Seafood

Chawanmushi with Uni and Ikura

March 2018 Fam Din
There are some foods that after one bite, I find myself saying…

“Damn. That’s luxurious.”

And it doesn’t even mean having to use expensive ingredients – though, it definitely doesn’t hurt.

March 2018 Fam Din
A lot of times, that sentiment is evoked for me just based on texture.

Just think about how you feel when you take a bite of crème brûlée. Hopefully, if it is was prepared well, it should be thick and rich with a great mouthfeel. It should make you want to move your mouth around so that the creamy custard hits all of your taste buds and sensors.

March 2018 Fam Din
That’s exactly how I felt the first time I had chawanmushi – a traditional Japanese egg custard. I couldn’t even tell you the name of the restaurant I first had chawanmushi at. All I recall is that it was a tiny little spot we had stumbled into when we were in Osaka years ago. My friends and I didn’t speak a bit of Japanese but had somehow managed to order the most delicious bowls of soba. I guess we amused our host (and the fact that he was incredibly generous) because he brought out several dishes for us to try.

Chawanmushi was one of them.

I recall the bowl was simply adorned with fish cake slices and mushrooms but it was the custard itself that was surprising. It was incredibly light, beautifully silky while having a fresh sea flavor to it.

And that was it.

March 2018 Fam Din
Since then, I’ve enjoyed several variations of it—sometimes with chunks of seafood in the base, sometimes more veggie forward. But always oishi.

At our recent egg themed Fam Din, it was the perfect time make my own chawanmushi. The base of the custard is quite simple to assemble. All we did was combine eggs, seafood stock, dashi and bonito together. And because I’m obsessed with trying to use my sous vide device as much as possible, I put them in little mason jars.

After sealing the jars, I sous vide them at 176 degrees F for an hour. Before serving, we topped each with a sprinkle of Maldon salt flakes, fresh uni, a generous spoonful of ikura and some fresh scallions.

March 2018 Fam Din
Not only did the uni and ikura add to the decadence level and gentle seafood flavor but the little pops from the ikura were a fun little surprise. The Sous Vide Chawanmushi with Uni and Ikura was then served with two different types of Japanese rice crackers (one with wasabi, one without) for some added crunch and texture.

Next time I may add some big chunks of prawns and beech mushrooms to the custard, too. Or maybe even lobster or crab?

Options are endless.

March 2018 Fam Din
Perfect to serve at brunch or as a light appetizer, the beauties are sure to have you and your guests do a little happy food-shimmy.

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Chawanmushi with Uni and Ikura
Serves 6

Ingredients:

2 ounces dried bonito shavings
21⁄4 cups seafood stock
2 teaspoons dashi powder
3 large eggs
flaked salt
12 pieces fresh uni (sea urchin)
3-4 ounces fresh ikura (salmon roe)
sliced scallions/chives
serve with senbei (Japanese rice crackers)

In a small pot, combine the bonito shavings and seafood stock. Bring to a simmer and allow the shavings to simmer and steep for 5 minutes. Strain the stock in a bowl and discard the bonito flakes. Stir in the dashi. Allow to slightly cool.

In another bowl, whisk the eggs. You’ll want to ensure the yolks and whites have combined but do so gently as to not create too many bubbles. Pour in about one of cup of the heated broth while gently stirring to combine. Once incorporated and slightly tempered, add the rest of the stock and gently stir.

Divide the custard mixture, pouring through a fine mesh strainer, between six 4-ounce mason jars. Try not to shake or disturb the custard too much as you want to avoid air bubbles. Seal the jars tightly with their respective lids.

Submerge the jars in a secure container of water (pot, food safe bin, etc.)  that has been heated to 176 degrees F. Sous vide the custards at the 176 degrees F temperature for one hour. Once done, carefully remove the jars from the water bath allow to slightly cool. If you prefer not to sous vide, cover each dish/jar and steam for 15-20 minutes.

When it’s time to serve, remove the lids and sprinkle each with a few pinches of salt flakes (we like Maldon for the texture and flavor), 2 pieces of uni, a spoonful of ikura and some scallions/chives. Serve with your choice of senbei on the side.

 

Adapted from Nomiku blog

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Pastas/Noodles

Zaru Soba and Memories of Japan

Zaru Soba

In 2006, I spent a whirlwind 5 days experiencing Japan.

Not knowing when the next opportunity would arise for me to visit the country, I was determined to see, feel, experience, and of course EAT as much as I could.

Over the course of 5 days, I visited the cities of Kobe, Osaka, Tokyo, Hiroshima, Kyoto, and Kishigawa. That’s  over 1,200+ miles back and forth—-thanks to my Japan Rail Pass.

I attended a major league baseball game, walked around the Hiroshima Peace Park and Atomic Bomb Dome, traversed the busy subways & shops of Tokyo, prayed in shrines, sang at a karaoke bar, stayed at a hostel/ryokan, got lost—A LOT, biked around the streets of Kyoto, attended a Donjiri Festival, meandered around the different hamlets, and above all –engaged with the people of Japan. Needless to say, I barely nicked the surface.

Zaru Soba

But by far, my most precious memory of Japan was when I met Yushiko in Kyoto. That day, my friend Kate and I rented rickety old bikes to explore the old imperial city. As we were wandered around a part of the city infamous for old temples, we spotted a tiny, older woman sweeping the steps of a temple. She looked up as we went by and smiled. After exchanging a few greetings, she stopped and pointed to me and said “Japanese?” I said no, and responded “Vietnamese”. She laughed and began trying a few words in English. It turned out that the “temple” was not a temple at all but was her home. We later discovered that Yushiko was 94 years old (though she looked at least 15 years younger than that!) and that the home belonged to her late husband’s family line.

Yushiko invited us to come in and to view her garden. I was floored and so excited by her generosity. At one point, she motioned us to go through this old wooden door through a stone wall. We didn’t know what to expect but as I pushed the door which looked like it hadn’t been used in years, tears swelled up in my eyes. It was amazing– just as how I would have imagined the “Secret Garden” would look like. It was so peaceful and serene. Kate and I stayed in there for a few minutes just marveling at the beauty around us and feeling so lucky that this kind soul had invited us into her home.  We stayed and chatted with Yushiko for nearly 30 minutes and although she said she was “too old” for us to take photos with her– I just know that I will never forget her face and the precious time we spent with her.

 

 

A quick snapshot of Yushiko’s garden and home. Trust me, the photo does not do justice at all.

Of course it just wouldn’t be me if I didn’t mention any of the food we encountered during my time in Japan. And OH…THE…FOOD.

 

 

Japan 2006 Collage

Noodles, Sashimis, Bento Boxes, Donburis, Sweets, Sakes, and snacks of all kinds. Oh man….my mouth is watering just thinking about it all.

Soba Noodles

 

 

Since we’ve been having such warm weather lately and because my travel bug has been itching like crazy, I decided to make one of the dishes I ate a ton of when I was in Japan–SobaSoba are noodles made of buckwheat flour and can be served either hot or chilled–-Zora Soba is my personal preference.

 

 

Dashi

At the heart of Zaru Soba is the tsuyu–or dipping sauce. The tsuyu is a pungent mixture of dashi, shoyu, and mirin but its strong flavors matches so well with the mild soba noodles. You can definitely make your own dashi broth but I kind of “cheat” and use instant packets. Go ahead…judge me all you like 🙂

Zaru Soba

Zaru Soba is typically served with tons of nori, scallions, and wasabi. I also like to have a side of tempura with it for a offset of temperature and crunch. Oishii!!!

But one thing is for certain….Whether hot or chilled, loud slurping while eating your Soba is mandatory. True Story.

<Sigh>….I miss Japan. And until I can find my way back to the beautiful country, I will have to console myself with Nihon goodies such as ramen and this soba.

And for the immense generosity and experiences I had in Japan–-Arigatou gozaimasu!

Kyoto: 2006Snapshot of me on a bridge in Kyoto after a full day of biking around the town.

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Zaru Soba
Serves 3-4

Ingredients:

1 Package Dried Soba Noodles (approximately 9 ounces)

Tsuyu (Dipping Sauce):
1 Tablespoon Dried Dashi Soup Stock (or Dashi packets)
¼ Cup Low Sodium Shoyu (Soy Sauce)
¼ Cup Mirin
2 Cups Water

Accoutrements:
½ Cup Scallions, chopped
Seasoned Nori, sliced
Wasabi
Tempura Shrimp and Vegetables (optional)

Prepare the tsuyu. In a small saucepan bring the water to a slow boil. Add dashi soup stock and simmer for 4-5 minutes. Add shoyu and mirin and simmer for an additional 2-3 minutes. Remove from heat and cool.

Meanwhile, bring a large pot of water to a boil and cook soba noodles for 3-4 minutes or accordingly to package instructions. Drain the soba and rinse well with cool water. Shake of the excess water and plate the noodles. Top with nori and serve with scallions, wasabi, and tsuyu.