Salmon Filet with Shiso-Lemon Butter and Wasabi Mashed Potatoes

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

Method:
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.

一合 御馳走屋 Ichi-Gou Gochisouya

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!

Québec Cuisine Lessons: Raclette et Poutine

Québec cuisine is based on good ol’ meat and potatoes. Fatty and filling, it hits the spot just right considering the frigid climate. Below is a picture of Sophia and I trying our hand at raclette – actually a Swiss specialty – which involves cooking potatoes and meat on a grill and then topping it with melted cheese.

raclette.jpg

The meal was rounded out by some fried eggs and some salad. At the same restaurant, I got to try some tourtière de caribou – a kind of caribou (the term for wild North American reindeer) meat pot pie.

poutine.jpg

And here (above) is the Québec specialty known as poutine. French fries (or as they are known locally, “patates frites” but definitely not “freedom fries”) topped with gravy and cheese curds (that’s the white bits). We tried the spicy and the regular variety. The spicy one was definitely more interesting, but not all that spicy.

Another culinary highlight from Québec (not pictured) is “fondue chinoise” – Chinese fondue. I’m not quite sure why they call it that, because there is nothing particulary Chinese about a meat fondue where you cook your meat in vegetables in a brown, pre-packaged sauce and then dip them in various mayonaise-based sauces. I guess it does kind of resemble Japanese nabe (鍋) or Chinese “hot pot” (火鍋) in concept but not really in flavor.