Instant Umami – Hanakezuri Kombu

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Suzuki Sashimi – Usuzukuri

Sashimi is a staple in our home. We never tire of it as the type of seafood we use for sashimi changes throughout the year. Suzuki, Japanese sea bass, is a firm-fleshed fish so it is cut in thin, usuzukuri slices. If it were cut thick, as we do with tuna, it would be too hard to chew through and unpleasant. In the middle here are julienned carrots, cucumbers, ginger, and daikon. Wrapping the sashimi around the vegetables is a nice contrast in textures.

IzakayaSakamoto

Suzuki Sashimi with Hokkaido Hanakezuri Kombu

The classic seasoning for sashimi is wasabi and soy sauce, but that can become routine, so we change-up the seasonings. The green shavings here are from kombu (Laminaria japonica, Japanese kelp). Kombu is rich in natural umami. Most of the time we use kombu for making dashi, the essential stock for many Japanese dishes. Kombu dashi is good on its own as a vegetarian stock. In our home we usually steep the kombu with katsuobushi, smoked skipjack tuna (or bonito) flakes.

The kombu shavings here are simply sprinkled over sashimi. Not only umami but it also gives the flavor of the ocean to the dish. It can also be used over tofu, rice, noodles, and even Japanese-style pasta.

Hanakonbu

Hanakezuri Kombu – kombu shavings

The name of the product is Hana-kezuri Kombu. Hana-kezuri is the name for the flower-like shavings, that is often seen with katsuobushi flakes.

Hana-kezuri Kombu is made by Towa Shokuhin in Iwate prefecture. This was purchased at the Nomono shop at Ueno Station.

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Osechi Ryori – New Year’s at Izakaya Sakamoto

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As we were busy with Food Sake Tokyo tours through the end of the year we only had December 31st to prepare the osechi ryori, Japanese New Year’s cuisine. First thing on the morning of December 31st we went to our local depachika and picked up last minute ingredients. The department stores are always packed on the last few days of the year as people are shopping for food for January 1st. January 1 is the one day a year that many department stores and other retail shops will close. Working in food retail it is a busy day. I enjoyed my two years working at Takashimaya on these days as many regular customers would come in to pick up sake and wine for the holidays.

First, we started with making dashi from Hidaka kombu and katsuobushi. The kombu is saved from the dashi and used for making kobumaki (yes, spelled without an ‘m’). The kombu is wrapped with kampyō and then simmered in a sweet soy broth until tender.

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Gobō, burdock root, is simmered in water until almost tender, then finished cooking until soft in a dashi broth. It is then tossed in a sweet sesame dressing. This dish is called tataki gobō.

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This year we couldn’t find our vegetable cutters to make the pretty plum blossom shapes from carrots, so made it from scratch. Much harder to do this way of course, and the results not as pretty as they could be. These carrots will go in the simmered chicken dish.

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Hoshigaki, dried persimmons, are lovely when used in pickles. These will go with julienned daikon and carrots for a colorful namasu that is seasoned with a sweet rice vinegar and yuzu.

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The dried persimmons with the carrots and daikon before being pressed in the pickle pot.

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The iridori is savory simmered dish of chicken, carrots, burdock root, bamboo shoots, konnyaku, and lotus root. The store was sold out of snow peas so we added the green with mitsuba.

Most of the dishes are prepared on December 31st and assembled into the lacquer boxes. On the morning of January 1 we grilled buri (yellowtail) in a teriyaki glaze.

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Here is the assembled box.

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We made two layers this year. Here you’ll also find a sweet omelet, datemaki, that is made with happen, eggs, and sugar. The boxes are completed with sweet black beans, kazunoko (herring roe), chestnuts in a sweet syrup, kamaboko (steamed fish cake), tazukuri (dried fish in a sweet soy with sesame seeds), and the dishes mentioned above. Many of the components are on the sweet side.Image

At Izakaya Sakamoto we also served with the osechi ryōri a savory egg custard called chawanmushi, a soup made with mochi, and sashimi of flounder, sea bream, salmon, yellowtail, pickled Pacific mackerel, and three parts of tuna – akami, chūtoro, and ōtoro.

For more information on the different dishes often used in osechi ryōri, please read this piece I wrote for bento.com about ten years ago.

We wish our friends, Food Sake Tokyo tour clients, and blog followers the best for a year filled with delicious meals – and hopefully a visit to Tokyo.