Wednesday, 4 February 2009

Cooking class 8: Buri-daikon, daikon salad, osuimono

I learned a great favourite of Japanese winter cuisine at my last cooking class: buri-daikon, or yellowtail simmered with long Japanese radish. Buri is my go-to fish in the winter. It's flesh is always juicy and the dark part a real delicacy. Plus it's one of the few fishes that the Young Man will deign to eat (g).

We had it with a mild clear Japanese broth (osuimono), which was a little on the bland side for me. The gu, or filling ingredients in osuimono can be virtually anything, but the broth is probably always based on ichibandashi, a stock made from kombu (dried kelp) and katsuobushi (bonito shavings). The redeeming feature of the one we made was a special egg concoction called shimetamago, or "squeezed" egg. This was made by pouring a prepared egg mixture through a slotted spoon so that it falls into a pan of hot water in ribbons, then gathering up the cooked eggy threads in a cotton cloth and rolling it in a sushi mat to produce a light, fluffy egg cylinder. It's a little bit of a performance, but a handy technique to know for when we find a killer suimono recipe (g).

With the theme of daikon, those long white radishes that you might have seen in Asian (i.e. Far Eastern) shops, we naturally had another rendition of daikon salad. I really liked the dressing for this one, which also features pulped daikon. Dikon overkill? Not really. Oxidization works on the pulped (actually grated so finely it becomes a slush) daikon, making it hotter so it's quite a different taste from the crunchy straws in the salad itself.

In the NHK science and food program Tameshite gatten, they found that pulped daikon stays sweet for the first 3 minutes, and then grows hotter, peaking at 6 minutes, after which the heat goes down slowly. So there you go. You can decide how hot you want your dressing and time the pulping accordingly. If you don't have an oroshigane, a metal or ceramic dish with raised "bubbles" that turn daikon, ginger, apple and other such things into pulp, I'm guessing a quick whizz in a small food processor would also do the trick.

And speaking of tricks, this was a clever way of using up the dried bonito flakes used in the dashi for the broth. Stir-fry them with some mild shishito Japanese chillies! There are no fans of shishito at our house, but I imagine you could substitute any other soft veggie with good results.


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