I've had a completely busy week during which I had absolutely no time to cook. None. I had no chance to try out my new cookbook, 'The Basics of Japanese Cuisine: Memorize by Proportions' (Wareai de oboeru wa no kihon) by Murata Yoshihiro, a popular writer of traditional Japanese cookbooks, who owns two restaurants in Kyoto, Kiku no I in Maruyama, which has been around for three generations, and Tsuyuan Kiku no I in Kiyamachi. (Mental note: Check them out!)
Japanese cuisine tends to use various sauces, like soy sauce, mirin, cooking sake, and vinegar, to flavor dishes rather than using spices. This particular book is supposed to help you memorize the recipes by memorizing the ratios of sauces for each dish. It looks a bit easiler to follow than most other cookbooks in Japanese.
I've been carrying around a shopping list for two recipes since early this week, hoping to find time to buy the ingredients and cook them. One dish, Makerel in a sesame sauce, the other Sweet-boiled flatfish.
I thought I should learn how to cook fish the Japanese way, since it's generally so very very delicious either grilled or boiled, sometimes with a delicious, thick sauce, or in its purest form, as sashimi or sushi. Another promising factor being that many small fish are in season this time of year, including flatfish (karei), makerel (saba), herring (nishin), and codfish(tara).
When I finally got to a grocery store late this evening, I found a bin with quite a few flatfish, while the rest of the fish department looked sadly empty-ish. My dinner was decided.
And the flatfish stole the show from the other dishes of rice, a large salad, and a bowl of miso soup. The mirin and soy-sauce based sauce in which I boiled the fish made the delicate white flesh succulent and edged with a deep warm flavor. I boiled gobo (burdock root, one of my absolute favorite vegetables and actually the reason I chose the recipe) in the same sauce, and finished off the dish with blanched snow peas and shredded ginger, which gave a nice, fresh counterpoint to the rich sauce.
Karei no umani
(1 to 2 servings)
1/4 cup soy sauce
1/4 cup mirin
2 cups water
1 gobo root, cut into 1 inch pieces, halve the thicker pieces lengthwise
snow peas, de-stringed
ginger, chopped into needle-sized pieces
In a pot, put the water, mirin, and soy sauce and let it simmer.
Chop the flatfish into two halves and cut large X's into the sides of the fish. Poach the fish in a pot of boiling water. Do not leave it in the water too long, because you'll loose flavor. Pull the fish out, and pat it dry.
Gently place the fish into the pot with the mirin and soy sauce. Add the gobo root. Set the pot over high heat until the sauce is reduced to 1/3, about 10 to 15 minutes.
(As you wait for the sauce to reduce is a good time to prepare the snow peas or some miso soup.)
When the sauce has boiled down so far that it no longer covers the fish, occasionally scoop sauce over the exposed pasts of the fish to keep in the moisture. From this time, cook about 2 to 3 more minutes.
Serve. Be careful when taking the fish out of the pot, since it will have become very tender and will want to fall to pieces on you. Arrange the fish, gobo, snow peas, and ginger on a plate, and eat with rice, miso soup, and a large salad.