Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Salmon with Chestnuts and Ginkgo Nuts

4 servings
Ingredients :
  • 1 ½ pounds salmon
  • salt
  • 12 raw chestnuts
  • 20 fresh ginkgo nuts
  • 1 bunch mitsuba (or substitute ½ bunch spinach or sliced Brussels sprouts)
  • 4-x-6-inch (10-x15-cm) piece giant kelp (kombu)
  • saké
Slice peeled chestnuts into paper-thin rounds. Wash sliced nuts under cold running water to remove starch. Drain well.
Use fresh, shelled and peeled ginkgo nuts. Canned are not recommended.
Chop trefoil stalks (or parboiled spinach) into 1½-inch (4-cm) lengths.
Wipe the giant kelp with a damp cloth. Cut into 4 pieces. The kelp is to impart flavor during steaming and is not to be eaten.
To assemble and steam: Steam in individual heatproof bowls. First lay a piece of giant kelp in each steaming bowl. On this place a piece of fish, skin side up. Sprinkle on raw chestnut slices and add 3 – 4 ginkgo nuts (or a few peas). At the side lay a neat mound of trefoil.
Over this arrangement splash about 1 Tablespoon saké.
Cover with plastic wrap or foil, sealing the edges tight. Even if your bowls have lids, use the plastic wrap for a tighter seal.
Place sealed bowls into a hot steamer. Cover. Steam 15 minutes over high heat.
Silver Sauce

  • 2 cups dashi
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 1 Tablespoon light soy sauce
  • 4 Tablespoons saké
  • 2 teaspoons cornstarch, mixed with 2 teaspoons water
  • few drops fresh ginger juice or lemon juice (optional)
  • or, in place of either, garnish with sprig of kinome or slivers of yuzu citron rind
To make the sauce: While the fish is steaming, in a medium-sized saucepan heat the dashi, then season with salt, light soy sauce, and saké. Bring to a simmer.
Just before serving, stir the cornstarch-and-water mixture and pour it into the hot liquid, stirring till thickened. At the very last moment, so as to preserve the fragrance, stir in the fresh ginger juice or lemon juice.
To Serve: Remove the bowls from the steamer, uncover, and top with thickened Silver Sauce. If the sauce has been made without ginger juice or lemon juice, you may garnish the bowls with fragrant slivers of yuzu citron rind or sprigs of kinome.

Ginger Teriyaki Stir-Fry

See the wee sprinkles on the bed of Jasmine rice? That my friend, is furikake (pronounced: foo-ri-kah-keh). It is used in Japan as a seasoning for rice (often for leftover rice) and it comes in many varieties. The variety I have comprises mostly tiny bits of seaweed and dried salmon, but you can find many flavors. By itself the taste of this furikake bears a faint resemblence to that of fish food (at least, the kinds of fish food I've been eating, I'm not sure what kind you eat). But it does liven up plain rice quite a bit and a jar will last you a good while. Many varieties can be purchased here.

The ginger teriyaki sauce I've been making for several years now. The base is a fairly standard teriyaki, but I like to add a good amount of fresh ginger and garlic, and I occasionally use honey instead of sugar. My wok skills are definitely improving, but the sponge-like, unidentifiable mushrooms I purchased at the Vietnamese market absorbed the liberal amount of oil I placed in the wok and so despite my rapid stirring some food stuck to the bottom and burnt. I salvaged 95% of the stir-fry, but the wok I had to scrub with soap, thus getting rid of what little of the nice seasoned patina was left after the lime juice of the larb gai ate most of it away. Aaaarrrgh. Damn you sponge-like, unidentifiable Vietnamese mushrooms!!

Ginger Teriyaki Chicken Stir-Fry

Serves 4

4 cloves garlic, minced
2 Tbsp. fresh ginger, minced
3 Tbsp. light soy sauce
3 Tbsp. sake
3 Tbsp. mirin*
1 Tbsp. confectioner's sugar (or honey)

1 lb. chicken breast (or pork loin fillet, or sirloin) sliced into thin strips across the grain
1 1/2 cups nappa cabbage, chopped
1 cup snowpeas
1 1/2 cups mushrooms, chopped (Shitake are ideal. Not too spongey)
1 leek, chopped

* if you can't find mirin, a sweet rice vinegar used for all sorts of Japanese dishes, you can substitute 2 Tbsps. of rice vinegar and add a little more sugar or honey. It will be good, but not quite the same.


1) Combine the first 6 ingredients in a bowl and whisk until sugar is well blended. Add to a large ziploc bag along with the strips of meat, and marinate in the frigo for at least an hour.
2) I can be very particular, so you don't necessarily have to do step 2. Taking out the chicken, I first pour the marinade back into the original bowl, and set the meat on a plate. Then, with a pair of tongs I baptize each little chicken piece in the marinade to wash from it the sins of its youth. I'm kidding, these are heathen chicken pieces: the little quick dunk is to get the pieces of ginger and garlic off so that they don't cook too quickly and burn before the chicken is done.
3) After all the vegetables have been chopped I am ready to stir-fry. The wok goes on high heat, 2 Tbsp of veggie oil and 1 Tbsp sesame oil go in, followed by the chicken. Stir! Stir quickly and with great determination lest your little heathen chicken strips burn. Stir-frying the chicken in two batches is a good idea. Set them aside when they are done.
4) Cook the vegetables in batches. I do the leeks and the nappa at the same time, then set aside with the chicken, then stir-fry the mushrooms and the snowpeas at the same time. DO NOT overcook. You want the vegetables to still have some of their raw crunchiness, even after step 5.
5) Once those are done, combine everything together in the wok and add the marinade. Stir long enough to coat everything in the marinade and to cook the garlic and ginger. Serve with steamed rice.

Oyakodon - Japanese Comfort Food


See the soft, somewhat dream-like glow of the oyakodon? This is a natural result of its deliciousness translated through the power of digital technology. Or maybe the steam from the hot rice fogged up the lens a little.

You've all heard of the Chinese egg & chicken dish called "Mother & Child Reunion" (inspiration for the Paul Simon song of the same name--no lie). "Oyakodon" pretty much means the same thing, but its taste is distinctly Japanese, with a sauce made of mirin, soy, caster sugar, and dashi stock. So long as you have these basic ingredients (along with rice vinegar and sake) you can make a host of Japanese dishes, but this is one of my favorite and certainly one of the easiest. Serve over short-grain steamed rice, preceded by a simple salad topped with your own ginger dressing (see recipe below)

For those not in the know:

Mirin: a sweet, low-alcohol content rice wine
Caster sugar: finely granulated sugar. You can use regular refined sugar and put it in the food processor it for a minute or so (thanks to Nick for that tip)
Dashi stock: a stock comprising bonita flakes (skipjack tuna) and konbu (kelp). Homemade dashi is delicious, but can be expensive to make. You can buy insant dashi stock granules --dashi-no-moto -- in many Asian markets.

serves 3-4

1 lb. boneless chicken breast or thigh meat, cut into 2-inch chunks
1 large or 2 medium onions, sliced
3 large eggs, whipped

1 1/2 cups dashi stock (if using dashi-no-moto, mix 1 Tbsp. in 1 1/2 cups of water)
2 Tbsp. soy sauce (preferably light soy sauce)
3 Tbsp. mirin
3 Tbsp. caster sugar
1 Tbsp. sake (optional)

1) heat large sauce pan (with lid) over medium high heat. Mix together sauce ingredients and pour into pan. Add onions and spread in an even layer. Let cook for 4-5 minutes until they start to soften.
2) Add chicken in a single layer over the onions, cover tightly and let cook for 5 minutes. Turn chicken over and cook for another 5 minutes.
3) When chicken is cooked through, pour the beaten eggs evenly over the top and allow to cook for about 1 minute. Remove from heat and allow the eggs to cook a little more. You don't want the eggs to harden too much, they should be cooked, but still be ever so slightly runny.
4) Serve over short-grain, steamed Japanese rice (ratio: 1 1/4 cup water per 1 cup rice)

Tasty Ginger Dressing
(serves 4)

1-inch piece of ginger, peeled and chopped roughly
1/2 medium-sized carrot, peeled and chopped roughly
1 clove garlic, peeled, chopped roughly
1 tsp. caster sugar
2 Tbsp. seasoned rice vinegar
1/4 tsp. sesame oil
3 Tbps. soybean (vegetable) oil
1 tsp. sake (optional)

blend all ingredients except vegetable oil in a small food processor (if you only have a large food processor, quadruple the measurements and have lots of leftover dressing) until smooth, then add the vegetable oil slowly while blending.
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