10 August 2009

Gōyā chanpurū, again

Another version of gōyā chanpurū. I do love these bitter melons.

I sautéed pork belly and set it aside, then the bitter melon (until browned), and then scrambled an egg in sesame oil. I then sautéed the tofu, adding the melon and pork. This was then assembled with the egg on the side, drizzled with shoyu and sesame oil. Finish with Japanese Seven Spice powder (shichimi togarashi).


Kanten is Japanese for agar agar, the same agar used in petri dishes, a seaweed product that thickens like gelatin. Yōkan is a sweet jello-like dessert made from agar agar and some flavoring. Here are two simple versions:

Mizuyōkan is made from anko, or red bean paste and agar. I boiled a cup of water with two teaspoons agar agar (the Thai-based "Telephone" brand, a powdered version) and added a cup of anko (made with light brown sugar this time, which worked very well with azuki beans!). I strained that and let it set.

Grean tea yōkan is the same one-cup of agar in water and a cup of cold water with ground sencha and two tablespoons fine sugar. That was then strained and let to set.

Yōkan holds its for much better than jello (especially in heat) and has a very firm-yet-smooth texture that I enjoy despite not being a fan of jello. The grean tea yōkan was smooth and not too sweet, the mizuyōkan was a perfect way to enjoy anko outside of ice cream or daifuku. Perfect for an afternoon snack in this 95ºF heat.

Thanks to Hiroko Shimbo for the original formula!

03 August 2009

sardines & kimchi.

These are a new type of Japanese sardines that I found at Tran's World Market in Hadley (at $2.19/ea.). They're packed in ume vinegar, shoyu and some sugar. They're sweet, very clean tasting and quite rich.

I served them atop hot sweet brown rice and kimchi. The tartness of the kimchi and the sweetness of the sardines balance out perfectly. Serving both cold on hot rice makes for a meal that feels cooked yet is quite refreshing for a quick, summery lunch.

02 August 2009

red bean ice cream

As just posted, I made red bean paste. To that I added 1 ½ cups coconut milk, 2 tablespoons tapioca flour, and 2 tablespoons sugar. I cooked that until it was thickened, added a half teaspoon almond extract and chilled it overnight. I then froze it in an ice cream maker, and here it is:

This was rich, creamy, and well-balanced. The azuki beans have an earthiness that goes perfect with coconut. And it's vegan!

red bean paste

I wanted to make red-bean paste to make red bean ice cream. Here we go (following Hiroko Shimbo's recipe). Bring one cup azuki beans to a boil. Drain; boil in four cups water for an hour, until the liquid barely covers the beans. Purée the beans.

Pass the beans through a sieve.

And wrap in a tight towel. Rinse in two changes of water. Squeeze out excess moisture.

Bring to a boil with a third-cup of water and a cup of sugar.

Cook until a thick paste and voilà! it's done!

bitter melon

Above is a bitter melon that I purchased on a whim at the farmer's market. The most basic way too cook one seemed the Okinawan stir-fry gōyā chanpurū (it made sense to keep it simple to highlight its flavor).

Cutting the melon open, it has a spongy core and hard seeds that look like pumpkin seeds embedded therein. It smelled like a random plant that you pull up, smell and remember why only certain plants are edible. A strong, fresh, chlorophyll smell. I scraped out the spongy center. It tasted incredibly bitter, very green.

I salted the sliced bitter melon and then washed it a few times. I sautéed them in hot oil and then added tofu, mirin and shoyu. It remained firm and crunchy despite being cooked well, thus muting the bitterness. The pressed tofu was a rich foil for the bitter vegetable. Very very good.