Sunday, April 23, 2006

Weekend Herb Blogging – Mitsuba

We have the unique benefit here of having significant populations of many different ethnic cultures living in the area. And this is very evident at our weekly farmer’s market. Korean kimchis and Tteoks, or Mexican tamales and salsas, or Persian breads, along with all the associated raw vegetables, herbs and spices that are required to make all this, are offered at stand after stand. And mixed in, subtly for my eyes, are some Japanese influenced stands.

So we migrated that way for this week’s , sponsored by .

Despite having traveled to Japan dozens of times, and having the advantage of being led around by a host of Japanese people – young and old, from Fukuoka to Kyoto to Tokyo to Sapporo, and having enjoyed food in all these places plus many in between, I’ve never really tried to cook too much Japanese food. I obviously was not raised in the culture, so I don’t have a feel for how the various ingredients go together, and in what proportions to result in the tastes I love so much when eating there. And I’ve had some experiences with fish in general that make me realize I am not the one to choose sushi grade fish for people to be eating raw.

But that’s all just negative thinking. And besides, what could go wrong? So, looking just to the moment, we took a much closer look at some of the Japanese oriented things for sale. Since this is more of a produce market, they were not selling any of the myriad of dried and fresh things pulled from the sea (that comes later).

And since we’ve never really tried anything, we didn’t have to be too adventurous the first time.

So we went with visual appeal. And got some Mitsuba.

Teengirl loved the dark green leaves and the spirally tendrils. And they were selling this in mass quantities. Snatched up bunch after bunch by the constant stream of people passing through the stand. We felt confident with the choice. No idea what to do with it, but there’s that negative thinking again.

A little research turned up quite a few options. It seems this herb is used fairly extensively in Japanese, Korean, and other Asian cuisines.

The leaves, dark green as mentioned, look a bit like oversized parsley. Attached to fairly tough stems. The taste is subtle. Maybe just a little nutty. Fresh. Maybe a little celery orientation. The herb is listed as Japanese Parsley, or Japanese Chervil, so that gives a good hint as to the flavor it imparts to foods.

Always added at the last minute, never boiled. The flavor, apparently, is quickly destroyed by too heavy a hand.

It turns out that the leaves and the stems are both used, but for separate purposes. The leaves add a fresh flavor to custards, soups, sushis, and salads. The stems are cooked until tender and used to wrap things. Like sushis.

We had just made a custardy thing for Sugar High Friday, and I had enough abuse for serving so many calories so close to bikini season. So we opted for soup and sushi instead. Low fat, fresh flavors, what could go wrong?

The soup is just a variation of my old standby Miso soup. Same procedure as always, but instead of seaweed added to the soup, the Mitsuba leaves are sprinkled on top of the soup just before serving. They don’t cook, but just mix in with the warm broth and add flavor.

For the sushi, I found some non-fish ideas. Not all sushi involves raw fish. Eggs also play a substantial role.

It may seem odd, but eggs go really well together with the slightly sweetened sushi-style rice. And a lot of things can be added to the eggs – basically just omelets – to add nice flavor. Including Mitsuba. With the added benefit that I don’t have to worry about accidentally poisoning my family with bad raw fish in the process.

So we went with two ideas that looked easy. I mean, they’re just little packets tied with a string. What could be so hard? I made one, and teengirl made the other. Even easier! Not too much work for anyone.

But those little packages require a lot of tedious steps, and tons of dishes, to finish. And an artistic touch that I’m still working on.

One was a wonderful looking nori roll filled with an edamame omelet, a mitsuba leaf and some pickled ginger. Tied with a string of mitsuba stem.

The other was a tender omelet wrapper filled with a sushi rice flavored with shrimp, shiitaki mushrooms and cucumber.

Both were wonderful to look at as well as to eat. But it was a lot of work to get those little packages tied and finished – a couple of hours. I have new-found respect for the sushi chef.

And naturally, teenboy doesn’t eat shrimp, and was suspicious of the Edamame, so he made something called Oyako-don, Rice topped with chicken and egg, just to make sure everyone had something. This was finished with some mitsuba leaves on top. But we didn’t get any pictures of that.

So four ways to serve mitsuba – as a fresh flavor in a nori sushi roll, as a string to tie both the nori and the egg sushis, sprinkled into the miso soup, and almost as a fresh salad on top of the chicken and egg on rice dish.

Water 3 1/2 cups
Bonito flakes 1 cup
Soup stock 3 cups
Tofu 1/2 pack
Trefoil leaves 1/2 bunch
Miso 2 1/2 tablespoons

Put water into a pot and turn on the stove. When it starts to boil turn the flame down, add the bonito flakes and lightly cook for 2-3 minutes. Turn off the flame and drain out the flakes once they sink to the bottom.
Cut the tofu into 2 cm squares. Wash the trefoil leaves and cut into 2 cm.
Dissolve the miso in a little bit of soup stock. Put the rest of the soup stock into a pot and turn on the flame. Add the tofu and the dissolved miso. Turn off the flame before it comes to a boil. Put into a bowl and add trefoil leaves.

1/2 cup frozen shelled soy beans (edamame)
1 teaspoon canola oil
2 eggs, beaten, with dash each of salt, soy sauce, garlic powder
1 tablespoon red pickled ginger
10 mitsuba leaves or lettuce
2-1/2 sheets Korean nori, cut into quarters

Saute soy beans in oil over medium heat 5 minutes. Pour egg mixture over soy beans. When eggs are set on one side, turn over. Remove.
Cut eggs into rectangles, about 1-by-2 inches. Place one mitsuba leaf or piece of lettuce on a square of nori. Top with piece of egg and a few pieces of ginger. Wrap nori into a log shape and secure with a toothpick. Makes 10 pieces.

(Rice Topped with Chicken, Egg and Mitsuba)

ingredients for 4 servings:
chicken :7.5oz
onion :1
(A)water :1-1/2cups + clear DASHI SAUCE :4tbs + sugar :3tbs + soy sauce :1tsp
eggs :4
mitsuba(or water cress) :a few for each portion
cooked rice :4bowls
nori-seaweed(chopped) :for topping
cooking method:
Cut chicken and onion into 1-inch thick slices.
Bring group (A) to a boil, add (#1) cook for 2-3 minutes.
Then add beaten egg to (#2). When half-done, sprinkle on mitsuba.
Place rice in serving bowl, cover rice with (#3).
Sprinkle on nori.

Ingriedents: (for 8 pieces)
800 grams sushimeshi,
4 shrimps, sake, salt,
4 shiitake (1/2 cup of water used for soaking, 4 teaspoons sugar, 1 tablespoon soy sauce),
1 sheet Asakusa nori,
1/2 cucumber,
6 eggs (2 teaspoons sugar,1/3 salt,1 tablespoon starch),
8 mitsuba (trefoil).

Remove black vein from shrimp, put a pinch of salt and sprinkle sake over, steam it. Remove shell, cut into small pieces.

Soak shiitake in water for preparing, drain excess water and cut off stems. Place shiitake in a pot with water used for soaking them, sugar and soy sauce, bring to a boil, reduce flame, simmer slowly until almost dry. Cut shiitake into hosogiri.

Cut cucumber into 5mm cubic sizes.

Dry Asakusa nori over the flame, wrap with dried cloth, smash into small pieces.

Mix all the ingriedents into sushimeshi, divide into 8.

Fry eggs, added with sugar, salt and starch. Form it thinly for 8 sheets.

Remove root from mitsuba, boil briefly.

Spread sheet of fried egg, place sushimeshi in the center, hold each corner of sheet to the center for wrapping around. Bind with mitsuba using it as a string to tie.

Sushi Rice
Cook rice correct firmness so that it shines.
Wash rice one hour prior to cooking add correct amount of water and pieces of dried kelp in rice cooker.
Remove kelp right before cooking, add sake or mirin, correct water level.
Let set with cover on for ten minutes before placing rice into sushi mixing bowl (hangiri).
Sprinkle vingar mix (below) evenly over rice, with wooden spoon cut into rice thouroghly to mix. Let rice set for five minutes covered with a damp cheese cloth.
Fan to cool it down

Sushi type: Chirashizushi
rice vinegar: 120 - 150cc
sugar: 50g
salt: 12 - 15g

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Blogger Kalyn said...

Very impressive. I have heard of this, but I don't think I've tasted it. Your photos are great.

3:02 PM  
Blogger MM said...

Wow, that's super impressive! I know very little about Japanese food and have set myself the task of learning how to cook at least a few fundamental dishes this year. Yours in really putting me to shame!

10:07 PM  
Blogger surfindaave said...

Kalyn, Stephanie, thanks! Was a fun project, but a lot of work. I'm glad some of the pictures came out OK to prove we actually did all that!

8:44 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

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9:57 AM  
Blogger gattina said...

A few friends and relatives of mine are Japanese, just like you, even staying with them, eating their food once in a while, I don't get a feeling of the ingredients when come to cooking. But your dishs surely look wonderful, what a work of art!

10:49 AM  
Blogger surfindaave said...

Gattina, thanks! We tried our best, and we liked it all, so that's probably the most important thing!

11:45 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

the most amazing Japanese recipe Iever taste, incredibly original.why you don't post more stuff like this.

6:44 AM  

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