The miso soup I wrote about yesterday was actually only part of a larger Japanese-themed evening on Saturday. We started out with a Japanese liqueur our friend Tony contributed, called Shochu. Some time ago, Tony brought some of the same liqueur over and when I told him I had a cold, he said, "Ah, but this is a well known Japanese cure for colds and flu." Now I'm not saying he made it up, but I have to say it did NOT improve my cold to consume several glasses of Shochu.
According to the Japan-Guide.Com site, "Shochu is a distilled spirit with a high alcohol content. Rice, sweet potatoes, wheat and sugar cane are some of the most common bases for shochu."
It was very nice over ice, and despite the above quote it didn't feel like it had a very high alcohol content to me; it was more like a dry sherry in taste and effect.
The main dish I prepared for our Japanese feast was Salmon Teriyaki. I know that it's probably one of the most common non-sushi japanese dishes outside Japan, but a girl has to start somewhere and I like to go safe initially. I confirmed with Stacey that it was, indeed, a bona-fide Japanese dish before deciding. Incidentally, when I asked her how to make it, she said, "Um, you buy some Teriyaki sauce..."! But having spent so much money on all those intriguing base ingredients, I wasn't going to settle for a store-bought sauce. I hit the web. The following recipe is a combination of several I found on the web and it really was easy to make and extremely good.
Salmon Teriyaki (I did it MYYYYY way...)
1/3 cup soy sauce
2 tablespoons mirin
2 1/2 tablespoons rice wine vinegar
2 tablespoons brown sugar
1 1/2 tablespoons chopped peeled fresh gingerroot
4 scallions, finely chopped
1/2 Tbs corn starch
3 medium salmon steaks
Mix all of the above except the cornstarch in a shallow bowl. Rince the salmon and place in the marinade, turning a few times to cover. Put the bowl in the fridge for half an hour, taking it out to turn the salmon after the first fifteen minutes. Set a ridged cast-iron griddle pan on the stove and get it really hot, so hot that you don't want to place your hand too close to the cooking surface. I didn't think to brush the pan with a bit of oil before starting, but it probably would have helped if I had. Slap the fish on the pan, and pour the marinade into a small saucepan. Add the cornstarch and cook until thick and glossy. Turn over the fish once it has browned nicely and formed a crust. (If you are lucky this will work. My fish was getting over-cooked when I wanted to turn it over, which is why it did not turn out photogenic and you are not looking at it. Maybe I shouldn't have bothered turning it.)
I served this with rice and a nice crisp salad of grated carrots and soy bean sprouts, dressed with a delicious sesame dressing I bought at the Japanese store (photo at the beginning of this post - it was prettier than the fish).
We accompanied the meal with some hot sake, which I had to serve out of a gravy boat because the set of sake cups my mother gave me a couple of years ago did not include a carafe. Ah well, necessity is the mother of invention and the gravy boat with a tea cozy on top did a good enough job of keeping our liquor warm. And it, in turn, kept us nice and warm.
I have to say that this meal was such a success that - far from encouraging me to new Japanese horizons - I'm afraid to depart from such an obviously good menu. The only thing I would change next time around would be 1) not burning the rice (oops) and 2) doubling or even tripling the amount of sauce. We ran out of sauce long before the fish....
Chronology of preparation for all the different dishes:
1) Set the konbu to soak for the miso soup.
2) Prepare fish marinade and put fish and marinade in fridge.
3) Grate carrots, mix with a handful of soy bean sprouts and put in fridge.
4) Prepare other miso ingredients. Make miso soup up to (but not including) the point where miso paste is added.
5) While waiting for miso soup to finish cooking, start rice.
6) Start ridged griddle pan heating.
7) Cook fish and start heating the sauce with cornstarch.
8) Add the miso paste to the soup, put the fish in the oven (covered) to keep warm, turn down the heat on the sauce and the rice and serve the first course.
9) Dress the carrot salad, bring out with the rest of the dishes and serve.
10) Suddenly remember the sake: put it in the microwave, heat and serve!
All of this goes best, of course, if halfway through the process someone hands you a glass of Shochu. It may not cure the common cold, but it certainly is inspiring!
WeightWatchers Note: As this recipe is written, the salmon teriyaki is 3.5 points per portion. However, as I found that it needed a bit more sauce, I have also calculated the points using the same amount of sauce but only two portions of salmon: 4 points. This is of course not counting the rice. A medium portion of rice (150g cooked) is 3 points.