All recipes are for 2 servings unless noted. Oil is canola oil and salt is kosher salt.


Dinner, May 13, 2017

My father's birthday marks the end of a rash of spring birthdays among our friends and family. Thinking of a warabi bracken dish he made while visiting us here years ago, I took the opportunity to cook something using warabi and a couple of other things he hopefully would like to eat. Then I realized I do not really know what he likes, other than miso soup, tofu, usuage, sashimi, pork, beef, and strong-flavored dishes in general. Following ubiquitous advice, he tries to eat lots of vegetables for his health.

  • Asari to gobo no takikomi gohan / steamed rice with clams and burdock root, topped with mitsuba and nori seaweed
  • Satoimo to shiitake no misoshiru / miso soup with baby taro root and shiitake mushrooms
  • Gomadofu / sesame tofu
  • Kabu to usuage no nimono / braised Japanese turnips and thin deep-fried tofu
  • Fu champuruu / Okinawan-style stir-fry with gluten cakes

My warabi dish idea was a miso soup with gomadofu, but the gomadofu became too soft to maintain its form in soup ... Instead, it became a small side dish with wasabi.

Another plan of making fake tonkatsu port cutlets also quickly failed, as we only had two thin kurumabu donut-shaped gluten cakes (not enough to feed both Tom and me). My father and I occasionally went out alone for dinner (my mom was busy with singing lessons and my sister in college was busy hanging out with her friends) in my high school years, and a tonkatsu restaurant was one of our regular choices. He usually had tonkatsu teishoku, pork cutlet with salad, steamed rice, miso soup and pickles, and I had katsudon pork cutlet cooked in broth and eggs, served over steamed rice.

Fu champuruu, a rescue plan with the two pieces of kurumabu, is an easy choice for protein and an assortment of vegetables. Among ingredients, eringi king oyster mushrooms gave an interesting buttery taste at the end, possibly from combination with carrot and egg. Katsuobushi bonito flakes do a great job to add another layer of depth to the taste.

For rice, I combined gobo burdock root with dried clams, which produces a powerful aromatic flavor. The clams' natural sweetness from the drying process gives a very mellow note too, and they instantly transform ordinary steamed rice into something really rich. Gobo provided an earthy note and intensified the overall taste. Thinly cut nori seaweed also works its magic to raise the flavor of the dish. It became almost overwhelming and something complete by itself, not like plain steamed rice that I need side dishes to eat. Too strong for me, but I bet my father would like this. Tom definitely did.

For one more vegetable dish, I chose kabu Japanese turnips, a winter vegetable in Japan that is more commonly seen in spring in our area. I still feel awkward about the gaps in produce seasons, especially when making Japanese food. Yet locally grown fresh produce is unbeatable in many ways. The chilly weather helped a little bit to overcome this odd feeling of eating a winter vegetable in late spring.

Satoimo baby taro is the star of the miso soup. Satoimo thickens the soup somewhat, giving a nice consistency when the air feels cold. I also threw in several fresh shiitake mushrooms for the taste. Thinly sliced green onions add a delicate fresh aroma and shichimi pepper provides some punch.

A rough estimate of the sodium content of this dinner is 550-600 mg per person. Not bad at all.

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