Foodbuzz 24, 24, 24: 24 Sashimi & 24 Sushi in Wasabi Land!

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(Vegan Sushi: Soba no Shinme/Buckwheat Sprouts)

Wasabi has arguably become the most famous single Japanese condiment/spice in the World, but how many people know that it originated in Shizuoka Prefecture, which incidentally grows 80% of the total production in Japan?
(farmers have started growing it South Korea, Taiwan, Tasmania and elsewhere with various degrees of success)
It is mass-produced in the Izu Peninsula and at the foot of Mount Fuji, but the best wasabi is cultivated in altitude (500~1,000 meters) in Utougi, Shizuoka City, about 33 km up the Abe River.
An organic vegetable by definition, it requires a full two years to mature into constantly flowing pure water in comparatively cold environment.

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(Utougi/Courtesy of Shizuoka Shinbun, January 21st, 2009/Start of harvest season!)

Widely known in its wild form all over Japan, a resident in Utougi first successfully grew it in 1604. Tokugawa Ieyasu, the Shogun of Japan who had just retired in Sumpu (present Shizuoka City) after closing the doors of Japan, fell enamored with the condiment and actively promoted it.
The root is grated, preferably on a sharkskin grater, before being used, not only for sushi and sashimi, but also for raw or cooked meat, o-cha zuke (vegans, rejoice!) and almost any seafood.

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(Courtesy of Dominique Corby)

The stems and leaves are edible and a rare treat in their raw form in salads, in tempura, or steamed as demonstrated by Dominique Corby in his Osaka restaurant.
The stems and leaves (and flowers!) are also cut and pickled into sakekasu/sake white lees to become “wasabizuke”, another Shizuoka gastronomic specialty!
Tamaruya, the first shop to sell it at the beginning of the 17th Century, still exists in Shizuoka City, and even has a stand at Haneda Airport in Tokyo!

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(Fresh whole wasabi fromUtogi sold at Shizuoka JR Station!)

The wasabi served and used in Shizuoka restaurants (and many homes) is naturally of the best quality. If you happen to stop over in Shizuoka City, make a point to visit Sunpu Raku Ichi shop inside the JR Station where the plant is sold fresh and whole for a ridiculous price!
Shizuoka Prefecture is not only blessed with wasabi (and green tea), but also prides itself in catching some of the best fish in Japan thanks to the rich waters of Suruga Bay and Peninsula. It is an open secret that most of it finds it way onto Tokyo restaurant tables!
As the icing on the cake, know that Shizuoka Prefecture has acquired national fame for providing some of the rarest and best sake thanks to the extravagant abundance of pure water flowing from the Southern Alps and Mount Fuji!

Which naturally leads me to the main theme of this posting, namely sashimi and sushi.
There is a widespread misconception that it is all about fish and meat.
Not true at all, as vegan and vegetarian friends will read in this account of the mission Foodbuzz had agreed to follow me on.

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(Vegan/Vegetarian Sashimi at Yasaitei)

There was no way I could fit everything into one dinner.
The obvious solution was to have two meals, lunch and dinner and a couple of friends to help me out!
Therefore, I booked lunch both at Yasatei and Sushi Ko in Shizuoka City. Neither place usually opens for lunch, buy I had enough reasons to persuade my good friends to indulge the old geezer!
Lunch was all about Sashimi:
I ran first to Yasaitei to sample their vegetable sashimi of the day:
(See pic above, left to right, bottom to top)
Celery, Tomato (Ameera variety from Iwata City, as sweet as a fruit!), Organic Carrot from Chiba Prefecture, Myoga, Red Radish, Cucumber (su yoo/四葉/four leaves variety) and Daikon all grown organically (but for the carrot) in Shizuoka Prefecture. Shiso/perilla leaves and chopped white winter onion from Shizuoka, too.
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As for their dressing, they were served with sesame oil, salt and miso mix.

Just took the time to call my good friend Mika and off we went to Sushi Ko, one of the best (and most reliable) sushi restaurants in town for all the other sushi promised!

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Explaining the taste, texture and what else will make this blog too long (I promise to answer any queries!), so I shall keep to simple names and explanations:
The first sashimi plate was:
(from right column to left column)
Shirauo/Japanese anchovy, Buri/Amberjack, Mebachi Maguro Akami/Big-eye Tuna Lean Part, Torigai/Surf Clam, Akagai/Blood Clam, Ishidai/Snapper variety, Aji/Saurel=Horse Mackerel, Katsuo/Bonito.
Served with shiso/perilla leaves and flowers, Wakame/Seaweed and edible Chrysanthemum/Kiku.

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As for the second sashimi plate:
(front, then back)
Mooko Ika/Cuttlefish variety, Matako/Octopus, Hotate/Scallops stuffed with nori/dry seaweed, Seguro Iwashi/Black-back Sardine.
Minami Maguro Chutoro/South Pacific Tuna semi-fat part, Kinmeidai/Snapper variety.

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The last sashimi are for the barbarian (I’m one of them) meat-eaters:
Gyusashi/Raw beef (above), Basashi/Raw horsemeat (below)
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Served with a mixture of soy sauce, raw quail egg, grated ginger and chopped thin leeks.

Well, I basically took care of all the sashimi, while my friend got herself lost in the following sushi:

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Chirashizuhi: Cubes of Tamagoyaki/Japanese omelette, Shake/Salmon, Amberjack (do you remember the Japanese word? LOL), Akami, Ikura/salmon roe, and mini tomatoes.

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Millefueille Sushi:
Thin slices of cucumber, shari/sushi rice, avocado, shari, maguro akami, shari, tobikko/flying fish roe.

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That is when Mika’s eyes got bigger than her stomach and asked for Sushi Ko’s special “Pirikara Hotate Maki/Spicy scalops Roll” consisting of finely chopped cucumber and a mixture of chopped scallops, mayonnaise, chili pepper, sesame oil, tobikko, wasabi and “tenkasu/fried tenpura batter crumbs”!

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I was still hungry enough to ask for a set of 6 vegan/vegetarian sushi:
(from left to right)
Menegi/Leek Sprouts, Soba no Shinme/Buckwheat Sprouts, Mitsuba, avocado, Takuan/pickled Daiko and sSiso and Cucumber Gunkan, Mizuna Gunkan.

That was it for lunch!

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As for dinner, I asked Marcus, another foodbuzz member living in Shizuoka City to help me back at Sushi Ko as some serious drinking was involved,too!
We kept to sushi as the sashimi (24) had already been taken care of!

Her they are in the chronoligical order.
I found out later that some pics were a bit fuuzzy. I took all pictures with my mobile phone as a real camera would have bothered some of the customers in that very busy place. At least, they have the merit to be authentic!

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Tachiuo Aburi/Lightly grilled Scabbard Fish with ponzu, momioroshi and chopped thin leeks

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Botan ebi/large raw prawn (very sweet!)

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Hirame/Sole (fuzzy pic/sorry!). Served with salt and lemon juice. No need for soy sauce!

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Amaebi/Sweet shrimp

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The deep-fried heads of the botan ebi. Tasted like rice crackers!

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Maguro zuke/Marinated Tuna (my favourite!)

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California roll/Japanese size!: boiled prawn, tamagoyaki, cucumber and black sesame.

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Kani Tsume/Taraba Crab Pincers

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Cute soy soy sauce saucers, aren’t they? (inedible!)

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Uni gunkan/Sea Urchin Gunkan

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Shako/Mantis Shrimp. “Shako” also means “garage” in Japanese. Would you believe that a lot of Japanese customers actually say “Garage, kudasai!”?

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Ikura gunkan/Salmon Roe Gunkan. Very generous serving!

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Anago/Conger Eel. Traditionally cooked and served with sweet sauce.

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That’s the way they serve sake all over Japan!

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Kobashira/Round Clam Round Twin Muscles Gunkan.

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Maguro Te-Maki/Maguro Hand Roll.

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Vegan/vegetarian Te-Maki: natto, shiso, ume/Japanese pickled plum.

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Tamagoyaki/Japanese Omelette sushi for first dessert.

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Vegan/vegetarian Kanpyo-Maki/Dry Gourd Shavings (later cooked and marinated) roll for second dessert!

Now, I know I sampled exactly 24 sashimi, but I have the impression that I had more than 24 sushi!
Oh well, no worries!

I can send extra pics to anyone asking for them!

YASAITEI
Shizuoka City, Aoi Ku, Tokiwa-Cho, 1-6-2 Green Heights Wamon 1-C
Tel.: 054-2543277
Business hours: 17:30~22:00
Closed on Sundays
Reservations highly recommended
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SUSHI KO
shizuoka City, Aoi Ku, Ryogae-cho. 2-3-1 (Aoba Koen)
Tel.: 054-2512898
Business Hours: 17:00~25:00. 17:00~23:00 (Sundays)
Closed on Wednesdays
Reservations recommended
Credit cards OK
HOMEPAGE (Japanese)

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Mika could not help asking for the dessert-like Millefueille Ssushi made (from bottom to top) sliced cucumber, shari/sushi rice, avocado, shari, maguro akami, shari and tobikko/flying fish roe.

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Vegan/vegetarian Japanese Dressing: Gomadare/Sesame Dressing

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Following a few queries about gomadare/sesame dressing I (and the Missus) use a lot, I felt a little information and a simple recipe would come in useful.

Gomadare is a great tasty dressing that can be used indifferently with cold dishes as a normal dressing, or in and with hot food, especially nabe/Japanese pot-au-feu, shabu-shabu and any meat or veg actually.
The problem that the gomadare sold over the counter is not vegan, or even vegetarian for that matter (it usually contains egg white and I don’t know what!)

Now, here is a simple recipe that will add that little zest and “consistency” to your favourite food:
Ingredients (for about 2 people):
white sesame seeds: 2 large tablespoons
soy milk: 4 large tablespoons
miso: 1 teaspoon
soy sauce: a little (up to taste)
sugar: a little
ground white sesame: a little

First ground together with a pestle the white sesame seeds, soy milk and miso until it has attained a nice smooth consistency.
If have difficulty mixing it, heat it a little.
Add soy sauce, sugar and ground white sesame to taste.
A little experimentation will work wonders.

Tip: my favourite dish is to peel ripe figs (see pic), cut them in quarters and pour a generous amount of gomadare over it!

Enjoy!

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Today’s Lunch Box/Bento (’09/13)

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Three bento in a row! Some people are going to get fed up with reading these articles! LOL
The reason was that we saw heavy rainfor the third day, and I did not feel like having to come back home and travel back to work four times in one of those rancid-smelling buses!
Just to tell you how inclement the weather is, I actually ran out of umbrellas at home and had found myself carrying no less than three of them back home fromthe office last night!

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So I put the poor Missus at work. Actually I suspect she was not so unhappy about that, what with being given an easier day at home before going to work in the afternoon!
She checked what was in the fridge this morning and came up with a real sandwich bento (yesterday’s was an open-style one!). The meal still qualified as a packed lunch as the sandwich was wrapped into sandwich paper and a box of salad was added. LOL

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She came up with this hearty double-decker fit for a big (I’m big only around the waist! ) man’s appetite (mind you, some youngsters might be left still hungry after that!):
On the first slice of toasted bread she lay some lettuce, then a thick layer of avocado salad paste she made when she discovered the one left in the fridge. She added some small shrimps (found frozen in the fridge) she had fried beforehand. On the second layer more avocado paste with sliced boiled egg and black olives.
She closed the lot with one more slice of bread toasted with cheese (the other two slices had been toasted as they were).

As for the salad box, boiled broccoli and plum tomatoes on a bed of Trevise lettuce.

I’m not going to complain!

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Today’s Lunch Box/Bento (’09/12)

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Yesterday’s bento having been a solid one, the Missus kept the calories in mind when she prepared today’s bento this morning while I was having my morning (Japanese) bath!
The bread had been bought at the local supermarket (soft English style with “seeds” ) and toasted.

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As for the main dish:
Beans and corn salad like yesterday.
Boiled broccoli, plum tomatoes and lettuce (hand-broken).
Home-made chciken ham slices, a specialty of the Missus) with English sweet pickles.
French pickles
Tamagoyaki/Japanese omelette. Since the Missus made the make to say she wanted to experiment, I ask for it every time!

For dessert, a mixture of fresh strawberries, kiwi and mini banana.

Still got full!LOL

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Today’s Lunch Box/Bento (’09/11)

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Today’s lunch box was devised for a big appetite!
Just in case you make a mistake, the banana featured in the picture is a mini banana from Ecuador, not a full-sized one!

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As for the rice part, the Missus first made fairly large nigiri/rice balls with steamed rice mixed with Japanese cucumber pickles and black sesame seeds. She them wrapped them into thin pork slices, brushed the pork with a tare/sauce she had prepared beforehand and fried the the balls whole. She let them cool down before wrapping them in a shiso/perilla leaf. She provided me with some French pickles for the final touch.

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I needed a fork to eat the salad as chopsticks would have taken a bit too long (or was it planned?): on a bed of finely chopped vegetables (mainly cabbage) she placed boiled broccoli (flowers and stems), lettuce (hand-broken, not cut) beans and corn mix, Ameera Rubbins mini tomatoes (very sweet, grown exclusively in Shizuoka), a half half-boiled egg sprinkled with black sesame and black olives. Made for some appetizing colours, I must admit!

A very satisfying bento, I agree!

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Taky’s Classic Cakes (6): A Valence

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Mr. Takuya Iwai, owner of Taky’s in Shizuoka City makes a point to travel every Sunday to Tokyo for further research and study for the benefit of his customers.

I have just had the occasion to sample his new creation, a French cake called “A Valence”. Valence is a city along the Rhone River in the Southern half a France, a region famous for its nougat.

This cake is of the Millefeuille variety with thin layers of biscuit lacquered with caramel between which a generous amount of very sweet cream is spread.
The cream is butter cream including ground hazelnuts, praline and nougat.
Simple in concept, a very fulfilling dessert for officionados with a sweet tooth!
To appreciated with a strong coffee!

TAKY’S
420-0839 Shizuoka City, Aoi Ku, Takajo, 1-11-10
Tel.: 054-255-2829
Opening hours: 11:00~22:00
Closed on Sundays

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Vegetables Facts and Tips (6): Asparaguses

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Asparagus has been used from very early times as a vegetable and medicine, owing to its delicate flavour and diuretic properties. There is a recipe for cooking asparagus in the oldest surviving book of recipes, Apicius’s third century AD De re coquinaria, Book III. It is said that it was cultivated by the ancient Egyptians, Greeks and Romans, who ate it fresh when in season and dried the vegetable for use in winter.It lost its popularity in the Middle Ages but returned to favour in the seventeenth century.

Facts:
Season: They are at their best March~June in the Northern Hemisphere, but can be obtained all year round thanks to state-of-the-art greenhouse cultivation.
Beneficial elements: Carotene, Vitamin C and E, Vitmanins from the B group, Rutin, Vegetal fibers, Folic Acid, Potassium. The amino acid asparagine gets its name from the plant.
Asparagus rhizomes and root are used ethnomedically to treat urinary tract infections, as well as kidney and bladder stones.
Asparagus is also believed to have aphrodisiac properties (this belief is at least partially due to the phallic shape of the shoots).

Tips:
-Choose asparaguses with a clean cutting surface. No black spots should appear.
-The darker the colour, the better. As for white asparaguses, choses with a “wet cutting”
-When storing your asparaguses in the fridge, have them stand upright in a long narrow container with their foot wrapped in wet kitchen paper. Discard bent asparaguses on the supermarket stands.
-Choose green asparaguses with the smallest possible foliage along the stems and dark tips.
-When boiling them, either boil them stading upright inside a pasta mesh container, or absolutely flat in a sauce pan. Do not bend them.
-Asparaguses are best digested when lightly fried with oil.
-If Asparaguses cannot be obtained directly from the farmer, lightly peel but keep yop half as it is to preserve Vitamins.

Varieties:
Most popular varieties are shown in the picture above: White, Green and “wild-style” (apeelations vary!)

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Asparaguses are abundant in the while, but they grow very quickly and get too hard for consumption.
The wild ones picked in their natural environment are my favourite as I fondly rememebr picking them up as a soldier in the South of France during our drills and cooking them in simple omelettes!

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Violet asparaguse are very popular in any restaurants!

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Mini-asparaguses are ever so popular in Japan thanks to their practical size.

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Recipes are endless, but my favourite is the large green asparaguses and mozzarella gratin as prepared and served at Uzu Izakaya in Shizuoka City!

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