Chopsticks, Anyone?

Three Japanese dishes bring an asian flavor to your table

In nearly every culture, meals are steeped in tradition. The ingredients, preparation and consumption of food are often determined, at least to some extent, by the practices of a nation’s forebears; these practices, in turn, have been influenced by geography, religion and even historical events such as wars.

As one would expect, the cuisine of Japan is very much intertwined with those of China and Korea. Indeed, chopsticks originated in China.

Being an island nation, Japan naturally produced a cuisine heavily dependent upon the sea. Thus, fish and seaweed are key ingredients in many Japanese dishes. Rice, Japan’s leading crop, has been a staple for many centuries. Other grains, including wheat, which is used to make various types of noodles, and barley, are also grown in Japan, as are soybeans and a variety of vegetables.

Poultry has always been consumed less frequently than seafood, and red meat even less so, especially since the introduction of Buddhism to Japan in the sixth century.

Dashi, a stock made with kelp and fish, forms the basis for many Japanese soups. Miso paste, made by fermenting soybeans with salt and koji-kin, a fungus of the genus Aspergillus, is also a basic ingredient.

Because Japanese tradition frowns upon the mixing of foods of different flavors, each item of the meal, and even the individual course, is served in its own small dish or bowl. Alternatively, foods are sometimes separated by leaves or other decorative items.

Here we present to you a Japanese soup, a dessert and a “sushi” with a twist.

Meshiagare!

 

Avocado and Prawn “Sushi”

Servings: 4

This variation is sometimes called “Italian sushi” because the ingredients are wrapped in bread instead of seaweed sheets. Also, it is technically not sushi, which by definition includes short-grain rice.

  • 1 cup sesame seeds
  • 4 large white bread slices, crusts removed
  • 2 tablespoons butter, softened, plus extra as needed
  • 2 small avocados, halved, pitted, peeled and sliced
  • 11 ounces frozen peeled and cooked shrimp, thawed and kept cold
  • Kosher salt or flaked sea salt

On a large sheet of plastic wrap, spread out sesame seeds, making sure they are in a single, even layer. Place the bread slices on top. Using a rolling pin, roll across them to flatten out and press into the sesame seeds; the seeds should stick to the underside of the bread. Spread top side of bread slices with some butter and arrange the avocado slices and shrimp on top in a single layer. Season with a little salt. Tip: Pat shrimp dry with paper towels before using if they are particularly damp or moist. Carefully roll up into sushi rolls, shaping with your hands to make sure they hold their shape; you can use a little more butter to help the seam of the bread stick. Wrap each sushi roll tightly with plastic wrap and chill for at least 2 hours. After chilling, unwrap rolls and cut in half on the bias. Arrange sushi standing up before serving.

Categories: Local Flavor