of coffee in the kitchen. In the end, I came up with a list of some of the most fantastic savory Japanese recipes to make with coffee. I hope you enjoy making the dishes as much as I did using your favorite coffee.
Why cook with coffee?
I think the bitter taste is one of the most under-rated tastes in cuisine; when incorporated at the correct level, it can elevate even the humblest ingredients to the level of sophistication and add tons of depth to the overall flavor of a dish. It is straightforward to control the level of bitterness you want to add to the dish with coffee. So it is perfect even for beginners to create something unique and delicious using bitter taste and flavors.
Another great advantage of using coffee in cooking that I have discovered is that it adds gorgeous color to the finished dish – it is really like the cherry on top. Coffee’s natural deep brown color makes the food more visually appetizing. Imagine the color of grilled meat or toasted bread – the golden-brown tint adds a nice finishing touch to how the dish looks, making your mouth water even before you take the first bite of your coffee dish.
Although the name of the recipe is Salad chicken, it actually does not contain any vegetables. Japanese Salad Chicken is a very healthy recipe made with chicken breast meat. It is low in calories, easy to make, and is mess-free. Using coffee in this recipe adds a nice brown tint to the outer layer of the chicken meat and deepens its taste and flavor. Try this recipe with Sumiyaki charcoal roasted coffee to add a nice smoky flavor to the meat if you want the best results.
- Chicken breast fillet 300g
- Chicken stock 1 Tsp/ half a cube
- Sugar ½ Tsp
- Salt ¼ Tsp
- Sake/Rice wine (can be substituted with mirin) 1 Tbsp
- Instant coffee 1 Tbsp
- Remove the skin from the meat and tenderize the meat by poking holes all over using a fork.
- In a Zip-lock bag, add all the ingredients and the chicken meat, close the seal, and massage nicely from outside so that all the ingredients are mixed and the meat is marinated in the mixture.
- When closing the Zip-lock bag, try to remove as much air as possible, then leave it to marinate in the fridge overnight.
- Boil water in a large pot; when the water is boiling, add the chicken while still in the bag, and simmer for 3 minutes.
- Cover the pot with a lid, turn off the heat, and let it stand for 30-40 minutes.
- When it cools down, take it out, and slice the meat like ham, and serve.
- You can even shred the meat or cut them into cubes and add to your salad as toppings or use them in your sandwiches.
Coffee Gyoza – Japanese dumplings with a hint of coffee
Crispy on the outside, meaty and packed full of flavors on the inside, Japanese gyoza dumplings are a real treat for your taste buds. Here we added coffee to the meat filling inside, and my oh my! If not for this recipe, I would have never known that soy sauce, meat, and coffee could go so well together. The slight bitterness of the coffee balances the oil and fats, and before I knew it, I had finished eating a whole batch of dumplings by myself!
- Minced pork 150g
- Soy sauce 1 Tbsp
- Chicken stock 1 Tbsp
- Instant coffee 2 Tbsp
- ½ of a long leek (chopped)
- Sesame oil 1 Tsp
- Salt to taste
- Gyoza wrappers 24 sheets
For topping (If you have)
- Fresh coriander leaves
- Red bell pepper
- Combine minced pork meat, soy sauce, chicken stock powder, and instant coffee powder and knead well until everything is mixed well together.
- Add leek, sesame oil, and salt. Then knead everything well again.
- Wrap a spoonful of the filling in Gyoza wrappers. It can be tricky to get the hang of folding the gyoza wrappers, but once you have become familiar with it, you can do it while having a friendly chat with your friends and family members.
- In a frying pan, heat some frying oil to 180°C and then fry the dumplings.
- This is optional but if you have, fry some bell peppers and then add on top of the dumplings and garnish with coriander.
- To make the dipping sauce, mix some chili or sesame oil, soy sauce, and vinegar.
Coffee Croquettes – Deep-fried yet healthy, guaranteed to impress your guests
The word croquette might make you think it is a complicated French culinary technique; however, it is a pretty simple recipe that is widely popular in Japan both at home and in restaurants. Usually, Japanese croquette is made using potatoes, but in our version, we will use Okara (soy pulp) and sweet potatoes instead to make it diet-friendly. In addition, the slight bitterness of coffee creates a delicious balance when combined with sweet potatoes.
- Okara 150g (Okara is soy pulp, and if you can not find this, you can substitute with mashed tofu)
- Instant Coffee
- Butter 15g
- One medium-sized yellow onion (chopped)
- Salt and pepper to taste
- Sweet potatoes 400g (peeled, boiled, then mashed)
- Minced meat (pork/beef/mixed) 200g
- Flour as needed
- 3 Eggs
- Frying Oil
- Put Okara (soy pulp), 2Tbsp instant coffee, chopped onions, and butter in a frying pan and fry until the Okara is fluffy, dry, and toasty.
- Heat the butter on a frying pan and then fry the onions until they are golden brown. Then add the Okara mixture to it.
- Take this mixture into a bowl and when it has slightly cooled down, add the mashed sweet potatoes. Mix well and add eggs until the mixture reaches your desired consistency.
- Make 12 round balls using this mixture.
- Apply flour and then eggs to the balls and fry them.
Coffee Okonomiyaki – Japanese style savory pancake with coffee
Okonomiyaki is a Japanese street food classic. Served piping hot, it is saucy, full of different textures, and packed with flavors. Okonomiyaki is also a perfect way for using up all the left-over vegetables in your fridge that are too good to be thrown away. Adding coffee to the okonomiyaki was a massive success as it adds layers of flavors to the batter and takes this popular Japanese comfort food to a whole new level.
- All-purpose flour 200g
- Water 150ml
- Salt to taste
- Instant coffee 1 Tbsp
- Oil appropriate amount for frying
- Cabbage (1/4th of cabbage thinly sliced)
- Thinly sliced pork belly 200g
- Two eggs
- Toppings – Sauces (anything you like mayonnaise, ketchup, soy sauce, okonomiyaki sauce, etc.), powdered dry seaweed, bonito flakes, etc.
- Mix the flour, water, salt, and coffee in a big bowl.
- Add the cabbage and mix lightly.
- Heat oil on a frying pan and then add the okonomiyaki batter to the pan.
- Add the pork belly and the eggs (lightly whisked).
- Fry until the cabbages are slightly cooked, and the batter starts to become fluffy.
- Flip the okonomiyaki and fry the other side.
- Add your favorite toppings and sauces and serve!
These were some of the best savory Japanese recipes you can make at home using coffee. Savory coffee recipes are also a genius way to use up coffee that might have been sitting on the shelf for a long time. When mixed with other cooking ingredients, even old coffee that might not have brewed a nice cup on its own can help you to create a delicious dish.
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- Kei and Team at Japanese Coffee Co.