Japan Eats

Recipe: Koumiyasai no somen (somen with aromatic herb salad)

When Japanese think summer, they think somen.

Somen are very thin noodles made from wheat flour. They are usually eaten cold during the summer months, often with a garnish of grated ginger, asatsuki chives and thinly sliced miyoga.

This recipe combines the fine texture of the noodles with the refreshing flavors of sudachi, a Japanese citrus grown in southern Japan, and yuzukosho, a condiment made from dried yuzu, green peppers and salt.

If you’re having trouble sourcing the ingredients, you can substitute limes for the sudachi, and Yuzusco dressing for the yuzukosho.

For something completely different, try adding nampla and cilantro to give the dish a Thai flavor.

Koumiyasai no somen (somen with aromatic herb salad)

Koumiyasai no somen (somen with aromatic herb salad)

Ingredients (serves 4 people)

  • 130 – 150 g cucumber
  • 60 – 70 g miyoga (Japanese ginger)
  • 130 g radish sprouts
  • 12 sheets of shiso (green perilla)
  • 8 tablespoons of sakuraebi (dried shrimp)
  • 2 teaspoons yuzukosho
  • 2 sudachi, cut in halves
  • 200 g somen (50 g each)
  • 400 – 600 ml mentsuyu (Japanese condiment traditionally poured over somen)

Method

Fill a pot with water and boil. Once at the boil, add the somen and cook according to the instructions on the package. Next, drain the noodles using a fine colander or sieve. Rinse them in ice cold water and drain. Repeat several times, changing the water each time.

Now that all the starch has been removed from the somen, it’s time to prepare the rest of the ingredients. Slice the cucumber diagonally into pieces  1 mm thick.

Cut the roots from 130 g of radish sprouts and slice the mioga in half lengthwise and then again into thin strips.

Slice the green shiso leaves into strips 1 – 2 mm in width. Rinse the cucumber, radish sprouts, mioga and shiso together in a bowl of iced water for between 1 and 2 minutes. Mix them well while in the water.

Now divide the noodles between four serving bowls. Drain the vegetables and heap them onto the somen. Try to do this as artfully as possible. Sprinkle dried shrimp evenly over the vegetables and gently pour the mentsuyu into the dish, trying not to crush the vegetable garnish.

Add a half-teaspoon of yuzukosho to the side of each dish. Slice the sudachi into halves and add one half to each bowl. Serve.

Recipe: Sudachi ponzu (citrus and soy sauce)

Make your own batch of this citrus and soy sauce.

Ponzu is a type of sauce made from soy and citrus fruit. In Japan, fruit such as kabosusudachi or yuzu are used to make ponzu. I chose sudachi because it’s currently in season. A little later in the year, I would have chosen yuzu.

Sudachi ponzu (citrus and soy sauce)

Sudachi ponzu (citrus and soy sauce).

You don’t have to use a Japanese citrus fruit when making ponzu. It can also be made with citrus fruit more readily available in western countries: lemons, limes, and so on.

The basic proportions are 5 parts fresh juice: 5 parts soy sauce: 2 parts mirinHanakatsuo is roughly flaked dried bonito, and is mainly used for creating dashi, the stock on which so much Japanese cuisine is built.

I recommend you use a glass jar or bottle to store ponzu, as this minimizes the chances of oxidization. You can try it after a week but I suggest you have it after it has been stored for a month. Make it now, and it will be perfect to have as a dipping sauce for nabe (hotpot) at the end of the year.

Ingredients

  • 500 ml soy sauce
  • 500 ml sudachi juice
  • 200 ml mirin
  • 5 – 10 g hanakatsuo
  • 10 – 15 cm of konbu (kelp)

Method

Squeeze the juice from 1.5 kg of sudachi fruit.

Mix all of the the ingredients in a large bowl (one which can hold 1.5 – 2 liters). Let the mixture stand for 24 hours and then remove the hanakatsuo and konbu. Store in a large jar or PET bottle and keep it in the fridge.

Japan Eats Podcast: Episode 8, “Beware the exploding watermelon!”

The panel road test Yuzusco, talk about seasonal produce and issue a warning to those in the market for watermelons

The Japan Eats Podcast is presented by Garrett DeOrio, Marcus Lovitt, and Christopher Pellegrini. To listen, click play on the audio player below:

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In this week’s Japan Eats Podcast, Garrett DeOrio, Marcus Lovitt and Christopher Pellegrini discuss yuzukosho, Yuzusco and seasonal produce.

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Asazuke

This wonderfully fresh pickled ‘salad’ makes an excellent winter side-dish. I like to serve this together with any kind of nabe (Japanese hotpot) or beside salmon or mackerel, the yuzu-flavored pickles helping to balance the oiliness of the fish. It also makes excellent otsumami (Japanese tapas) served alongside beer, shochu or sake.

This particular recipe calls for Chinese cabbage, but you can also use a mixture of Chinese cabbage and the regular variety.

Flavored with yuzu, a citrus fruit found in China, Korea and Japan.

Flavored with yuzu, a citrus fruit found in China, Korea and Japan.

Ingredients (serves 8 as a side dish)

  • 300g Chinese cabbage (3-4 leaves)
  • 80-100g cucumber
  • 150-200g kabu turnip (with stem and leaves still attached)
  • 1/2 a yuzu, sliced into strips
  • One 10cm by 10cm piece of kombu (kelp)
  • 1 and 1/2 teaspoons of salt
  • 1 teaspoon of kobu-cha (kelp tea)
  • 1 dried red pepper

Method

First cut the Chinese cabbage into large pieces. The leaves should be roughly 3-4 cm in size, while the hard white stem section should be sliced into pieces 5-7cm in width, following the grain.

Next, slice the cucumber into pieces 2-3mm thick.

Cut the stem from the top of the turnip, leaving about 1cm. Boil the stems in a pan of water for about 10 seconds, then place them into a dish of cold water. Quickly wash them and squeeze any moisture out. Cut the stems into sections 3-4cm in length.

Now, wash the turnip, using a toothpick to clean the remaining stem section. Peel the turnip, being careful to leave the remaining stem in place. Finally, slice the turnip into 1mm thick pieces, again following the grain.

Prepare the kombu by cutting it into 2-3mm pieces using a pair of kitchen scissors.

Finally, slice the red pepper into two halves and discard the seeds inside.

Seal all the ingredients in a double plastic bag, making sure there’s still some air trapped inside. Now shake the bag, so that all is mixed well.

Squeeze the plastic bag so as to let all the air out. Refrigerate for 3-4 hours (or even overnight) before serving.

A note about serving asazuke

It is important that when you serve the dish, you drain any excess water by using both hands and squeezing the vegetables.  Asazuke should not be served swimming in liquid.