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Posts Tagged ‘bamboo’

If memory serves me correct, there is a Chinese restaurant in Yokohama’s Chinatown that is not only the oldest Chinese restaurant in Japan, but also one of the most respected Chinese restaurants in the world. I first heard of HeiChinRou when watching Iron Chef years ago. The restaurant sent its top two deputy chef’s up against Iron Chef Chen Kenechi only to have him cut them down. Not satisfied, they finally sent their Grand Master Chef to set things straight, Xie Huaxian. Xie is considered by many to be the greatest Chinese chef of our time. He was victorious. Ever since then I told my self, “I have got to eat at that restaurant!” After 7 trips to Japan, including numerous time walking past HeiChinRou, that day had finally come. Yuki had plans with a bunch of her friends to show off Otis, so her parents took me to fulfill my belly’s destiny.

An elegant restaurant on numerous floors, there’s a peaceful bamboo garden when you walk in. They took us in an elevator up to the second floor and sat us in a very comfortable booth. Coming from Chicago I was pleasantly surprised by how absolutely clean the restaurant is. It had the look and feel of a high-end French restaurant, not the greasy Chinese stir-fry I am used to. The menu features many a la carte dishes as well as a handful of set course options. Being the first week of 2012 we opted for the “Happy New Year” course option.

Uichiro and I started off with some Shokoshu, a type of Chinese rice wine or Shaoxing. Served warm, it has a caramel color as well as taste more similar to a Brandy than a rice wine. Very smooth and very warm in the belly, its delicious on a chilly day.

The first course consisted of 5 tastes. Jellyfish, a baby squid stewed in soy sauce, a shrimp, a slice of smoked duck breast, a piece of Chinese BBQ pork, and a dollop of mustard. While they were all fantastic, I have to say that the pork may have been the best piece of swine that has ever graced my palette! If it were socially acceptable I would drape myself in it and nibble on it all day long.

The second course was Shark Fin Soup with Crab. I have eaten shark fin soup before, but always questioned the authenticity of the shark fins. I always thought I was being served cellophane noodles instead. I think I was right as this texture was nothing like the bowls I’ve previously eaten. Slightly chewy, they combined beautifully with the sweetness of the crab meat. This soup may not be humane, but it sure tasted good!

The third course was abalone with Simmered Shiitake and Bok Choy in Oyster Sauce. It’s really too bad that abalone is illegal in the States, it really is a wonderful mollusk. Dense in texture, it matched very well with the soft shiitake and bitter green.

The fourth course was Beef with Shimeji Mushrooms, Carrots, and Asparagus. Served in a soy based sauce it was simply wonderful. After eating this I don’t see how I can go back to eating Mongolian Beef in Chicago’s Chinatown.

The fifth course was Shrimp in Chili Sauce. A little bit of sweetness and just the right amount of heat to get your mouth tingling a little. The spice made you want to keep coming back for more. Fried wonton skins added some crisp texture and was Uichiro’s favorite part of the dish.

The sixth course was Sautéed Rice with Egg, Pork, Green Onion, and Lettuce. This dish is similar to fried rice except that it’s sautéed together over a lower heat. This keeps the rice a little softer and helps prevent the lettuce from wilting under the intense heat of a hot wok. I’ve seen his dish on Iron Chef and was glad to get the chance to eat such a high quality version of it.

The seventh course, dessert, was Almond Jelly with a sprig of mint. I think this was Uichiro’s favorite part of the whole meal. He’s eaten many different almond jelly’s in his life and couldn’t get over how good this one was. I’ve only eaten a few, but I agree that this one was the best I’ve ever had. Sweet with the texture of a fine silken tofu, a great way to end a great meal.

All in all, I will say that none of these dishes were out of the ordinary for Chinese food as far as creativity. However, that said, I don’t think you’ll find better preparation anywhere in the world. In each dish the ingredients were of the highest quality, they were all cooked to perfection, and the flavors were expertly balanced. Hands down the most fantastic Chinese food to ever pass through my tracts!

While Xie Huaxian is no longer cooking at HeiChinRou, his successor, Nishizaki-san, is no slouch.

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Yesterday I saw some really nice coho salmon on sale that just came in that morning. Since I haven’t cooked salmon in a while I took that as a sign that it’s time to do it up again. I decided to keep it very simple and use some Japanese flavors to appease my wife.

After lunch I got the rice ready. I rinsed 1 cup of rice and threw it in the rice cooker like normal, then added a couple of large pinches of dried hijiki seaweed and a diced carrot. I let it sit for about a half hour to let the hijiki re-hydrate and flavor some of the water. Then I turned on the machine and let the rice cook. When it was finished I turned it off, mixed everything together, and let it cool to room temperature.

Closer to dinner time I made my teriyaki sauce. In a small saucepan I gently heated 3 tablespoons each of soy sauce, sake, and mirin along with 1 tablespoon of sugar. I let it heat just until the sugar was completely dissolved and turned off the heat before it came to a boil. I let that cool to room temperature.

Here’s my 20 ounce filet of coho salmon. I cut it into 4 equal portions and marinated it in the teriyaki sauce for about 45 minutes at room temperature.

While the salmon was marinating I got the abura-age ready. I had a pack of three here. I cut them in half and rinsed them off with some boiling water. They very oily and the boiling water rinsed a majority of that oil off. Then the packages open up nicely for easy stuffing.

I stuffed them equally with the rice mixture and then sealed them. I didn’t have any toothpicks, so I cut down some bamboo skewers to do the job. In a saute pan I brought 1/4 cup of water to boil with 1/4 cup of seasoned soy. The soy is seasoned with a little dashi and mirin. Once lightly boiling I put the packets in, covered it, and turned the heat to low. This lets the broth flavor penetrate while heating up the rice. I let it go for about 10 minutes then turned off the heat and let it sit until everything was ready.

I also placed the salmon under the broiler, starting with the skin-side up. About 5 minutes later I turned it over, basted the top with the marinade left in the dish, and let it broil for another 5 minutes.

Before cooking the salmon and abura-age I got my vegetables ready. I had two large heads of baby bok choy that I separated the leaves from the stems and chopped them all down, 1/2 onion sliced, 3 garlic cloves minced, 1 package of shiitake sliced, and 1/2 a large red bell pepper sliced.

While the salmon was broiling and the abura-age packets absorbing tasty fluids I heated up a pan and poured in 2 tablespoons of sesame oil and tossed in the onions to let them saute for about 4 minutes. Then I added the peppers and garlic. After another few minutes I added the shiitake and bok choy stems for about 4 more minutes. I seasoned with pepper and poured in about 3 tablespoons of soy sauce. Once the soy boiled off I added the bok choy leaves, stirred them in, covered the pan, and turned off the heat. I just wanted the leaves to wilt a little.

I timed it all so everything would be finished at the same time. I plated it up and scarfed it down.

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So, my little brother took us out to eat at Essence Of India last night, so no Meatless Monday. We did get vegetarian samosas and a chickpea and spinach dish though, so we did partially do Meatless Monday (not inlcuding our lamb and chicken). Since I’ve already blogged about that joint a while back here’s what I made for dinner this past Friday, kefta kabobs.

I used a 1/4 onion, a piece of ginger, 1 garlic clove, 1 tablespoon of paprika, 1 teaspoon of cumin, 1 teaspoon of dried basil, 1 teaspoon of dried oregano, and 3/4 pound of ground lamb.

In a glass bowl I plopped the lamb meat and grated the onion, ginger, and garlic on top. In a small sauce pan I heated up 2 tablespoons of olive oil and put all of the dried spices in. I let them cook in the oil for about 1 minute. Then I turned off the heat and let the spice mix cool for about 5 minutes. After that, I poured it on the meat and seasoned with salt and pepper. That all got mixed together in order to mix the flavors evenly throughout the meat. I formed 4 oblong “sausages” out of the meat and then put it in the fridge for about a half hour to let the meat firm up.

On the side I made some chickpeas with vegetables. I used 3 plum tomatoes chopped, 2 garlic cloves minced, the other 1/4 of onion diced, 1 red bell pepper diced, 1 14 ounce can of chickpeas, 1 large handful of baby spinach, and 1/2 teaspoon each of cumin, cayenne, and turmeric.

In a heated pan I poured about 2 tablespoons of olive oil and then tossed in the onion, carrot, and bell pepper. I let them sweat for about 6 minutes and then added the garlic. About a minute later I added the tomatoes with all of their juices and let them break down for about 4 minutes. Then the chickpeas went it along with the spices with salt and pepper. Once the chickpeas were heated through, about 4-5 more minutes, I added the spinach. I turned off the heat and covered it. The residual heat wilted the spinach and keeping it covered gave me enough time to grill the kefta.

While the grill was heating up I took 4 bamboo skewers that were soaking in water for an hour and pushed them through the cold kefta. I oiled the grill and then cooked the kefta for about 4 minutes on all four sides.

Instead of regular white rice to go with everything I used basmati rice. I used chicken stock instead of water along with a pinch of turmeric for color. I would have used saffron, but I’m out. I chopped up some cilantro and garnished the plate.

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Last weekend I did a little searching to try to find the best ramen noodles in Chicago. It’s damn near impossible to find a good, authentic bowl of Japanese ramen in this town as all Japanese restaurants seem to be the same neighborhood sushi joint serving up Americanized sushi (ie- California Roll, Dragon Roll, Philly Roll, etc.). While that’s all well and good, what I wanted was ramen!

While searching online I came across very positive reviews of newly opened (only about 3 weeks old) Arami on Chicago just west of Wood. Billed as an authentic Japanese restaurant in my neighborhood I got a little excited, tingly you might say. Not really in the mood to cook last night I decided to take Yuki out and give Arami a go. Very wise decision indeed.

The decor is true to Japanese philosophy, very simple and natural. The entrance is a big torii (traditional Japanese gate) and sets the atmosphere off right. The walls are very light, somewhere between eggshell and wasabi green, but more on the eggshell side. The tables are bamboo and the fixtures look to be made of reclaimed wood. I especially like the bar. It’s just a big slab of tree trunk.

Service was excellent. Usually, when a restaurant first opens up, the service is the worst part of the experience. The place ran like a veteran. Our server, Tiffany, was very knowledgable of the menu and very attentive without being annoying. Food came out in timely order and nothing was rushed.

As I get to the food I want to apologize as I usually do when posting pics from my phone. They are terrible! I do my best to make the food visible, but my phone’s camera is a piece of  junk. Keep that in mind and don’t let my pics deter you.

We started off with the Togarashi Seared Tuna. A beautiful strip of tuna coated in togarashi and seared perfectly, about a millimeter cooked all around the edges with the center completely raw. There were 6 pieces served on top of a seaweed and kelp salad with a meyer lemon dressing. The seaweed and kelp salad was excellent. A lot of times seaweed salads are just dripping with vinegar. Not this one. Perfectly dressed and a nice compliment to the natural fat of the tuna and mild spice of the togarashi.

Next, we got the Akami Ankimo. Akami is the red part of blue fin tuna and ankimo is monkfish liver (one of my all-time favorite ingredients). The slices of akimi sashimi (you could tell that they were cut by professionals who understand the subtlety of cutting fish) topped with small slices of ankimo and some sort of sliced green. Yuki thought it was a kind of pepper, but I think it’s just the green part of scallions. Doesn’t matter whose right, it was outstanding! Too bad Arami doesn’t yet have a liquor license as sake would have matched this perfectly.

For an entrée Yuki got the Kimchi Ramen. Hands down the best ramen I’ve ever tasted in this city! The broth was maybe a little too light to be considered authentic (in Japan the best part about ramen is all of the gelatin from using bones to make the broth, your lips should feel a little greasy), but the flavor was fantastic. Thick chunks of pork belly, cubes of tofu, sliced kimchi (not an authentic Japanese flavoring for ramen, but a delicious one), a par-boiled egg with a nice runny yolk, and sliced scallions for garnish. The only real problem is that it’s too hot in Chicago right now to eat ramen. Yuki was sweating a little from eating it. That didn’t stop her though as it was friggin fantastic.

When ever I see short rib on a menu there’s a very high likelihood that’s what I’m getting. Combine that with my love for all things donburi and I had to get the Short Rib Donburi. I really nice short rib braised in a soy-based broth served on top of rice. To counter the fattiness of the meat they serve it with sliced pickled asian pear and scallions. The rib was very tender and the broth flavors almost penetrated completely through. I’m glad it didn’t to preserve the natural flavors of the meat itself. Another winner in my book.

Dessert is the one area they fell short on. The only two options were the typical mochi ice cream balls or three different gelatos. I asked if the gelato was made in-house and Tiffany said it wasn’t. We still opted for the gelato though. They had three flavors (green tea, ginger-lemon, and muscato) and you get two scoops per order. We were told that we could only pick one flavor, but Tiffany talked the chef into letting us have two, so we got the green tea and ginger-lemon. The green tea was terrible! Overly sweet and very chunky. It was not a good product and they need to get rid of it immediately! The ginger-lemon, however, was great. Not too sweet, nice and creamy. They could do more with desserts though. I’m tired of every Japanese restaurant serving mochi ice cream and ice cream. There are so many things that can be done with Japanese ingredients to make great, simple desserts. Green Tea Pot De Creme with Adzuki Ganache was an idea I gave Tiffany. She seemed to like that idea, so hopefully she can get the chef to open his mind and make some real desserts. You don’t have to be a pastry chef to make good desserts.

At any rate, Arami is our new favorite Japanese restaurant in Chicago. While we didn’t try a lot of the sushi, we could see that they know what they’re doing. We will definitely be back over and over again, especially once they get a liquor license as I was told they’ll have a killer sake list! Sushi and sake, sounds good to me.

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I was perusing my Charlie Trotter cookbook the other day and came across a recipe that uses a very similar marinade to one I often use. Since he’s the great Charlie Trotter I thought I’d give his a try. Oh, and yakigyu is simply Japanese for grilled beef.

His marinade consisted of 1/2 cup of tamari which is probably the most ancient style of Japanese soy sauce as it contains no wheat and is a little richer than regular soy (it is the byproduct of making miso), 1/4 cup of mirin, 1.5 tablespoons of sesame oil, and 2 tablespoons of grated ginger. Once I mixed up the marinade I set 3 tablespoons aside and then thinly sliced 3/4 pound of sirloin and threw that into the marinade. I covered it with plastic wrap and let it sit in the fridge for 2 hours.

Then, using some bamboo skewers that I soaked in water for an hour, I threaded the meat and got it ready for the grill. Since the meat was thin it only needed about 2-3 minutes on each side over a medium-hot grill.

To accompany the meat I made a quick vegetable saute of 5 shiitake sliced, half an onion large diced, and 5 radishes. I separated the greens from the radish and thinly sliced the radishes with my mandolin slicer. I could have used my knife, but the wife was wondering why I got a mandolin slicer if I never use it. So, there you go sweetheart, I used the mandolin.

In my hot pan I poured 1 tablespoon of soy oil and sautéed the onion first for about 5 minutes. Then I added the shiitake and let that go for about 4 minutes. After that I tossed in the sliced radishes. Those cooked for about 4 minutes until I poured in the reserved 3 tablespoons of marinade. I let that boil down for a few minutes and then added the radish greens. Once the radish greens wilted down, about 1-2 minutes, I turned of the heat as this was ready to go.

Instead of regular white rice I made hijiki and carrot rice, a recipe that Yuki taught me a long time ago and has become one of my favorite rice preparations. First, I took a heaping tablespoon of dried hijiki and soaked it in some cold water for about a half hour. I also diced up a small carrot. Once the rice was washed and in the rice cooker bowl (I only made one cup of rice) instead of regular water I poured in 2 tablespoons of soy sauce, and 1 tablespoon each of sake and mirin. Then, the get the right amount of liquid I used the hijiki soaking water to fill it up. Once the liquid was at the right level I threw in the hijiki and carrot. Hit the on button and a half hour later my rice was ready.

I have to say I was very disappointed in Trotter’s marinade. Tamari is a little bit stronger in flavor than soy sauce and it really made the beef salty. Too salty for Yuki’s taste and almost too much for mine (I tend to like food a little saltier than she does). Old Chucky Boy should know better than to have used so much tamari. I would have been much better served to have used the classic marinade I usually do, 3 parts soy, 2 parts sake, and 1 part mirin (1.5 tablespoons of sesame oil is ok). Besides the soy being a little lighter in flavor, cutting back on the amount and replacing it with sake (or vodka if you like) adds a little more depth the marinade. A little grated garlic wouldn’t have hurt either. While I have had good luck with some of his recipes in the past, this is one I will not be using again.

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Well, last night was another beautiful night to fire up the grill, so fire up the grill I did. I still had a couple of the chorizo (the ones that taste more like andouille) in my fridge, so I decided to skewer them withe some white fish. At the Whole Foods, Sea Bass looked the freshest.

First, I cut the fish into chunks and marinated them in olive oil, a bunch of chopped parsley, a teaspoon of paprika, and some black pepper. I never salt marinades for fish because the salt will draw out the moisture. I want my fish moist and succulent! I covered the marinading fish with wrap and set it in the fridge for about an hour. Since I have bamboo skewers, I put a bunch in water to soak during that time.

I cut up the chorizo, an onion, and some zucchini into good-sized chunks. When I took the fish out of the fridge I alternated all of the ingredients so that there were two of each on every skewer. Then I took some large cherry tomatoes and skewered them on separate pieces of bamboo. I also picked up some Japanese Eggplants. I didn’t skewer or cut them, I grilled them whole. I drizzled the remaining marinade on the tomatoes and eggplants.

After I put everything on the grill I realized that I had forgotten to add salt. So, I salted everything on the grill.

It was pretty windy last night, I mean, I am in the windy city. I had to constantly move things around the grill because the wind was affecting my grill’s hotspots. I was able to control it pretty well though. Everything cooked perfectly.

I served the food with some white rice.

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Last night I took advantage of another nice evening and grilled up some fish, at Yuki’s request. I decided to make some brochettes with Moroccan spiced cod. Any firm-fleshed fish would work for this recipe, cod just happened to be the cheapest and freshest as it just came in yesterday morning.

I cut up the fish into chunks large enough to skewer for the grill. Then I mixed up a marinade that consisted of 4 chopped garlic cloves, 1/2 teaspoon of paprika, 1/2 teaspoon of cumin, 1 teaspoon of salt, 1/2 teaspoon of cayenne, about 4 tablespoons of olive oil, the juice from one lemon, and a few tablespoons of chopped cilantro. I tossed the fish into the marinade and let it sit in the fridge, covered, for about 3 hours occasionally turning.

When it came time to grill I took the fish out to rest for about a half hour to come to room temperature. During that time I chopped an onion and a red pepper as well as thinly slicing , about 1/4 of an inch thick, a chinese eggplant (the regular eggplants weren’t as fresh) and two small zucchini. I also let my bamboo skewers soak in water for an hour.

After all of the vegetables were cut I skewered the fish with the red pepper and onion chunks. Then I drizzled the eggplant and zucchini slices with olive oil and seasoned with salt and pepper. I put the skewers on the bottom rack and the slices on the top rack. Everything was cooked at medium heat. That way the vegetables would cook at about the same rate as the fish. If the heat were too high the fish would cook much faster and the veggies would be too raw.

I made a sauce to drizzle on top of everything after grilling. The sauce consisted of 2 tablespoons of tahini, 1 tablespoon of soy sauce, 1 tablespoon of olive oil, the juice of 1/2 lemon, 1/2 teaspoon of paprika, and 2 tablespoons of chopped cilantro. I served with white rice and garnished with some cilantro sprigs.

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