A simple dinner for friends

Last week, we had the pleasure of hosting some friends for a home-cooked Japanese meal. Yusuke wanted to focus on subtle flavours and fresh food that’s typical of a meal in a Japanese home. The menu was as follows:

raw oyster mushrooms

mushrooms with daikon

The first side dish was hiratake mushrooms (in English, oyster mushrooms). The mushrooms were boiled in water with a bit of dashi. They were then mixed with grated raw daikon and served with soy sauce. I’m always amazed how raw daikon can be so sweet—surprising for a radish. The mushrooms were a decent texture, not too chewy. Good work, Marché P.A.

raw asparagus

black sesame asparagus

For side dish two, Yusuke prepared a mixture of ground black sesame seeds, soy sauce, sugar, and a tiny bit of dashi. He then rolled slices of boiled asparagus in the mixture until well coated. Very tasty.

tilapia

tilapia

The centerpiece of the meal was steamed tilapia. My mother-in-law recently sent us a little steamer basket, which was perfect for this fish. Yusuke placed the fish on top of a big strip of kombu (a type of seaweed), splashed it with white wine (sake would also work), and placed it in the basket over a pot of boiling water.

We didn’t take a picture, but we also had fantabulous mixed rice. The rice is cooked with mirin, sake, and soy sauce and then mixed with sauteed veggies, in this case: takenoko (bamboo shoots), shitake mushrooms, and thin strips of abura-age (a deep fried tofu sheet).

We also neglected to take a picture of the soup, which was miso with silken tofu and green onions.

shiratama

Yusuke rather outdid himself with the dessert. The base was a green tea jelly, which he made by brewing extra-strong tea, mixing it with kanten (agar agar powder), and then leaving it to set for several hours, until reaching a jello-ish consistency.

He also made his own anko, a wonderful sweet bean paste. The trick is to avoid overpowering sweetness; again, delicacy and subtly is the key. Yusuke is incredibly proud to have achieved a very excellent anko.

Perched amongst the anko and jelly was shiratama, which was easy enough for me to prepare. Shiratama is powdered mochi rice, and conveniently, it comes in a package that we can get at the local Japanese grocery. In other words, it’s like instant mochi. 100 grams of powder is mixed with 100 mL water (or a bit more) and then kneaded together until nice and smooth. The texture is supposed to be like your earlobe. A very accurate description! Next, the “dough” is rolled into small balls and plopped into boiling water. The dumplings sink to the bottom at first, but once they’re cooked, they rise up through the water and float on the top. Awesome. Then they’re plunged in cold water to set.

The last touch on the dessert was a sprinkling of kinako (a very tasty soybean powder). We all had seconds (and thirds…) of the anko as well. Yum.

green tea jelly dessert

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