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.
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!