Saturday, 5 February 2011

Re-contracting, Egypt, and Daikon Curry (cont.)

One of the secrets of Japanese curry - grated apple
Apologies for the political turn with the last post - I try to refrain from the excessively political on Stinky Soybeans, not because it's not interesting or important (indeed, these are things we should talk about more often) , but because I personally get annoyed when others suddenly break into sententious rant mode out of the blue. But sometimes ideas build up with such force within oneself that they escape without warning through the nearest outlet. In that vein.....

....I'm encouraged that President Obama seems to be doing the right thing and pressuring Egypt's President Mubarak to step down. Even if bleeding liberals like myself occasionally feel frustrated at his tactics - his acquiescence towards tax cuts for rich people, his general tack of conciliation in the face of lies (google "birthers")  and bigotry from his opponents - Obama does seem to have his heart in the right place. For most of the United States' history, our presidents have usually embraced the view encapsulated in FDR's famous quote about a Nicaraguan dictator: "Somoza may be a son of a bitch, but he's our son of a bitch." God knows our government still endorses sons-of-bitches besides Mubarak, but at least Obama is setting a good precedent. Of course, one could always be cynical and...

.... but enough of such foolishness. Food awaits!

This is a daikon. (Alas, I peeled and chopped it before realizing how photogenic it was...) "Daikon"(大根) translates directly as "big root," a very apt description of the vegetable.  My good friend T received a bundle of these beautiful tubers from a grateful farmer who attends his English conversation class, and he was kind enough to share the bounty. The major difficulty of daikon consumption, naturally, lies in its size. What do you do with that much plant matter? Typical uses include shredding it to garnish sushi and grating it to top steak, but there was no way I was going to eat enough sushi or steak to use even a small fraction of the root before it became a giant petri dish. The solution? Curry! 

The Roux!

The delightful food blog , my most dependable source for Japanese food wisdom, had a tasty recipe for Japanese style curry stew. This should not be confused with curries of the Thai or Indian persuasion, to which it bears only a passing resemblance. Unlike Koreans or people from the Hunan and Sichuan regions of China, the Japanese in general have an extremely underdeveloped appreciation of the broad and beautiful palette of spicy flavors available to mankind. Whereas I love a good, scorching vindaloo or green curry for the little inferno it ignites on the taste buds, the chief appeal of Japanese curry lies in the pleasing textural combination of savory, viscous stew and warm rice. Many supermarkets contain an entire aisle devoted to curry in its various incarnations, from ready-to-eat metallic pouches to little brown bricks of roux for the soup base to spice blends for those who opt for the purist approach. As Just Hungry points out, the roux (composed of butter, flour, and curry powder), is actually very easy to whip up and contains none of the dubious industrially engineered fats that give most pre-made mixes their appealing mouth feel.   

 Besides daikon, water, and that roux, I added carrots, shiitake mushrooms, a half kilo of beef tendon, 8 onions, spices, and, of course, a heaping spoonful of Blair's After Death Hot Sauce. 3 fellow ALT's and I managed to polish off the entire pot that night, save a little tupperware-full. It was the second time I've hosted a curry party in my little apartment (alas, no photos). How wonderful to live in a century when it's socially permissible for a man to cook a big pot of stew and share it with friends.

More food pictures, because I have too much free time:

Sesame Fried Spinach a la Mark Bittman

Bok Choy in garlic and white wine sauce

This here is a takoyaki, the bready fried octopus balls that are a specialty here in the Kansai region. A wonderful, adorable local family (relations of a teacher I know) invited me over for a takoyaki fry-out last Monday. As with many of the best Japanese meals, the cooking apparatus sat in the middle of the table as the entire family took part in the meal's preparation. In the case of takoyaki, that apparatus is a griddle indented with little 1-inch hemispheres for shaping the balls of fried goodness. Besides octopus, we added spring onions, pickled ginger, bits of fried tempura batter ("tenkasu"), and american cheese to the mix. They were delicious.

Fried Rice two ways: Shiitake sesame, red pepper and pork.

1 comment:

  1. As always, a wonderful read! (or as your plate says, "Refreshing Story!"
    And your food looks delicious. I'm going to go get my Mark Bittman cookbook (stained with food already) and find the sesame fried spinach. It looks great!