Seaweed, kelp and the many variations of sea vegetables are so common in Japanese cooking, I was pleasantly surprised to try this red kelp with a long history in European cooking. It’s savory, beaming with umami and a near certified super food. I sprinkled a little on my salad the other night, and it was delicious. It’s rich, savory taste makes it a versatile, flavor enhancer to many dishes. Go ahead. Do a little dulse.
Sanma is the Japanese name for the fish known as Pacific Suary as well as Mackerel Pike. The name written in Japanese literally translates to autumn sword fish. September is considered the peak season for sanma in Japan as this is the time when the fish are fattest. The northern stocks, being the fattest of them all, command the highest price. Sanma is, however, a relatively inexpensive fish.
Thanks to improvements in fishing and distribution, sanma is now sometimes served as sashimi or sushi. One typical method is to briefly pickle the sanma in vinegar and soy sauce and make pressed sushi.
Simple Fried Sanma served with Soy Sauce and Lime
Burdock is a root vegetable that is easily found in the wild and is a cultivated vegetable in Japan. Besides its culinary uses, it is also used in traditional Chinese medicine, and it’s sticky seeds became an inspiration for a new, breakthrough technology – Velcro.
The roots of young burdock plants are used in cooking , since it becomes overly fibrous when grown too large. Look for burdock roots that are firm and are between 18 – 24 inches in length and about 3/4 to 1 inch in diameter. The burdock pictured above was grown organically from a small producer, Harmony Valley, in Wisconsin.
Burdock has a crunchy texture and an earthy, nutty flavor. Its thin skin can be removed with a light scrubbing or scraping. It is rich in phenolic (anti-oxidants) compounds and will easily turn grayish-brown when sliced. To prevent this, place freshly cut burcok in cold water with a little vinegar or lemon juice.
Burdock is most famously used in Kinpira – a dish of sliced carrots and burdcok simmered in dashi, soy sauce and mirin. It also found in soups, braised dishes (e.g. chicken and vegetables) and mixed with rice.