Thursday, 25 March 2010

winter, unwelcome back!


The Met Office finally announced the blossoming of Sakura (cherry) trees at Central Tokyo on 23 March. However... winter is back! The temperature is around 4˚C this afternoon and expected lowered as deepens into night. No more blues, pleeaaasee!!

My brain and tongue accordingly demand an autumnal or winter recipe to cook lots of mushrooms rich in flavour. And I’m a bit proud of Japanese “slurping-up” culture when eating this noodle dish, along with g-l-o-o-p-y, s-l-o-p-p-y and s-l-i-m-y YAM.

“Love it or hate it?” Well, don’t ask Marmite, but you.. decide.

YAM AND MUSHROOM UDON

* Serves 3
200g udon noodles
100-150g yamaimo yam, grated (should be available in a Japanese grocery)

Sauce:
30g shiitake mushrooms, finely sliced
30g oyster mushrooms, broken up
30g shimeji mushrooms, broken up
30g enoki mushrooms, broken up and cut in half lengthwise
200ml water
1/4 cup soy sauce
1&1/2 tbsp mirin (sweetened sake used for Japanese cooking)
1 tsp sugar
2/3 tsp dashi-no-moto (an instant powder to enable Japanese fish broth. Buy one like this “Hon-Dashi” at a Japanese grocery)

Garnish:
Spring onion, finely chopped (as an alternative of Japanese “banno-negi”)
Myoga ginger, finely sliced (if available)

1. To boil the noodles, bring a deep pan of water (unsalted!) to the boil. Add the noodles and cook until just tender according to the packet instructions. Drain, refresh under cold running water and set aside.

2. To make the sauce, add water, soy, mirin, sugar and dashi-no-moto in a sauce pan. Heat until boiling, then add all the mushrooms and simmer for a couple of minutes. If you find the sauce is too salty at this stage, that’s perfect to go with the noodles which hold its silky pureness.

3. Divide the noodles between three bowls, top with the grated yamaimo and spoon over the sauce with the mushrooms.

4. To serve, sprinkle with the spring onion and myoga. This is not a “soup” noodle filled with a plenty of broth. Simply enjoy the noodles together with some spoonfuls of the sauce.

Tips:
1. Any kind of udon, thick or thin, will do. Soba buckwheat noodles are fine too.
2. For more detail on “yamaimo”, pls refer to my previous blog here.
3. If you can’t get hold of the fresh mushrooms listed above, try some Asian varieties. Button mushrooms are ok, but NO Italian porcini as it’s too sumptuous in flavour.
4. Though you can eat this dish hot or cold, be noted to spoon over the sauce immoderately before serving. Otherwise, the noodle will get oversoftened, losing al dente.


FYI, “Myoga” is a pinky flower bud belonging to the ginger family, yet, it has more distinctive fragrance than the ginger root or even coriander. In Japan, sliced fresh myoga is used as a popular garnish for soups and noodles.

Friday, 12 March 2010

sunday feast review


Nearly one month has gone since my last post. Apart from a couple of sunny days, it’s been cloudy, rainy and snowy in Tokyo. This is kinda typical weather in February and March, so we need a bit more time and patience to welcome the gloriously blossom season.

In the meantime, we had guests for Sunday dinner. Well, the cooking fuss of everyday is a nightmare, but spending almost half day in the kitchen with Mum once a month or so is a comfortable activity indeed. I also enjoy the heartwarming smell and familial conversation against cold raindrops outside. Dinner-making and feeding are, more importantly, our tangible hospitality to dearies.

There’s no category such as amuse-bouche, starter or main here, and no soup. Just go buffet! All the dishes (but puds) are served up together so that the relaxing mood can’t be cut off at the table. Have a closer look before my short memory has faded away...


SAVOURY

- Yamaimo nuggets with karashi-mentaiko (pollack roe marinated with red chilli)
It’s ridiculously easy to cook, yet must be served hot. Pls refer to the basic recipe although this time I encased a pinch of the spicy roe originated in South Japan.


- Veg batons with kaki-joyu (oyster soy) mayo dip
Fancy a subtle sea breeze in a warm room? A few drops of this oyster-flavoured soy sauce works to upgrade high-street mayonnaise, and the outcome accompanies any sort of vegetables, fresh or boiled. On a tip from a Japanese lady cook, Miyako Wakabayashi.

- Velvety mashed potato salad with egg-yolk in guise of mimosa blossoms
... As it is.

- Petit vail goma-ae (mixed with sesame seeds)
"Goma-ae" is a classic Japanese dish to mix greens with half-ground sesame seeds, soy and sugar. (See the above large photo) This time, we used “petit vail”, which is a recent variety of vegetable in Japan. The crunchy, sweet texture is just beautiful.. unlike its father, Brussels sprouts!


- Turnip and smoked salmon salad with yuzu-kosho dressing
Being basically a local condiment of South Japan, “yuzu-kosho” is widely available throughout Japanese island these days. It’s a ripened paste mixed with green chilli, green yuzu citrus and lots of salt, thus, very hot and salty. The usage as a condiment is versatile, from yakitori and nabemono (hotpot) even to pasta. And adding a small amount of yuzu-kosho to French vinaigrette provides a prompt oriental kick.

- Simmered chicken with gobo (burdock) root
Mum has noted this recipe from a TV cookery show presented by Yoshihiro Murata of a Michelin-stared Japanese high-end restaurant, “Kikunoi”. The soy-oriented seasoning is rather homely. Good.

- Marinated gyu-sashi (seared beef)
If good quality of Japanese beef fillet is chosen, “gyu-sashi” is a straightforward festive dish. I’m sure meaties must fall in love with the meltingly tender and succulent slices. The process of marinating with soy, mirin (sweetened sake) and dashi (fish broth) gives an extra depth of flavour on your tongue. Worth a try.

- Spicy pork spareribs
I find soy is a good friend with garam masala. Uncomplicated to cook again as the recipe is not only pan-fried, but marinade-free, plus, tastes wonderful.

- Tonkatsu (deep-fried breaded pork) sushi rolls
Maybe, pork fillet is an unfamiliar filling for sushi roll, but tasty for sure. The key is to add a plenty of shredded “shiso” leaves when rolling up. Pungent shiso works as a liaison between the two different flavours: vinegared rice and meaty fry. Utterly delish!

- Chilli corn carne with cheesy tortilla
This is not so flamboyant as to pimp up the feast, but I wanted to cook something like tomato-intensified deep colour in freezing winter. My chilli of this day was South American style adding black beans.


WINE

- Grace Koshu (white, Japan)
That’s not all about “Grow local, Eat local”. The elegant, smooth and a little smoky texture matches the feathery weight of "washoku" (Japanese cuisine).

- Ch√Ęteau Thil Comte Clary 2005 (white, France)
Full-bodied. An interesting contrast with the Japanese breed.

- Gosh... can’t remember (red, France)

.. No cheese.


AFTERS

- Strawberry roulade
This home-made pudding was brought by our guests. The simple trio: organic strawberry, fluffy sponge and cream indulges our palates.

- Earl Grey tea biscuits
In spite of the ready-made status, fine.

- Earl Grey tea & Green tea
To finish up our long eating... and chirping.


Well, sounds too much for six people? In several hours, all had gone to our greedy stomachs!!
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