If you’re lucky enough to live in an area with a large supermarket that stocks a good supply of ethnic food products, you may be able to find all the ingredients needed to make this authentic tasting (and looking) Japanese meal at home. I found all that I required in my area’s Kroger market, with the exception of the matcha (green tea powder) needed for making green tea ice cream, which was finally located inexpensively at my favorite Asian mega-store (Hang Lung), in north Charleston. Several of the ingredients used in these recipes will become fast favorites in many other dishes you make at home, too. The Japanese style panko breadcrumbs, for instance, having a shape and texture that will remind you of mashed potato flakes, are fabulous on fried chicken and pork cutlets, fish filets and much more. Rice wine vinegar, with an acidic rate of approximately 4.3 percent (as compared to red wine vinegar’s 5 percent) is mellow and smooth and delightful in recipes for things such as potato salad. And, sushi rice, a variety of short-grain rice that is part of the family of rice used to make Italian risotto (Arborio), is absolutely essential in any dish where your goal is to have rice remain together during the entire distance it travels from your plate to your mouth. (By the way, sushi rice is the only kind of rice truly capable of being transported successfully with chopsticks.) And, lastly, about the green tea powder. With a texture something like ground natural cocoa powder, intense flavor and shock of vibrant color, I’ve only just begun curiously experimenting with its uses – this time for ice cream. All I did was make a paste of the green tea powder with some water, swirl it into my favorite recipe for vanilla ice cream and voila! – authentic, delicious, real Japanese green tea ice cream. The kids in your family will love this meal and will eat it up fast – except maybe for the ice cream, which the adults called “awesome,” but the kids thought “weird.” You be the judge – and if you wish – let me know what you think.
Sue Ade is a syndicated food writer with broad experience and interest in the culinary arts. She has worked and resided in the Lowcountry of South Carolina since 1985 and may be reached at email@example.com.
Japanese Style Panko Fried Shrimp with Dipping Sauce
12 large shrimp, peeled, deveined, tails left intact and butterflied (directions follow)
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 large egg, beaten
½ cup panko Japanese bread crumbs
Peanut oil for frying
To butterfly the shrimp: Holding the shrimp between your thumb and forefinger, carefully drag a sharp paring knife three-quarters through the back side of the shrimp, along the curve, from the head region to the tail. Do not cut all the through the shrimp and do not cut into the tail. Lay the shrimp on a flat surface and lightly press the back of the shrimp until is flattens out a bit. Rinse shrimp under cold running water, pat dry and set aside. Place flour, egg and egg into three separate shallow bowls. Coat shrimp in flour, shaking off excess flour, then dip into beaten egg, letting excess egg drip off. Next, coat shrimp in crumbs, pressing down lightly so that crumbs adhere well to the shrimp. Pour oil into a large heavy skillet to a depth that comes halfway up the sides of the pan; heat to 375 degrees. Fry shrimp until golden brown, making sure not to crowd them in the skillet. Remove shrimp to a paper-towel lined plate to absorb excess oil. Serve hot with dipping sauce. Makes 2 servings as a main course, or 4 as an appetizer.
For the vinegar dressing
¼ cup rice wine vinegar
3 tablespoons granulated sugar
1¾ teaspoons fine sea salt
2 tablespoons sake or mirin (sweet sake)
For the rice
2 cups sushi rice (or good quality short grain rice), rinsed and drained *
2 cups water
1 (2-inch) square kombu (dried kelp) rinsed well under cold running water (optional)
For the dressing:
Combine the vinegar, sugar, salt and sake in a 1½ quart enamel or stainless steel saucepan. Over medium-high heat, bring the mixture to a boil, stirring to dissolve sugar. Remove from heat and pour mixture into a glass measuring cup, or small bowl, to cool to room temperature. (You can make the dressing a head of time, in any quantity you wish. It will keep, tightly covered, in the refrigerator for up to 1 year.) For the rice: In the same pan used to cook dressing, combine the water and rice; soak for 30 minutes. If using the kombu, add it to the pot.
Bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce heat to simmer, cover pot and cook for 15 minutes, or until you can hear a “crackling” sound, which indicates all the water has been absorbed. (Do not peek under lid while the rice is cooking.) Remove rice from heat, and allow to rest for 5 minutes. Remove cover and remove kombu, if used. Transfer rice to a large, shallow non-metal platter. Fan rice to cool, while adding the vinegar dressing. Mix lightly, but thoroughly with a fork, being careful not to break up the rice. Cool rice to room temperature, then serve.
Makes 4 cups cooked rice.
Japanese Restaurant-Style Gingered Salad Dressing
1/2 cup, plus 2 tablespoons minced fresh carrots
1 medium sweet onion, chopped (about 1 cup)
1/4 cup, plus 1 tablespoon minced fresh celery
3 tablespoons minced fresh ginger
2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh lemon, with a bit of the skin
1/2 cup low-sodium soy sauce
3/4 cup vegetable oil
3/4 cup seasoned rice wine vinegar
2 tablespoons ketchup
1/4-1/2 cup water (according to thickness desired)
Combine all ingredients in the glass container of an electric blender and process until emulsified and moderately smooth. (Start with 1/4 cup water, adding more, if desired.) Remix dressing right before serving. Store dressing in the refrigerator in a tightly sealed a glass jar or bottle. Makes one scant quart. Will keep for up to 1 month.
Green Tea Ice Cream
¼ cup boiling water
3 tablespoons matcha (green tea powder), not leaf green tea*
1 (14-ounce) can sweetened condensed milk
1 small (5-ounce) can evaporated milk
4 tablespoons sugar
1½ teaspoons vanilla extract
1 cup heavy cream
1 cup milk
Place green tea powder in a small mixing bowl. Whisk in water, whisking briskly to blend; set aside. Place remaining ingredients in a large mixing bowl, mixing until well blended; whisk in green tea, mixing well. Strain mixture through a fine mesh sieve into a 2-quart pitcher. Cover and chill for several hours, or overnight. Pour mixture into the canister of an ice-cream maker (at least 1½-quart capacity) and freeze according to manufacturer’s directions. Spoon mixture into a freezer-safe container and freeze until desired firmness is reached. Makes about 1½ quarts.
(Kitchen Ade Note: I found my supply of green tea powder at the Hang Lung Asian Market, 5300-1 Rivers Avenue, in north Charleston – 843-745-9365 – at a cost of $3.79 for a 20-ounce package. Green tea powder is also readily available via on-line sources specializing in Asian foods.)