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Posts Tagged ‘shiitake’

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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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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I had a half of a butternut squash in my fridge that I wanted to use up last night. The first thing that popped into my head was a puree. Squash puree’s really well, especially when you add a little ginger and garlic. So, Otis and I walked down to Trader Joe’s and grabbed some pork tenderloin to grill up for the protein.

Making a puree out of squash is one of the easiest things you can do. I took the squash and removed the seeds and skin then chopped it up. Along with that, I skinned and chopped one medium red-skin potato, 1/2 inch of ginger, 3 garlic cloves, and 1/4 cup of chicken stock. The potato is simply to add a nice smooth texture.

In a sauce pan, I threw all of the ingredients together and simmered them over medium-high heat for about 15 minutes, until everything was soft but not mushy. I let it cool down and then pureed it in my little blender. I set about 5 tablespoons aside and then salted and peppered the rest and let that sit aside ready to reheat just before serving.

While the squash was simmering I marinate the pork in 1 tablespoon sesame oil, 3 tablespoons soy sauce, 2 tablespoons sake, 1 tablespoon mirin, 2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar, 1/2 inch of ginger grated, and 3 garlic cloves grated. I had 2 lbs of tenderloin and let it marinate in the fridge for about 2 hours, then let it sit out for about 45 minutes before grilling.

For my grill, about 10 minutes on each side at medium-high cooks it nice and medium with just a bit of pink left in the middle. I let it rest, tented in foil, for about 8 minutes before slicing it up.

To counter the Autumn sweetness of the squash I sautéed some asparagus with sliced shiitake, 1/2 an onion sliced, 2 garlic cloves minced, 1 tablespoon of butter, and 2 tablespoons of soy sauce.

In a medium-hot pan I poured in a couple of tablespoons of peanut oil. I sweat down the onion for about 7 minutes. Then I added the garlic and shiitake. I let those cook for about 5 minutes before tossing the asparagus in. Another 8 minutes and I added the butter and soy. I let it all cook together for a few more minutes. so the butter could coat everything, then served it up.

Pan roasting asparagus and shiitake with some butter bring out more of the woodsy notes rather than more sweetness.

White rice was on the side of course.

The night’s triumph, however, was that it was Otis’s first successful adult food feeding! We tried some sweet potato a couple of weeks ago, but it didn’t go over so well. He just wasn’t quite ready. With all the butternut squash puree, we gave it another shot. Remember the puree that I set aside before adding salt and pepper? (babies shouldn’t eat added salt) I mixed in about 2 oz’s of breast milk, not from my breasts or he’d get nothing but a hairball, until it was really smooth and thin enough that he could just swallow it down. Sure, his bib got fed too, but he ate the whole thing. I’m sure I’ll have a fun mess to clean up today because of it. But he’s worth it.

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Last night was the perfect night to grill up some juicy pork tenderloin. I’m not one to waste an opportunity like that, especially with a bunch of rain in the near future forecast. So, that’s exactly what I did, I grilled up some juicy pork tenderloin.

I made a simple marinade using 2 garlic cloves minced, 3 green onions thinly sliced, the juice from 1/2 lemon, 3 tablespoons soy sauce, 2 tablespoons sake, 1 tablespoon mirin, 1 tablespoon sesame oil, and 1.25 pounds of pork tenderloin. Before letting the pork take a dip in the marinade I stabbed it all over with my knife to allow the marinade more easy access to the juicy center. I covered it and let it sit in the fridge for about 2 hours, taking it out about 30 minutes before grilling.

For my veggies I used 1 red bell pepper chopped, 1 clove garlic minced, 1/2 onion chopped, 3 fingerling potatoes chopped, 1 head of broccoli, 5 shiitake chopped, 1 tablespoon butter, and 2 tablespoons soy sauce. I also used the juice from the other half of the lemon, but forgot to get that in the pic.

I melted the butter in a hot pan and then fried the potatoes in it for about 10 minutes till they were a bit crisp on all sides. Then, I added the onion, bell pepper, and garlic. I let them sweat down for about 6 minutes. After that, I added the shiitake and broccoli and let everything cook for about 7 more minutes. In came the soy sauce, then the lemon juice along with some cracked black pepper, and then I served it up.

While the veggies were cooking I grilled up the pork. On my grill, each grill is different, tenderloin cooks best on the top rack with the heat at med-high. I can leave the pork for about 10 minutes each side leaving it just slightly pink in the middle, the way fresh tenderloin should be. I let it rest for 10 minutes and then sliced it up.

Of course, white rice was on the side.

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Last night I made a simple burger out of ground pork and one of my usual marinades. To make it into a burger, I mixed the marinade into the meat for flavor and added some bread crumbs to help hold it together. Grilled up to perfection, these could also be pan-fried or even baked. But why when you can grill?

To make the burgers used about 1 inch of ginger grated, 3 garlic cloves grated, 3 green onions thinly sliced (white and pale green parts only), 1.25 lbs of ground pork, a few slices of bread ground into bread crumbs, 1.5 tablespoons soy sauce, 1 tablespoon sake, 1/2 tablespoon of mirin, and 1/2 tablespoon of sesame oil.

I threw it all into a glass bowl and mixed it together, along with some black pepper, with a metal spoon until the flavors were evenly distributed throughout the meat. By using a metal spoon I avoided having the heat in my hands melt the fat. This helps keeps the burger juicy while it’s on the grill. Once mixed, I let the meat for about 10 minutes or so to let the flavors settle. Then, I formed 4 patties and set them aside, covered in the fridge, while I prepared the rest of dinner. To cook, I took them out about 20 minutes prior to grilling. I grilled them over medium high heat for about 8 minutes on each side. This allowed nice grill marks while keeping it juicy, yet cooked.

I made miso soup using 1/2 onion sliced, 3 shiitake sliced, 3 fingerling potatoes chopped, 7 leaves of nappa cabbage sliced, and 1.5 tablespoons of miso.

The other side I made was a simple veggie mix of 1/2 pound of snow peas, 5 small garlic cloves minced, 1/2 tablespoon of butter, a handful of bean sprouts, 1/2 orange bell pepper sliced, and 1 tablespoon of soy sauce.

I melted the butter in a skillet and then added the garlic. I let the garlic cook for about 30 seconds and then added the orange bell pepper. After the pepper had fried up a bit in the butter, about 5 minutes, I added the cabbage and let that cook down for another 5 minutes. In came the soy sauce with some black pepper. When the soy had cooked off, just a couple of minutes, I added the bean sprouts. The sprouts have enough water so that you don’t need to much soy. When it was all cooked down for a few more minutes it was ready.

Of course, we had white rice along for the ride.

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Yuki had requested beef for dinner last night. Who am I to argue with that kind of insightful reasoning? It was a nice night to grill before the brief storm hit, so I picked up my favorite piece of beef to grill…skirt steak. I made an Asian flavored dinner out of it with miso soup, white rice, and quick pickles.

I marinated a 1lb steak for about 1.5 hours at room temperature. The marinade made by mixing together 3 cloves garlic grated, 1 tablespoon ginger grated, 6 green onions thinly sliced, 1 tablespoon cracked black pepper, 1.5 tablespoons of sugar, 1 tablespoon sesame oil, and 1/2 cup of soy sauce. After mixing together the marinade, I let it sit for a few minutes to allow the flavors to meld before covering the steak in it. I covered everything in plastic wrap and then let it sit while I prepared the rest of dinner.

One of the pickles I made was a Korean-style daikon sangchae. Instead of using Korean chili I used Japanese shichimi togarashi instead though. I used about 8oz daikon cut into thin match-sticks, 1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar, 1.5 teaspoons lemon juice, 1/2 teaspoon shichimi togarashi, 1/4 teaspoon salt, 1/2 tablespoon sesame seeds, and 1/2 teaspoon sugar.

I mixed all of the ingredients together in a glass bowl and then stirred the daikon in. I covered the bowl with wrap and left it in the fridge until dinner time.

The other pickle I made was a Korean cucumber namul. I used 1 teaspoon sesame oil, 3 mini cucumbers thinly sliced on my mandolin, 1 green onion thinly sliced, 1 garlic clove minced, 1/2 tablespoon sesame seeds, 1 tablespoon canola oil.

I laid the cucumber slices in a colander, sprinkled them with salt, and let them sit for about 10 minutes. Then I gave them a good rinse and squeezed out the excess liquid.

In a hot skillet I poured in the canola oil and then quickly stir-fried the garlic, green onion, and cucumbers, only for about 45 seconds to a minute. I removed the skillet from the heat and then added the sesame oil and sesame seeds. I tossed to blend really well and then set the cucumber aside on a plate.

Then I made miso soup using about 3 cups of water, 5 shiitake sliced, 1/2 onion thinly sliced, a bunch of salted wakame rinsed and soaked in water for about 15 minutes or so, 3 fingerling potatoes chopped, and about 1.5 tablespoons of miso.

I boiled everything together except for the wakame and miso for about 15 minutes. Then I mixed in the miso. I laid the wakame in the bowls and ladled the soup right on top.

All that was left for me to do was to grill up that skirt steak. My grill does skirt steak really well on high heat with the steak on the top rack for about 7-8 minutes per side. That gives the steak nice carmelization and grill marks while keeping the meat nice and juicy. I let it rest for about 7 minutes before slicing it up. Time to chow down!

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I had a bunch of tarragon left from my braised lamb shanks that I wanted to use up with some chicken. Most of the recipes I’ve seen with tarragon involve a cream sauce. That’s all well and good on a cold day, but what does that do for me on a hot, sweltering, humid day? I thought it’d be best to toss it into a marinade and slap the meat on the grill. So, that’s what I did.

First things first though, I made a very simple corn soup. This soup is so simple I didn’t even use garlic! I simply stripped the kernels off of 3 ears and threw them, along with the naked ears, into a pot with 2 cups of water. I brought it up to a boil, covered the pot, turned the heat down to med-low, and let it simmer for about 20 minutes. Then, I turned off the heat and let it come to room temperature. That gave me time to mix together the marinade and get the chicken ready.

Jumping ahead, once the soup was cool, I tossed the naked ears and poured everything else into my blender and pureed it all up. I poured it back into the pot and slowing brought it back up to a slow simmer. I seasoned it with salt and pepper and then garnished it with some chopped up tarragon.

For the marinade I mixed together 3 tablespoons of soy sauce, 2 tablespoons of rice vinegar, 2 cloves of garlic minced, about 3 tablespoons of finely chopped tarragon, and 2 large chicken breasts that I separated the tender strip from the large piece (I did this for two reasons, the breasts were huge and I wanted some meat for lunch the next day). I covered it all with plastic and let it sit in the fridge for about an hour. I took it out and let it sit for about another hour while it came back to room temperature.

For my veggies I sautéed together 5 shiitake sliced, 1 red bell pepper cut into strips, 1 small head of broccoli cut into florets, 3 garlic cloves minced, and 1/4 onion sliced with 2 tablespoons of butter and about 2 tablespoons of soy sauce.

I first melted the butter. Then I let the garlic go for about 30 seconds before adding the onion and pepper. About 5 minutes later I added the shiitake. 5 more minutes and I threw in the broccoli. I let that all saute together for about 7 more minutes and then poured in the soy sauce. Once the soy had all but evaporated in went about 2 tablespoons of chopped tarragon.

Grilling chicken like this is super easy. I heated the grill up to med-high heat and grilled the chicken for about 7 minutes on each side with the lid closed. That gives really nice grill marks and keeps the chicken nice and juicy.

That’s about all she wrote for this dinner. Oh, we had white rice for our starch.

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