Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Day 2 - Part 2 Culinary Challenge

More Rice!

Lunch is a quick and simple affair - rice with a fresh daikon and horseradish pickle. Daikon is a staple accompaniment or garnish in Japanese cuisine. It looks rather like a smooth parsnip and tastes like a mild horseradish. For the pickle I simply grated the daikon, shredded some cabbage for extra crunch (also another popular Japanese vegetable) and added wasabi, a little mirin (rice wine vinegar) and a little salt. It was woderfully refreshingly and not too hot. It was also a nice contrast to the rice which I am beginning to become a little blase about! I am looking forward to dinner tonight though...

To Sear the Salmon

If there is one thing I truly admire admire about the Japanese it is their ability to appreciate seafood in all its glory. Not only are they experts in preparing the finest raw fish (sashmi) but when they cook it they keep it simple and allow the try flavour of the fish to shine. I am a huge fan of juicy fish, rather than the dry, flaky, overcooked version. This makes me perfectly suited to eating fish Japanese style. My fish of chice tonight is Salmon - not because I am terribly unoriginal, but because it was the freshest and best looking fish at the market. (Another skill the Japanese possess - choosing what is the best on the day) For my marinade I choose the classic Japnese 3 - soy, garlic, ginger - a wonderful combination but not the secret to my salmon success.

Salmon Secrets

I am lucky enough to possess a teppanyaki style grill, but you could use a griddle or a quality cast iron pan. The secret (and I am sure you have heard this before) is to get the pan or grill REALLY HOT! Sear the salmon quicly to create a lovely crust and don't pour the marinade over the fish while cooking because this will dramatically lower the temperature and the fish will stew. If you like your fish tender and moist then just a few minutes each side will suffice. Let the fish rest for 5 to 6 minutes after cooking. If you prefer your fish cooked more than this then finish it off in a 200 degree oven, not in the pan. Place in a dish and cover the fish with foil. Cook for 5-10 minutes until your desired doness is achieved. Cooking in the oven makes sure that moisture is maintained and that the fish is more evenly cooked - not dry and stringy on the outside and uncooked in the middle. But remember: make sure you preheat the oven.


What better way to accompany my fish than with my favourite vegetable: eggplant. I prepare this in the traditional manner - grilled with topping of white miso moistened into a paste with a little mirin. The miso is quite salty so you don't need very much. It is not necessary to salt the eggplant for this type of preparation. For nice colour contrast I steam some baby spinach and serve it with a sauce of ground sesame seeds and mirin. Tahini will do rather than grinding your own sesame as they do in Japan. A meal like this is pure heaven and can only be topped off by homemade green tea icecream made by my lovely boyfriend. How was it made? I can't tell you because the secrets are all his! Sufficed to say it was divine... (For those of you without such a creative partner, the green tea icecream from Asian stores is also very good!)

What will Day 3 hold?


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