Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Miso Magical

Dear readers, excuse the obnoxiously long lull in posting. I wish I had some glamorous excuse like "I was mauled by a bear," or "I joined a Fight Club," but instead I have to confess to being too chicken to post because I was busy "finding my voice." Ah, so tormented, so Henry Miller-esque, so luhame! [don't worry--I am not about to embark on an Sit, Pay, Barf treck across the globe to find myself *shudder*]. Fret not, I have been a busy little bee in the kitchen so there is much to report on in that department.

Recently, I had the misfortune of experiencing the stomach flu. You know--that lovely feeling where your head feels like the epicenter of a hornet's orgy and your stomach feels like twenty angry wolverines are going all cavemen-artist on your stomach walls [yes, I just made this up, but I think it sums it up pretty accurately]. Well, the only cure, my friends, is the magical miso soup--note, this is not any old miso soup. It's magical because you are instantly cured upon cupping that adorable steaming bowl--it even *looks* salutary! I am a firm believer in feasting with your eyes and as soon as I see my soup bowls, my little heart gets all warm and fuzzy.

To make miso soup, you need to start with the dashi stock, which is made by using konbu [dried kelp] and katsuo-boshi [dried bonito flakes]. If you do not have time/the ingredients to make the stock, then definitely go to an Asian store and look for a dashi stock base. There are plenty that are MSG-free and they last a good while so don't shy away from using that.

1. Boil 2C water. Sprinkle in the dashi stock base or use your own dashi stock.
2. Drop in a handful [or to taste] of wakame, allowing it to fully hydrate in the water.
3. Take off the fire and add in small cubes of soft tofu.
4. Finally sprinkle in chopped scallions and stir in the miso paste. A note on miso paste--there is white, red, yellow. I use the white one [shiromiso] for miso soup.
5. Super important--never, ever, NEVER cook the miso paste in boiling hot water. Always take the soup off the fire prior to even thinking about stirring it in. It absolutely ruins its texture and taste and doing so would make you a silly gaijin!

Another dish I like to make when it's cold outside
is fried rice. The permutations are absolutely endless, as you can see by the one I made here, which has purple cabbage [what can I say--I bought it because I like purple, but my silly consumerism is your win because it is that good!]

1. Crucial info--never ever use rice you just cooked for fried rice. Unless you wanna be eating gruel, ala Oliver Twist, "Please, Sir, may I have some more?"
2. Either cook the rice the night before and let it sit in the fridge or at a minimum cook it at least 2 hours prior to making the fried rice and leave it in the fridge. I love brown rice so this is what I used here--short-grain brown rice.
3. Wok/Pan heat--this also cannot be stressed enough. Pre-heat your wok or pan to an absurdly high temperature :) Meaning that you should put it on the burner and let it heat up to the point where dropping a drop of water in it causes the drop to sizzle.
4. Another crucial step is make certain all your ingredients are chopped and ready to go when you begin cooking. You cannot afford to waste time in the cooking process and you need to be sure you know when each of the ingredients is going in. Order, my friends. Order. Think putting in the things that need to cook the longest first. Rudimentary :)
5. When the wok is super hot, I add in the oil [I use grapeseed as it is very healthy for you and has a high smoking point]. Throw in a chopped white onion.
6. Make a sort of an alcove in the pan and scramble an egg in it and scoop out the cooked egg as you do not want it overcooked. Omit this step if you are just adding sunny side up eggs on top of the rice at the end--perfectly respectable and just as good.
7. Add the rice. The key here is you want each and every grain cooked, maybe even a little charred. To that end, it makes sense not to stir the rice constantly like a mad man/woman. Allow a couple of minutes on each side, then toss, again let it rest, repeat until the rice is well, well cooked.
8. Throw in some spicy chili sauce of whatever kind you have [I prefer sambal oelek] and some soy sauce [tamari or otherwise].
9. Throw in chopped purple cabbage only at the end--you want it to cook minimally and not become a slimy mush.
10. Garnish with scallions.

This is the first of many entries detailing my fascination with all things Asian. Writing this post, I found myself thinking about Snow Country by Yasunari Kawabata and DJ Krush.

And Shing02:
"It's funny how the music put times in perspective
Add a soundtrack to your life and perfect it
Whenever you are feeling blue keep walking and we can get far
Wherever you are."

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