Eat your (Japanese-style) veggies!

In Recipies on September 7, 2012 at 9:23 am

I don’t know why I didn’t try this before. We love all of Asian cuisine. At least the menu items we can eat because it doesn’t contain stuff like eels, snails, insects, or other treyfe. Usually, my Asian-inspired cooking results from a quick scan of the fridge and a determination that there are quite a few odd ends in the veggie bin.

I recently surveyed the bin and found two carrots, two green peppers, two stalks of celery, a little bok choy, a bunch of green onions (the tops were starting to wilt), and half of a broccoli crown. My onion container had contained half of a yellow onion and I finally found a use for the lone clove of garlic that dwelled under the full head I had just purchased.

Normally, these odd ends get stir-fried and seasoned with a pungent curry. But as I stood at my prep table looking over my cache of veggies, my eyes swept over a bottle of Takara-brand mirin (cooking sake). (For readers unaccustomed to the lingo of all things mirin, turn to my page Blame it on the Yase Nobe for a more complete discussion of mirin.) Takara mirin, for those for whom such things matter, is “OU” kosher too!

A dash back to the fridge confirmed that I still had bit left from a hand of ginger, so the menu was set.

Let’s make some Japanese-inspired vegetables!

You can use almost any vegetable for this dish. I came very close to using a small zucchini I had. But I wanted more “crunch” and zucchini gets the opposite of “crunch” when cooked.

Here’s what I used:

2 green peppers cut in bite-size pieces

2 carrots peeled and cut into matchsticks

2 stalks of celery (remove ribs with a vegetable peeler)

3 parts of bok choy (white and light green parts) cut bite-sized

½ crown of broccoli cut into medium florets

1 bunch green onions (tops removed) in 2” pieces

½ cup mirin

1 TBS vegetable oil

1 ½ tsp minced ginger

1 small clove garlic in fine mince (optional)

Cooked white rice or rice noodles

Heat the oil in a wok or deep skillet over medium-high heat. When the oil shimmers, toss in the hard vegetables first and stir-fry them. Then add the softer ingredients a minute or so later and stir-fry them. Reduce the heat to medium and, while the skillet is still quite hot, stir in the garlic (if using) and the ginger. Remove the skillet from the heat and allow it to cool a bit. You want to reduce the mirin and not simply boil it off. Test the pan with a few drops of mirin. It should steam but it should not vanish in a puff of steam. If the pan is cool enough add all of the mirin and return the pan to medium heat. The mirin should boil gently. When it is reduced to just over a couple of tablespoons of volume and the liquid has thickened slightly, remove the skillet from the heat and serve the vegetables over a bed of cooked rice or noodles. Serve with a good fish sauce, chili sauce, and soy sauce to add at the table.

A wonderful variation of this vegetarian meal is to lay a steamed fillet of tilapia on top of the vegetables and rice. Cups of hot tea or warmed sake can make this modest meal special enough for dinner guests.



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