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Japanese Delicacies in a Breeze (Issue 30)

A dinner menu inspired by the fresh flavors of Japan is a fun way to travel to the other side of the world without leaving your own kitchen. Our menu abides by the traditional flavors of Japan while being mindful of what’s in season closer to home. For instance, our version of Kenchinjiru, a vegan vegetable soup, uses asparagus in lieu of the traditional burdock root as a way to take advantage of the abundance of the season. This earthy soup can accommodate almost any combination of vegetables, so you can enjoy it every season of the year. It works well as an appetizer before the meal, as a hearty lunch, or even as a filling dinner on its own.

Our Teriyaki Salmon is another way to bring Japanese flavor to the table this time of year, especially if you’re itching to dust off the grill. This recipe is as easy as whisking together a marinade of five simple ingredients and marinating the salmon for an hour or two before cooking it up on the grill or in the broiler. The end result is salmon that is sweet and savory as well as moist and tender.

Just before cooking the salmon, slice up a couple of cucumbers to create our bright Sesame Cucumber Salad. It only takes a minute to mix the vinegar dressing. Pour it on the cukes and by the time the salmon is ready, so is this creamy, refreshing side.

All three recipes are best suited with golden ales or crisp lagers. The Pike Brewing Company’s Pike High Five Hopped Honey Ale we tried enhanced the earthier notes in the soup, boosted the sweet and savory flavors in the salmon, and brought out the sweetness in the cucumbers.

Tasting the flavors of Japan from the comfort of home can be a delicious way to explore this culture for the first time or bring back fond memories of past travels. Pairing those flavors with a locally brewed craft beer makes those exotic flavors taste like home.

Kenchinjiru (Vegetable Soup)

This hearty vegan soup uses stock made from kombu seaweed and mushrooms. Earthy and bright, it is packed with vegetables and flavor. Gobo or burdock root is a traditional ingredient for this soup but it can be switched out with other vegetables if it is difficult to find. We used asparagus in ours to keep with the season.


For the Dashi Kombu (Seaweed Stock):

4 cups water

5-inch piece kombu (seaweed)

3 whole shiitake mushrooms

2 tablespoons sake

2 tablespoons mirin

½ teaspoon sugar

2-1/2 tablespoons soy sauce


For the Soup:

4 dried shiitake mushrooms

2 cups boiling water

3 large parsnips

2 medium daikon radish

2 medium carrots

3-4 asparagus stalks

1 tablespoon sesame oil

8 ounces tofu

1 cup frozen edamame (shelled)

3 tablespoons sake

1 teaspoon salt

2 tablespoons soy sauce

Black pepper

1 chopped scallion

Shichimi Togarashi (Japanese Seven Spice), optional

Japanese sansho pepper, optional



Make the Dashi Kombu:

Dust off the kombu—do not wash—and add to a large pan with the water and mushrooms. Soak for at least 1 hour.

Put the pan over high heat and just before the water starts to boil, remove the kombu and discard.

Bring the kombu water and mushrooms to a boil. Stir in the sake, mirin, sugar, and soy sauce. Turn the heat to low and simmer for five minutes. Remove the mushrooms and discard. Set aside the stock or store in the fridge or freezer for later use.


Make the Soup:

Place the dried shiitake mushrooms in a bowl with the 2 cups boiling water. Soak for 25-30 minutes.

Meanwhile, prepare the vegetables. Peel, rinse, and chop the parsnips, daikon radish, and carrots into bite-size, 1-inch pieces. Rinse and chop the asparagus as well.

Remove the mushrooms from the water and slice. Keep the mushroom water to add to the soup later.

Heat the sesame oil over medium-high heat in a large stockpot or dutch oven. Add the mushrooms, parsnips, daikon radish, carrots, and asparagus to the oil and cook, stirring occasionally, for about 5 to 10 minutes, until heated through.

Crumble the tofu into the vegetables and stir for another minute.

Add in the dashi kombu and mushroom water to the pot and bring just to a boil.

Turn the heat to simmer. Add in the edamame. After about 10 minutes, add the sake and salt and cook for another 10 minutes, or until all the vegetables are tender. Add the soy sauce and pepper. Skim off any foam that rises to the top if necessary.

To serve, ladle into bowls and garnish with chopped scallion. For spicier flavor, sprinkle Shichimi Togarashi and Japanese Sansho Pepper, to taste.

Serves 6.

Sesame Cucumber Salad

Don’t let the ease of this recipe fool you. It only takes a few minutes to prepare but it is packed with flavor. The fresh cucumbers, in combination with the bright vinegar dressing, create a crisp, fresh flavor worthy of warm summer days.