Saturday, December 11, 2010

Saturday, December 4th - Japanese Feast - Okonomiyaki Artiste!

Noodle Shrimp Okonomiyaki
I normally don't write up dinners at friends unless they know and are cool with my blog.  I can't resist writing up S's big Japanese Feast.  It was amazing and he is an amazing Japanese cook.  Oh, did I mention that S is a programming guru who is not Japanese?  That said, his attention to detail and committment to integrity of tradition astounds even his Japanese friends.  He told me once that if a Japanese person fiddles with a recipe, it'll still be Japanese.  But if he's cooking, he feels that he needs to stay authentic even if it's the modern version of some traditional dishes like Okonomiyaki.

I love Okonomiyaki!  There are not alot of places in Vancouver that have them.  Actually, I can only think of one.  I don't know if it's because of the set up you may need with the grill or because it's out of style.  Shame either way.  I mean you can get the Korean version in most Korean restaurants.  But even then you won't always get the variety that S serves up.  I don't have the recipes for most of his dishes except for an approximation for his scrumptious Gomae (Sesame Spinach).

pre Phase 1:  Steamed Edamame with Sea Salt and Yoshi Sake.

Yoshi Premium Sake

A yummy amuse bouche served as commonly as peanuts in most sushi restaurants and bars.  MMMMM.  The Yoshi Sake is available locally and it was quite nice for the price point.  Soft, subtle with no harsh edges.

Phase 1: Okonomiyaki.

Okonomiyaki are pancakes made and served a la minute.  They're a light Flour, Starch/Potato Flour and Egg based batter mixed with alot of shredded Cabbage as a base.  They are normally topped with some Japanese Mayo, Okonomi sauce not too dissimilar to Hoisin sauce/Brown sauce.  As well, often dressed with powdered Nori and Bonito flakes.  From there, you can get as creative as one would with Crepes or Pizza.  That said, S is a traditionalist so he makes the ones he has seen in Japan or his Japanese friends have made.

1. (my favourite) S calls, Ladies Favourite - Mochi - Top or mix in chopped firm Mochi (Rice Cake)
2. Noodles - Mix in once the batter is poured but still raw, cooked, drained and dried Rice Noodles.
3. Variations of the two above with Shrimp.
4. Smoked Ham or Bacon
5. Cheese - mild white Cheese
6. Italian - Cheese, Tomatoes and Fresh Basil

We easily went through 10.  Alot of the fun of it is watching S make them and how much he loves to make them and finish them off, presenting them to us with the Bonito flakes fluttering in the heat waves. MMMMM

Phase 1b: Takoyaki

Filling the Tako Yaki Pan
S was recently in Japan and brought back a real Tako Yaki pan.  I lurves Tako Yaki.  You've often see me blog about Japanese street food and if you refer to my Richmond Night Market post, you'll see they are the primary reason I go.  I even bought this Dutch Pancake Puff pan from a local cookshop so I could try to replicate them.  Though my pan doesn't have the lip on the edge to contain the overpour you're supposed to do.  You should pour the batter across the pan so the full surface is covered and then poke and prod the batter into the cups and flip as the puff.  The Batter was looser than the Okonomiyaki.  Traditionally, they are made with Octopus or Tako.  You can get them with any protein really.  S made them with Crab meat and Cheese for DJ who is allergic to seafood. 

Tako Yaki - Cheese and Crab Turned Over
They can be topped with a variety of toppings too but the traditional is the Okonomi/brown sauce, Mayo and Bonito Flakes.  MMMMMMM

Phase 2: Gomae (Sesame Spinach)

little fat fan man Sake

As we waited for the alchemy in the kitchen to happen, S insisted we top up our bevvies.  He brought out a beautiful Sake he bought whilst in Japan.  It had nice pillowy depth.

I don't often order this because it's more often than not, made with frozen Spinach and rather salty.  But S's was amazing.  I will definitely try to copy when I get a chance.  It was fresh, bright and full of flavour.

SK's Gomae (Sesame Spinach)

1 bunch fresh Spinach, destemmed and steamed

Sesame Seeds

Sorry, I did not ask for proportions.  It was not very salty so there was very little Soy.  Also, I would suggest you go easy on the Mirin to start with.  Do not over dress.  I would suggest starting with 1 teaspoon of each and the mix to taste.  Top with a healthy amount of toasted Sesame seeds.

Phase 3: Home made Miso Soup

Japanese Miso is alot milder than Japanese food.  It's funny that I'm even describing because the bulk of the mass market have more likely had the Japanese variety than the bold, stronger and spicy Korean version.

Japanese Miso done properly is gorgeous.  In the lower end Sushi joints, they're normally using instant.  The base for most Japanese broth is Kombu, large, thick sheet of Seaweed with Bonito Flakes and seasoning.  The broth is drained to retain only the liquid.  You would then whisk in good Miso Paste.  S used to buy Japanese imported variety but now has started to use locally, fresh Miso paste.  I would think this would mean there are less preservatives as well.  The clear tubs with supermarket labels have a much shorter shelf life.  He bought his at a Japanese market on Clarke.

He served his with Soft Tofu and cooked Seaweed.  It was sooooo good!

4 Leave a / Read COMMENTs:

Mariko said...

I love okonomiyaki. Mine is always too tough, so I'd love to see his technique! My fav is mochi, cheese, bacon.

Torviewtoronto said...

delicious feast

Me said...

Oh, he mad the Mochi, Bacon and Cheese but I don't focus on those :^P. I never would have though of the combination of rice cake and cheese before. Chewy goodness. Do you lid? He uses the little dome I've seen used in Japan.

Potato Chops and Boneless Chicken said...

What a feast! Japan is on my list on travels because of the great food. I love Okonomiyaki and luckily have had a chance to taste it. Have heard loads about Tako Yaki as well. Now need to seek it our in Toronto. You're lucky to have such good cooks for friends ;-)