In Japan, there is a variety of plum called ume. It actually resembles an apricot more than a plum, but it's called a plum. It's very astringent and when eaten raw can give a person a stomach ache, so the Japanese infuse them in alcohol and pickle them. In pickled form, these are called umeboshi.
I've been writing a lot of posts lately on various sushi-related items, such as how to make temaki hand rolls and DIY spicy tuna. In this post I'll go over the essential sushi-making tools and ingredients. If you have a sushi lover on your holiday gift list, consider putting together a few of these items in a gift basket!
Yesterday I covered the different types of sushi, and one of these was the temaki, or hand roll. This cone-shaped wrap of seaweed sheet (nori) is filled with vinegared rice and various ingredients. In this post I'll explain how to make one.
The word "sushi" is often ambiguous for non-native Japanese. We think of it as being interchangeable with raw fish. Sushi is vinegared rice topped with other ingredients. Sashimi, which is slices of raw fish alone, is not sushi because it isn't accompanied with rice. Originally, sushi was fermented fish with rice preserved in salt, and this was a staple dish in Japan for a thousand years until the Edo Period (1603 to 1868) when contemporary sushi was developed. The word "sushi" means "it's sour," which reflects back to sushi's origins of being preserved in salt.
Since I am watching my finances these days like most people, I've been making a lot of food at home, including my own sushi. One of my favorites is spicy tuna, and with a little experimentation, I figured out how to make my own!
These mushrooms, whose name means "pine" (matsu) and "mushroom" (take) grow under pine trees in Japan, parts of China, and the North American West Coast. They're also found in parts of Northern Europe. Sought-after and prized by the Japanese, these mushrooms can sell for up to $2000 per kilogram in Japan. Here in San Francisco, I found them going for $10 per pound. Their seasonal window is very short, usually from October to January.
If you've ever visited an izakaya in Japan, chances are you've had this braised pork belly dish called buta no kakuni. Tender and fatty, the pork belly is simmered for a few hours in a broth of sake, mirin, soy sauce, and other ingredients until it falls apart and the fat is silky. It's a very simple dish that requires little preparation, and is a good introductory dish if you want to learn more about Japanese home-style cooking.
Have you ever had umeshiso maki sushi? The next time you are in a sushi bar, ask the chef if they can make it for you. It's a simple maki roll with two fillings; umeboshi pickled plums and fresh shiso leaves. The saltiness of the plum contrasts nicely with the freshness of the shiso. It's also very easy to make at home.
Recently, I came across a post on Kyoto Foodie (one of my new favorite food blogs!) about a seasonal dish called yakikuri gohan, or roasted chestnut rice. The ingredients were few and simple, and seeing that I'd just bought a big batch of chestnuts at the farmer's market, I decided to make this!
For such a small island nation, Japan has a surprisingly wide variety of citrus fruit. I saw some of them when I traveled in Japan last winter. Sadly, we don't get most of them here in the US, and I wish we did! It's so interesting to see such variety. Some of these varieties are used in flavoring tea and alcohol, others are used in marmalades, and some are eaten raw. I just love the green-skinned, orange-fleshed aomikan tangerine - it's so pretty!