Sunday, May 08, 2005

japan and amherst and yale

I went out to my old college town Amherst for a wedding, and the thing that all of us had in common was that we had all lived or traveled in Japan. We had a wonderful time reminiscing about the onsens (the hot spring baths), and of course the delicious food there.

My friend asked me what I usually cook, and I answered that I like to cook Japanese food because the recipes that I know are pretty simple. I adapt a recipe from my favorite East Village izakaya Village Yokocho. An izakaya is a small plates Japanese restaurant. I actually read somewhere that the way tapas was invented is that they used to put plates on top of glasses, for what reason, I'm not certain, maybe to keep flies out. Then, they starting putting nuts on the plates, and then it evolved into the delicious garlicky seafood oriented dishes of the Spanish cuisine.

In any event, izakaya was developed as small appetizers that are salty that whet your appetite for more beer or sake, choose your poison. It was at Village Yokocho that I discovered this dish, but I simplified it even more, and made it lighter also.

Soft Tofu in Tempura Sauce

1/2 block of soft tofu
1 cup Tempura sauce* (follow directions on bottle)
Bonito Flakes*
1/2 inch of fresh ginger minced
3 scallions sliced thinly

*Buy at a store that carries Japanese products.

This effortless dish is so tasty and so quick to make. What actually takes more time is the rice to cook. When I know I'm going to cook asian food accompanied by rice, I usually put the rice on immediately. It's a bit like the concept of boiling the water for pasta also. I usually eat this dish with Nishikin short-medium grained rice, it's chewier than other rices, but not too chewy.

Prepare a cup of Tempura sauce (just dilute it according to the ratio on the bottle). Pour mixed Tempura sauce into medium sized microwave safe bowl, add the half block of soft tofu, and let it sit in the middle of the sauce, then add finely minced ginger to the top and sprinkle the scallions over the top and sides. Microwave for about 3 minutes on high, Serve immediately with a generous serving of bonito flakes on the top.

Good sides for this are steamed edamame, and maybe some boiled dumplings.

A recent favorite of mine are Kimchee Dumplings which you can buy at the Korean supermarket M2M, there's one on 11th and 3rd ave, and another by Columbia University on Broadway and 114th or so.

While visiting Yale, I went out to dinner with a dear friend of mine, yet another Amherst friend, and we went and ate at Miso, which only further demonstrated my love for strange American concocted sushi, and I fell heart deep in love with Spicy Tuna rolls wrapped in avocado. Yes, I do believe my love for raw tuna will beggar me eventually.

As requested, I'll be putting up recipes for tea rolls which I learned to love and savor in Amherst and Vietnamese summer rolls as well this week ...

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