命の出汁 – broth of vigour

an adventure in japanese cuisine, an obsession with the izakaya

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Friday Night Sushi

I love a casual sushi night at home; out come the Japanese knives and the toys from the kitchen street in Tokyo. Next thing you know the head is shaved and the Jiro impressions come out. Well, maybe not quite that far.

The biggest challenge I have with sushi at home is variety. Going to the trouble of making the vinegar from scratch and slicing up the fish along with all the garnishes etc is kinda effort effort for a Friday night. On the flip side however my choice of sashimi grade fish is limited in Australia even when going to the biggest fish market in Sydney. There is always salmon, tuna (normally just straight maguro not otoro or chutoro fattier variants), king fish and if lucky you will get one of the following available: Scallops, Snapper or Octopus. Very soon you can get the feeling that you’ve “had enough raw fish”.

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So here are some of my approaches for adding a bit more variety to the table when ingredients are rare:

  • Marinate the fish: There are many different ways to change the flavour of the fish and add variety. For Tuna I often blanch a piece in hot water very quickly, bathe it in ice, then marinate in a mix of sake and soy sauce. For white fish, wrapping it in konbu seaweed and refrigerating it for a few hours.
  • Dressed Sashimi: From a simple drizzle of yuzu or lemon juice to the Nobu style Tiradito which includes a drop of chilli paste along with cilantro (coriander) leaves you can have a small plate of zing on the menu
  • Pressed Sushi: We can often get BBQ Eel at our fish markets. Making this into nigiri sushi normally requires more attention to detail than I have available on a Friday night especially when I have already burned my focus not cutting off fingers with the yanagiba. Pressed sushi frames are often available in asian grocery stores and give a different shape and style to add variety.
  • Lazy Garnishes: While most sushi bar’s have piles of stringy daikon radish on hand, this also is not a Friday night fun project. I will often grab a bag of bean sprouts to use as garnishes or to prop up sashimi. Some salmon roe perched atop a scallop or a twisted flower made from slices of salmon give het another twist.
  • Rice Cakes: I admit it, to make my sushi rice I use an electronic rice cooker. There is always that starchy crust on the bottom no matter how many times I wash the rice. It never goes into the mix for the sushi rice, but I will often season it with a bit of the sushi vinegar and dry fry it in a non-stick pan to give a crust on both sides as a lazy-western-onigiri.
  • Vegetables: Yeah, Yeah I know, vegetables. From cooking slices of carrots in sake, mirin and soy to using okra, avocado (not my favourite) or even mushrooms this can add a bit of a change. Also can calm down vegetarians if they manage to get through the security guard you have placed at the door.

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Hope this gives you some ideas. Now just chill the sake, turn up the Jazz & chill 😉


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iron chef returns to japan

One of the biggest surprises out of my recent trip to Japan was seeing this billboard while walking down a side street in Shibuya.

Some intense googling on my return to where I was staying exposed the return of the Japanese version of Iron Chef. I was fortunate enough to see the double episode premiere while I was in Japan (most fortunate as my friend could tell me more of what was going on). Fans of the show outside of Japan can get them from this site, along with varying quality versions of the original series.

I have mixed feelings about the three episodes I have seen so far. It is wonderful to see the original format mostly retained; the overseas versions never really kept the theatrics and awe of the original version. Some of the new Iron Chefs will be familiar to fans as at least one has done battle in the old kitchen stadium. The new Chairman hasn’t inspired me yet, it is tough to match the impressive Chairman Kaga. The first problem with him I think is he has worn the same clothes in the first three episodes which seems to be like a uniform. Kaga would always wear something crazier each episode and I was convinced for many years that he had purchased the wardrobe from the Beatles “Sergeant Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band” Photo shoots. The new Chairman also is a little lacklustre on his introductions to the challengers and the ingredients for my liking.

Keeping a link to the original has been done very well, with Iron Chef Chen Kenichi presenting the “Nominees” (challengers) for the first two battles in the premiere. One of these was his son who gave it a good showing even though he lost the battle. Also, Iron Chef Rokusaburo Michiba (now 81 years old) appears in the second two episodes as a commentator, judge and taster. He has that kind of Sean Connery / Japanese James Bond look going, particularly with the light brown kimono, cravat and big glasses. The king of commentary, Dr Yukio Hattori returns as commentator also. Once again the poor man doesn’t seem to get the chance to taste the food.

These are not overdubbed into English, currently straight from Japan. Hopefully Food Network in the US will take it on board and do their magic as in the original series (cooking show treated like something from the wide world of sports, awesome). My Japanese is limited to hello, thank-you and food ingredients but I still find it very entertaining. It is amazing how, with many languages, much english has slipped into the vernacular.

You can keep tabs on what is happening on the Fuji TV Iron Chef Facebook Page and I will no doubt blog more on this revival as the series progresses.

Until next episode “Good Gastronomy!!” (OK, I think that Allez Cuisine was sexier too)