with Elizabeth Andoh
A Few Favorite Fall Fungi Goodies
Most Japanese feel that the fall month offer some of the best in ingredients and eating. It is particularly the season for that fabulous fungi, matsutake. But the prices one must pay for a mere “mushroom” can be quite alarming.
Nameko is another kind of fungi though are reasonably priced and can make a lovely addition to soup.
The fall is the time for kuri (chestnuts) too. Although the roasted variety is hardly an unusual flavor treat to most westerners, the rice recipe given here might be something new to you — a wonderful accompaniment to poultry or fish dishes, by the way.
KURI GOHAN (chestnut rice)
- 300 crams fresh (in shell) chestnuts
- 1 tablespoon yakimyoban (alum) dissolved in 2-3 cups water
- 1 3/4 cups raw white rice
- 2 cups + 2 tablespoons cold water
- 1 tablespoon mirin
- goma shio to taste
1. Shell the chestnuts and cut large ones in half before soaking them in the alum solution, for 5-10 mins. Rinse thoroughly and pat the chestnuts dry.
2. Wash the raw rice and drain it in a colander. Mix the chestnuts with the rice and transfer to a rice cooker (no timing problems that way) or to a large heavy pot.
3. Add the cooking water, then the mirin and swirl with your hand to ensure proper mixing.
4. If using a pot, cover it tightly and cook the rice over high heat until the water is bubbling (you can near it; no need to peek), then turn the heat down to medium. Cook covered for about 10 minutes or until all the water has been absorbed (again, you can usually hear it, but if you must look, make it quick). Turn the heat to high for a few seconds to “dry off” the rice, then turn off the heat. Let the rice self-steam, covered, for 10-15 minutes.
5. Before serving, lightly toss the rice and chestnuts with a wooden spoon (shamoji). Sprinkle individual portions with goma shio.
1. Yakimyoban is alum and is available at any yakyoku (pharmacy). It is used to preserve the yellow coloring of the chestnuts and to remove the “raw” taste (slight bitterness).
2. Mirin is sweet rice wine and is available at any market.
3. Goma shio is a preparation of black sesame and salt that is used to flavor and decorate cooked rice dishes.
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NAMEKO MISO SHIRU (“mushroom” soup)
- 1 package (approx. 100 grams) nameko
- 4 cups dashi (seasoned with a pinch salt and 1/4t. usuguchi shoyu)
- 2-3 tablespoons Sendai miso
- small bunch mitsuba
1. Parboil the nameko in boiling water for 2-3 minutes and then drain them well (they will still be slippery).
2. Heat through the four cups of dashi, seasoned. Dissolve the miso in the hot dashi.
3. Add the nameko to the soup and cook for a few minutes at a simmer, but do not let the soup boil.
4. Wash and pat dry the mitsuba, trimming the stems. Cut the mitsuba into 1-inch lengths and divide them among 5-6 bowls. Pour the hot soup over the mitsuba and serve hot.
1. Nameko are a type of mushroom (fungi) that are bright orange-gold and very slippery.
2. Sendai miso is a dark bean paste, available at most markets. Refrigerate after opening for best storage.
3. Mitsuba is translated as “trefoil”—its a slender pale green stalk with brighter green leaves (3 leaves on each stalk). It has a delicate flavor and aroma. Its used a great deal as a soup garnish.