Sunday, 10 January 2010
In Japan, Chinese cuisine has been coexisting side by side with the Japanese counterpart. I know that they’re eaten around the globe, but our culinary relationship is a lot closer.
The number of Chinese restaurants is beyond your imagination just in Tokyo. (Most are Cantonese while Mandarin and Szechwan are minor.) They come in many ranges from swanky dinings situated in shopping precincts, through cheap chains such as “Bamiyan” and “Hidaka-ya” to local eateries run by Chinese descendants. Delis and food floors don’t exist without selling assorted Chinese savouries.
Chinese meals which have been long favoured by Japanese are diverse too, including "酢豚" (sweet sour pork), "麻婆豆腐" (mabo tofu), "乾焼明蝦" (bean curd Szechwan) and "青椒肉絲" (pepper steak). These recipes are modified to be less spicy (and less anisey) so as to cook easily in Japanese household as well as adapt for our palate. It’s no surprise to find that they are served together with Japanese dishes on a daily table.
“Chuka-fu (Chinese-style) salad” is also one of popular recipes in Japan. My twist here is more japanised, as light in taste as possible.
CHUKA-FU VINEGARED NOODLE SALAD
* Serves 4
50g dried “green bean” vermicelli noodle (better use neither “potato” nor “rice” vermicellies, which are out of al dente when boiled)
70g carrot, thinly shredded
100g cucumber, thinly sliced
2 “fresh” shiitake mushrooms, thinly sliced
1 tbsp chopped spring onion (as an alternative of Japanese “banno-negi”)
1 slice of hum, thinly shredded (unless you’re veggy)
2 tbsp soy sauce
1&1/2 tbsp rice vinegar
1/2-1 tbsp lemon juice
1 tsp sugar
1 tsp sesame oil
1 dried red chilli, deseeded and chopped
Small handful of coriander leaves
1. In two small bowls, place the carrot and cucumber respectively. Toss with a pinch of salt each, leave them until softened (approx. 10 min.) and drain under cold running water. In the meantime, parboil the shiitake mushroom for 10 seconds. Remove excess water from each vegetable with kitchen paper. Set aside.
2. Cook the vermicelli in a pan of boiling water for 3-5 minutes (or follow the instruction of your vermicelli) until just about tender. Drain and refresh under cold running water, cut in proper length and wipe up water with kitchen paper.
3. Combine all the ingredients of the dressing in a large bowl. Add the carrot, cucumber, shiitake, hum, spring onion and vermicelli, and mix together with the dressing.
4. Leave them for 15 minutes so that the vermicelli and other ingredients can absolve all the flavour.
5. Garnish with the coriander leaves and serve.
1. I recommend a mandoline to cut the carrot and cucumber. It gives the visual beauty to your dish, but, be careful of your finger!
2. In case your cucumber is too watery, scoop out the seedy part with a teaspoon.
3. You can also use wood-ear mushroom (dried or fresh) as an extra veg. The texture is really interesting!
4. If you prefer more Szechuan or powerful flavour, add a bit of garlic, Chinese chilli oil and huajiao (Szechuan pepper). Plus, try Chinese black vinegar in place of rice vinegar.
Being in tourist mode, I may visit “Chuka-gai” (Chinatown) in Yokohama. The one-hour train trip from Tokyo offers an opportunity to enjoy authentic dim sum, porridge or tea. Exotica! It however doesn’t really happen because there’re already enough food spots before reaching there...