Tag: Japanese

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 …

Equipment: Makiyakinabe

 

Makiyakinabe 1

The Makiyakinabe is also known as a Japanese Omelette Pan as this generally describes its primary function. The name, however, translates as ‘roll-cook-pan’ so, more particularly, it is used for the multi-layer, rolled style of omelette known as Tamagoyaki. These pans are rectangular (or sometimes square) in shape, in contrast to the rounded western omelette pan, and they come in a variety of sizes.  I bought the Kotobuki™ brand version you see above to replace one I lost in a house move some time ago and, today, I gave it a test-run…  Continue reading “Equipment: Makiyakinabe”

Notable Nosh: Okonomiyaki

Okonomiyaki 2017-07 1

Okonomiyaki has sometimes been called the ‘Japanese pizza’ but, though the appearance is similar (and occasionally cheese is used) the resemblance is superficial at best. Rather, this particular specialty is more closely similar to the Korean savory pancake known as ‘Pajeon’. Basically, the Okonomiyaki (which means ‘cooked as you like it’) consists of a pancake base made from cabbage, and sometimes other shredded vegetables, in a batter. This maybe cooked on both sides (or one only in some styles) and then toppings are added along with a sweetened Worcestershire type sauce and (commonly) mayonnaise. Seafood or meat can be included in the pancake and shaved Bonito flakes are a common topping.

I ate the one you see pictured above at Wasabi, in Ottawa, and, though it wasn’t the prettiest I have seen, it was very tasty indeed. The batter contained both cabbage and scallions and was well cooked through. It was a little dark in places but this did not ruin the flavor at all. The topping, in addition to more scallion, included shaved bonito and little strips of toasted nori. The bonito flakes were still fluttering when I received the dish, meaning it came straight from the griddle, and the nori added a nice nuttiness.

The one thing that made this particular variety different was that cheese was used in place of mayo… I was a bit leery of this but, in fact, it turned out to be very nice indeed. I have had Okonomiyaki a few times before this (some not very good) and I am looking forward to trying many more to explore the different structures and styles I’ve heard about.

Notable Nosh: Uni

Uni - 2017-07 1

Uni is sometimes referred to as the roe of the Sea Urchin but is actually the gonads of the creature and can produce roe or milt (semen). It is a delicacy in Japanese cuisine but it is seasonal, and not always easy to obtain, so one frequently sees it on the menus of Japanese restaurants only to find, on ordering, that it is not currently available. I came across some recently at Wasabi in Ottawa’s Bytown market, where they were available as a sushi selection, or as a sashimi preparation served, as you see above, in little cucumber cups. Each cup held four or five individual gonads and you can see an individual piece in the inset.

The texture of uni is not for everybody. It is very soft, with a silky mouthfeel and is rather like the white of a soft-boiled egg, or, perhaps, a very firm custard. When tasted, without any sort of additions, it is very reminiscent of the tomalley, or liver, of a lobster. Some would say it has a fishy taste, but I rather think of it has having a generic ‘sea flavor’ coupled with a distinct sweetness. Tomalley can also have an underlying faintly musky pungency but, with uni, it is sweet all the way through except at the very end where a similar pungency comes across as an almost bitter aftertaste. It is brief however, and does not really affect the overall pleasure of the taste at all.

In this preparation, the uni was served with a wedge of lemon, a small mound of wasabi (hidden behind the inset in the above picture), and a little dish for soy sauce. I tried soy first and, while it was pleasant, I found that the sweetness of the soy masked the delicate sweetness of the uni, thus robbing it of some of its impact. The lemon was an even worse choice as, not only did the acid mask much of the good flavor, it also made the final bitter quality more pronounced and I am surprised that anybody thought that this would be a good accompaniment. As for the wasabi, however, this worked really well. Despite the sharp, intense power of the root, it didn’t mask any of the sweetness at all and really complimented it nicely. I should like to try the delicacy in a sushi preparation sometime, but the sashimi along with just a little wasabi is terrific.