(Spaghetti Neapolitan, Hamburg Steak with Demiglace Sauce, Ebi Fry with Nanban Tartare Sauce, Tomato Cha-han, Salad with Yuzu Dressing)
I made this lunch.
Today it'a Anzac Day in Australia (It's a public holiday) so I have all the time in the world to make elaborate and fanciful lunch for myself. Making this one was actually pretty tedious, because while it looks like one dish, you're actually cooking 5 separate dishes.
"A-Lunch" (A-ランチ) is actually a very popular lunch set in Japanese European-style bistro / cafe. Usually, office workers who are out for lunch will order this type of lunch set on cafes in Tokyo. Aside from A-Lunch, there's also B-Lunch (usually consist of just the Hamburg Steak and Pasta) and C-Lunch (usually Omu-rice and Salad). Anyway, A-Lunch is as luxurious and as expensive as it gets when it comes to common lunch item for working-class Japanese salaryman / Office Ladies (Usually around 1000 - 1200 yen)
I first had A-lunch in a Japanese European-style bistro at the basement of Mitsukoshi Hong Kong (Causeway Bay) in 2002, and immediately fell in love with it. A-lunch is also served with a bowl of gohan (Japanese rice) but it's optional. Sadly, that small bistro now closed down because Mitsukoshi HK is currently undergoing a major renovation (and closed until 2008 or something). I just hope the bistro will still be there when Mistukoshi re-opens.
There's no definite recipe for A-lunch, everything is basically common-sense. That is, if you have ample experiences in cooking Japanese cuisine.
- The Spaghetti Neapolitan is probably the easiest - I just use a ready-made Japanese tomato paste and a neapolitan herb mix
- The Hamburg is a little bit tricky - the Japanese always use 1/2 beef mince and 1/2 pork mince for this. This then is mixed with caramelized onion mince, 'panko' (bread crumbs), ground nutmeg, salt, pepper, and worchestershire sauce. But the trick is, (and this is an age-old Japanese secret in making delicious hamburg) to force as much air as possible when moulding the hamburg balls by forcefully throwing the meat balls from one hand to another until the balls are solid and firm. Then it should be fried using butter and basted every now and then.
- The Ebi fry is also tricky. You need experience to make the shelled-prawns nice and straight, by making incisions in correct places. Then, they should be dipped in 'katakuriko' (potato starch), beaten egg, and 'panko' in that order. Afterwards, deep-fry.
- The Tomato cha-han is a breeze. Just fry the 'gohan' with worchestershire sauce, tomato ketchup, and chopped parsley.
- I used 'yuzu' (citrus) dressing for the salad because any other dressings and the balance of the flavour would be compromised. The salad should be fresh and light because there's so much other flavours on this dish. The tangy accent of yuzu dressing also complements well with the rest of the food.
- Demiglace sauce is a very, VERY difficult and extremely troublesome sauce to make. So, just stick to the ready-made Japanese-style Demiglace sauce (hopefully) available on your nearest Japanese supermarkets. You shouldn't substitute demiglace with ANYTHING because this sauce is the most important part of the dish. Seriously.
- The Tartare nanban sauce is a cross between Japanese and European style. But the thing is, DO NOT use ready-made tartare sauce, because this sauce is actually eaten in large quantities and if you use the ready-made (persumably non-japanese) tartare sauce, it would be too overpowering and strong. The correct way to make tartare-nanban sauce (my own version) is:
Combine japanese mayonnaise, finely-chopped gherkins / pickles, finely chopped 'naga-negi' (spring onion), and mashed hard-boiled egg. I also tend to put creme fraiche (or sour cream if it's more readily available) just to lighten the sauce a bit. This sauce should turn up very, very thick (somewhat of an egg salad consistency).