Moving to Japan and living on my own hasn't made me a better cook. Luckily, though, I have a high tolerance for repetition and very simple tastes, so I am able to keep myself reasonably well (and healthily) fed without having to eat out or buy ready made meals (microwaveable or supermarket bentos) every night.
If, like me you're not much of a cook but would like to save some money by cooking your own meals, here is a super easy and cheap recipe. Believe me, if I can make these dishes without any difficulty, anyone can!
- eggplant (350g - approx 1 1/2 - 2 regular sized ones)
- green peppers (40g - approx 2 small ones)
- carrot (50g - half a small sized one, or 1/4 of a medium sized one)
- ground pork (100g)
- cooking oil
- mabou eggplant sauce
Cooking time: ~20min
1. Heat oil in a large frying pan.
2. Stir fry eggplant until slightly brown over medium heat.
3.Reduce heat slightly and add carrots and green pepper. (Apparently reducing the heat helps to keep/make the eggplant juicy?!) Cook for a couple of minutes--until carrots/green peppers are slightly softened.
4. Put vegetables aside in a bowl. Cook the ground pork in the frying pan.
5. When the pork is cooked, add the sauce and vegetables.
6. Keep cooking (stirring frequently) until everything reaches your desired texture/consistency.
7. Serve over rice.
Usually the one dish can last me 3-4 days. This time, though, I only wanted it to last 2 days (since I knew I'd be eating out on the weekend) so I used one eggplant instead of the usual 1 1/2-2.
If you'd like, you can substitute fairly firm tofu (cut into largish cubes) for the ground pork. Instead of removing the vegetables (step 5), just add the sauce and add the tofu last. You don't want to cook it for too long once you've put in the tofu because it (the tofu) will start to disintegrate (also the reason you want to cut it into largish cubes rather than small ones). I did this (used tofu instead of ground pork) a lot before I learned which grocery store(s) (in Towada, Powers U) carry small portions of meat at good prices.
eggplant ~70 yen
carrot ~50 yen
green peppers ~50 yen
ground pork ~80 yen
mabou eggplant sauce ~150 yen
TOTAL: ~400 yen
[Edit: If you can't find/don't want to use packaged sauce, here's a recipe to make it from scratch: http://japanesefood.about.com/od/vegetable/r/mabonasu.htm]