Hiroki Abe: Root Maneuvers

EN Japanese Brasserie’s Chef Creates a Sublime Kinpira Starter From a Wild Eastern Delicacy

Despite the occasional lashing of foie gras, luxuriously marinated in miso, EN Japanese Brasserie head chef Hiroki Abe specializes in simple incarnations of rustic Japanese plates, such as his toothsome kinpira dish, detailed below. The entrée’s mechanics may be simple, but as Abe attests, the flavors are anything but: “Gobo or burdock root that is wild has a more complex flavor, as it gets all of its nutrients without human intervention,” he says. "Japanese cuisine has a rich history of foraged ingredients; they provide a beautiful extension to the depths of flavor we can offer." Create your own nuanced Asian feast, complete with bracing herbaceous cocktail, courtesy of Abe’s recipes below.

Kinpira

Serves Two

  • 1/2 lb burdock (gobo)
  • 1/8 lb carrots
  • Sesame oil
  • Sesame seeds
  • Dried chile pepper (taka no tsume)
  • Mirin
  • Rice Vinegar
  • Soy Sauce

  1. Discard the stems and leaves of burdock (gobo), and thoroughly wash the root. Use the back side of your knife to scrape off the outer layer of skin.
  2. Julienne the gobo and carrots into very thin two-inch strips. Add julienned burdock to six cups of water and 2 tsp of rice vinegar. Let soak for 10 minutes or until the water turns brown. This will remove the "aku" or bitterness. Wild gobo tends to be more tannic so it might be wise to do this step twice.
  3. Heat 1 tbsp of sesame oil in a skillet on a medium-high heat; add 1 dried chile pepper.
  4. Squeeze excess water from gobo and add to skillet with carrots and cook for four minutes. Take off the heat and add 2 tbsp of mirin and 2 tbsp of soy sauce, continue to stir.
  5. Plate and garnish with roasted sesame seeds.
Mountain Mint and “Shiro” Rice Shochu

  1. Take eight mountain mint leaves; wash and muddle in the bottom of a shochu glass.
  2. Add 3 oz "Shiro" rice shochu and ice.
  3. Stir and garnish with a sprig of mint.

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