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Posts Tagged ‘pea pods’

Osechi-ryori is the Japanese style of traditional foods eaten on New Years Day. It typically consists of many different small dishes that are served in stacked jubako (fine lacquer boxes similar to bento). To purchase a ready-made Osechi can set you back well into the hundreds of dollars. Or, you can spend all of that money on an airplane ticket to Japan and let your mother-in-law cook all of the food and arrange the jubako for you, Kawabata family style. Now, I’m not completely sure of all of the ingredients that were used, but I’ll sure do my best to fill you in on what filled my belly.

First and foremost was a delicious bottle of sake. My father-in-law always gets a really nice bottle when I come to visit. This is a bottle of Junmai Daiginjo from Aomori (Aomori is the farthest north area of Honshu and I once hitchhiked from central Tokyo all the way up there, but that’s a story for another time) called Denshu. It’s one of the best bottles in Japan and you won’t find it anywhere in the States. Junmai Daiginjo is sake that is made from pure rice without any added alcohol or sugar, rice that is polished at least 50%, and cold brewed at less than 5 degrees celsius. While you can find some Junmai Daiginjo in the States, you won’t find any as nice as this. It’s smooth as a baby’s ass! Even if you don’t love a baby’s ass, you’ll certainly love this bottle of sake.

In this box there was some simple steamed pea pods, shiitake simmered in shoyu (Japanese soy sauce), boiled satoimo potatoes, simmered lotus root, simmered carrots, and koya tofu (freeze-dried tofu, something I’ve never eaten before but really like the texture).

Here we have braised beef wrapped gobo (burdock root), salmon wrapped in kombu, sweet-pickled daikon and carrot, and sweet shoyu glazed yellow tail.

This level of jubako contained dried herring roe, white and pink fish cakes, ikura (salmon roe), mashed sweet potato, soy-glazed dried anchovies, Cool Breeze Amongst Pine Trees (Uichiro’s name for his famous meatloaf, don’t ask me how he came up with that name, some things are probably better unknown), and ham.

Next to the jubako was a plate with some grilled red snapper. I’m always disappointed when I order red snapper in Chicago. I’m never disappointed with I eat it here in Japan. Tamiko got the skin nice and crisp while keeping the flesh moist and juicy. Extremely fresh fish.

Then, she brought out bowls of soup. A clear broth made from kombu and katsuo-bushi (bonito flakes) filled with mitsuba greens, fish cakes with good fortune written in the middle, mochi (an absolute necesity at the Japanese new years table), shiitake, and slices of yuzu peel.

Last, but surely not least, she served up some red snapper sashimi that was cured in kombu. A touch of wasabi was all it needed.

Dessert was simply fresh strawberries and green tea. Strawberries are extremely expensive here in Japan so they’re always a treat.

To wipe our mouths we used “Year of the Dragon” napkins since 2012 is the year of the dragon. I was born in a year of the dragon as well.

Happy new years everyone!

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This dish is actually from this past Sunday night. Since Yuki’s parents love seafood, like most Japanese, I wanted to grill some red snapper for Tamiko on Mother’s Day. Our friends that gave us the Rick Bayless cookbook were up at Tensuke Market so I had asked them to bring me some snapper. Unfortunately, they did not have whole snapper, just filets. They did, however, have Sanma. I remember Tamiko made Sanma for me once in Japan so I thought it’d be fun to grill some up and return the favor.

Sanma is a Pacific Saury, commonly called Mackerel Pike in English. About a foot long and slender it’s simply salted and grilled, complete with the guts. You can certainly eat the guts, as Yuki’s brother-in-law Jun does, but they’re very bitter. I don’t eat them, too bitter for me. After grilling you simply pull the skin and meat off the bones and chow down. The skin gets very crisp and tasty while the meat stay moist.

To prepare the Sanma I simply washed them down with cold water and patted them dry. Then I heavily salted both sides of the fish and let it rest for about 20 minutes. This allows the salt to stick to the fish and add the depth of flavor while keeping it a little less oily.

I had some fingerling potatoes that needed to be used up so I halved them, drizzled them with olive oil, and sprinkled some salt and shichimi togarashi on them.

I heated up the grill to med-high. The potatoes went on the top rack while the fish were on direct heat. I cooked one side of the fish for about 8 minutes then flipped it over and cooked the other side for about 6 minutes. Not sure why, but Tamiko said you should cook the first side a little longer. Since this was my first go at grilling Sanma I happily took her experienced advice. Glad I did because they cooked to perfection!

Sanma is typically eaten with grated daikon radish that has a little soy sauce poured on top of it. So, I grated some daikon and we poured a little soy.

Tamiko made Bara Sushi to accompany the Sanma. Bara loosely translates to spread out, so it’s basically just spread out sushi. She made two cups of rice and mixed some rice vinegar, sake, and mirin (maybe a little sugar too, not exactly sure what her blend of sushi rice consists of, but you can find multiple recipes for sushi rice online if you feel like trying your hand at it) into the rice. I fanned the rice down while she mixed the vinegar mix in to help rid some of the moisture. Then, she mixed in some smoked salmon, thinly sliced pea pods, thinly sliced lotus root, thinly sliced soy simmered shiitake, and carrot matchsticks. She then made some scrambled egg crepes, thinly sliced them and placed them on top. Finally, it gets garnished with thin strips of nori seaweed. It is absolutely delicious!

The soup was a simple clear dashi broth with wakame seaweed and eryngii mushrooms.

I wish more Americans would cook whole fish instead of the typical flavorless tilapia filets you see at every grocery store. Sanma is such a flavorful little fish that really would be a waste to add more than just salt. By keeping the guts inside you really get a full fish flavor, and you certainly don’t have to eat the guts. Full of omega-3’s and lower in mercury, it’s a great fish to grill up and enjoy with a cold beer or some cold sake.

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Friday night we went out to Sun Wah B.B.Q. with a bunch of Yuki’s co-workers. We had a big group of 12 adults (I still have trouble thinking of myself as an adult) including spouses and then there were 3 babies. For Chinese food, I think it’s best to go with a big crowd so you can order a variety of food.

The first thing I noticed about Sun Wah was that they had duck hanging in the window. You don’t see that often in Chicago which is a shame. Any restaurant that serves Peking Duck (Sun Wah is considered the best Peking Duck in Chicago, from what I’ve eaten here, I would have to agree) needs to display it in the window to dry the skin and show the customers what’s in store.

They have a huge dining room. I guess that’s a good thing because as the night went on they got packed! I think the wait was about 30-45 minutes when we left. Good thing we got there relatively early, although, we did have a reservation. Service was pretty typical of a Chinese restaurant. Not refined, but not sloppy. As for the food…

…the first thing that rolled out was the Peking Duck. Since we had two big round tables we ordered two of each dish so that we didn’t have to pass things from one table to the other.

Classic tableside duck carving. Slice off that crispy skin first and then chop up the meat. Really good duck. If you’re a fan of Peking Duck, and the only people I know who aren’t are veggies, you have to try Sun Wah’s. I wouldn’t say it’s really anything special, but it is the best in town, very good duck.

Lobster with ginger and scallions, what more do you need? My only gripe with this dish, and it’s not unique to Sun Wah, is that the lobster was all hacked up and very hard to get the meat from the shell. Why do Chinese restaurants hack up lobster like this? Surely there has to be a better way to stir-fry all of that flavor into the meat and keep it easy to eat.

Peking Pork Ribs. Thin slices of rib meat cooked in a thickened sweet sauce. There were slices of carrot, green pepper, and yellow pepper in it as well. If you like sweet Chinese ribs, this is the dish for you!

Stir-fried water spinach. We wanted green beans, but they didn’t have any. No worries, water spinach has a nice subtle bitterness to it. It’s also extremely healthy. A good vegetable to help cut through all of the animal fat we were mauling down.

Fried rice with BBQ pork, shrimp, scallions, carrots, and scrambled eggs. Another classic, but one you must have with a Chinese feast.

Shanton soup with chunks of pork. It’s the pork bone that gives this soup its flavor. This is to the Chinese kitchen what chicken soup is to the Jewish kitchen.

Fried noodles. For this dish they used the duck breast from the Peking duck (for Peking you only eat the skin and some of the dark meat), pea pods, baby corn, carrots, mushrooms, and onions. Personally, I would have used shiitake instead of white button mushrooms, but hey, it’s not my restaurant. Still a tasty dish.

Our last dish was silken tofu steamed with shrimp. It was topped with cilantro and swimming in a soy and broth soup. It was really good.

Overall, I have to say, Sun Wah B.B.Q. is quite possibly the best Chinese food in Chicago. While I am a true believer that Chicago does not have the best Chinese food in the world, this place is definitely worth passing through your entrails. Every dish was fresh and well prepared. Nothing was over the top, but everything was extremely solid. The best part was that all of that food, along with Tsing Dao and tip, only came to $25 per person. Well worth the weakened US Dollar.

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Spaghetti a la Yukiko

With all of this cold, wet weather we’ve had here in Chicago this summer I find less and less motivation to run to the markets as often as I like. With the need for a complete and satisfying dinner the other night and the lack of a market visit my wife told me she’d clean out the fridge and cupboards and cook up something delicious. I have to say, her spaghetti didn’t disappoint.

She found a can of tuna and always does something beautiful with it. So that was the protein. There were some pea pods, orange peppers, onions, mushrooms, and carrots in the fridge. She also found some heavy cream that we hadn’t used yet (she was going to make a quiche a couple of nights before, but cheesed out on it). We always have angel hair pasta on hand, so her dish was written.

She first cooked the tuna in a little oil to give it a little texture on the outside. After removing the tuna she cooked the veggies and then added the tuna back in along with the cream. Not sure if she added any alcohol or not, but whatever she did it worked. Toss it with the noodles and serve with cheesy garlic toast and a cold beer. Oh, and we had two little Juliette Tomatoes that were ripe from our porch garden, so we each ate one.

This dish was made using leftovers so it’s hard to figure what it cost. I would imagine that each plate probably cost us no more than $2.50.

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