Thursday, 27 May 2010

"taste no 5” or “taste chicken tsukune”?


I’m a lot wondering since when early-summer gets full of festivals in Tokyo. Foreign cultural events have gradually been tempting the young lads, as Jamaica, Thai and Laos, these three festivals made a consecutive success at Yoyogi Park, followed by one of the most iconic Shinto festivals called “Sanja Matsuri” in downtown Asakusa. If you want endless cheers with decent beer, just stop by German-imported “Oktberfest” currently ongoing in the other urban oasis, Hibiya Park and more to come.

This time of year is hearty enough to offer sunshine days which are perfect for singing, dancing, eating and drinking outside. Perhaps, we need some alfresco rituals to expel the rainy blues on its way. Festival is better than the songs of birds in Japan? At least, Tokyo is like so.

Well, cooking inside... This recipe has been a regular dish of my family since I happened to find the original in “Lee” a Japanese women’s lifestyle magazine almost ten years ago. “Tsukune” is basically referred to as chicken “balls” in Japanese yakitori cuisine, however, a little change in shape and flavour gives more elegant impact at the table, especially when you have dinner guests around. Your mouth will be delighted with the contrasting texture between the tender meat and the crunchy rotus root. The recipe is also a good specimen to showcase that Japanese “kombu” (kelp) is usable not only to accompany boiled rice, but to season in cooking. Sweet, salty and something intensified in one dish... The taste is 100% guaranteed!

PAN-FRIED CHICKEN TSUKUNE

* To make 9 pieces
300g minced chicken
100g lotus root (available in an Asian grocery)
30g shredded shiofuki-kombu (salty kelp. Available in a Japanese grocery)
1-2 shiitake mushrooms, finely chopped
1 tbsp sake (or dry sherry)
1 tsp soy sauce
2 tsp sesame oil
25cm x 25cm non-stick baking paper

1. Peel the rotus root and soak in lightly-vinegered water for 10 minutes to stop colouring. Cut into a couple of chunks, and bash with a rolling pin in a freezer bag until they are teaspoonful bits. Some are totally crumbled, but it’s fine.

2. Using your hands, mix the minced chicken, root, shiitake, soy and sake together in a bowl until well-combined. Add the shiofuki-kombu, mix gently this time and leave for 10 minutes until the flavour is settled.


3. Shape the mixture into a large single square on baking paper to a thickness of 1.5cm. Love this labour...

4. Heat the sesame oil in a frying pan over a medium heat. Carefully, lay the mixture on the pan, papered side up so that the baking paper can work like a lid to steam the whole mixture. In 5 minutes, remove the paper and turn the mixture over to cook until browned and just cooked through.

5. Remve it from the pan and cut into 9 squares. Serve hot, warm or even cold, so ideal for bento boxed lunch!

Tips:
1. In the shaping process of #3, don’t make it thinner to avoid cracks when cooked.
2. Help yourself to season with shichimi togarashi at the table if you prefer a spicy kick.



FYI, “kombu” (kelp seaweed), dried or fresh, has been consumed daily in various cookery forms such as dashi (broth), nimono (stewed dish) and tsukemono (pickles), but my favourite is “shiofuki-kombu” (salty kelp) on the photo. It’s a sort of semi-dried “tsukudani”, which is kelp, vegetable, fish or shellfish boiled down in soy sauce for a long time. If you see the whole surface of shiofuki-kombu is covered with salt-like fine powder, that’s exactly what we mean by “umami”, the Japanese sea-born savouriness. Ah, one more thing to share: nibble shiofuki-kombu on its own when sipping sake. Tasty, plus, it’s said amino acids in the kelp break down the alcohol component. Delicious science.

Japanese even has a fusion pasta recipe with shiofuki-kombu to toss. Hey, you don’t have to buy “Taste No 5”!!

30 comments:

Sonia (Nasi Lemak Lover) said...

I immediate bookmarked this, but need to go Jusco Japanese section to find some of the ingredients, Thanks for sharing this lovey recipe.

MaryMoh said...

Thanks for sharing what is going on in Japan. A friend of mine stayed in japan a few years and she said she really liked all the festivals there. It must be so fun. Here in Scotland, there'll be a lot of celebrations in summer. So, I still have to wait. Thanks for sharing the lovely dish. Looks very delicious. Have a nice day and enjoy all the fun there.

3 hungry tummies said...

Sounds very interesting, I will try this to go with my Japanese week. Make gyu don today :)

Lyndsey said...

This does sound very interesting. I'll have to see if I can get the ingredients. I have used lotus root that came in the refrigerated section and was already sliced and ready to go.

the lacquer spoon said...

- Sonia, thanks for the bookmark! The salty kelp is quite versatile, giving deeper flavour than mere salt. You have Japanese Jusco nearby? Glad to know that :)

- Mary, thanks for the comment as always! Tokyo is a huge area and I have new findings every week and month. Summer in Scotland must be great. When visiting Edinburgh, I was impressed to find old and new things are intertwined well. Lovely place :)

- 3 hungry tummies, thank you and jealous to hear your dinner is gyu-don! My mouth is now watery in spite of bed time ;)

- Lyndsey, thank you! The ready-cut lotus root is usable somehow though you won't be able to expect the crunchness. Hope you have a big Japanese grocery to get the salty kelp :)

Carolyn Jung said...

This looks like pure comfort food. Crispy on the outside and tender within. With a few Japanese pickled veggies and this, I'd be one happy camper.

the lacquer spoon said...

- Carolyn, thank you and, with pickles – well said! The taste is definitely Japanese and lifts me up a lot. Happy to be able to introduce such a recipe :)

pigpigscorner said...

I've been cooking a lot of Japanese dishes lately, this sounds fab! Lots of new ingredients.

the lacquer spoon said...

- pigpigscorner, thank you for stopping by and cooking Japanese food! While some savoury recipes are popular overseas, others are still awaiting to be exported. Hope my blog will work for that :)

Kitchen Butterfly said...

I'm looking forward to the day I can out together a bento box! Ned to look for kombu

Anncoo said...

I found this interesting too! Already bookmarked it. Thanks for sharing.

the lacquer spoon said...

-Kitchen Butterfly, thanks, to picnic with bento is so fun in early summer... enjoy!

-Anncoo, thank you for the bookmark! Let’s say this is kinda Japanese burger :)

Chow and Chatter said...

looks great need to look for lotus root oh hope we get to come to Japan again one day great country lol Rebecca

the lacquer spoon said...

- Rebecca, pls revisit Japan! The bad economic climate is still covering the whole island, but the food life is fab :)

♥¸¸.•*¨Skip to Malou¨¨*•.¸¸♥¸ said...

Looks like a fun time to be in Japan this time of the year... with all those festivals!

The recipe is interesting to try... I haven't cooked Japanese lately and it would be a good surprise for my family to treat them with home-cooked Japanese food...hmmm thanks for the idea/recipe!

the lacquer spoon said...

- Malou, thanks for the comment! There're festivals in August too. We love summer, but it's too hot and humid to be good enough for outdoor activities in Japan, so the first part of May seems the best festival week.

Hope my recipe will wow your family. Enjoy!

TasteHongKong said...

Lotus roots and meats together also means a homey treat here. Yes, you have made the dish look elegant and I bet the addition of kombu would make a nice difference.

the lacquer spoon said...

- TasteHongKong, thanks for the kind note! I love international cuisines, but need to be back to Japanese comfort food like this, sometimes. The kombu taste lifts me up :)

My Little Space said...

What a busy summer time over in Japan! Wish you can post more photos on that. And this chicken tsukune sounds so scrumptious. Hope I can get the ingredients here and try this out. For the time being, guess I have to drool over this. hehehe.... Hope you're having a wonderful day!
Cheers, Kristy

the lacquer spoon said...

- Kristy, thank you! I want to upload more photos to show the latest Tokyo indeed, but My camera is old to carry around.. it's probably time to buy a new one, or wish I could win in raffle :)

You have a wonderful day too!

Biren said...

This sounds so delicious...definitely great for bentos. The lotus root must make the dish very tasty.

the lacquer spoon said...

- Biren, thanks! Japanese use lotus root often. The root itself tastes like nothing, but once cooked with soy, it becomes flavorful. We love the crunchiness too :)

Little Inbox said...

It doesn't sounds easy to make.

the lacquer spoon said...

- Little Inbox, well shaping is a bit tricky, but not that difficult if you try to make mini "balls" instead. And hope you can get hold of the kelp in a big Japanese grocery :)

Koek! said...

Sounds divine... I love the combination of flavours.
Robyn

the lacquer spoon said...

- Robyn, thank you! Umami from the kelp works perfect for this recipe :)

Mariko said...

I think I've eaten this before but I didn't have a name for it, when I was a kid.
I'd love to be in Tokyo for the festivals...
Is everything ok where you're at?

the lacquer spoon said...

- Mariko, thank you for the comment! Tokyo had the huge quake yesterday, but everything is already back to normality.

In the meantime, a large part of North Japan is damaged by tsunami waves and fires,and will take time to recover. My thoughts and prayers are with the people.

formatie nunta said...

I think that this recipe is very interesting and for sure delicious. After i`ve read your steps i think that is not so difficult so i will try it. Thanks for sharing.

the lacquer spoon said...

- Formatie Nunta, welcome to my blog in Tokyo and thanks much for your interest in Japanese food! Though I wrote the long instruction, it's not that difficult and you can simply shape it like small meat balls :)

I'm a bit away from blogging currently, but hope to be back here soon!

Best,
Spoon

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