Sunday, November 28, 2010

VeganMoFo: Fancypoo Japanese Food!

Just a few days left, and today we make our meal in Japan! I haven't had much Japanese food, so I was excited to tackle something so new and unfamiliar to me. Here's what I made:

Pan-fried Tofu in Tempura Sauce from Izakaya: The Japanese Pub Cookbook*
*from the Santa Cruz Public Library

5 stars. Mr. Vegan Eats & Treats went totally nuts when he tasted this... "You have ascended to the next level! You are a true chef! This is amazing!"
He also said "This tastes just like the food at the Japanese buffet, but a thousand times better!"
I think he liked it.

This dish really was amazing. The tofu is simply dabbed dry, rolled in potato starch, and then lightly pan-fried (the recipe calls for deep frying), until crispy on the outside and soft and creamy on the inside. I used medium-soft tofu, which made everything a bit more challenging to work with, but all the more tender to eat. Then the tofus are placed in a platter of tempura sauce - made with a kombu-dried shiitake dashi broth, soy sauce, mirin, and nori bits (in place of bonito flakes). The garnishes include a simple, but wonderful, finely grated bit of daikon radish and dried red pepper. It added just the right little amount of kick to this dish. This dish was so delicious, and not all that hard to make... I'll definitely make it again.

I think it would be some sort of heresy to have a vegan Japanese dinner and not have edamame. I did not break the rules.

These Greens with Black Sesame Sauce were super fancy-looking and super fancy-tasting. (recipe also
from Izakaya: The Japanese Pub Cookbook)
The recipe called for spinach, but I had some beet greens and kale, so I went with that. I made a half batch of greens and a full batch of the sauce... The sauce was very, very magical. Sweet and salty, with dashi broth, tahini, black sesame seeds, sugar, mirin, soy sauce... just an incredible combo of flavors. The sweet and salty elements of the sauce both complemented the greens perfectly. The sauce was crazy delicious, but somehow I think the dish would have been even more elegant if I had only made a half batch of the sauce to go with my half-batch of greens. The flavors of the sauce were very strong, and slightly overpowered the greens. Mr VE&T positively loved this stuff, so I know I'll get another chance to make it.

Last, but not least, I bravely conquered my sushi fears. I've only had sushi maybe 2-3 times in my life, and I didn't really like it. I find the seaweed flavor overbearing and most unappetizing. But geez, people love the stuff. And plus, you can't really have Japanese night without sushi, can you??

So, I made a Cucumber-Avocado California Roll, using Alton Brown's recipe from The Food Network. First of all, let me just say, his sushi rice recipe is so freaky delicious. I was nibbling little spoonfuls out of the rice bowl the whole time I was cooking everything else. Incredible. Just a few simple little ingredients really elevate it to something special beyond "plain rice." So, check that out. As for the roll, I followed his recipe exactly, only leaving out the crab. I even went out and bought pickled ginger and wasabi... hoping it wouldn't be a one-time thing. Well, guess what?? Even though I'm not a good sushi roller, I really enjoyed these little sushis! I think I'd even make them again! I still don't like the nori flavor... but the wasabi & ginger help me get past that in a jiffy! :)

It's very exciting! I wouldn't go so far as to say I'm a sushi fan just yet... but perhaps I am on my way??

I also picked up a little bottle of sake. I was going to make one more dish, which called for sake in the ingredients, but ended up skipping that one. I'd never had sake before, and I'll admit this was the cheapest one at the store, but I took one little sip and didn't really like it. On the other hand, I've never been a drinker, so what do I know?

So, all in all, Japanese night was a big hit. Just shopping for this meal made me realize that this is a culinary world that is completely unexplored for me. There were all sorts of noodles and misos and sauces and seaweeds, all of which were a mystery to me. Clearly, I need to hunt down some more vegan Japanese recipes and start investigating.

More exciting and new kitchen fun tomorrow!


  1. Gabrielle9:56 AM

    Amey, you are unbelievably amazing. I am SO excited to spend some time in your kitchen!!!! <3

  2. You are outdoing yourself!
    I also don't like nori--I ask for soy paper at Japanese restaurants.

  3. I think he liked it. Ha, ha. I also think so!

  4. What a fancy, fun meal! The tofu and greens dishes look really really good. But...I can't believe you don't like sushi! I mean, I guess I understand it if you're not into nori, but...sushi is so good! :) You can always just make a sushi bowl, putting the fillings over the rice mixture instead of rolling it all up.

  5. I highly recommend this book:

    It's not vegan, but if you avoid the egg recipes, you're pretty much good to go!

  6. Anonymous6:57 PM

    wow, this is impressive! i love japanese food, but it has taken some time to find good recipes (and to figure out how to replace the bonito that is so many recipes). i will have to check out this book, as it looks like you found some great dishes in it. and nice job on that sushi rolling!

    i don't recognize that sake, but I see from the label that it is "draft" - there are different styles of sake just like other wine. I happened to have sampled a bunch of the sakes because one of the few sake breweries in the U.S. is here in Berkeley. They have a tasting room and sake museum, which is unique and interesting. I don't drink sake very often, but have found that it is useful to know what style I like because most recipes don't call for much sake - and then you end up with a bunch left. Here's a little primer for anyone who is interested:

    jen e.

  7. Yeah, Gekkeikan sake is, um, not so good. It's kind of like the Budweiser of sake-- everyone has it, you know what it'll be, and it's okay if you don't mind that it's basically crap. Perfect for cooking, in my opinion, but not necessarily for drinking. 8)

    Sometime if you feel enthusiastic, Nikki and I can hit Mitsuwa and bring back some things we know are pretty decent and we can have a sake tasting. I guarantee you that even things you don't like won't go to waste...

  8. Be still my beating heart! Japanese is my favourite cuisine, and black sesame seeds are always, always a winner. The sound of the greens and black sesame sauce... oh my!

    P.S. Love your blog!!

  9. Everything looks so authentic and scrumptious! Glad you and Mr. VE&T were happy with the results!

  10. The tofu in sauce looks SO good, I'd love to make that.

    And I was sure that I would hate sushi a few years ago but a friend convinced me to try it and started me with inside out rolls as the nori is on the inside. it grew on my and now I love it! I wouldn't eat nori on it's own but wrapped around rice & avo, yes please!

  11. Anonymous4:47 AM

    you're really annoying
    fancy-poo? seriously? how old are you, three?

  12. I agree. You are outdoing yourself. That tofu looks fabulous.

  13. Anonymous1:01 PM

    It had happen to me exactly the same about the shusi and the nori flavour, but right now I love it. Some tricks that helped me: try to get another nori which is more roasted (the seaweed flavour is mostly gone) and when I tried the Lemon & Ginger sauce, my mind definitively changed.

    The recipe:

    PS: you have a lovely blog and great imagination. I love to read your post after a exhausting working day.


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