Sunday, November 18, 2007

Miso Shiru (1):Yellow Zucchini, Tofu and Mushroom

I already confessed the love for Japanese food; however, I rarely made any Japanese dishes due to the fact that it is quite convenient to grab take-out sushi, handmade ramen ( my favourite place is Kintaro on Denman), and even great side dishes at izakaya's in Vancouver. That has changed since my trip to Konbiniya, a Japanese grocery store located on Robson St. at the heart of downtown Vancouver.

Since they were having a huge anniversary sale, I took the opportunity to stock up on Japanese ingredients, including bottles of mirin, rice vinegar, dashi powder, concentrated soup stock, nori sheets, organic white and blended miso, some seasoning, konnyaku/shirataki noodles, and last but no least, a few containers of natto (left). Of course the aisles filled with Japanese junk food, ranging from cantaloupe-flavoured Kitkats, Pocky Sticks of assorted flavours, Meiji chocolate bars, to Matcha cookies and hard candies, only accentuated my craving ( but I resisted the temptation).

Ever since then I have been trying a few Japanese recipes, starting from the basics: miso shiru. Miso is probably one of the most popular and well-loved ingredients when it comes to Japanese cuisine. A bowl of miso shiru, with its rich flavour and brothy texture, is without a doubt one of the best complements to a meal. Generally the miso shiru served at most Japanese restaurants consist of the "standard" ingredients: tofu, wakame seaweed sprinkled with green onions. But really there is a lot more room for creativity, which is why I decided to make yellow zucchini and mushroom miso shiru.

The soup base is simply dashi stock made from konbu and bonito flakes. After the base is brought to a boil, I added sliced yellow zucchini and simmered for approximately 5 minutes before putting in chopped mushrooms and tofu. At the same time, I scooped out some white miso and mixed it with the hot soup base (in a separate bowl) until the miso dissolved and became a thick mixture. The tip here is that when cooking miso shiru, the miso is always added last (right before serving) since miso is quite heat-sensitive, and boiling it will make the flavour quite starchy (therefore not as good). Ta-da!

For the main dish I decided to try the recipe from Blue Lotus. I made some modifications, which are written in red.

Tori no Isobe-ni (Chicken Rolls) Serves 2 to 4
1/4 of a small carrot (about 20 grams or 3/4 oz)
2 fresh shiitake mushrooms
200g (7 1/2 oz) ground chicken (ground beef, lean)
1 egg
1 Tbsp sake
2 Tbsp katakuriko (1.5 tbsp cornstarch)
2 sheets nori seaweed
1 Tbsp vegetable oil (omitted)
100 ml (3 1/2 oz) sake
2 Tbsp soy sauce (1.5 tbsp)
2 Tbsp mirin (1tbsp)
1 package of kaiware-na (daikon sprouts) or shredded cabbage, optional

Peel carrot and chop finely. Remove stems from shiitake and finely chop the caps. Add carrot and shiitake to a large bowl with the chicken, egg, 1 Tbsp sake and cornstarch, and mix until smooth and spreadable. If mixture is too thin, add a little more katakuriko until it is spreadable.
Lay the nori on a cutting board and spread each sheet with an even layer of the chicken mixture, leaving about 1 cm of nori uncovered on three sides and spreading up to the edge on one side. Starting with the edge spread with the chicken mixture, roll the nori up gently.
Heat the oil in a pan over hight heat and gently add the chicken rolls, with the edge side down to seal. Saute for a few minutes, turning to cook all sides. Add sake, mirin and soy sauce, reduce heat to low and cover. Simmer, turning over the rolls occasionally, until liquid is reduced.
Remove rolls to cutting board and let sit until cool enough to handle. Wash the kaiware-na and cut off roots, then arrange on serving plates. When chicken rolls have cooled slightly, slice into bite-sized rounds. Arrange chicken rolls on the kaiware-na and drizzle the reduced cooking liquid over top.

I thoroughly enjoyed the beef rolls; the combination of ground beef and nori were amazing! The somewhat sweet sauce and the softness of the beef are in conrast with the texture of the nori sheets. The shredded greens provide another layer of textures to the dish. I served it with multigrain rice as well as the miso group, making a healthy and filling dinner, which was very satisfying at the end of a busy day.

No comments: