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Posts Tagged ‘ponzu’

Ah yes, horse, the other red meat. You know, I’ve never understood why horse meat was off-limits in America. I mean, it’s an animal not all that dissimilar to deer or elk and we certainly have no problems eating them. Is it because we ride horses? Would you eat a cow if you rode it? I don’t know. I do know that many other places in the world do eat horse, and Japan is one of them. While it’s not a prominent animal in the extremely large, diverse, and interesting encyclopedia of animals consumed by the Japanese, it is featured in various areas where other meats might not be as readily available. As such, in places like Tokyo, there are restaurants dedicated to serving this animal on a platter rather than saddling it up for a gallop. The other night I finally got my first opportunity to enjoy the succulence of these animals when a friend of mine asked me if he could take me out for a horse. Not only is that the first time another man had ever asked me that questions, but that was a proposition I was only too happy to jump on. So, we headed out to the Ebisu district of Tokyo and headed to a place called Uma Yakiniku Takeshi. Uma is horse in Japanese, yakiniku is the style of grilling meat at your table, and Takeshi is the name of the proprietor of this establishment, he also happens to be a well-known Japanese comedian. Before I get to the food, one thing I love about Ebisu is that there are numerous interesting little izakaya’s serving up weird and exotic cuisine that you would never find unless you stumbled upon them. We ended up walking around for about 15 minutes before finding our destination.

When we sat down we were greeted with a cold glass of draft beer and some lightly pickled cucumbers with salted kombu. I’m not a big pickle or cucumber guy by any stretch of the imagination, but honestly, this wasn’t too bad at all. I even think my younger brother, he who has even stronger negative feelings toward pickled cucumbers than me, would eat this. At least he would if he was hungry enough to eat a horse.

We started off with horse tataki. Rolled in black pepper and lightly seared on all sides, this piece of meat (what part of the animal is still up for debate, but I think it’s the tenderloin) was covered with in thinly sliced onion and chopped scallions.

After a quick dip in ponzu (the horse meat, not me) here I am about to have my first taste in equestrian delights. MMMMMMMMMMMM! Honestly, it reminded me of kosher pastrami. I could throw this on some rye bread, slather on the mustard, and wash it down with a Dr Browns and be a happy man. Very delicious and surprisingly familiar to me. I had heard that horse tasted quite a bit like beef, but I think it’s a little more like bison as the muscles don’t have as much fat as cow does.

Next up was horse sashimi. Just think of this as beef carpaccio, except that it went nay instead of moo. A bit of fresh grated ginger and garlic, a splash in some tamari, and down the hatch. A little sweeter than beef, and much more tender than I expected. I can’t recall ever eating a beef carpaccio that I enjoyed as much.

Then we got the yakiniku going. The first plate had some napa cabbage, eggplant, the green part of the scallion, and, of course, some horse meat. This part of the animal comes from the belly/rib area. Think of it as thinly sliced ribeye.

Here’s our tabletop grill in full effect. I didn’t get a pic of it, but we each had a dish with three different dipping options for the grilled meat. There as a ponzu-based sauce that was my favorite, some sea salt, and some rice vinegar.

For the next cut of horse to be grilled my friend thought he’d throw me curveball, something I’d be hesitant to shove down my throat. He was wrong as it turned out to be one of the most delicious pieces of meat I’ve ever grilled yakiniku-style…the heart! I’m telling you, this was so tender and sweet, with a bit of black pepper it was heavenly! I’d jump a fence to get me some of this.

So good, the heart was (that’s my Yoda speak), that we had to get more on our next plate. Besides the heart and horse food (vegetables) this dish also had blood pipes. I don’t know if they were arteries or veins, but they were also delicious. A little rubbery, but after a few chews the clean flavor of the animal really came through. It was almost like eating thick intestines, but clean intestines. Very good indeed.

We put the grill aside after that and got a plate of horse weiner. No, not that kind of weiner, I don’t have that big of an appetite. This was a plate of weiner-style sausages. Again, a little sweet, but a very deep, rich flavor. It was also very juicy.

Our final dish was horse fried rice. With a little scrambled egg and some scallions this was a very typical fried rice, but with horse meat.

I have to say, Americans are a weird bunch. We shun so many different food items that the rest of the world consumes. As I write this blog it becomes clear to me that the reason we’ve not been exposed to things like horse as an edible creature is solely because of politics. If the beef lobby wasn’t so powerful I think we’d be eating all sorts of other animals…guinnea pig, various insects, horse, etc. It really is a delicious animal, and one that doesn’t contribute nearly as much to Climate Change as cows do. If we open our minds as well as our mouths, there’s a lot of tasty things out there we could enjoy. Mr Ed, sorry, but you are one delicious creature!

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The other night I made one of Yuki’s favorites, a dish she usually makes. She, like most Japanese absolutely love nabe in the winter time and it’s hard to blame her. You just can’t beat a good table-top soup filled with meat, veggies, and a good broth. I think chicken meatballs rolled in cabbage is her favorite and one she’s made quite a few times for me, so this time I made it for her.

First thing I did was get the meatballs wrapped and ready to go. I used chicken stock as my base for the broth so I used 2 cups of it to soak a heaping tablespoon of dried hijiki seaweed for about 30 minutes before I could do much else. When the hijike was rehydrated I strained the broth into a soup pot. The rest of my meatball ingredients were 1/2 red onion, 2 garlic cloves, 1/2 inch of ginger, 1 pound of ground chicken thigh, and a small head of napa cabbage.

To make the cabbage more pliable I dropped it into some salted boiling water and let it boil for about 2 minutes. Then I took it out and shocked it in ice water. The boiling water softened it making it easier to roll while shocking it in ice water helps it retain its color.

In a glass bowl I grated the onion, garlic, and ginger into the chicken meat, added the hijiki, seasoned it with salt and pepper, and mixed it thoroughly. Then I rolled walnut-sized meatballs in the cabbage and secured them with toothpicks.

The rest of my ingredients for the nabe were 6 green onions chopped, 2 small carrots chopped, 1 small daikon chopped, 7 fingerling potatoes halved, 8 shiitake halved, a package of fried tofu sliced, and 1 Honey 1 Rib (yes, I am finding creative ways to finish up those ribs since I over-ordered).

I put the rib in the chicken stock that had already soaked the hijiki and added 2 cups of water. I brought that to a boil and let the rib simmer in the broth for about 15 minutes. Then I strained the broth into our nabe (clay pot). The rib added some nice smokey depth to the broth. It also gave me some moist tender meat to nosh on while finishing up the cooking.

Then I brought the broth back to a slow boil and added the chicken-cabbage rolls. I let them cook for about 15 minutes to make sure they cooked all the way through. Once they were cooked I took them out and set them aside.

I kept the broth at a low boil and added all of the veggies. I let them all cook for about 10 minutes.

Once all of the veggies were cooked I added the chicken-cabbage rolls back and took the nabe to our table-top propane burner.

 To serve, I poured about a tablespoon of ponzu in each of our bowls. We helped ourselves by adding broth, meatballs, and vegetables along with a dash of togarashi. I had white rice topped with ground sesame seeds along with it.

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I like cooking salmon in foil packets because it’s a super easy and delicious way to get a lot of vegetables in your meal with maximum flavor. The other night I made some salmon packets with Japanese flavor.

My ingredient list included some bean sprouts, butter, 1 carrot cut in to matchsticks, 1 clove of garlic slivered, 4 shiitake sliced, 4 tablespoons of ponzu, 2 large bok choy, some sliced green onions, 1/3 pack of tofu, and 1 pound of salmon cut into 4 equal portions.

I took four pieces of foil large enough to wrap everything up in and first laid down half a bok choy in each, topped that with the salmon, then divided up the rest of the veggies and threw all of that on. I cracked some black pepper, poured 1 tablespoon of ponzu in each packet, threw a small pat of butter in each, then folded them up careful to leave a little air in to allow everything to steam.

I placed the packets on a baking sheet and threw it in a 400 degree oven for 15-20 minutes. That’s all, home cooking at its easiest.

I served it with white rice. On top of the rice I sprinkled some ground sesame seeds.

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The other day we were at the Tensuke Market in Elk Grove Village, arguably the best fish market in the Chicagoland area. We were out of rice and they usually have the best deals on high quality Japanese (even though it’s all from California) rice. Sure enough, they had a great deal on some new crop. While we were there we found a package of nabe-ready seafood. Nabe is simply one-pot stew or soup cooking. Usually prepared on the stove top then brought to a table-top burner to keep warm while eating it. So, we had seafood nabe.

Yuki started by making the broth. She simply boiled about 1/4 cup of dried anchovies in about 5 or 6 cups of water for 30 minutes or so. That allows enough time for the water to take on all of that nice seafood flavor without any added oils or salts.

While the broth was boiling away I prepared the veggies. Besides the seafood package (slices of fluke, octopus, scallops, shrimp, sea bass, and salmon) I chopped up 1/4 pound of napa cabbage, 6 green onions, 1 carrot, 1 package of enoki mushrooms, 3/4 pound daikon, and 6 shiitake. There are also fish cakes in the picture, but we decided not to use them. Instead, we used 1 package of shirataki noodles which aren’t in the picture.

When the broth was ready I strained it into our earthenware clay pot and discarded the anchovies. I brought it up to a low boil and Yuki added the daikon and carrot. She let that boil for about 5 minutes or so and then added the shiitake, green onions, and cabbage. About 5 minutes later she added the rest of the ingredients.

When the stew was ready, about 5 more minutes after adding the fish, we brought it over to our table and put it on our table-top burner over low heat. We poured about 2 tablespoons of ponzu into our bowls, then ladled some broth in and started eating. We had white rice on the side.

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So, I had some salt cured salmon filets that needed to get eaten up from our last bimble up to Mitsuwa. These salmon filets are great because the don’t need much cooking since they’re already salt-cured. With that, we also had a kabocha that Yuki wanted me to cook. However, I did not cook it how she requested. Too bad for her. Without further ado…

First thing I did was get the kabocha ready, I only used half of it. I seeded it, cut off most of the skin, quartered the half, and then cut the quarters themselves in half.

I set them in a baking dish, drizzled them with sesame oil, salt, and pepper. I boiled about 3/4 cup of water, poured that into the pan, and put the kabocha into a 375 degree oven for about an hour. The water should be mostly absorbed by the time cooking is done keeping the kabocha nice and moist, while the top gets a little bit golden brown.  Then I took 1/4 cup of walnuts and toasted them in a dry pan for about 6 minutes.

I coarsely ground them with my mortar and pestle and then added 4 tablespoons of ponzu. I let that sit while I cooked everything else.

For the kale I used a bunch of red kale stalks removed and leaves chopped down, 1 cup of chicken stock, 1/2 onion sliced, and three garlic cloves sliced. In a hot stock pot I poured in about 2 tablespoons of sesame oil and then added the onion and garlic. About 2 minutes later I added the kale and let that wilt for about 4 minutes. Then I poured in the chicken stock and seasoned with salt and pepper. Once the stock came to a boil I loosely covered the pot, turned the heat down to medium-low, and let it simmer for about 30-40 minutes (however much time I had left on the kabocha, it doesn’t matter as long as the kale simmers for a while).

Once the kale got going I started the miso soup. I used a heaping service spoon of shiro miso, about 4 inches of daikon sliced and quartered, one small carrot cut in half moons, 4 green onions chopped in 1 inch lengths, 1/4 cup of dashi seasoned soy sauce, and 3 shiitake sliced. In a soup pot I poured in 4 cups of water and added everything except for the miso. I brought it to a boil, then covered the pot, and turned the heat down to medium-low to let it simmer for about 15-20 minutes.

I just rubbed some sesame oil on both sides of the salmon and then seasoned with pepper. My toaster oven has a broiler setting, so I just turned that on and broiled the salmon for about 8 minutes. That was just enough time to cook it all the way through and crisp up the skin. When it was finished it was time to put everything together.

I left the salmon as is. Put some of the kale on the plate and then a couple of pieces of the kabocha. I topped the kabocha with the walnut-ponzu mixture. I mixed the miso into the soup and served that up. Then I served some white rice along with everything, mainly to balance the saltiness from the salt-cured salmon.

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Last night I did a riff on one of Yuki’s recipes. She commonly makes ground chicken dumplings similar to these patties in the winter when we eat nabe (Japanese hot-pot). So, I took her idea and made my own Japanese flavored dinner.

The ingredient list for the patties were 3/4’s pound of ground chicken thigh, 1 block of tofu that I had pressed the water out of, one egg scrambled with 1 tablespoon of soy sauce, 1 carrot cut into a small dice, 3 garlic cloves and 1 inch of ginger that I minced, and 1 tablespoon of hijiki seaweed. The hijiki comes dried and is available in most Asian sections of your grocer. I put 1 tablespoon of dried hijiki in a couple of cups of cold water and let it sit for about a half hour. Then I strained it, reserving the liquid for the miso soup.

I mixed it all together, with about a tablespoon of nanami togarashi (a Japanese red pepper spice mix, there are various kinds of togarashi that are also usually available in the Asian section) until the tofu was completely broken down and everything was mixed well. Then, on a lightly oiled baking sheet, I laid 8 patties (two patties per serving, leftovers for lunch). I let it cook in a 375 degree oven for about 20 minutes.

Before cooking the patties I got my miso soup ingredients ready to go. I cut 2 negi (Japanese green onions, larger than regular green onions, not as big as leeks) into 1 inch pieces, hiratake (oyster mushrooms), and wakame seaweed. Wakame can be bought dried or fresh. Fresh comes heavily salted to preserve it. You need to soak it really well in water and cut it into smaller pieces as it expands once the salt is rinsed off.

I also chopped up a small head of napa cabbage to cook as a side.

Once I put the patties in the oven I melted 1 tablespoon of butter in a skillet and heated up the hijiki liquid in a pan along with one more cup of water, 1 teaspoon of dashi-no-moto (instant dashi), the negi, and the mushrooms. I let the soup simmer while working on the cabbage. Once the butter was melted I added 1 tablespoon of soy sauce and then the cabbage. I let the cabbage wilt in the soy butter for about 10 minutes and then turned off the heat.

After the cabbage was ready I added the wakame to the soup and then the miso. The best way to add the miso is to take a heaping spoonful and swirl it around in a ladle that is just slightly in the soup. This allows the miso to incorporate slowly keeping it from being lumpy.

I served everything with some white rice. I poured just a little ponzu on top of the patties to add a touch of acidity and help keep them moist. To keep with the Japanese flavors it only seemed right to drink Asahi.

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Somen noodles are typically eaten in a cold broth in Japan. It’s the perfect lunch or light dinner on a hot, humid Tokyo day. Seeing as the days here in Chicago have been hot and humid Yuki decided to make a somen dish for lunch on Saturday.

Somen noodles are packaged just like soba, wrapped in individual servings. So, she first boiled two servings of the noodles and then cooled them down in some ice water.

While the noodles were cooling she hard-boiled a couple of eggs and steamed (maybe boiled, I wasn’t paying close enough attention) some okra. When the okra was cool to touch she thinly sliced them.

In a bowl, she mixed equal parts water and yamaki mentsuyu (soy sauce that’s been seasoned with dashi). She also added a few dashes of ponzu to give it a little bit of citrus tang. Then she divided up the noodles and topped them with the okra and hard-boiled eggs. We also had some cherry tomatoes so she cut some of those in half and put them in as well.

That’s all there is too it. Delicious, refreshing, and fully satisfying.

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