A traditional Japanese dish, often enjoyed in winter. It is tasty, light and full of surprises. Oden is a meal that requires a bit more work (and of course time) then you would expect. It also requires some shopping, given some of the ingredients are not easy to find. We enjoyed our first Oden at the Taishunken restaurant in the famous Sankeien Garden in Yokohama. Loved it! We are not from Japan so we humbly present our version of this classic. We hope it inspires you to cook Oden and enjoy it as much as we did.
A cup of Japanese green tea is the obvious choice. You could also combine your oden with a glass of Chardonnay (with a touch of oak perhaps), for instance if you serve it for dinner. Oden is rich in flavours, umami of course, but not spicy, so we would not suggest a Gewürztraminer or a Sauvignon Blanc. A glass of cold, dry sake will also be great.
What You Need
For the Dashi
1 litre of Water
20 grams of Dashi Kombu (Rishiri Kombu)
20 grams of Katsuobushi (Bonito Flakes)
For the Stew
One Pack of Konnyaku
1 sheet of Hayani Kombu
Chikuwa Fish Cakes
One Pack of Gobo Maki Burdockroot Fish Cakes
2 boiled eggs
Abura Age Fried Tofu
Mochi (Sticky Rice Cake)
Soy Sauce (preferably one with less salt)
Rice with ginger
What You Do
First step is to peel the daikon and slice it (2 centimeters is best). Now use a sharp knife to plane of the edge of the daikon. This improves the presentation, and it is supposed to stop the daikon from falling apart. Cook the daikon for one hour in water. Drain and set aside. In parallel: cut the konnyaku in triangles and cook these in water for 15 minutes. Konnyaku is made from the konjac plant and is specific for the Japanese cuisine. Also in parallel: cook the sheet of Hayani Kombu for 5 minutes. This is young kombu and edible, different for the one you use when preparing dashi. Let cool a bit, slice and knot ribbons. Not sure why but is looks great when you serve it. (Yes, well spotted, it’s not in the picture; unfortunately, we couldn’t find Hayani when we prepared our oden.) Make 1 litre of dashi. This seems simple but requires precision. Clean the kombu with a wet cloth and put into one litre of cold water. Gently raise the temperature to 80 °C or 175 °F. Remove and discard the kombu. Bring the liquid to a boil, add the katsuobushi, bring to a boil and immediately set heat to zero. Wait 5 minutes or so. The katsuobushi will sink to the bottom of the pan. Now very gently pass the liquid through a wet towel or a sieve. Do not squeeze, just give it time. The result will be a great, clean dashi.
Now it’s time to add the dashi to the pan (should be a clay pot, but we stick to our Le Creuset), add one tablespoon of mirin, one (or two, depending on your taste) of light soy sauce, add the daikon, the konnyaku, the chikuwa fish cakes and the gobo maki burdockroot fish cakes. Allow to simmer for at least 2 hours. 30 minutes before serving add boiled eggs, two Hayani ribbons, fried tofu and mochi. The last two ingredients must be combined by putting the mochi into the tofu. Serve with karashi (Japanese mustard, which is different from wasabi by the way) on the side.
The traditional Japanese way of preparing Kabocha (Japanese Pumpkin) requires a bit of work but is not overly complex. The result is a combination of delicate, fresh pumpkin flavours with clear umami as a result of simmering the pumpkin in a dashi-based stock. You could replace the Japanese Pumpkin with a more common winter squash or with a red Hokkaido pumpkin.
Combining shrimps and pumpkin seems a bit odd, but it’s actually very nice. The combination is colourful and the various flavours come together nicely, also thanks to the dashi. The first time we enjoyed this combination was when we prepared Takiawase, following the recipe from author and Michelin Award winning chef Akira Oshima. The recipe is included in his book Yamazato, Kaiseki Recipes: Secrets of the Japanese Cuisine. It’s a mouth-watering dish but unfortunately fairly difficult to prepare. Typically, Takiawase is a combination of vegetables and fish. Every ingredient requires its own preparation and is simmered in its own dashi-based stock. Indeed: four different kinds of homemade stock. The recipe of Akira Oshima combines kabocha, eggplant, okra and shrimp.
We prefer a glass of sake with our Kabocha with Shrimps, for instance a Junmai sake with fresh aromas and good acidity. The sake must be dry and well-balanced with a clean finish. You could enjoy a glass of white wine with the dish, provided it’s dry and mineral. Or a more adventurous choice: a glass of Manzanilla or Fino sherry. Manzanilla is a dry sherry with a flowery bouquet, a delicate palate and subtle acidity. It works beautifully with the dashi and the sweetness of both the kabocha and the shrimps.
Start by preparing 500 ml of dashi. Peel and devein the six shrimps. We prefer to leave the tail on. Transfer the shrimps to a bowl, add some sake and transfer to the refrigerator for a few hours. Peel the Kabocha, remove the seeds. Halve and then slice in 6 equal parts. Combine 400 ml of dashi with 25 ml of mirin, 25 ml of light soy sauce and a tablespoon of sake. Add the slices of kabocha and let is simmer for some 10 minutes or until nearly done. In parallel heat a heavy iron skillet, add oil, dry the shrimps with kitchen paper and then fry them quickly, let’s say 4 minutes. Transfer to a warm oven. Remove the oil from the pan with kitchen paper. Reduce the heat to low. Mix 50 ml of dashi with 25 ml of mirin and a small spoon of light soy sauce. Deglaze the pan and let the mixture reduce. Transfer the shrimps back the pan and coat them quickly with the mixture. Serve the slices of kabocha with the fried, coated shrimps and the pickled cucumber.
Welcome to the wonderful world of the Dancing Mushroom, better known as Maitake, Hen of the Woods or Ram’s Head. Enjoy the powerful, intense and nutty flavours and be intrigued by the aroma. No wonder it’s a much loved culinary mushroom!
Legend has it that maitake got its name because foragers danced with happiness when finding it. Nowadays maitake can be wild or cultivated. Both are fine; we actually prefer the cultivated ones. Make sure you cook maitake through and through, otherwise you may upset your stomach (and other parts of your body).
Maitake combines very well with beef and thyme. It is also great when combined with shrimps, crab, coquilles St Jacques, coriander, dill and parsley; a salad created by Antonio Carluccio and published in 2003 in the Complete Mushroom Book. The book has a wealth of wonderful, simple recipes.
Our soup is perhaps a bit odd, because it’s a thickened soup, something you would perhaps not expect given dashi is the base of the soup. It’s a gentle soup, with some umami and bitterness. The fried maitake amplifies the flavours.
What You Need
For the Dashi
500 ml Water
10 grams Konbu
10 grams Katsuobushi
150 grams of Maitake
5 cm Fresh Ginger
Tablespoon of Cooked Plain Rice
What You Do
Prepare the dashi. Remove the base of the maitake. Set a few ‘leaves’ aside (to be fried later). Peel and quarter the ginger. Add the remaining ‘leaves’ of the maitake, the ginger and the cooked rice to the dashi. Leave for 20 minutes on low heat. Remove the ginger and use a blender to create a smooth mixture. You will notice that the maitake doesn’t thicken the soup, as a classic Champignon de Paris would do. The rice should do the trick. Pass through a sieve. Keep on low heat for another 10 minutes. Add a tablespoon of sake, some soy sauce and mirin. Taste and adjust if necessary. The quanities very much depend on the flavour of the maitake and your personal taste. You’re looking for umami, bitterness and depth. Leave for another 10 minutes on low heat. Add olive oil to a small heavy iron skillet and fry the remaining maitake; initially on medium heat, later on low heat. This may take 5 minutes. Use the blender for the second time to make sure the soup is perfectly smooth. Serve in a miso bowl.
In his book Yamazato, Kaiseki Recipes: Secrets of the Japanese Cuisine, author and Michelin Award winning chef Akira Oshima includes a recipe for breast of duck, marinated in a soy-based sauce, served with Belgian endive (chicory) and karashi (Japanese mustard). A mouth-watering dish. The book contains some 20 recipes that are technically challenging (at least, we think so) and well written.
In general the combination of duck and soy sauce works really well. It’s all about sweetness and umami. The Japanese mushrooms (shiitake, enoki, nameko and/or shimeji) add nuttiness and texture to the dish. We use soy sauce and tsuyu: a mix of soy sauce, mirin and dashi, ideal for making a tempura dip and great to give extra flavor to the sauce.
We enjoyed our duck with a glass of gewurztraminer (full bodied and long lasting with aromas of lychees and roses) but there are many options in this case. Perhaps a nice rosé or a sake with a touch of sweetness?
Start by cleaning the breast of duck and then fry it, straight from the fridge, for 12 minutes on the skin-side and 2 minutes on the meat-side in a non-stick pan. Wrap in foil, making sure the skin is not covered. Clean the pan with kitchen paper and fry the sliced mushrooms for 5 minutes or so in oil until ready. Set aside and keep warm. Add soy sauce, tsuyu and chicken stock to the pan and reduce. Add a splash of sake and some mirin. Add cooking liquid of the duck. Let simmer for a few minutes, add the mushrooms and make sure they are coated with the sauce. Slice the duck, add liquid to the sauce, stir and serve.
The French Périgord is the truffle heart of France. The region is also known for its culinary products, such as Confit de Canard, wines from Bergerac and Monbazillac, Foie Gras and Sauce Périgueux. This sauce is a classic in the French kitchen. Its basis is a white sauce made with shallot, a reduction of white wine, (goose) fat, stock and lots of truffle. The ‘original’ recipe of this truffle sauce can be found in La Bonne Cuisine du Périgord written in 1929 by La Mazille. The sauce works beautifully with Tournedos and Magret de Canard. And since white asparagus love truffles, why not combine them with Sauce Périgueux?
We don’t think a roux-based sauce will go very well with asparagus, so we combined two recipes: the flavors of Sauce Périgueux with the lightness and consistency of Japanese Kimizu.
We enjoyed our asparagus with a glass of Riesling, produced by Bott Geyl in the French Alsace. This fresh, aromatic, dry white wine with a hint of sweetness and high acidity combines very well with the sweetness of the asparagus and the intense, rich flavor of the sauce. The wine supports the dish perfectly.
What You Need
6 White Asparagus
1 Small Truffle
For the Sauce
1 Glass of Dry White Wine
3 Black Peppercorns
½ tablespoon Simple White Vinegar
Two Cubes of Jus de Truffe*
2 egg yolks
What You Do
Chop the shallot, crush the peppercorns coarsely, add to a pan and add a glass of white wine. Leave to simmer for 20 minutes. Add a splash of white vinegar. Leave to simmer for 10 minutes. Add the two cubes of jus de truffe and leave to simmer for another 10 minutes. Pass through a sieve. If all is well you should have 4 tablespoons of liquid. If necessary reduce. Set aside and leave to cool. Peel the asparagus and steam for 20 minutes, depending on the size. When there is still 10 minutes on the clock, start working on the sauce. Whisk the two egg yolks well, add the 4 tablespoons of liquid, mix and heat in the microwave on 30% power. Start with one interval of 10 seconds, stir, followed by an interval of 5 seconds, stir and continue with intervals of 5 seconds until you have the right consistency. Total time in the microwave will be approximately 60 seconds. Allow to cool for a minute or two. In the meantime grate the truffle. Serve the sauce over the asparagus, add some white pepper and sprinkle the truffle over the sauce and the asparagus.
* Best to buy a can of jus de truffe and freeze the content in an ice cube bag.
It’s Tuesday morning and we are on our way to our favourite fish monger. No doubt we will be inspired by the fresh fish and seafood on offer. It all looks delicious and yummy, especially the red mullet looks wonderful. It’s such a beautiful fish; red, nearly crimson, with a lovely taste and a very delicate skin. There are actually two very similar kinds, the striped red mullet (rouget de roche) and the red mullet or goatfish (rouget de vase). Don’t worry too much, just go for it.
We will marinate the fillets in miso and then enjoy on Sunday evening as a starter. This technique is called Saikyo Yaki. Best to use is Saikyo miso which is a white, slightly sweet, low sodium miso from Kyoto. The marinated fish is grilled and served with pickled ginger. Originally a way to preserve the fish, it’s now much liked because of the umami and the intriguing combination of flavours and aromas. We use a standard low sodium white miso and add a bit of sake. This makes the mixture easier to use and supports the flavour.
Best served with dry sake. We bought a bottle of traditional Gekkeikan sake. This is a medium bodied, fresh sake with light floral aromas. In general you’re looking for a touch of acidity, freshness and not too much alcohol.
What You Need
Two Fillets of Red Mullet
White Miso (preferable with less salt)
Karashi (Japanese mustard, optional)
What You Do
Start five days in advance. Mix the white miso with sake, creating a thinner mixture. It must coat the fish for a few days, so don’t make it too thin. Put the fillets in a shallow plate and cover the fillets with the mixture making sure the fish is fully coated. Cover the plate with foil and transfer to the fridge. Check on a daily basis if the fish is still covered. Using a small spoon carefully remove most of the miso. Rinse the fish with water and dry with kitchen paper. The white flesh should now be slightly orange. Heat a non-stick frying pan until warm, but not hot, through and through. If too hot, the fish will burn. We set our induction hob to 6 (where 9 is the maximum). Add a generous amount of olive oil. Fry the fillets on the skin side and try to keep the fish moving. This way the delicate skin will remain in tact. Turn and fry the meat side, also for 1 or 2 minutes. Serve on a warm plate with pickles and perhaps karashi.
Nameko (or Pholiota Nameko) is a very popular, cultivated mushroom in Japan. It’s used in stir-fries and miso soup. The taste is nutty, the color amber brown and the texture is firm, also after cooking. The flavor combines very well with (home-made) dashi and shrimps. The kamaboko (made from processed seafood) and the mitsuba (Japanese parsley) add colour and extra flavour to the dish. Light, delicate and refreshing: a memorable starter.
If you want to serve a drink with the soup, then serve taru sake. This dry sake is characterized by its refreshing taste and the aroma of Yoshino cedar. The sake was stored in a barrel (taru) made of cedar. Taru sake is about skills, history, dedication and refinement. Yes, you guessed right, we simply love it. Our choice? The one made by Kiku-Masamune.
What You Need
For the Dashi
500 ml Water
10 gram Konbu
10 gram Katsuobushi
100 gram Nameko
2 large Shrimps
Light Soy Sauce
What You Do
Clean the shrimps and cut lengthwise in two. Let the shrimps marinade in two tablespoons of sake and transfer to the refrigerator for an hour. Clean the mushrooms with kitchen paper if necessary. Prepare the dashi; add a small tablespoon of sake and a similar quantity (or less) of soy sauce. Add the mushrooms to the soup. After a few minutes (depending on the size of the mushrooms) add four slices of kamaboko and the shrimps. Taste and add some more soy sauce and or perhaps yuzu if necessary. Serve immediately when the shrimps are ready. If possible add some mitsuba.
Isn’t it interesting how our preferences for aromas and flavours change over time, influenced of course by producers, restaurants and chefs. In general we prefer dry white wine, we think a ragout made of pied de moutons, morels, Comté, oranges, bread crumbs and samphire is really intriguing and why not serve tea with your main dish? Years ago we probably would have loved poached cod with Hollandaise Sauce and a small carrot sautéed in butter accompanied by a glass of Muscadet. But not today. No poached fish and no soft buttery carrots. Fashion is about change; not improvement.
Let’s revisit the fish with Hollandaise Sauce and give it a ‘modern’ twist: we very gently fry the fish and serve it with a delightful Kimizu.
We mentioned Kimizu earlier when we wrote about White Asparagus. In this case we will make the sauce lighter by adding extra water. It’s wonderful to see and feel the consistency of the Kimizu in combination with the soft, opaque fish.
We enjoyed our fish with a glass of Chardonnay, produced by Antonin Rodet. The wine is made from 100% chardonnay grapes. Its aromas made us think of peach. It has clear floral notes. The taste is rich, with flavours of ripe fruit, subtle oak and minerality. In general we would suggest a chardonnay with a little oak and a long finish.
What You Need
For the Fish
For the Kimizu
2 Egg Yolks
1,5 tablespoon of Rice Vinegar
2 teaspoons of Mirin
2,5 tablespoons of Water
What You Do
Warm a non-stick frying pan. Lightly coat the pan with olive oil and butter and then place the pan over medium-high heat. Gently fry until nearly done. Best would be to buy tail end with the skin on, allowing you to fry the fish on its skin. Turn it for a few seconds, allowing for a light golden colour. The fish is ready when the flesh has become opaque. In parallel whisk the two egg yolks, add the rice vinegar, the mirin and the water. Whisk well. Now set your microwave to 90 seconds and 30% power. Give the mixture 10 seconds and whisk, Repeat this with 5 seconds of warmth followed by whisking. You will notice the change in the consistency. Depending on the size of the eggs, the temperature of the ingredients and the quality of your microwave this may take something like 60 seconds. Serve the fish with white pepper and a generous helping of kimizu. And if it makes you smile, please add some carrots, sautéed in butter!
A cabbage or a turnip? Or both? Kohlrabi (or turnip-rooted cabbage, German cabbage) is a bit different from other vegetables. It’s the swollen stem of a plant. It looks like a turnip, but it actually grows above the ground, hence the leaves and the fairly thick skin. Kohlrabi is not the most popular of vegetables, probably because it requires rather long cooking and the taste is a bit bland. The good news is that when you prepare the kohlrabi in a hot oven, you will have an easy to peel and very tasty vegetable. Its flavour is sweet, it comes with a touch of spiciness and its texture is a real surprise: juicy and crunchy! The thinly sliced and lightly coated kohlrabi in combination with pickled dried radish is a great vegetarian starter, one that you will remember.
Sake or Wine Pairing
Best choice is a mild, dry, floral sake but a glass of white wine is also a good idea. Go for a Pinot Blanc or a German Grauburgunder. In general a white wine with medium body and aromas of ripe white fruit and flowers.
What You Need
Light and Normal Soy sauce
Pickled Dried Radish
What You Do
Set your oven to 200˚ Celsius or 390˚ Fahrenheit. Transfer the kohlrabi to the oven without wrapping it in foil, so ‘as is’. Leave it for 60 minutes. Now turn your oven to 235˚ Celsius or 455˚ Fahrenheit for 15 minutes or until the kohlrabi is slightly charred (see picture). Let cool, transfer to the refrigerator and use the next day. Start making the dressing by adding light soy sauce to a small bowl. Add a teaspoon of mirin and a teaspoon of rice vinegar. We also add a teaspoon of normal soy sauce to give the dressing a bit more oomph. Remove the skin of the kohlrabi (be generous) and thinly slice the kohlrabi, either with a mandoline slicer or with a cheese slicer. Now it’s time to improve the dressing: combine small slices of kohlrabi with the dressing, taste and keep adjusting (soy sauce, mirin, rice vinegar) until you’re happy. Coat each slice with the dressing, plate up and serve immediately with the chopped pickled dried radish.
Tamagoyaki is best described as a Japanese rolled omelette and it is often served for breakfast or included in a bento box. It’s made by rolling multiple thin layers of egg; let’s say the concept of a Swiss roll but with much thinner layers. Making Tamagoyaki requires years of practice and a special rectangular pan (a makiyakinabe) using chopsticks only. But we, as western cooks with little patience, we use a round small, non-stick pan and two spatulas. The result is very tasty and it will make you think of a real Tamagoyaki.
The ingredients are a bit of a puzzle. Eggs, soy sauce and mirin for sure. Other ingredients include sugar (for a sweet version), sake and dashi (for a savoury version called Dashimaki Tamago).
The technique of rolling thin layers of egg is a great way of making an omelette. Feel free to replace the Japanese ingredients with some chicken stock and finely grated Parmesan cheese. You will love it!
Tamagoyaki comes with some umami thanks to the dashi and a touch of sweetness. Enjoy with a sparkling wine, for instance a Crémant de Bourgogne. Our choice was a glass of Blanc de Blanc Brut made by Vitteaut Alberti. Its aromas are fresh and flowery; the flavours suggest honey and pear. You could also serve a dry Riesling or Sylvaner. Serving sake is also a good idea; our choice would be a Ginjo-Shu because of its delicate and light flavour.
Heat a small non-stick pan (10 -15 centimetre) until warm but not hot. Whisk the eggs, add dashi and mirin. Use kitchen paper soaked with oil to coat the pan. Use a (small) sauce spoon to add a bit of the mixture. Make sure you can repeat this as often as possible, so it has to be a really thin layer of egg. When nearly set, roll it up and move to the side. Coat the pan with oil. Add some of the mixture, make sure it connects to the roll, wait until nearly set and roll it up. Repeat until the mixture is used up. The tamagoyaki should be yellow with perhaps a touch of golden brown. When done, feel free to shape the tamagoyaki by rolling it in a bamboo sushi mat. Slice and serve, perhaps with some grated daikon on the side.