Thursday, March 22, 2012

Hanami drinking snacks 花見のつまみ

For this year's hanami, we started with this fusion dish of tuna tartar.

This was followed by small assortment of "chinmi"  珍味 or rare tastes (not really rare). I just used pre-made frozen items. The front on the right is "tobiko" トビコ or flying fish roe and the next is salmon roe or ikura いくら; both are placed on a cup of cucumber. I garnish tobiko with a sliver of cucumber and the ikura slice of jalapeño pepper.

In a small, "plum petal" patterned cup is squid marinated in soy sauce and mirin or "okizuke" 沖漬け. In a small blue flower-shaped cup is a "Yukke" of "engawa" 縁側 or meat just under the dorsal fin of flat fish or hirame ヒラメ. The engawa literally means a Japanese porch/open corridor in front of a Japanese room usually facing the garden.  The appearance of the meat just under the dorsal fin of hirame is composed of lines of individual muscles resembling the way wood is laid out on the floor of an "engawa". This "cut" of fish happens to be  my favorite sashimi item. This one is marinated in sweet and hot red pepper sauce in Korean style. Both came frozen in a small pouch or container. I just thawed them and served. Both are OK but a bit sweet. The engawa lost the firm texture I cherish. The tobiko roe were also seasoned too sweetly and too brightly colored (obviously includes an artificial red coloring).

As a warm comforting dish, I served chicken thigh simmered in a black vinegar and soy sauce with taro or "sato-imo"  里芋 simmered in the same sauce with garish of brocoli.
I used to be able to get fresh "sato-imo" or taro root but I have not seen them either in the Japanse grocery store or a regular market for some time. This one was pre-cooked and frozen. I first parboiled as is while frozen removing the scum which floated on the surface. I washed them in running cold water and then cooked in the same simmering liquid. These tasted the same as fresh ones cooked from scratch with a good texture and much less work.

The cherry blossoms are going quickly. This year it is going to be a race against time not only because of the warm weather but because, for some reason, the birds have learned to eat the blossoms. It started some years ago with the house finches and the cardinals learned it from them. They grab the flower, nibble something from its base and drop the remaining almost intact flower to the ground. They are stripping the tree even as we speak and while we watch. As a result we have a somewhat premature "hana-fubuki" or "flower blizzard" consisting of full flowers instead of just petals. Our back yard is the only place I have seen this phenomenon--it clearly isn't an issue at the tidal basin or there would have been a "national" outcry. Thanks to the daylight savings time, however, we still had some light outside even after finishing the three dishes.

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