cuisine is amazing because, theoretically, it all has the same goal. every country and every culture strives to create a delicious meal as an end product. it is the manner in which each culture goes about creating this delicious meal that distinguishes it from the rest.
far be it for me proclaim that i am an expert at cooking japanese food. i wouldn’t even be willing to venture that i am expert concerning information regarding japanese food. but i like to think that i understand the japanese mentality behind cooking better than most people not born in japan. and what better way to relay this mentality to you than through a story.
a chinese cook meets a japanese cook on the street, and after a drink or two, they decide that they are going to have a culinary showdown. the chinese man proclaims, “you see this carrot right here? i’m going to make this carrot taste more like duck than any duck you have ever tasted.” and the japanese cook just looks at him and replies, “you see this carrot right here? i’m going to make this carrot taste more like a carrot than any carrot you have ever tasted.”
japanese cooking is all about the freshness of ingredients, and the small amount of seasoning that is implemented is often for the expressed purpose of increasing the fresh flavors that are already present. and that is the backbone of dishes like reishabu. no seasonings, no real dressing to speak of, no fancy techniques. a little bit of know-how, experience, and plating ability it all it takes to make a beautiful salad that will make any japanese person shake with excitement.
- mizuna (or other greens)
- half an onion
- thinly sliced pork
- green onions
- black pepper
- bring a pot of water to boil. you can use chicken stock instead if you like, but this is in no way necessary. add the pork one piece at a time, and make sure that it is not bunched or balled (if it is, it won’t cook evenly). if your pork is thin enough, it should all be done in one or two minutes time. at such a time, pour the contents of the pot into a colander. drain off all the water you can, and put the pork into the refrigerator or freezer to chill while you prepare the other ingredients.
- slice the ends off of the bundles of mizuna and throw them away. cut the stalks into one inch pieces, and place them on a plate. make sure that each serving has a balance of leave and stem parts. nobody wants reishabu that is all stem, and reishabu that is all leaves becomes soggy far too quickly.
- slice the onion as thin as humanly possible. as with other recipes, the goal is have the onions translucent when raw. spread them evenly over the mizuna.
- cut off a three or four inch piece of the daikon. peel the skin, and grind on an oroshi board. a word to the wise: when making oroshi daikon or grinding wasabi, a circular motion is always best. it allows the aroma and texture of the vegetable to remain intact, and also decreases the excess water that is let off in the process of grinding. once finished, try to drain off as much liquid as you can from the fine white paste. in place of this liquid, add a liberal portion of ponzu. yuzu zest is also not out of the question at this step, but if you don’t have one on hand, no worries. this is your salad dressing. set it aside.
- remember that pork in your refrigerator? take it out, and distribute it evenly on top of the onions. remember, make sure that the pork is sufficiently chilled. if it is still hot, it will wilt everything beneath it, making your beautiful, green, super fresh salad into a soggy pile of sadness. if everything temperature-wise seems okay, add a dash or two of black pepper.
- in the middle of the salad, place a few large spoonfuls of the oroshi-ponzu.
- cut the base off of four of five stalks of green onion, fold, and chop finely. sprinkle liberally on top of the salad. serve super fresh.
- bathe in the shower of compliments from your dinner guests.
serves 2 a perfectly portioned appetizer
goes excellent with:
torigara tofu. why stop with the motif of “simplicity of flavor”? dishes that cherish the balance of fresh flavors were made to go together. start off with torigara tofu, follow up with reishabu, and who knows, maybe by the end of the night you might feel the need to make some shiso-pesto pasta with salmon.
nihonshu. japanese rice wine was made for this dish. while japanese sake is amazing at the exact temperature of your blood (the manner in which it is most often served), it also has its merits when appropriately chilled. when those humid summer months roll around, keep in mind that reishabu and cool sake might be a much tastier alternative to blasting that air conditioner.
green tea. i’m really not that big on tea, but the light flavor and amazing aroma of japanese green tea is absolutely to die for. green tea epitomizes the point that simplicity of ingredients has no association with simplicity of flavor. some of the world’s most complex foods tend to contain some of the least ingredients. slightly herby and with a barely bitter aftertaste, green tea will make the subtle execution of reishabu feel right at home.