Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Spinach rolled in thin omelet ほうれん草の卵巻き

This is a small dish I made from the steamed spinach my wife made. She cooked the entire bag of spinach (pre-washed) using a dry wok with a lid without any liquid. We kept this in a sealed container and used it for many dishes such as this one.

This is a variation of nori rolled spinach but instead, of using nori I used a thin omelet.

Spinach: I just seasoned the steamed spinach with Japanese prepared hot mustard (from a tube) and sugar mixed in some soy sauce (the amount is arbitrary, I use only small amount of sugar).  If you want it spicier you could increase the mustard. I also mixed in bonito flakes but this is optional especially if you want to keep it vegetarian.

Omelet: I made the  mistake of not watching it carefully and the flame was too high so it became a bit dry and browned. I just used one egg omelet seasoned with a bit of sugar and salt. I put a non-stick frying pan on low flame ( not low enough, apparently) poured in the egg mixture, put the lid and let it slowly cook until done (5-7 minutes). If the flame is low enough, the omelet is perfectly yellow without brown spots.

I placed the omelet on the cutting board and lined up the spinach mixture in the middle and rolled it up. I then rolled it in plastic rap and let it stand for a few minutes so that the omelet would not unravel. I then cut the roll into small disks as you see above, Both ends which are not perfect were eaten before serving by me and my wife.

This is nothing dish but quite good.

Saturday, April 27, 2013

Botargga pasta variation 唐墨パスタその2

This is just a variation of pasta with bottarga which I posted. Actually I used leftover grated botargga and angel hair pasta to make this dish. This is made in the same manner as "creamy tarako pasta".

I just sauteed the cooked angel hair past in olive oil to warm it up with small amount of red pepper flakes. After the pasta was coated with oil and warmed up, I added a few tablespoons of cream and let it cook for one minute or two so that it made nice sauce that could cling to the pasta. I cut the heat and mixed in grated botargga and garnished with thinly sliced botargga and nori strips.

The addition of cream add a different dimension to the pasta with bottarga. Both versions are good but I like the original a slight bit better.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Chicken "soboro" on rice ライスのそぼろのせ

This is the second dish I made from the chicken "soboro" I made a few days ago. This was a small ending dish one evening.

I just made three stripes over a dish of rice using the chicken soboro, spinach and scrambled egg. This is a variation of "bento" box.

Spinach: My wife prepared an entire package of baby spinach a few days ago. She just put the spinach in a dry wok (no water) with a lid on low heat. As the spinach steamed she used a tongs to move the cooked spinach on the bottom to the top. With this method the spinach steams by itself without adding any water. I chopped the cooked spinach coarsely, added dried bonito flakes (katsuo-bushi or kezuri-bushi, dried bonito shaving which come in a small plastic package) and concentrated noodle sauce (from the bottle). The amount is to taste but not too much.

Egg: I simply made scrambled eggs from one egg seasoned with sugar and salt.
Assembly: using, a ring mould as seen below, I first packed in a layer of white rice to make a disk and layered it with stripes of chicken soboro, spinach and scrambled egg.

This is very good flavor and color combination. You can make it any shape or amount you like. You can also change the seasoning such as sautéing the spinach in bacon grease and seasoning it with salt and pepper etc. Other greens such as asparagus, green beans will also work. If you want add another color, you could add cooked carrot seasoned whatever way you like.

This was a perfect "shime" ending dish for us.

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Octopus sashimi Wasabi flavor with apple and olive oil 蛸のわさび漬け、リンゴとオリーブオイルいり

This is a "proof of concept" testimonial. When we described the octopus dish we had at "Daikaya", I said, the dish must be based on a frozen packaged item. To confirm my point I decided to reproduce the dish using the packaged item I had in mind. Since I did not have a "kaiware" daikon (sprout of daikon radish), I used finely chopped jalapeño peper.

I defrosted a package of "Tako wasabi-zuke" たこわさび漬け (picture below left, the price is for two packages). The picture, below right, shows what it looks like once thawed.
I just diced an apple (Fuji apple) mixed it in, splashed on a good fruity olive oil and garnished with finely diced jalapeño pepper (seeded and de-veined).

My wife thought my concoction was better than what we had at "Daikaya". It has a nice yuzu-wasabi flavor and the pieces of raw octopus were much larger with a much nicer texture. (Maybe because of the difference in size and texture of the pieces of octopus in our dish, they did not stick between our teeth like the ones in the dish at Diakaya).  It was a good idea to add the crunch of apple and the nice fruity olive oil flavor to this type of dish but I'm not sure I would call this "cooking".

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Izakaya, Daikaya 居酒屋 大鍋屋

Recently, a few places have begun appearing in the Washington D.C. area with “Izakaya” as a part of their name; which is very encouraging. Once a restaurant with Izakaya in its name pops up on the “radar screen” we have to try it.

For example we tried Izakaya Azuma which is located in Rockville. It opened in June of last year and less than a year later it is closed. We can’t say we are surprised. We thought it missed the point of an izakaya both in terms of food and ambience in a big way. It was basically a Chinese restaurant with some “teiban” Izakaya dishes on the menu such as Yakitori and Kushiage.

Another such place is Kushi Izkakaya and Sushi. It is a big space lacking the real atmosphere of an Izakaya. I did not go but my wife went for lunch. She was not impressed.  To do it real justice, however, we should probably try it in the evening.

Another called Izakaya Seki sounds very promising but it’s location is very inconvenient for us so we haven’t tried it. 

Recently, another Izakaya cum ramen restaurant opened up in the “Penn Quarter” called “Daikaya”. It appears that its corresponding Japanese letters are “大鍋屋” meaning “Large caldron” probably referring to the large caldron in which ramen noodles are cooked. It is housed in a brand new building across from the Verizon Center (Google map street view still shows an empty lot). The 1st floor is a ramen place which we have not tried yet. It serves up a “Sapporo”style ramen. Since I am originally from Sapporo, we have to try this place. We did try the upstairs, however, which is  an “Izakaya”
Inside the restaurant is very nice with a central bar counter with small tables and booths around the periphery (picture above left).They have very cozy (read: tight) seating for 90. The tables are quite close together so you have the added advantage of sharing the conversations of the tables on either side of you. The table at which we were seated was so close it its neighbor that the neighboring table had to be moved aside in order for us to be seated which is awkward when the other table is occupied.

The wait staff was very enthusiastic and tried their best to explain everything, as scripted, even after I told him that we were familiar with these types of food and drink. As part of the explanation it was suggested that in contrast to American style where you order the entire meal at once, for Izakaya style you order a few dishes at a time in several rounds over the course of the meal. Our waiter in true American style, however disappeared after the first round of orders.

For libation, we chose sake from Kochi 高知 prefecture called “Sui-gei, Tokubetsu junmaishu"  酔鯨 特別純米酒 (picture above right). This is not too bad, not too yeasty but a bit short on taste.

Here are the dishes we had. I stopped taking photos after the 4th dish. Since we are not big eaters we never thought we would say this, but the portions of these dishes were way too small for us or even for any Izakaya. Certainly the portion size is miniscule for your average American even as a drinking snack or bar food. In order to make a meal we ended up ordering quite a few dishes which became rather expensive and even so we left the place still hungry.

The first dish we had, was wasabi octopus sashimi (left upper). I may be wrong and hate to say it but this dish looked and tasted like it was made with packaged frozen wasabi favored raw octopus such as I occasionally buy at the local Japanese grocery store. They just added small cubes of apple or jicama, olive oil and daikon radish sprouts. This was not the type of dish I would have expected.

The second was cheese stuffed shishi-tougarashi which was very interesting and good. We may have mentioned that shishi-tougarash  grown in US soil can be atomically hot but all four peppers we ate were fine (Our waiter appropriately warned us).

Then I found “Ruibe” るいべ of salmon. This is an Hokkaido specialty. It is thinly sliced semi frozen salmon. This was pretty good but again, the portion was Lilliputian (above lower left).

The 4th dish was "crab croquet". This is a very common Izakaya item and the base is Bechamel sauce with corn and crab meat. To be authentic, I was told that the crab meat must be "canned". In any case, this was served on old Japanese newspaper in apparent imitation of "Fish and Chips". We did not find the sight of our dish sitting on old newspaper appetizing and wondered how sanitary old Japanese newspapers could possibly be. Although this dish was not bad (deep fried Bechamel in general can’t be too bad) the crab missed its cue and didn’t make an appearance. This really looked like a factory made frozen item just deep fried at the restaurant.

Although I stopped taking pictures we had several other dishes: creamy tarako pasta, fried turkey wing  (this was good), tsukemono 漬物 (picked or salted vegetables) assortment of three kinds (again not bad but the portion was ridiculously small). At this point we were out of sake but still hungry (very unusual for us, since we usually get filled up with just a few appetizers). We thought of going to another restaurant but the Verizon Center was having a hockey game and the other restaurants we tried were stuffed to capacity. We gave up and went home.

While the dishes at this restaurant sounded innovative, they all had a premade packaged quality to them. Again, like many restaurants in the US that claim the izakaya title, it missed the ambiance that makes an Izakaya an Izakaya. Based on portion size alone, I just can’t imagine how this Izakaya will fair with the burly American clientele attending the hockey games and other events at the Verizon Center.

Monday, April 15, 2013

Pasta with grated bottarga からすみパスタ

After tasting bottarga thinly sliced like Japanese karasumi, we tried an Italian style dish and made  "spaghetti alla bottarga". This is based on Mario Batali's recipe. We really like this pasta dish.
My wife does not like regular spaghetti for some reason (note from Wife: she doesn’t like regular style spaghetti because of all those endless bowels of over cooked spaghetti topped with tasteless canned sauce that she had to work her way through as a kid particularly for school lunches). As an alternative we used very thin Angel hair pasta instead.

The amount of bottarga is totally arbitrary but probably 1-2 tablespoon(s) full of grated bottarga per serving would be appropriate. I just used a Japanese porcelain grater and grated bottarge (about 1/2 cup, below). It is salty, so we did not need to salt the pasta.
Other ingredients for 2 servings (see picture below):
Italian parsley, finely chopped 1/4 cup
Lemon zest from one lemon, grated using  a micro grater
Garlic, two cloves, thinly sliced
Bottarga, thinly sliced (2-3 per serving)
Olive oil, 2-3 tbs
Red pepper flakes, to taste
I put the olive oil in a frying pan on low flame and cooked the garlic and red pepper flakes until the garlic was fragrant but not browned (2-3 minutes). I added the pasta, lemon zest, parsley and tossed to mix well for one more minute on medium flame. I cut the flamed and mixed in the grated bottarga and served.

I topped the pasta with the slices of botargga, added more grated bottarga and a little bit of fruity olive oil on top.

This is a good dish. It is a bit like "tarako" spaghetti but the flavor and texture are quite different. The lemon flavor from the zest is refreshing and went well with the taste of bottarga. Surprisingly, although the botargga seemed extremely salty it was just right once it was mixed into the pasta. This dish went Ok with wine (such as the red wine we were drinking) but still it was not perfect. I am not sure what will go well with this dish but sake (to which we switched) or Scotch with water, for sure, or, may be, Prosecco.

Friday, April 12, 2013

Tofu with chicken meat sauce 豆腐の鶏そぼろあんかけ

This is a dish I made using the chicken soboro I made the other day. You could make this using ground chicken as well but the meat has more flavor if you use chicken soboro. I made this as the second dish I served one evening and it was quite nice since it was still rather cold at night.

Ingredients (for two good sized servings):
Tofu,  1 block cut into bite-size cubes.
Chicken "soboro", 4 tbs
Dashi broth, About 2 cup (I made from a dashi pack)
Mirin, 1 tbs
Concentrated dipping sauce for noodles, 2 tbs or to taste
Ginger grated, 1/2 tsp
Scallion 2 stalks, finely chopped
Potato starch (Katakuriko) 2 tsp with sake or water to make slurry

In a sauce pan, I added the broth and heated it up. When the broth was warm, I added the mirin and concentrated dipping sauce. I tasted it and added a bit more, please be aware that the soboro is already seasoned. I could add more seasoning later if needed.

I added the tofu, put the lid on and simmered for 10 minutes until the tofu is thoroughly warmed (do not boil). I removed the tofu to the serving bowls using a slotted spoon. I then added the soboro, tasted it (adjust the saltiness as needed). I then streamed in the potato starch slurry in several increments until I reached the desired thickness of the broth (the broth needs to be near boiling to have the full thickening effect of the potato starch).

I ladled the hot broth over the tofu and garnished it with the chopped scallion and grated ginger.
This dish can be easily made using raw ground chicken but using soboro gives it a more complex flavor. The rather assertive ginger flavor was nice. We had this with cold sake but the tastes are rather neutral and should go well with any wine.

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Bottarga 唐墨

Salted and dried fish roe may not to be the most popular food item in the U.S. but, for some (Sardinians, or Japanese for example), it is a delicacy. I was quite surprised to learn that Japanese “Karasumi 唐墨” was actually an import from Europe through Nagasaki 長崎 during the time Japan was mostly closed to foreign trade except for “Dejima 出島” in Nagasaki. The European counterparts are called “Bottarga”  or “Botargo” and are especially well known in Sardinia. Since we cannot get karasumi here in the US easily, we were interested in getting “Bottarga” from Sardinia instead. After several failed attempts trying to get bottarga from local Italian gourmet food stores, we resorted to the Internet. We finally got Sardinian bottarga made by L'Oro di Cabras from Gray Mullet roe sold by "Gustiamo" in New York (package pictured below).
It is rather small and much darker colored than typical Japanese karasumi.
First we tried it in Japanese style with thin slices of daikon (shown above).
Next day, I served it with sliced cucumber and radish.

This one has a stronger flavor (or you could call it "fishy") than the Japanese variety. It is also saltier than the karasumi we got from Sushi Taro Osechi. We tried it with red wine and it did not go well  so we switched to cold sake which was much better. Albeit this is a good nibbling snack for sake, this is definitely an acquired taste and I have to admit, karasumi tastes better to me.

Saturday, April 6, 2013

Fried Amaebi heads and sashimi 甘エビの頭の唐揚と刺身

This is not a new dish but since we recently got amaebi 甘エビspotted prawns from Catalina among other things, I decided to post it again. This is the very first dish I served after we received toro, uni and amaebi from Catalina. I decide to serve deep fried shrimp heads and shrimp sashimi together. I changed how I served the sweet shrimp sashimi. For this preparation, I chose 4 of the smaller shrimp. The large shrimp heads are better suited for miso soup.
I removed the heads, trimmed antennae and proboscis, dredged in potato starch (optional) and deep fried in peanut oil for 5 minutes turning once or twice. I removed the shells from the shrimp tails and deveined them. I cut them into small bite size chunks. (By the way, I made shrimp broth from the shells).
I seasoned with sea salt and sprinkled them with sake and marinated for 10 minutes before serving. Since two of the larger shrimp had roe, I added some of the roe to the sashimi. I then added a small dab of freshly thawed “real wasabi”.

This is the best way to enjoy the pure taste of rather sweet raw shrimp meat. My wife removed the wasabi (she said she didn’t want to taste anything but the sweetness of the shrimp). I, however, mixed in a small amount of the wasabi which I think accentuated the flavor and made it taste even better. The deep fried heads were crunchy and nice, although you have to be very careful how you eat them so you don’t get stabbed by a sharp leg. My wife removed the hard outer shells and ate only the inside. I braved everything--the shell and all.

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Chicken “Soboro” 鶏のそぼろ

“Soboro” そぼろ is a rather common Japanese dish which is often used as a topping for rice (especially for lunch boxes). It is also used for other dishes but (more importantly) it can be nibbled as a drinking snack. In this category of condiments, “Soboro そぼろ”, Oboro おぼろ” and “Denbu でんぶ” are similar products. All of them represent finely chopped or ground up fish or other meats, seasoned (soy sauce, sugar or mirin with the addition of garlic and/or ginger) and cooked until the liquid is almost gone. My first memory of “denbu” is “sakura denbu 桜でんぶ” which is artificially dyed pink and a very sweet fish meat product. My mother used to garnish scattered or roll sushi with it. The difference between “Soboro”, “Oboro” and “Denbu” may be the fineness of the chopped meat or fish. In any case, I made this “soboro” from mostly chicken tenderloin and other trimmings off of three large bone-in split chicken breasts.
Here is one small serving which could be nibbled while sipping sake.
Chicken, ground ( I hand chopped tenderloins, 300 grams or about 10oz)
Ginger, grated (about 1/4 tsp, I was out of the tube kind and used fresh ginger).
Garlic, grated (about 1/3 tsp, I used garlic from a tube but you could grate fresh garlic).
Vegetable oil (1/3 tsp)
Soy sauce (2 tbs)
Mirin (2 tbs)

I added the ginger and garlic to the ground chicken. I cooked the meat mixture in a non-stick frying pan with a small amount of vegetable oil on low heat. I continuously mixed and crumbled the meat mixture into small individual pieces by occasionally cutting and squashing the pieces using a bamboo spatula with a straight edge (below, left). I kept stirring until the meat was completely cooked and individual pieces were separated into granules. I added the soy sauce and mirin (the amount should be adjusted depending on preference or the use of the soboro. For example, If it is going to be used as a rice condiment, you may season it more strongly). I kept stirring until almost all moisture was gone (below right).
chicken soboro
This is a very standard Japanese flavor of sweet and salty with ginger. The granular texture gives is a nice little crunch. Hopefully, I can come up with few more dishes from this chicken soboro.