Sunday, September 22, 2013

Eggplant and Japanese pepper "Age-bitashi" with pickled myouga 獅子唐芥子と茄子の揚げ浸し

“Age-bitashi” 揚げ浸し is a rather classic Japanese cooking technique which I previously posted. This is another variation. “Age” means to "deep fry" and “Bitashi” or "Hidashi"means to soak. ). First a vegetable (eggplant is the classic) is deep fried and then “soaked” in a seasoned broth. This dish is either served at room temperature or chilled (especially in hot summer).

I had a half used package of Japanese small green pepper called “Shishi-tougarahi” 獅子唐辛子 or “Shishitou”ししとう for short. I decide to make it either “Yaki-bitashi” (grilled first and then soaked) or “Age-bitashi (fried fist and then soaked). At the grocery store, I found a nice looking Zebra eggplant and decide to make “age-bitashi” with eggplant and shishitou.

Here I served the resulting dish chilled with garnish of picked “home grown” myouga and thinly julienned ginger (“Ito-shouga” 糸生姜 or ginger-threads). This was a nice cool drinking snack to start. The only problem for me was that one of the peppers I ate was atomically hot* . I had been lured into complacency with several mild peppers. Without thinking I just popped the hot one into my mouth.  I had already chewed and swallowed when my tongue “caught on fire” and continued burning for sometime despite my efforts to put out the fire. My wife, however, did not suffer a similar misfortune

*Although shishitou in Japan appears to be always mild, shishitou grown in American soil for some reason occasionally reverts back to its original ancestor and is atomically hot. We equate eating US grown shishitou to Russian Roulette--you never know when you’ll get a “hot one”.

Shishi Tougrashi: I had about 10 leftover. I removed the stem and made a slit in the middle (To prevent exploding during cooking).

Eggplant: This is a small Zebra eggplant. I removed the stem end, cut in half lengthwise and then made half inch thick half moons.

Pickled Myouga: I posted this previously. I made some variation this time namely not blanching it before pickling (see below).

Broth: I took some short cut here. I used "Shiro dashi" 白だし from the bottle. This is concentrated dashi broth made from kelp and bonito shavings and seasoned with "shiro-zouyu" or colorless soy sauce. It is very strong and only need a little bit. I added 1 tbs of the concentrate into about 1 and half cup of water in a small sauce pan. I tasted it (dashi flavor was OK but needed a bit more saltiness) and added "Usukuchi-shouyu" or light-colored soy sauce (about 1/2 tbs). I needed some subtle sweetness and added about 1 tbs of mirin. I then let it come to a gentle boil and turned off the heat.

Instead of deep frying, I decided to sauté the vegetables. I added 2 tbs a light olive oil (or vegetable oil) into a non-stick frying pan on medium heat. I waited until the oil was almost smoking and added the eggplant. I fried one side until nicely brown (3-4 minutes) and then turned over (I added a bit more oil since eggplant soaks up the oil). After one more minute, I added the shishitou and moved them around for 2-3 more minutes or until the skin of the shishitou started blistering and brown marks developed.

I put the vegetables on the plate lined with a paper towel to remove excess oil. While the vegetables and the broth were both hot I put the vegetables into the broth, put on the llid and let them cool. After it came to the room temperature, I moved it to a sealable plastic container and placed it in the refrigerator for at least several hours or until thoroughly chilled.

The combination of shishitou and eggplant is excellent but if I have to choose I like eggplant better.

Sweet vinegared Myouga or 冥加の甘酢漬け
Although I previously posted about myouga and sweet pickled myouga, this year, I changed my recipe a bit taking my wife's input and re-posting it here. I think this recipe is better in preserving the unique myouga flavor.

As you can see below, despite the risk of being eaten alive by the mosquitos we managed to harvest some myouga. After removing the outer layers, I washed it several times to make sure no dirt remained attached (left upper). I then cut them into half and dried them on paper towels (right upper).

In the past, I blanched the myouga, which is part of the standard recipe, but my wife thought the parboiling reduced the myouga flavor in the final product. So this time, I did not blanch the myouga. I packed them in a sealable plastic container (middle left) and poured in warm sweet vinegar (middle right). As you can seen in the bottom row, the  myouga were mostly submerged. After a few days in the refrigerator, more moisture came out and the myouga was totally submerged. We started enjoying the pickled myouga after 4-5 days.

Sweet vinegar marinade: This time I also change the recipe a bit. I added 180ml of rice vinegar, 4 tbs of sugar and 1/2 tsp of salt in a sauce pan (middle right in the picture above) on medium low flame. When the sugar  dissolved and come to gentle boil, I cut the flame.

After 3-4 days, this is ready to enjoy. I think without blanching, the myouga remains a bit more crispy and the unique flavor is better preserved.

No comments: