Miso Soup for the Soul: Take One
In this time of disruption, it’s interesting how our energies have shifted so much towards food, as if we feel a collective need to go back to the basics, to things that we can control. Over the next number of issues, we will be focusing on food, specifically comfort food and the foods that connect us to our roots and to each other. I have been reaching out to the community for recipes and for the stories that accompany them. The recipes don’t have to be Japanese or JC recipes. They can be recipes that express our reality living in a diverse, pluralistic world, they can be fusions of east and west, or north and south. And they don’t even have to be recipes – they can be essays on an ingredient or a type of cooking. They can be stories about cooking and connecting in the time of pandemic, or from your childhood. This is open to everyone – I hope to get recipes and stories from across the country. Please feel free to pass along to others.
Liz Parker’s Extremely Popular Miso Salmon
by Liz Parker
Growing up in the seventies, my Japanese immigrant mom, Keiko, had to drive from Burnaby to Main and Hastings, to Fujiya, one of the only places to get Japanese groceries, if you can believe it. So even though I ate mostly hotdogs and hamburgers as a kid, I grew up seeing “weird Japanese stuff” in the fridge, and she always had aka miso paste in the fridge to make miso soup from scratch. As a teenager, my parents got a new barbeque, and I wanted something other than Kraft barbeque sauce. I grabbed her miso paste, and added things to it to make a baste for salmon. It turned out so delicious, I kept refining the recipe and now it’s the number one thing people ask for. I’ve also created Japanese tuna pizza and wasabi mayo tuna steak sandwiches, but it’s the miso salmon everyone wants. I’m so sorry I don’t know exact amounts, but I’m always sampling as I go until I get the right balance of sweet, salty, and tangy. Umami banzai!
Here’s the recipe – I eyeball it every time, depending on how much salmon I’m cooking. I’ve made it for two, or a potluck of upwards of 40 people, and it always goes fast.
Here’s what you need:
Red miso, room temperature (there is red or white – red is richer in flavour) … some big grocery stores have it, or Asian supermarkets
Sweet – honey, white sugar, brown sugar (I like honey – easier to mix)
White wine – any kind
Pre-minced garlic (the kind in the little jar)
Pre-minced ginger (also in the little jar)
Garlic chili sauce (optional)
Lemon juice – from the lemon-shaped container is fine.
You can leave the red miso out the night before. You want it to be malleable as it refrigerates really stiff.
Put a big glob into a big mixing bowl.
Add white wine until it’s a thick batter.
Add a s***load of honey. Lots. Then more. If you’re using sugar, you’ll need more wine. Because honey is a thick liquid, it makes the miso into a batter, and you’ll need less wine.
Add a spoonful each of the garlic and ginger. I like the ginger to shine through, so I add a bit more ginger than garlic.
Add a small amount of the garlic chili sauce. I add just a small amount.
Squeeze some lemon juice in. This adds a bright, fresh flavour.
Have a little taste – see? Still too salty. Add more honey until it’s the right balance of sweet and salty.
Mix everything until it’s a runny batter consistency.
Get a cookie sheet or shallow baking pan, and line it with tin foil. Then place a really big piece of foil over top – sometimes I fold two pieces of foil for coverage, if I use a long fillet.
Put the salmon on foil and baste with the miso mix. Make sure good music is playing. People can tell if you enjoyed preparing the food, you know.
Wrap the foil sheet around the salmon, and loosely fold it closed. You may need to check on it while it bakes (or barbeques), so don’t wrap it tightly.
Bake until cooked. I have a slow-ass oven so I set it to 375 or 385 and set for 20 min and check on it. Bake longer if it’s a thick piece.
It should be slightly undercooked in the centre. Poke a fork in to check. Don’t worry about wrecking it – when it’s done, you can smear the sauce over the fork mark.
It will keep cooking after you take it out so don’t overcook it or I will judge you.
Some of the baste will have gathered at the edges, so take a spoon and baste it back over the top.
Garnish with something green – presentation and garnish is so important to Japanese cooking. I like sliced limes but I have used parsley. You can also use dried chives and sprinkle it on top.
Serve and enjoy the accolades! Be sure to take a picture and post to Instagram. Tag me @lizprstyle and I’ll render judgment.
Liz Parker is a hapa from Vancouver, now based in Toronto. She is a music educator, and in non-pandemic times, a photo shoot stylist. She LOVES fusion food. Based on her Instagram, you’d think she is a breakfast chef. Follow her @lizprstyle.
by Sherri Kajiwara
Wieners (European style are the yummiest)
cut into 1/2 to 1″ pieces – the quantity depends on how much you want to make
Basic teriyaki sauce:
3 ingredients in equal portions: soy sauce, sake, mirin
plus 1 ingredient in 1/2 the volume: sugar
2 Tbsp soy sauce : 2 Tbsp sake : 2 Tbsp mirin: 1 Tbsp sugar
or 1/2 c of the first 3 and 1/4 c of sugar.
Mix everything in a small saucepan and bring to a boil to dissolve sugar, reduce heat and let simmer for 10 – 15 min.
This basic sauce can be used on anything from veggie stir fry to tofu to fish, chicken, or any other meats, but for shoyu weiners, pan fry weiners in a little sesame oil, and mix in enough sauce to just coat. Best served at room temperature.
– Sherri Kajiwara is the Director/Curator of the Nikkei National Museum
by Lorene Oikawa
I have a fascination with kitchen tools and accessories. It’s something I come by honestly. My grandmother “Obaachan” and mother were wonderful cooks and bakers and had a fascinating array of kitchen gadgets.
The Japanese tools hold the most fascination for me. Their design encompasses both beauty and precision.
Even the simple task of grating is elevated when using a Japanese grater.
My mom had a ceramic grater. It looked like a piece of art – a round ceramic dish with a raised centre piece that had ridges and a moat-like well surrounding the centre. She would take daikon, a long thick white radish, peeled and cut at an angle and rub it on the raised centre piece. She would get a fluffy white pillow of the daikon. The excess liquid would drain into the well.
My grandmother had a thin metal grater, a flat rectangle that curved into a well at the bottom edge. You would rub the daikon along the flat rectangle piece catching the daikon fluff until you could fill a small dish. The excess liquid would run down the grater and catch into the well at the bottom.
Both tools allowed for precision grating of the daikon and the elimination of excess liquid.
Daikon oroshi is grated daikon. There are many uses for daikon oroshi as a condiment. My favourite way to eat it is with grilled fish, tempura, agedashi tofu (coated & deep fried tofu) or on top of hot rice. Serve it in a small ceramic dish. When you have a piece of fish, add a bit of daikon oroshi with some soy sauce and it elevates the bite of fish. Try mixing some daikon oroshi with tempura sauce and then dipping your tempura into it. The spicy hint of daikon perks up the flavours and also gives it some freshness. Sometimes I add a bit of soy sauce to a small dish of daikon oroshi and add it on top of a bowl of hot Japanese rice. It gives a bit of kick to the rice and it’s so comforting.
I have heard you can also make daikon oroshi by peeling and chopping daikon pieces and putting them in a food processor. I don’t know that you could achieve the same texture you get when you hand grate the pieces. You could try, but you’ll have to squeeze the excess liquid and you must follow the one rule that it must be eaten fresh. Enjoy! Itadakimasu!
– Lorene Oikawa is the President of the National Association of Japanese Canadians