Regrettably, I’ve never been to Japan. I hope to one day. It sounds like an amazing place and the little bits I hear about the culture fascinate me.
Of course, the cuisine captivated my attention as soon as I heard about it. Raw fish! How many other cultures will serve this up? Ok, there’s the cured salmon we have in Europe and things such as ceviche in Mexico, but not such a range as you’ll find in Japanese cuisine.
Having said that, I remember being unimpressed the first time I was introduced to sushi. Those little rice rolls from M&S in the mid nineties did nothing for me. But then, sometime during my student years, I was at a certian popular conveyor belt restaurant and discovered sashimi. My fellow mathmos raised their eyebrows slightly as I devoured several plates of raw salmon and tuna and then they indiscreetly pointed ot that I was now responsible for most of the bill.
Within the last week or two I visited a nice Japanese retaurant in Westminister, heard a friend wax lyrical about his amazing new life in Tokyo ad was told about a nice restaurant in Barcelona that I must visit if I ever got around to going there. I take this all to be a sign that I should learn more about Japanese food. So my starting point was to buy some Japanese ingredients I hadn’t used before.
In the dish below, which is an amalgamation of various ideas I found online, we have my new purchases of mirin and soba green tea noodles. I used these and some wasabi powder and pickled ginger to create something which is probably not much like a real Japanese meal but at least is a step in the right direction. I’m not confident enough in my knife skills to atempt tuna sashimi yet. I go for the next best thing- tuna just seared so it’s practically raw but the very outside is cooked.
Tuna ‘almost sashimi’ with Soba Noodles, Mirin dressing and Raw Vegetables with Wasabi Dip
- 350-400g fresh tuna steak in one piece. I find that it is best to let it come to room temperature before searing it.
- 1 tbsp sesame seeds( I think black would look good but I couldn’t get any) plus a bit extra to garnish
- Sesame oil (2 tbsp should do)
- salt and pepper to season the steaks
- about 175g soba noodles
- half a cucumber, finely diced
- 4 small spring onions, sliced thinly on the diagonal
- 1 tbsp finely chopped coriander
For the dressing
- 4 tbsp mirin
- 2 tbsp light soy
- 2 tsp ginger, finely grated/crushed
- 1 heaped tsp brown sugar
- a squeeze of lemon
- 8 baby carrots, sliced into thin strips
- 2 stalks celery, sliced into thin strips
- wasabi and pickled ginger to serve, plus perhaps extra soy
- Prepare the vegetables and coriander.
- Rub the tuna steaks all over lightly with sesame oil. Season and sprinkle with sesame seeds. Sear over a high heat until just cooked on all sides, Wrap in kitchen foil and leave to rest in a warm place.
- Make up the mirin dressing. Combine the dressing ingredients as listed above. Taste and adjust to your liking.
- Cook the soba noodles according to packet instructions, drain and refresh in cool water.
- Toss the noodles with the spring onion, cucumber and coriander, then toss the mixture in the dressing. Place a portion of the noodle mixture on each serving plate.
- Thinly slice the tuna steaks amd arrange over the noodles. Sprinkle with sesame seeds.
- Serve with the matchstick vegetables and the wasabi and ginger.
I did a bit of research on my two new ingredients.
Mirin is an ingredient I haven’t knowingly encoutered before, although no doubt it was one of those flavours in plates of sushi unidentifiable to me. True mirin apparantly is about as alcoholic as sherry, although versions with less than 1% alchohol are produced now which have the same flavour. The flavour is unique and very strong, but dominated by a heavy sweetness.
The word soba can refer to any noodle of medium thickness- i.e. not an udon noodle. Usually they’re eated cold with a dipping sauce or dressing or hot in a broth. Mixing them with salad vegetables like this is a fairly modern idea. My soba noodles were flavoured with green tea but the flavour was barely discernible even before the dressing was added.
Also, Goon says the noodles don’t taste good raw. He should know, he ate a quarter of a pack. You probably guessed that yourselves without trying them.