I really love cooking for people who are not picky eaters. It makes it so much easier to plan a menu when you don’t have to worry about your guests being turned off by certain flavors or textures. This Japanese meal I cooked for one such friend was inspired by my monthly pilgrimage to Mitsuwa, and fueled by an entire bottle of green shiso and yuzu infused shochu.
Sashimi Konnyaku with Yuzu Miso – Konnyaku is a jelly made from voodoo lilly corms. It has a firm, gelatinous texture similar to jellyfish and is usually used in Japanese food in stews. In this case, I’ve sliced it and served it raw as a sashimi. This particular Kannyaku was made with green nori, which gives it the bright green color and a distinctive vegetal flavor. I served it with a yuzu miso made with white miso, honey, yuzu juice and yuzu zest.
Trio of Japanese Crudo’s – I love raw fish as much as the next Japanese guy, but traditional sashimi can get boring. That’s why I love preparing my sashimi Italian style with seasonings that suit each type of fish. The one on the far left is oo-toro with crispy garlic butter and applewood smoked salt. The ridiculously creamy tuna belly is complimented by the browned butter, while the crispy garlic and hint of ginger adds a ton of nutty flavor to the fish. The smoked salt gives it a bit of saline crunch between your teeth and imbues a wonderful smokiness that would have you convinced that this fresh tuna was smoked. The one in the middle is kanpachi topped with the rest of the yuzu miso from the konnyaku and thin sliced of jalepeno. It’s creamy and crisp as you bite into it, followed by a citrusy spice that balances out the richness. The last crudo is tai with homemade umeboshi, red shiso salt and olive oil. Tai, or Japanese sea bream is a lean white meat fish that has a ton of flavor, the ume and red shiso bring out the umami in the fish, while the olive oil adds moisture and richness to the firm white meat.
Grilled Japanese Eggplant with Chili Dashi – I was originally going to make a more traditional yaki-nasu, but by the time we got to this course I was a few sheets to the wind, and my adventure gene kicked into high gear. I spotted a bottle of sweet Thai chili sauce and a tub of lemon grass pickled okra in the fridge, and the rest is history. The sauce is a combo of dashi, fish sauce and sweet thai chili sauce, with some grated ginger and chives. As a sauce for the flame grilled eggplant, it’s sweet, spicy, and smoky with a fullness of flavor that compliments the rather bland eggplant nicely.
Salt Grilled Japanese Sea Bass – When it comes to fresh fish, I’m all about going simple. This Japanese sea bass (suzuki) needed no other accompaniment than a mound of coarse sea salt and the flame from the broiler. I served it with a side of daikon oroshi (grated daikon) which cuts the briny fish with the refreshing spicy bite of the giant radish.
Takenoko Gohan – No Japanese meal is complete without a rice dish, so to that end, I made a bamboo brown rice. It’s flavored with baby anchovies (chirimen) and shimeji mushrooms, and finished with a bunch of chopped up mitsuba.