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Tag: Fusion

Fugu Tempura Tacos

Fugu Tempura Tacos

Raw Fugu - Blowfish - Babies

Raw Fugu – Blowfish – Babies

Retro/Proto-grading on homegrown rockets of herbal bliss, somewhere in the precarious balance between taste bud ecstasy and practical applications of time and space, is where reside my abilities to create, implement and cook up recipes of a questionable kind of originality. I’m in no way saying here that Everything Has Been Done where food is concerned, but damn if the French didn’t do most of it by the 18th Century. The haute cuisine stuff anyway. The other good stuff (Central/South American, North/Central African, Indian/Nepali, Chinese/Korean, Vietnamese all on its own) has its place in any kitchen, but what of creativity? Where does my addled 21st-century California Mind come into play here? What of taking convention a bit further? What of thinly-sliced Gravlax over a fresh, well-chilled Gado-gado? What of the high risk of failure? Where do your basic mirepoix and bechamel sauces belong among today’s Asian-savvy line cooks? What of living on the fringe of the culinary universe, always just one misguided pinch of fennel from falling off into the bland, over-processed ether? What of the beautiful fusion known as le métissage gastronomique?

If living in Japan has taught me anything, it’s that the Japanese love – LOVE – fried food. Forget the fact that the Macrobiotic diet originated in Japan, and the world tends to think of the Japanese as being one of the healthiest races around, tonkatsu (fried pork cutlet), karaage (fried chicken), ebi furai (fried shrimp) age-dash-dofu (fried whole tofu), gyōza (dumplings), inarizushi (sushi rice in fried tofu pouches), natsumaki (Summer rolls) and especially tempura are the current staples of daily Japanese cuisine. So representative of this land of borrowed culture, the Japanese word Tempura is actually Portugese (tempero – referring to the fried fish the Portugese Missionaries ate in the time of Lent – ad tempora quadragesimae) in origin.

Light and crispy, a Tempura Party is fun and tasty

Light and crispy, a Tempura Party is fun and tasty

In all fairness, 天ぷら Tempura – lighter and crisper than most other deep fried foods – was mastered here and not in Portugal, just as sushi – originally hailing from southeast Asia & China – came to be the world famous Japanese food it is now, here. I myself have developed a taste for tempura, though usually from my own kitchen (that or one particular yatai, or food stall, I know of), where I know how – and how long – the oil is used. I also happen to have once lived at the south end of the Kanmon Straight – the border between the islands of Kyushu & Honshu – the most ubiquitious feral beds of fugu (puffer or blowfish) in the world. While fugu is well known as an extremely poisonous fish (the liver, ovaries and skin contain the neurotoxin tetrodotoxin, 1200 times more toxic than cyanide), it’s also one of the blandest. Regardless, plates of thinly sliced fugu sashimi can exceed a hundred dollars, often due to the exaggerated allure of completely conscious asphyxiation a missliced torafugu liver will produce in the consumer.

I myself have no fear of a pufferfish-induced death, due in part to the rigorous 3-year training course expectant chefs have to undergo here, as well as the secret inner knowledge that no fish will be the one to introduce me to my maker (octopuses, squid and sharks, on the other hand, aren’t fish). But I also have no clear desire to eat the little blow-daddy just because it’s there, especially not for these prices, yet I do have easy access to the stuff, so…Maybe you can see the neurotransmitters doing their thing, synapses creating new bridges, serotonin cocktails passing around. So, me and my cooking cohort (what I call my cock) decide it’s high time to fuse some boring fugu with some tempura batter, fry on high for a few minutes and, combining with a few other simple flavors, create new gastronomic worlds the physical laws for remain undefinable.

Eh Voila - Fugu Tempura Tacos

Eh Voila – Fugu Tempura Tacos

I give you Tempura Fugu Tacos. Now the thing about tempura batter is it should be mixed with equal parts ice cold soda water and egg yolks (2 is good), stirred rapidly with chopsticks for only a short time in order to preserve the lumpy quality characteristic to tempura. So, after heating your wok full of an oil with a high smoking point- sesame, peanut or vegetable (or even a mixture thereof)- oil to 190°F, cutting the fugu into chunks, prepare your batter mixture. When the batter floats the oil is ready to go, though you don’t want to fry too much as once as the oil temperature will drop too low, screwing the Kitchen Adonis image your drooling audience has of you all to hell. Take out of oil after 2-3 minutes and nicely golden, resting on a paper towel for a bit to soak up excess oil. Salt it! Of course you’ve already made your red onion, tomato, pepper based pico de gallo, cut the avocado into long green quarter moons, and been heating your corn tortillas all the while, right? So, once your tempura‘s done and dried a bit, throw it on that tortilla, adding the previously mentioned accoutrements and get to eating while it’s still hot.

Beer’s good. So’s horchata. So’s mojitos.

Fresh Bruschetta Is What You Make Of IT

I Nuovi Antipasti Italiani

Fresh Bruschetta on homemade Ciabatta

Fresh Tomatoes on homemade Ciabatta

Winter Strawberries. Tomatoes in Spring. Summer Sanma. Persimmons in Fall. Season is everything. And seasonal cooking is big, especially in Japan, where when any kind of produce stops occurring naturally, the hothouse prices set in and flavor takes a dive.

So after a slow(er) then usual Friday night, an early Saturday rise to make the dough for my weekend whiteman ciabatta, I found myself upon my bike heading towards the local farmers’ market where I found a box of the most provacatively-shaped red-as-the-Japanese-sun tomato-fruits to perfectly complement some mouth-wateringly cured Prosciutto Toscano I had found at a gourmet grocer. What began as a morning experiment in breadmaking turned into an entire day of feasting and tasting, laughter and gaiety, all thanks to the serendipitous alignment of weather, food, drink, people and the all-important Lazy Saturday Afternoon.

How To Not Cook Like An Average American

Prosciutto is ham, of course. But when I hear “ham” my body reacts differently than when I hear “prosciutto”. Upon hearing the latter I picture cured legs dangling from hooks in ancient tavernas of wood and smoke where men in hats come for a glass or two of house wine before work. When I hear “ham” my knee-jerk reaction is to picture two slabs of pasty no-name white bread slathered in cheap mayonnaise layered in overly processed slices of “cheese” and some nasty homogeneously flesh-colored square of Oscar Meyer obeisance to fat men with cans of shitty beer on Football Sunday.

A box of just picked organic tomatoes

A box of just picked organic tomatoes

You’ve probably heard of Prosciutto di Parma, which is ostensibly the most popular kind, or at least the most well-known outside of Italy. The truth is not many varieties ever even see the sunlight outside of Italy. To know Italian ham, one must go to Italy (on the way, one would be smart to taste Jamón Serrano in Spain for a true comparison of cured European ham). My idea of Prosciutto leans toward savory so I prefer Toscano (Toscano Prosciutto is cured using rosemary, pepper and garlic) to Parma, whose hams are sweeter and therefore go better with your typical (boring) melon.

Balancing 20 tomatoes on a bag-laden bike is not only fun (and good practice), but tends to remind me of college and bringing home cases of the Miller Hi Life in just the same manner. At least I know I am progressing. I get home, crank the oven up to 250 C, reshape my sticky, frothing dough into a fatty ball with black truffle olive oil and a dusting of herbs, stick it in and crack the wine for a bit of breathing room. If it’s not yet noon, you’re looking good.

I Nuovi Antipasti Italiani

Before the bread’s done, call up a friend or two (females are best). Any reason will suffice. I usually say, “Let’s have a mural painting party!” or something mysterious like, “be at mine by one with a salami, 20 water balloons and a bikini.”

At this point the sun is past its zenith, you should have roasted a few bulbs of garlic, have plucked the best and brightest leaves from your basil plant, 5 or 6 tomatoes should be mandolined and plated and your bread should be done. Open the door, let the fun young creatures of beauty and smiles into your breezy kitchen pour a couple of glasses of a nice chilled white to start it off good.

The Bruschetta You Love:

Fresh tomato on your Roasted Garlic Fennel Wholewheat Ciabata

Fresh tomato on your Roasted Garlic Fennel Wholewheat Ciabata

For Sauce – Refer to the Old School Pesto post or simply drizzle some extra virgin olive oil. The key is not to realize you don’t even own a can opener due to all the fresh stuff you’re using. You feel me? Also, don’t be afraid to chop. Embrace your knife and your whet stone. It’s the Sabbath somewhere so let the Cuisenart rest today.

The secret to good bruschetta is originality. Everyone’s is different. Some are main courses while others are meant as antipasti. Go crazy and try different combinations. Use cheese sparingly, though be generous with tomatoes. Add some balsamic vinegar, squeeze a lemon or better yet, use the zest. Seasalt and fresh milled pepper are great accoutrements. Basil is a must. Goat cheese is sublime. Camembert is subtle. Olives go well with most anything, as do bikinis. And wine. And lip gloss. And crumbs everywhere.

Originally posted on Eat Me Drink Me, several vintages of wine ago.

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