I received a care package full of edible Japanese and Taiwanese goodies from my aunt in Nagano today. Just in time for the 4th of July. Happy birthday America! 😉
Left: Oyaki おやき (buckwheat flour pies filled with various vegetable fillings, a specialty of Nagano)
Top-Center: Zongzi 粽子(Taiwanese sticky rice dumplings steamed in bamboo leaves, similar to tamales but with sticky rice instead of masa and bamboo leaves instead of corn husks)
Bottom-Center: Jiaozi/Gyoza 餃子 (dumplings filled with meat and vegetable, panfried or boiled, eaten in both Taiwan and Japan)
Top-Right: Gongwan 貢丸 (Taiwanese pork meaballs)
Bottom-Right: Taiwanese savory taro and rice cakes (I don’t think I have had these before, look good though!)
Here’s a recipe I improvised for dinner last night at my house with Tash and Keiko. It is inspired by a nouvelle japonaise recipe that someone posted on BigDaikon.com.
Ingredients: (for 2-3 people):
- 2 Salmon Filets
- one bunch of asparagus (quickly blanched or steamed)
- 3 potatoes
- one teaspoon of wasabi
- 1 teaspoon of Japanese mayonnaise
- salt and pepper
- butter, some olive oil
- a handful of chopped up green onions
- a handful of shiso leaves, cut in chiffonade
- 1 clove of garlic, chopped
- Juice of half a lemon
1. Peel and cut potatoes into quarters. Boil in salted water until tender. Drain. Mash with a good amount of butter. Mix in wasabi and mayonnaise and season with salt and pepper.
2. Heat about a tablespoon of olive oil and a big pat of butter in a frying pan on medium heat. Pan sear the salt and peppered salmon filets so they are nicely browned on both sides but still tender (about 2 minutes each side)
3. Remove salmon filets from the frying pan and keep warm, keeping the butter and oil in the pan to make the sauce. Add the garlic, green onions and shiso leaves to the pan and fry until the garlic starts to brown and the herbs release their aroma.
4. To present: Put a mound of wasabi mashed potatoes on each plate. Put some steamed or blanched asparagus next to the potatoes and put a salmon filet on top. Drizzle some of the sauce on top of the salmon along with some lemon juice.
Tash and I went to a restaurant in Nakatsu called Ichi-gou Gochisouya (一合御馳走屋) for the first time tonight. It’s in an old Japanese-style building close to downtown that used to hold an udon/soba noodle shop popular with local expats. Now, it’s an Izakaya, a kind of Japanese style tapas/gastro-pub sort of restaurant. “Ichi-gou” means “one gou” in Japanese. A “gou” is a unit of measure in Japanese that is a bit less than a cup, that is used for rice and sake. “Gochisouya” means feast or banquet place/restaurant.
We walked into this gorgeous Japanese space with an open kitchen. It seemed like there were more staff members working there than customers, so service, like always in Japan, was very prompt and attentive. We were also brought a small blackboard with the specials and recommendations of the week that supplemented the vast menu already on the table.
Apparently, our presence in the restaurant was funny or something. Some of the chefs were giggling when we walked in and when we left. Also, when I ordered a second round of food and drinks, the waitress asked us if we could read the menu. hmm, um, I’ve already ordered once and I read the Japanese menu fine. Why ask now? Maybe it has to do with the fact that Natasha is a stereotypical blonde gaijin. One of the girls at the neighboring table made it a point to say “Hello! Hello! Hello!” in English to her girlfriends as she walked past us when she walked in late to join them. So who exactly was she saying hello to? Not us, because it’s not like they she was trying to strike up a conversation with us or anything. Maybe just showing off her English to her friends? Who knows, but with 6 years of mandatory English at schools here, I would certainly hope that every Japanese person with a high school diploma can say at least “hello”. Alas, gaijin still equals funny in rural Japan.
All this aside, let’s talk about food. We ordered:
Ryuukyuu-tsuke (琉球漬): Marinated sashimi pieces with slivers of daikon radish
Asatsuki to Toufu no Hanryuu Sarada (浅葱と豆腐の韓流サラダ): chive, red onion and tofu salad with a spicy Korean-style dressing
Watarigani no Koura-yaki (ワタリガニの甲羅焼): crab and squid meat topped with a Béchamel sauce and broiled gratin-style in the crab shell
Ebi no Tempura (エビの天婦羅): classic tempura-style fried shrimp
And washed it all down with a couple of nama-biiru (draught beers).
mmm. An excellent new discovery and a great way to celebrate the start of the weekend!
La Cabane à Sucre, known in English as a “Sugar Shack” is a traditional end-of-winter, beginning of spring tradition in Québec. This is the season where the maple trees are tapped to make maple syrup. (Random trivia point: Québec is the world’s largest producer of maple syrup, more than all US production combined!). So the sugar shack meals starts with some bean soup, with bread and a lard-and-onion spread called “creton.” Then comes the omelette, bacon, sausage and “oreilles de crisse” – deep-fried cruncy pork fat. And if you are wondering how the maple syrup comes into all of this, you are supposed to pour maple syrup onto your eggs and pork fat. Believe it or not, it actually tastes pretty good.
And to make sure we get some vegetables in our diet, you get some cole slaw and you get to help yourself to some picked cucumbers, beets and onions. Also, be sure to save room for dessert – every imaginable combination and permutation of eggs, butter, cream, brown sugar and maple syrup.
(Below) Maple Taffy (Tire à l’érable) Maple syrup is boiled and then poured on fresh snow to form maple taffy. You pick it up with a popsicle stick and enjoy!