My new favorite cookbook is a Japanese-English paperback called (at least in English) Traditional Japanese Recipe Book with English Translation. Not the most evocative title, for sure, but the book's packed with great recipes, techniques and useful information. A chef friend in Tokyo gave it to me as a gift this past spring and I've been cooking with it since. Unfortunately, you can't buy it here in America (at least I haven't found it -- if you see it, please let me know!). So I want to cook a few dishes from the book and share it with you.
First up, this terrific steamed chicken dish, which is really simple and delicious. First, chicken is marinated in salt and sake to tenderize it, then steamed. Once the chicken cools, you toss it with wakeme seaweed, thinly sliced cucumbers and serve. That's it. Enjoy.
Here's the method:
2 chicken legs and thighs with skin, boned
2 tablespoons dried wakame seaweed
1 Japanese cucumber
Salt for salting
1/3 cup sake
1/2 cup ponzu
Wasabi paste to taste
A couple of notes, first:
- If you don't want to bone the chicken yourself, you can use any boned dark meat chicken you find in the market (you can use white meat, if you prefer). Skinless is fine.
- To reconstitute wakame, pour boiling water over it and let it soak for 4 minutes before straining.
- If you can't find a Japanese cucumber you can substitute with a Persian cucumber (also dry like Japanese cukes)or a good ole' standard American one (more moisture) -- but seed the American variety.
- Use real sake, not that "cooking sake" fake crap. Any inexpensive sake will be fine.
- Ponzu you can buy prepared at Japanese markets. Buy the variety prepared with soy sauce. Or follow the recipe in my hot pot book, page 34.
- The original recipe calls for fresh wasabi julienned and tossed with the other ingredients. Since fresh wasabi is very difficult to find here (not to mention super expensive), just add wasabi paste from a tube to taste.
- Here's how I set up the steamer: I unscrewed the post from a standard veggie basket-style steamer and placed an ovenproof dish on top of it. I stuck the contraption in a pot filled with water up to the steamer level and got it steaming before I added the chicken, which goes on the plate. Close the lid and you're ready to steam.
Okay, here's how we cook it:
- Pierce the skin of the chicken with a fork, and score the flesh lightly. Salt the chicken on both sides and place on a plate. Pour the sake over the chicken and work in with your fingers. Let the chicken marinate 10 minutes for each side. The sake and salt will tenderize the chicken.
- Preheat the steaming contraption.
- Rub the cucumber with salt, rinse off and thinly slice on a diagonal. The salt lightly cures the cucumber. Reconstitute the wakame as I describe above. Set both aside.
- When the chicken is ready, steam the chicken for 15 minutes or until a skewer goes through the meat easily.
- Remove the chicken, cover with plastic wrap so it doesn't dry and cool for 1 hour.
- Slice chicken in half lengthwise, then slice the halves into bite-size pieces. Toss with the cucumber, wakame, and ponzu. Add wasabi to taste and serve.