FOR THE LOVE OF FOOD THIS VALENTINE’S DAY
Well, Valentine’s Day 2022 has finally arrived and we’re continuing to promote our love for Japanese food.
In our previous blog, we provided something of a taster for your big day – whether than is a quiet meal at home or even a picnic in the beautiful summer outdoors.
The most important thing to emphasise, though, is that this something of our own style of fusion – for one thing, Valentine’s day is celebrated slightly differently in Japan to the way we do it here.
One thing we can learn from the Japanese is that Valentine’s Day is not just about romance. It’s about gifting and recognising everyone who is important to you – from friends to colleagues to romantic partners. Secondly, it’s a bit of a girl’s day. Women tend to present their loved ones with gifts of chocolate – a gesture that is reciprocated exactly a month later on March 14 which is known as White Day. This sees men presenting their important others with gifts in return.
We’ve decided to do Valentine’s the South African way where all are involved and I shared the lovely Japanese inspired meal that is pictured here with a group of special friends. We passed on the chocolate and decided to celebrate healthy Asian cuisine that is flavourful but also light enough to enjoy during our very warm summers.
During my intrepid travels to Asia, I was fortunate to meet many interesting chefs and foodies. Collaborations with chefs abroad not only broadened my horizons but also cultivated exciting food ideas whilst also inspiring me to always celebrate important relationships and cultures.
One of the most important lessons I learnt was that food is all about beautiful presentation. We do eat with our eyes – a fact that couldn’t be more important than in Japan.
Eating is also about sharing and that’s why my friend Nami, a culinary scientist and food blogger based in San Francisco has send me a dessert recipe that is traditionally made on Valentine’s Day in Japan. Unfortunately, some of the ingredients she uses are not available in South Africa, but I have had the temerity to adapt it a little to suit local fare and still wish to share this delicate, fun and colourful desert with you.
MISO GLAZED PRAWNS AND HEART SHAPED WATERMELON
FROM THE PANTRY
9 deveined, cleaned king prawns
Kerry gold butter
Japanese fish oil
salt and pepper
Pan fry your prawns over a medium heated pan with a dollop of butter, miso paste, a dash of Japanese fish oil and olive oil for three minutes a side until golden. Then add a generous swig of gin onto the prawns and flambé until crispy.
Pre-cut your watermelon into heart shapes using a metal cake cutter. Assemble them on a skewer. Season with salt and pepper and garnish with some organic springs. Serve with fresh lemon wedges and some additional watermelon slices, creating a perfect balance of crustacean and fresh fruit.
FROM THE PANTRY
2 tins of crab meat
onions / red and white
1 egg white
salt and pepper
one whole dragon fruit
This is very much a traditional Japanese dish, simplistic but packed with flavour.
In a medium mixing bowl, combine your strained crab meat, breadcrumbs, the protein rich while of one large egg, diced onions and red pepper, garlic chives, finely chopped chilli (without the seeds). Roll and fold with your clean hands.
This should become a binded patty looking mixture. Cover with cling wrap and place in the fridge for 30 minutes.
Roll into even shaped balls. Pre-heat your frying pan and, with a dash of butter and olive oil, fry them evenly on both sides (about three minutes per side at medium heat).
Now for that dash of freshness – use a grater to shape your cucumber and slice your dragon fruit into thin slices.
Plating is all about layers. Add some cucumber segments and then place your dragon fruit and your crab cakes in a circle around the edge of your dish. Then place your granadilla puree in a small bowl and arrange in the middle. Add a dash of salt and pepper as well as your lemon grass sprigs for decoration. Never forget the lime wedges.
STEAMED MUSSELS ON GLASS NOODLES
FROM THE PANTRY
250 grams of local or imported wild mussels
1 large cucumber
150 grams of glass noodles
smoked paprika pickled ginger
salt and pepper
desiccated coconut flakes
Boil your mussels in water. Add some fish oil and sea salt while boiling. Continue until the mussels open and rise to the surface, indicating that they are ready. Strain the excess water and grime by rinsing with cold water over a colander.
Place the half shell mussels in a hot pan, exposing the meat, then add the butter and the ginger in the shell and dry cook.
Set aside while you prepare your glass noodles. Boil them in a pot in hot water for 10 minutes, adding a dash of salt and some olive oil to separate the noodles from each other. When al dente, remove the pot and train them though running cold water.
Grate your whole cucumber into wafer noodle shapes. I have this magic Shogun apparatus, that does the trick.
Now for the plating. You can serve this dish in a bamboo steamer. Mix your glass noodles with the cucumber and delicately place your cooked mussels on top, adding a dash of coconut cream and a dash of soy sauce before garnishing with lemon grass and fresh lime. Place this dish in the centre of the table for all to share.
SUMMER VEGAN RICE PAPER ROLLS
This relatively simple dish is a mouth full of delight. You only require dome rice paper rolls, some seasonal veg prepared julienne style, soy sauce, a pumpkin and sesame seed mix and some peanut butter
Soak your rice paper in a plate for 30 seconds until it is translucent and flexible. Stretch it out on butcher paper and then add your fresh veg mix. For my rolls, I finely sliced some red pepper, seedless cucumber, carrots and red cabbage.
For plating, sprinkle the pumpkin seed and sesame seed over the roll and garnish with, some salantre, lemon wedges, fresh mint and smoked paprika. to perfectly complement and round off these rolls, add the earthy taste a side of peanut butter and add a soy dip to provide some saltiness from Mother Earth.
This popular spring dessert, (Ichigo Daifuku) is a soft and chewy mochi stuffed with fresh strawberries and miso paste that my friend Nami says is traditionally made on Valentine’s Day in Japan. I always have a full pantry, but some ingredients are just hard to come by, so I have had to use local substitutes.
FROM THE PANTRY
100 g self-raising or rice flour (if you can find it)
150g miso paste
corn starch (for dusting)
Before you start, if you want to make more than six pieces, I highly recommend you to work in batches.
Rinse, dry, and hull the strawberries. Divide the miso paste into six same size balls. Wrap each strawberry with one ball of paste. Leave the tip of the strawberry uncovered. Using a silicone spatula, slowly add water in three parts and stir until the mixture has reached a thick consistency. Cover loosely with plastic wrap.
First, microwave 1 minute. Mix well with a wet silicone spatula. The mixture is still whitish and floury.
Second time round, microwave of a minute again and mix well with the wet silicone spatula. Now, your mixture begins to resemble mochi, but there are still some floury parts. For the last time, microwave for only 30 seconds. Now the mochi mixture should look translucent.
Sift the corn starch on the tray and put the mochi on top. Using your silicone spatula or kitchen scraper, fold the mochi in half so it won’t be as sticky and then divide into 6 equal pieces. Put some corn starch on your hands and flatten and expand each mochi into a 7.6 cm round or square.
Then put the miso covered strawberry on top of it, with the tip facing down. Start covering the strawberry from all sides and use your thumb to hold the mochi on top. When all sides of mochi meet at the top, twist and close. Hold the mochi with both hands and form into a nice round shape. Repeat the process for the remaining mochi. Serve at room temperature.
Of course, we couldn’t help enjoying some lovely pink bubbly with this light and fun meal. We popped in some strawberries and enjoyed the fizz. but we also ended off the say with some hand crafted traditional Japanese ROKU gin – a perfect pairing that enhances your taste buds when it comes to Japanese cuisine.
The reason for this Valentine’s Japanese style picnic is to empower you to make healthy eating choices in the nicest possible way. One thing I know is that you are going to fall in love with my picnic. I have selected an array of sharing foods, so you can choose your delicacy and share it with those that matter most. Today, we all going to nibble and share the wonder of friendship, and love for food…