Tag: Japanese

Broccolini with Sesame Miso Dressing

broccolini with sesame miso dressing 1

Today’s simple little recipe is one I derived from a common Japanese way of dressing cold greens (notably spinach). The dressing in question is made by toasting sesame seeds then grinding them to a paste along with a little sugar and mirin, sake and soy sauce. The result is called ‘Spinach Gomae’ (if using Spinach) and, while I like the dressing generally, I also find that it can have a bit of a bitter after taste.

I decided to try something that resulted in the same sweet/sesame flavors, but avoided any bitterness and, accordingly settled on Hummus as a milder (if not very Japanese) base for the dressing. I also incorporated a little light miso for depth, and then included a rich Japanese Sesame oil for the proper sesame punch. For today’s dish, I am using Broccolini rather than spinach to make a nice little appetizer salad…

Ingredients

  • 2 cups pre-blanched Broccolini, trimmed of thick stems;
  • 3 Tbsp. Hummus;
  • 1 tsp. Light (white) Miso;
  • 1 tsp. Lemon Juice;
  • 1 Tbsp. Dark Sesame Oil;
  • 1 tsp. Sugar;
  • 1 – 2 Tbsp. Mirin;
  • Sesame Seeds for garnish.

Assembly is super simple … First, blend together all the ingredients except the Broccolini and sesame seeds and mix to a smooth paste. Allow this to sit for at least 20 minutes to allow the flavors to blend.

When you are ready, add the dressing to the Broccolini and mix. The idea here is not to drench, or drown the greens in the dressing, but rather just add enough to coat the pieces with sauce. Arrange the greens attractively on individual serving plates and sprinkle with sesame seeds for garnish. Serve…

That’s it.

Sushi Village Revisited

JR Egg Sushi and Sashimi 1

I don’t generally give restaurants a second review…  I visited, and reviewed Sushi Village almost two years ago and all I will say about this most recent visit is that the ambience, food and service are about the same as they were for my first experience. That being said, I dropped in to the place once again quite recently (as the place is very close to the hotel where I most commonly stay in Ottawa), and I thought my readers might like to see the dishes I selected.

The first, which you see pictured above, was listed on the Sushi/Sashimi menu as just ‘Egg’, which I took to be a sushi/sashimi version of the multi-layered Japanese omelet known as ‘Tamagoyaki’. It was an egg dish, no doubt, but the connection between that basic fact and the complex Japanese egg specialty ended there. What I received was sort of an omelet, I suppose, but it was little more than plain egg that was cooked (in some way) to produce a thin, faintly rubber-like, sheet of yellow plastic. It didn’t taste bad, by any means, but it could easily have been powdered egg, and the texture was nothing like I a proper Tamagoyaki omelet. In fairness, the menu never made that specific claim but I will note, in passing, that I went and had what was definitely touted as ‘Tamago’ in a much higher end sushi restaurant only a few days later and got the same thing … Shame! Continue reading “Sushi Village Revisited”

Notable Nosh: Red Snapper Sashimi

Red Snapper

About six years ago, I reviewed an Asian fusion restaurant and noted that some Red Snapper sashimi I ordered had ‘that slightly unpleasant earthy taste that some freshwater fish have’. I am a little embarrassed by that review now as I did not know, as I later learned, that Red Snapper is actually a sea fish…

In fairness to myself though, I have to say, the mistake was somewhat honest as, in all probability, what I ate on that particular occasion was not Red Snapper at all. It turns out, according to a report by the American Congressional Research Service, that almost 80% of the fish offered in restaurants as ‘Red Snapper’ is some other fish entirely. Some of it is ‘Pacific Rockfish’, while Tilapia, most definitely a freshwater fish, also often appears fraudulently in its place. I am thinking, now, that the ‘Red Snapper’ that disappointed me all those years ago was freshwater fake…

Anyway, I have had Red Snapper many times since them (as far as I can reasonably tell). Most recently, I had it at Wasabi, in Ottawa, where I ordered both as the Sashimi, and Nigiri Sushi you see pictured above. This offering was definitely a sea fish and (assuming I wasn’t fooled on this occasion, or the last few times) I think I can claim this fish as being my favorite for consuming raw …

One of my absolute favorite Sashimi selections is Octopus. Partly, this is a textural thing, but I also love the very sweet marine flavor of the flesh. This same sweetness doesn’t actually come through very strongly in most fish (as opposed to shellfish), but the Red Snapper (known as ‘Tai’ in Japanese) represents an definite exception. The texture is even a bit like octopus in that it is quite fibrous and very robust (compared to, say, fatty tuna), but it is the sweet but delicate umami quality of the fish that makes it special for me. Quite honestly, I would order this ahead of the riches, most expensive Otoro any day …

The Sake Bomb

Sake Bomb

I was at the Wasabi restaurant down in Ottawa and I saw this thing called a ‘Sake Bomb’ on the menu. It turns out that this is actually a ‘thing’ these days (and not just unique to this restaurant) but, in any event, I had to try it…

My waitress brought me a small glass of beer (Sapporo, I think), and then she balanced a small cup of hot sake on swizzle sticks above it as you see in the left-hand picture above. Now, since I insisted on taking a photograph, she then did what the drinker is supposed to do. She yelled…

Ichi, ni, san, sake bomb!!!

And then she bashed her fist on the table causing the cup to drop into the beer…

Well… I am sorry I couldn’t snap a picture quick enough, but the result was like a little mini-volcano. You can see the resultant mess in the right-hand picture, and all I can say is that I am glad she got me to move my menus, Ipad, and camera case out of the way first.

Kind of a one-time novelty experience, of course, but the result actually tasted pretty good 😊

Notable Nosh: Japanese General Tso’s Chicken

Japanese General Tso

General Tso’s Chicken (or some spelling variant thereof) has become so ubiquitous that most people who have dined in a Chinese restaurant have had it at one time or another. Surprisingly, though, even though the dish has been popular for a decade or so, it was only last year that I tried it for the first time. There are many different variations on the basic theme, of course, and one can almost so that no two representations are more than passingly similar. After my first try, I decided to order it in various locations and see if I could get a handle on the range of different preparations …

My first experience was in a fairly westernized Chinese restaurant in Vancouver. Just recently though, I was down in Ottawa and I came across an appetizer version in a Japanese restaurant. It was an ‘All-You-Can-Eat’ Sushi place and it had a small section of ‘Chinese Food’ listed on its extensive menu.

Anyway, the result you see here was … well, interesting. Even in my limited experience with this dish, I can pretty much guess that experienced aficionados would probably say that, whatever this dish is, it is NOT General Tso’s chicken. There are no vegetables in the mix (although, to be fair, this was meant as an appetizer so ‘filler’ was not needed), but the sauce that covered the chicken was completely off base. The chicken itself was actually pretty good… it was only dusted with flour rather than being battered (which is a plus to mind), and it was fried to the point of being nicely crispy on the outside. As for the sauce?

Well, as far as I have been able to tell, General Tso’s Chicken is supposed to have a bit of a fiery bite to it. It is not a ‘hot’ dish, as such, but it should have a little chili somewhere in the mix to give it a little spark. Here, though, the spicy heat quotient was zero (zip, zilch, nada, nyet, niente… etc.). The actual result was much more like the sort of sweet and sour sauce poured over chicken balls in the lower end ‘Chinese’ restaurants. It was, to my mind, quite a bit like ketchup diluted with a little vinegar, and with extra sugar added. Not horribly bad, at all… just not right. I rather think the good General might be rolling over in his grave at the thought of this production in his name…

Foodstuff: Miso

Miso 1.jpg

Many westerners have, at the very least, encountered miso, in the ubiquitous Miso Soup offered in almost every Japanese Restaurant. It doesn’t however, appear all that frequently in the cupboards or fridges of many western homes, and this is a pity, as the umami rich product is extremely versatile, being useful for flavoring soups, stews, and sauces, and also as a marinating ingredient and a pickling agent, to boot. Being rich in flavorful glutamates, it is, one might say, a ‘natural’ MSG … [ Continue reading “Foodstuff: Miso”

Smoked Salmon Roll

Smoked Salmon Roll 1

Today’s post features a little creation that was one of my recent ‘non-rice sushi’ experiments. This is a ‘maki’ type preparation (a ‘roll’, that is), except that here, egg-salad replaces the rice one would normally expect. Slices of smoked salmon form the actual outer roll, but I have used nori sheets for an inner wrapper for the filling in the interests of both tradition and texture … Continue reading “Smoked Salmon Roll”

Notable Nosh: Unagi

Unagi 1

Who remembers the ‘Friends’ episode when Ross boasts to Rachel of his skill in the Japanese martial arts awareness technique of ‘Unagi’?  Of course, Ross got it wrong, for Unagi is actually the Japanese word for the freshwater eel that is frequently barbecued, and often included as a sushi offering.

Saltwater eel is also found in Japanese cuisine, where it is known as ‘Anago’, but it is less common (at least in the west), and not generally cooked in the sweetish Kabayaki sauce (very like Teriyaki Sauce) common with Unagi … Eel, by the way, does not generally appear as a (raw) sashimi and in sushi, and other preparations, is invariably cooked, generally by slow-simmering, occasionally followed by grilling.

Anyway, above you see Unagi as part of a Nigiri Suhsi offering I had at Hokkaido Sushi in Ottawa. It certainly isn’t the prettiest presentation I have ever been served but it was genuinely tasty. The fish was just a tiny bit drier than it should be but the sauce was delicately used and the full, very umami taste of the fish shone through perfectly. Many people tend to shy away from eel, despite being perfectly comfortable with other fish, but this worth trying…

Cucumber Gunboats

Cucumber Gunboats 1

Many of you who have eaten in Sushi restaurants regularly will likely have come across the specialty known as ‘Gunkan Maki’. For those who haven’t experienced it yet, it is very much like Nigiri sushi in that it is a topping (‘Neta’) on top of an oblong pad of sushi recipe except, in the ‘Gunkan’ case, the topping is ‘loose’ rather than solid (as, say in the case of a block of tuna ), and, thus, a collar of Nori is wrapped around the rice to hold it in place. The name ‘Gunkan’ is usually rendered in English as ‘Battleship’ on most menus to reflect the boat-like shape of each item.

Today, I am showing you the way I have experimented with the basic theme by replacing the rice pad with a section of cucumber (in keeping with my low-carb diet). In celebration of this novel idea (which I haven’t found elsewhere) I have named my creations ‘gunboats’ and I have played around with some non-traditional toppings (or fillings, if you prefer) …. [ Continue reading “Cucumber Gunboats”

Notable Nosh: Squid Balls

Squid Balls 1

Well, I first have to a bit of an apology for this post, folks … I ordered three of the above pictured ‘balls’ at Hokkaido Sushi in Ottawa a while back and I scarfed down two before remembering to take a photograph. It is also a little difficult to get any sense of the size of these balls (Yes, yes… I get you didn’t know that squid have balls), but I can tell you that each of these little delicacies is about the size of a quail egg…

Anyway, I almost didn’t bother with doing a post, given my photographic lapse, but the fact is, these were really terrific and worth a mention. Each little sphere was coated in a very thin batter (or maybe just dusted with a starch of some sort), but it was the ‘innards’ that really shone.

The ‘filling’ (as it were) was definitely squid… Indeed, the flavor was so much more pronounced even than fresh, deep-fried squid rings. What made the dish (and possibly contributed to the strength of the flavor) was the texture. I don’t know exactly what they did here, but it seemed very much as they processed (‘whipped’ even) squid flesh to a fine paste and then (possibly) added a little cornstarch… The mouth-feel of biting into each ball was springy, and very toothsome indeed. I wish I could explain it better, and, even more, I hope I can figure out how they made this … I will be playing around in my own kitchen and will, of course, report any developments …