Crown Tournament 10/19/2019 - Mikawa ae みかわあへ (salt and miso cured cucumbers) & Kohaku-namasu 紅白なます (Daikon and carrot Salad)



Mikawa ae (みかわあへ)
Picture Courtesy of Avelyn Grene (Kristen Lynn)


This beautifully simplistic dish of cucumbers that have been pickled in miso paste was one of the star dishes of the banquet. It was elegant to look at and a wonderful accompaniment to the other dishes that were served in the first course. It is believed that Miso originated in Japan during the Yayoi period (300 BCE to 300 CE). Miso is mentioned in the "Nihon Sandai Jitsuroku" ("The True History of the Three Reigns of Japan") that was compiled and completed in the year 901. In fact, Miso was once used to pay high level bureaucrats; it was a luxury item that most people could not afford to purchase.

Mikawa ae (みかわあへ)

Chop up cucumber with its skin. Sprinkle in some salt, rub it in, and quickly rinse and wring it out. Put in hanagatsuo (dried bonito shavings). Dress with poppy miso thinned with irizake and vinegar. If it is tough, the skin can be left out.

Cucumber Pickles with Miso and Sesame

1 3/4 pounds Japanese cucumbers (7 or 8 small). Note: English cucumbers were substituted for feast
1/2 tbsp. salt
4 tbsp sesame paste (tahini can be substituted, but it's best to use the toasted sesame paste available at ethnic stores.)
3 tbsp. white miso
2 tbsp. rice vinegar
6 shiso leaves (basil leaves or Thai basil can be substituted for shiso.)

Slice the cucumbers into paper-thin rounds and toss with the salt in a medium-sized bowl. Let sit 10 minutes. Meanwhile, add miso and rice vinegar to the sesame paste. Squeeze water from the cucumbers and add them to the miso and sesame mixture. Allow to marinate about four hours. Before serving, stack shiso leaves, roll into a cigar shape and slice into fine tendrils.

Toasted Sesame Paste
1 cup white sesame seeds
1 cup vegetable oil

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and pour the sesame seeds on the baking sheet in an even layer. Bake seeds, shaking pan every five minutes until the sesame seeds are golden brown and fragrant. Allow sesame seeds to cool slightly before placing them into a food processor. Start processing them on medium speed until seeds are crushed. Turn speed to low and then slowly add the oil until the mixture reaches the consistency you desire. Sesame paste can be stored up to a month in a dry air tight jar in the refrigerator.


The second dish, Kohaku-namasu 紅白なます, consists of lightly pickled daikon and carrot in sweetened vinegar. The colors of this pickle are very symbolic: red for happiness and protection from evil spirits and white for celebration and purity. This dish came to Japan from China during the Nara period (700's). I used these pickles as a bright burst of color to accompany the Namazu Kabayaki (catfish kabayaki) and gari (pickled ginger).

Daikon and carrot salad is now a traditional part of the Osechi Ryori 御節料理 or お節料理, the traditional New Year's celebration, which traces its origins back to the Heian Period (794-1185). Traditional Osechi-Ryori dishes are served in lacquered jubako boxes, and shared with family and friends. These dishes were prepared ahead of time because the use of heat to cook meals was not permitted during the first three days of the New Year. It was believed that the sounds of cooking would bother the Gods.

Kohaku-namasu 紅白なます (Daikon and Carrot Salad)

4-inch daikon radish (4" = 10 cm) peeled and cut into half-moon shapes or matchsticks
2 inch carrot (2" = 5 cm) peeled and cut into half-moon shapes or matchsticks
1 tsp salt (kosher or sea salt; use half if using table salt)

Brine

1 ½ Tbsp sugar
1½ Tbsp rice vinegar
1 Tbsp water
¼ tsp salt (kosher or sea salt; use half if using table salt)

1-2 strips yuzu or lemon zest as garnish (optional)

Place the daikon and carrot into a bowl and sprinkle with 1 tsp. salt.  Allow to sit for approximately ten minutes.

Meanwhile, combine sugar, rice vinegar, water and salt into a bowl and mix together.  Squeeze water out of daikon and carrot and mix with the vinegar mixture.  Allow to marinate at room temperature for several hours or overnight in the refrigerator.  Garnish with yuzu before serving. 




References

Exploring the Meaning of Osechi Ryori, Japan's Traditional New Year Food | Japanese Culture, Food. (2018, December 26). Retrieved from https://www.tokyoweekender.com/2017/12/exploring-the-meaning-of-osechi-ryori-japans-traditional-new-year-food/

The History of Miso. (2017, February 8). Retrieved from https://www.abokichi.com/blogs/news/miso-2-the-history-of-miso

New Year Food - Osechi Ryori, Toshi-koshi Soba & Ozoni. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://patrickchadd.blogspot.com/2013/01/new-year-food-osechi-ryori-toshi-koshi.html

The Story Behind Osechi Ryori. (2019, May 2). Retrieved from https://www.kcpinternational.com/2017/01/osechi-ryori-the-story-behind-traditional-japanese-new-year-food/

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