It’s still hot in Montreal, so we’re still doing refreshing summer recipes. This one uses the same somen sauce we wrote about the other day – actually, we’re using leftovers here. This is one of the very few vegetarian dishes you’ll find in this blog. But don’t be fooled: a disturbing amount of oil goes into this dish, so Vegetable Agebitashi is more a hearty main dish than a light side dish.
Agebitashi means fry (Age) and soak (Hitashi). So how do you make it? First you fry the vegetables, then you soak them in the sauce. That’s all! The kicker is that you serve it cold – very cold. It sounds strange, I know, but just trust me and give it a try. And be sure to serve this with simple white rice. They go very well together.
In Japan, New Year is not just a party, it’s a very important festival of purification, renewal and ritual. In fact, New Year’s day (not eve) is one of the most important holidays in the festival calendar. It’s called Shogatsu and it heralds a week-long bacchanalia when lots of traditional banquet foods are served.
The traditional shogatsu dinner is called Osechi: it’s a huge amount of work which basically requires the whole family pitch in. In my house in Japan, my mother used to prepare it every year, with my two sisters and I as assistants. Traditionally, osechi must be served in three- or five-story lacquerware Bento boxes. The banner you see on the top of this blog is, in fact, of one of the osechi we prepared at my house in Japan a few years ago.
Not having lacquerware for Osechi and having a Venezuelan husband, this year we decided to do something East-West for our first shogatsu meal. We had Hallacas, the traditional Venezuelan Christmas food, which is similar to Mexican tamales and we made with his family a couple of weeks ago, and I made small but special little side dishes: Umaki (Japanese omelet with eel), Nuta (spring onions with sweet miso souce), and Ikura Mizore-ae (salmon roe with grated daikon). Mizore literally means sleet in Japanese.
Mizore-ae is very simple but it turns a beautiful dish for a special occasion.
Kakiage is a member of the tempura family, though these mixed vegetable fritters are less complicated to make than is usual for tempura. For this recipe, I show you how to suspend them in a dashi-based sauce rather than serving them in the usual tempura way – with salt or Worcestershire Sauce. Needless to say, if you prefer, you can eat them that way as well.
Kakiage is a useful recipe when you need to use up the vegetables remaining in your fridge, things like onions, carrots and green beans. Just make some Kakiage, then keep the finished fritters in the freezer. You can eat them on their own, as I show here, or with Udon noodles. When you make udon, take the ready kakiage out from the freezer, heat it in the toaster and add them to the noodle soup as a topping: a great way to sex up a simple bowl of udon.
Made right, the fritters will retain a bit of their crunch even underneath a very watery sauce. The result is absolutely scrumptuous!
In Canada, autumn means Apples: they’re incredibly abundant at this time of the year. But in Japan, autunmn means Sanma, a fish so seasonal that its Japanese name brings together the character for autumn (秋) with the one for knife (刀 – because, of course, sanma kind of looks like a long blade) and the one for fish (魚), to make 秋刀魚, literally “Autumn Knife Fish”.
In the west, sanma is formally known as “pacific saury”, but more commonly referred to as “mackerel pike”. Personally, I’ll always call it sanma, and think of it as just another reason to look forward to the autumn. In season, sanma cost almost nothing, and grilling them always brings back memories of the big, back-to-school barbecue parties students at my university always organized at the start of the fall term.
Sanma is definitely best grilled over a charcoal fire and lightly seasoned with a bit of salt or with a light mixture of soy-sauce and grated daikon. It’s already too cold to barbecue here so, for tonight’s dinner, we did it on a stove-top grill.
In Montreal it’s very difficult to find fresh fish, but vacuum-packed frozen fish is also fine. I’m very proud of myself that I paid just $2.10 (for two of them!) for this spectacular fish at Angel Seafoods the other day.
My husband has recently developed an unhealthy fixation with daikon. I’ve tried to explain to him that it won’t hurt him to go without it for a day or two, but it’s no use: he’s obsessed. To quell the beast, I made him this Negimiso (leek and miso) sauce tonight, which goes spectacularly with daikon. He was pleased…until tomorrow.
In this recipe, I share an old kitchen trick for keeping the daikon’s color a brilliant white, even after long cooking: boiling the daikon twice, the first time in the water you used to wash rice. Since we didn’t make rice tonight, I used a little work-around that gives you pretty much the same result. Read on to find out how I did it.
Nothing has done more to harm tofu’s reputation in the West than the sense that it’s “health food”. Lets face it: nobody wants to eat health food. “Health food” is just another way of saying “food that you eat despite the way it tastes”.
My philosophy is that you should never eat something primarily because it’s healthy: you should eat food because it’s delicious. The only way you keep coming back to a recipe, or to an ingredient, again and again is if your mouth waters when you think of it.
So here’s a dish to drive a mack truck through every idea you have about tofu. How about we bread it, fry it and suspend it in a lovely, deep dashi-based sauce? Agedashi tofu is a glorious dish, golden and soft and swimming in deep, delicate flavors that dissolve in your mouth like cotton candy.
For Agedashi tofu you can’t go without grated daikon. It’s easiest to get nice fresh and sweet daikon in autumn and winter, so agedashi tofu is another menu you should try now!
A massively oversized radish, daikon is a popular Japanese winter root vegetable. Less spicy than Western radishes, daikon features in a lot of seasonal cooking, and boiling brings out its natural sweetness wonderfully. Today’s dish is a simple but deeply satisfying side: basically slow cooked radish with a bit of pork in a classic Japanese sauce.
Wait, pork? In a vegetable side dish? Actually yes, just a bit. Makes everything much tastier.
This is a basic (if under-appreciated) principle of Japanese cooking: almost every dish has some kind of meat or seafood in it, even the vegetable side-dishes. Usually, it’s a very small amount: more to flavor the dish than anything else. On the other hand, very few dishes are centered around a big piece of meat or fish, like they so often are in the West.