Posts Tagged asparagus

Pretty barramundi

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No particular recipe here, but it’s a pretty picture! Barramundi is an Indian Ocean fish that’s often seen on menus here, but I don’t think that I’d had it before this. Very tasty. The fish was grilled with sesame oil and dressed with ponzu (citrus) sauce.

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Omelette collaboration

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Mmm, tasty pic. In this collaboration, I looked after sauteing white onions, mushrooms, and asparagus to fold into my dad’s expertly prepared thick, fluffy omelette.

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Shio-koji stir fry numero uno

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Shio-kōji is a popular item in Japanese kitchens of late, and hence in “western” ones as well. Yusuke and I had wanted to try it for a while, so he brought back a jar on a recent trip to Japan. We subsequently found it at a local Japanese grocery; restocking will not be too arduous!

So, what is shio-kōji? Short answer: kōji with salt.

So, what is kōji? Short answer: fungus.

Here is a longer answer from Makiko Itoh in the Japan Times. (Visit the rest of the article to read more.)

Kōji (Aspergillus oryzae) was probably domesticated at least 2,000 years ago. It is used to make sake, mirin, shōchū, awamori (an Okinawan beverage), rice vinegar, soy sauce and miso – all ingredients that define Japanese food. No wonder that it was declared the kokkin (national fungus) by the Brewing Society of Japan, and the genome was closely protected until 2005. Besides Japan, it is also used extensively in China and Korea to ferment and mature various foods.

To use kōji, spores are mixed into steamed rice (potatoes, wheat and soybeans are also used, depending on the purpose), then allowed to mature for a period of time in a warm environment, about 50 degrees Celsius. The kōji turns the starch in the rice into sugar (a process called saccharification) and releases a variety of fatty acids and amino acids including glutamate, the basis for the “fifth taste,” umami. This kōji-rice mixture is called kome-kōji.

When mixed with salt (shio, in Japanese), kōji is a very tasty cooking seasoning. It can be used for a variety of purposes, but among the most popular is marinating meat, fish, tofu, or veggies.

So far, we’ve used it to marinate salmon, as well as in a few veggie stir fries. Pictured above is the first attempt.

Yusuke began by stir frying the following in sesame oil:

  • Asparagus
  • Mushrooms
  • Shrimp

When the veggies were nearly cooked, he stirred in about 2 tsp of shio-kōji and a sprinkling of black pepper. That’s it!

The concept of umami can be explained in many ways, but for me, it has to do with layers of taste and enhancing the natural flavours of the fresh veggies.

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Asparagus-tofu-onions with sweet soy sauce

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Yup, this is another example of my work.

A few times recently, we’ve ended up with more tofu than we could consume in one sitting, so I stuck the leftovers in the freezer. This does interesting things to its texture, making it spongy (in a good way) when thawed. You can squeeze the water left from the ice right out without breaking the tofu. Then you can then cut it into cubes for use in stews or stir fries to soak up other flavours, or crumble it up for a stir fry or casserole. Tofu can be bought in dehydrated form (kouya dofu) to be used in these ways, but it’s fun to do it yourself.

Just Hungry and No Recipes have more interesting info and ideas for frozen tofu.

For my little dish here, I began by sauteing sliced red onions with lots of garlic and ginger.

I then added pieces of asparagus.

When it started to turn bright green, I added the aforementioned frozen-then-defrosted tofu, crumbled into a fine texture.

I also dumped in perhaps a teaspoon or two each of sake and rice vinegar.

As the tofu started to warm up, I added sweet soy sauce and sea salt.

Ketjap (or kecap) manis—sweet soy sauce—is something new to us here in Perth. It’s Indonesian in origin, and seems to be quite popular in Asian and general stores alike here. It’s more syrupy than Japanese soy sauce in consistency and is sweetened with palm sugar. Just a drizzle, then, was nice to flavour this dish.

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Vegetable Fried Quinoa

This is a really old one. For the recipe, see http://blog.fatfreevegan.com/2008/02/vegetable-fried-quinoa.html

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タコライス

タコライス. Translation: taco rice.

This is one of the many examples of the Japanese tendency to embrace foreign concepts and make them uniquely Japanese (see also: curry, pasta, omu-rice etc. etc.). Based on Mexican-style cuisine, this particular dish is especially popular in Okinawa, so much so that you can even read about it on wikipedia.

Yusuke has been on a salsa and tortilla kick…too bad he couldn’t join me in Guatemala! Hence the desire for this dish.

Rather than using the typical ground pork, Yusuke instead used firm tofu. He also omitted the cheese and used asparagus rather than lettuce.

He began the cooking procedure by chopping white onions (suffering through the tears!). Next, he crumbled firm tofu by hand and sauteed both with olive oil.

After the onions became translucent, he added carrots, chopped into tiny pieces.

Next came the seasoning:

  • pinch of sea salt
  • pinch of black pepper
  • 1 tsp ketchup
  • 1 tsp soy sauce

Some recipes call for worchestershire sauce or that taco seasoning stuff that you can buy in a package. But since this is タコライス, you definitely need soy sauce!

The asparagus was boiled separately, chopped, and added to rest of the mix.

Everything was then arranged on rice, topped with an over-easy egg, and served with salsa.

おいしかった / ¡muy delicioso!

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Miso soup with konnyaku

We ate miso soup with konnyaku, carrots, daikon, white onions, and green onions.

We also had asparagus with balsamic vinegar.

It was good.

That’s all.

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