A couple of candid shots above (courtesy of Miki) provide insight into the tempura process (lots and lots of oil). The recipes following will allow you to create a few authentic Japanese side dishes in a manner of minutes. Don't think of these vegetables as married to a theme or concept meal though; all would fit in nicely alongside American and other world cuisines.
SAYA-INGEN (Green Beans) IN WALNUT SAUCE
Quite sweet, a small artfully arranged mound of these crispy green beans will add punch to any entree. Try placing a few on a plate alongside your favorite sandwich.
1 2/3 cups green beans, parboiled for 2 minutes and cut into 2-inch pieces / 2 cups walnuts / 1 T. sugar / 1 T. soy sauce / 1 T. sake / 2 T. water
- After boiling, drain beans and leave to dry well.
- Place all remaining ingredients in a blender and process until (relatively) smooth. Adjust seasoning to taste and combine with green beans.
- Serve within an hour at room temperature or slightly chilled.
STEAMED CAULIFLOWER WITH WHITE SESAME DRESSING
The subtle tone-on-tone color scheme of this dish makes it particularly elegant when served in small portions on petite white dishes (a plain saucer works well).
1/2 half head of cauliflower, trimmed in medium size pieces and steamed until just tender (can also boil) / 4 T. white sesame seeds / 1-2 T. soy sauce / 1 T. mirin (Japanese sweet cooking wine, in all large supermarkets) / 2-3 T. water
- Drain cauliflower and let cool completely.
- Combine remaining ingredients in a mortar and grind until smooth with pestle. Alternately use a blender, but the texture will not be quite as enticing.
- Combine with cauliflower and serve at room temperature. Especially nice alongside broiled or baked fish.
SAN BAI ZU (Carrots in Sweet Vinegar)
Traditionally served with deep-fried foods to cut the oiliness with a sharp and sweet bite. Delicious with fried chicken!
2 large carrots, peeled and cut into fine matchsticks / 1 t. kosher salt / 5 T. rice vinegar / 2 T. soy sauce / 2 T. honey / 1 T. sake / cayenne pepper to taste
- Toss the carrots with salt and set aside for 30 minutes. Rinse and drain well.
- In another bowl mix the remaining ingredients very well.
- Add the carrots to the marinade and leave at room temperature for at least 3 hours.
- May be served cold but always in small portions, as a condiment.
NIKKOROGASHI (BABY NEW POTATOES COOKED IN STOCK)
This is a Cafe Drake variation on a centuries-old recipe, which substitutes chicken stock for the fish stock or dashi broth not so likely to be sitting in your refrigerator.
1 T. toasted sesame oil / 1 small onion, thinly sliced / 2 lbs. baby new potatoes, unpeeled (search for the smallest you can find) / 1 cup chicken or vegetable stock / 3 T. soy sauce
- Heat the oil in a large pan and fry the onions for 1 minute. Add the potatoes and stir very gently until they are all coated lightly with oil.
- Pour in the stock and soy sauce, cover and reduce heat to very low. Cook for 15 minutes, gently stirring every 5 minutes.
- Remove cover and cook 5 more minutes are until liquid is almost absorbed.
- Transfer potatoes and onions to serving bowl and pour remaining liquid over all.