18 February, 2008

"Green Worm" Chirashi-zushi

It's not really a recipe with green worms. That wouldn't be very vegetarian now, would it? See the previous post with the picture for an explanation. What looks like a little worm is really just a piece of cooked Mibuna, a Japanese vegetable. Please click on the name to see a picture and brief description.

If you live here you can easily find Mibuna; its a mild-tasting crispy thin-leafed vegetable with just a slightly bitter flavour that compliments miso soup, or sushi, anything where you want to balance too much sweetness or savouriness. I usually have found the chiriashi-zushi I've eaten here a bit too sweet for my taste so I used this vegetable to counteract that, and it worked very well.

As well as the bowl of sushi I made for lunch, I tucked the leftovers into a bento box for the next day's lunch at work. It was if anything better the second day. I didn't worry too much about how safe it was because the temperatures are so cold now that keeping it in my kitchen is almost the same as in my refrigerator. No kidding!

Chirashi-zushi is the name of sushi that is prepared with a base of sushi rice and then has vegetables and eggs, (and sometimes cooked shrimp) mixed in and also scattered on top. Because of the shrimp and gluten in the soy sauce used for cooking some of the vegetables, the only way I get to eat it is if I make it at home. That might be true for you too if you live outside Japan, though I know sushi has become the fast food of choice in North America. Or at least I've heard that. Guess I'll be able to see for myself soon.

This kind of sushi makes a nice lunch, though as I said in the last post, it takes a bit of time to put all the ingredients together. Unless you're a practiced Japanese homemaker.

But for those of you with a hankering for something satisfying and Japanese, you might want to spend a week-end morning or afternoon giving this a try. It's a great introduction to Japanese food as it's made in home kitchens.

This recipe is my adaption of one from Recipes of Japanese Cooking, supervised by Yuko Fujita and Navi International. It's a great book with a good section at the back on Japanese cooking utensils and a format with the left page in Japanese and the right page in English, the same recipe side by side. This makes it very useful for recognizing the kanji for the ingredients if you are learning Japanese, or just shopping for ingredients here.

Once you assemble all the ingredients it's pretty fast to put together. I made a bowl for lunch and a bento for the next day. It actually tasted much nicer cold the next day than when it was slightly warm. Japanese genius.

Here's the recipe, as I adapted it for what I had on hand. I used dried shitake mushrooms, organic egg shreds, mibuna and daikon cooked just a bit in the Japanese way. For the rice I used organic short grain brown rice, but if you can get Japanese sushi rice that will work fine too and be more "authentic". If you're like me, a beginner at making Japanese food, and you like sushi, this one should reward your patience.

If you're vegan you'll want a susbtitute for the eggs. Since they provide protein I suggest you use thin fried tofu wrappers, like the ones used for abure-age, give them a quick soak in hot water to remove the grease and freshen them, and then shred them the same way as the eggs.

If you can't get these in North America, I have a substitute. Take a block of firm tofu and freeze it. If it's in a package with liquid freeze the whole thing. After it's rock hard, let it thaw on the counter and when it has, press the water out (over the sink) with your hand. It will be easy because the tofu will have become light and spongy. At this point you can cut it up or tear it in pieces as for a scramble and give it a light fry up in oil, dashing in some salt and pepper. It should be light and tasty.

Green Worm (Mibuna) Chirashi-zushi (Gluten-free and Vegetarian)

To make the Sushi Rice:

Wash 3 cups of sushi rice (or genmai/short-grain brown rice ,which is my choice) and let it soak in cold water for 30 minutes with a piece of kombu (Japanese kelp). Remove the kelp and cook the rice with 1 Tablespoon of sake in the water. When the rice is cooked turn it into a big bowl and add these ingredients which you have first mixed up in a cup:

1 Tb. sugar (I used organic brown)
3 Tb. of Japanese vinegar ( a mild rice vinegar)
1 tsp. salt

Stir it lightly into the rice with a fork and allow the rice to cool. If you want to be really traditional you can fan it as it cools to give it a glossy colour.

Prepare the Shitake Mushrooms:

Soak 4 dried Shitake mushrooms in water until soft, pull out the stems, and then put them in a small pot and just cover them with some of the soaking liquid, 2Tb. sugar, 1 Tb. mirin sweet cooking sake, and 1 Tb. (gluten-free) soy sauce or tamari. Cook slowly until almost all the sauce is evaporated. Let cool and slice into slivers, and set aside.

Make the Egg Shreds:

Mix up 3 (organic) eggs as for an omelet until the colour is consistent, adding 1 tsp. sugar, and a pinch of salt and mixing it in. Lightly oil a small omelet pan. Each time put about a tsp. of vegetable oil in the pan and tilt it around so that it covers the bottom. Then pour the excess into a ceramic cup. Into the heated pan drizzle in a circular pattern about 3 Tb. of the mixture and tilt the pan quickly so the egg runs around and around and makes a thin coating on the pan. If it runs up and around the sides, that is okay. After only 20 seconds lift it up with an egg lifter and turn it over for a few seconds just until it sets. The egg shouldn't brown (but mine did since I was taking pictures.) Put it onto a plate and repeat the process, stacking the thin egg pancakes on top of each other. When they are cooled transfer them to a cutting board and cut the stack into shreds. Reserve.

For the Daikon :

Cut around 4 inches of a small Daikon into 1/4 to 1/2 inch thick rounds and slice them into shreds. Put them into a small pot with 1 tsp. of turmeric and 1-2 tsp. of cider vinegar and a pinch of salt. Cook for just a few minutes to blanch them. They should still be a bit crisp. Drain and reserve.

For the Mibuna:

Cut a good handful of Mibuna into about 3 inch/5 cm. lengths including the leaves (slice off the root end) and blanch in boiling water with a tsp. of Japanese vinegar and a pinch of salt and/or 1 Tb. of soy sauce just for a minute. Don't overcook them, you still want a little crispness. Drain and reserve.

Assembling the sushi:

Mix 2/3 of the ingredients into the sushi rice and stir gently to combine. Arrange the remaining ingredients on top as a garnish. You can be as creative as you like with the arrangement.

If you can't get Daikon or Mibuna, I suggest that julienned carrots could be substituted for the Daikon, which are more usual anyway.

Other additions can be:

Snow Peas, stringed and quickly blanched in salted boiling water, drained and rinsed with cold water and then cut in half.

Renkon/Lotus root:

Peel and sliced thinly, cut into quarter rounds, and put into water with a bit of vinegar added. They should be boiled just a bit, then put into a bath of 3 Tb. stock (the extra mushroom soaking liquid is okay.)

Pretty much any vegetable you enjoy would be good in this recipe, so experiment away. If you come up with any yummy combinations, please let me know. I'll be hungrily waiting.


Ruahines said...

Kia ora e hoa VJ,
Just to let you know I did the egg plant both ways, cubed with garlic - then mixed it in with other veges. It all got eaten! JMy favourite though was the thick chunks which I grilled, then added a bit of your tomato sauce recipe on top, with cheese, then grilled to melt and brown. I ate most of that myself, and will be stopping by the vege market for more. I am going to give the minestrone with pesto a lash this weekend. Will keep you posted.

vegetablej said...

Hi Robb:

Great to hear you could use up the eggplant. The grilled eggplant with tomato and cheese sounds divine. Glad to hear you have put together a recipe that you like. That's the whole idea of cooking, taking something and changing it a bit to fit your tastes and circumstances and making it your own. I have the sense that I'll be reading and trying _your_ recipes some day.

Love that you are keeping me posted. Hope the soup turns out well. :)