Turning Japanese

How much Japanese cooking can a person do, who vows never to stuff, roll, or fry? Quite a lot, actually. Whenever I say I love to make  Japanese food, people eagerly say, "oh, you do sushi and tempura?". I fix them with a stony glare, or a pitying glance, or maybe just brush an infinitesimal speck of dust from my sleeve and say "there´s a lot more to Japanese food than tempura and sushi, you know. And no, I couldn´t do either of those to save my life".

I am broadminded in my definition of Japanese, and anything that has soy sauce and mirin and wasabi and sesame oil is Japanese enough for me. A scattering of sesame seeds over some white rice, eaten with chopsticks, and I´m there.

One of our favourite lazy dinners is a bowl of white rice topped with cut up omelette (made with a dash of sugar), slices of avocado, sesame seeds and a bit of nori. Dip the egg or avocado in soy sauce and there you are. A quick, beautiful, really quite Japanese looking dinner.

I might also marinate some defrosted salmon to go along with that, or throw in some smoked salmon, which always goes so well with avocadoes.

What I had never made is real sushi rice. I found the instructions intimidating. What with the kombu, and the soaking the special wooden instruments, and the soaking then resting the rice, and all that palaver of "gently fold the vinegar into the rice with one hand while you fan it with the other"...I mean to say, what? I need two hands to fold vinegar into rice if it´s not all to end up on the floor, thankyouverymuch. Fanning, indeed. No sir, I thought.

But yesterday the crushing heat of Madrid summer brought the solution. I have an electric fan in the kitchen, and what could be easier than mixing the vinegar-sugar-salt into the rice, inside a normal baking tray, while the electric fan did its sushi job and also made me not faint from the steam?

So there you go. Ignore the punctiliousness and the ritualistic stories and don´t let that Japanese aura of perfection put you off. After all, they invented those little junky packets of ramen, so shortcuts must be quite common in Japan. Just get yourself some mirin and soy and sesame oil and sake and start playing.

9 comentarios:

Lydia (The Perfect Pantry) dijo...

When we visited friends in Japan a few years ago, I was amazed at how much convenience food had found its way to their kitchen! Instant ramen, all kinds of pre-mixed sauces -- it made me giggle. And yet it all tasted delicious.

Pille dijo...

Ximena - is that an actual page from The New Yorker with your illustration in it??

lobstersquad dijo...

Lydia: yes, they keep us all in awe with all that stuff about traditon, but it´s the same as everywhere else. and lovely too
Pille: oh, no, I wish. just a collage. keep hopin´

Jolynn@allthingsdelicious dijo...

Rice with nori and eggs is one of my favorite simple meals too! A friend likes to eat rice with small spoonful of miso. I'm still trying to find a good quality miso. Any suggestions?

xps dijo...

el new yorker...ya llegará.

zoe dijo...

Oh.. my first job when I learnt sushi making in my father and his japanese girlfriend's home was 'rice fanning'! she did teach me rolling too, but first: fan and fold ;)

I'm also a fan (ha!) of rice and omlette combo - not sure of the name or how widely it is available, but I've found in Oz a japanese 'sprinkle' - it is kind of nori and sesame seeds and probably msg or something, but it's delicious and lends a TOTALLY JAPANESE air to any dish! definitely one to keep an eye out for ;)

Shayne dijo...

I love any food that you can add the Japanese name too. yes I have made sushi rolls and they turned out great and I have made tempura that turned out awful but my love in noodles, Udon noodles are at the top put any Japanese noodle is a good friend to my taste buds.

My first attempt at Japanese was raman soup and I have tried several different variations of broth and veggies and noodles; all great.

I think a rice bowl like yours is very Japanese and it sound perfect

Laurie Hawel dijo...

Oh, yummy. I want some right now. Good call on the smoked salmon. I think some thin, thin, thin sliced cucumber would be good, too.

Jolynn@allthingsdelicious dijo...

@zoe - I know exactly what sprinkle you are talking about! I love it too!