Wednesday, 19 March 2014

Almost Japanese - If You Please

Polpette di Maiale & Wasabi, al Vapore & Riso Furikake Shiso
Steamed Wasabi Pork Meatballs with Shiso Furikake Rice

Obviously, this is not going to be an authentic Japanese recipe- it is simply my supper, made using a couple of Japanese ingredients! Frankly, in my humble opinion... those traditional dishes? Regardless of which country's cuisine we are talking about... they have already been documented many, many years ago. And since then, a gazillion "food writers" and experts have regurgitated them for us over and over... enough already! If you want original recipes- I myself would go straight to the source! But if you happen to want fun or innovation, feel free to search the interweb... or stay right here with me :-)

Whilst at the Asian supermarket this weekend, as well as picking up the bamboo steamer that makes me so happy- and which I used again in the preparing of this dish, I also picked up a few other ingredients- just to have more scope to explore and discover new flavors and keep my arsenal of spices well stocked!

And here they are, the 2 stars of this evenings show- Wasabi powder and Furikake powder. We all know Wasabi and its amazing and pungent, refreshing and spicy, hot radish flavor- but there was also a spice/seasoning I was not familiar with- "Furikake", which is a Japanese condiment for rice and which is available in many different flavors. In this case, it was the dark purple colored Shiso flavor, which is very mildly bitter and has a flavor that is almost similar to a Japanese tea... but not quite! LOL!

I decided to make something simple in order to try these 2 new products out with and decided to make some simple meatballs out of ground pork and to combine them with some rice, in order to test the Furikake and some sugar-snap peas for a little freshness on the side. The only other ingredients I used to make this were a couple of Spring onions, a half of a carrot and a handful of cilantro/coriander. That's about all it takes... and a little bit of work of course- but to make things a little easier, I can show you how I did it...

The first thing we need to do is to prepare those meatballs, which yes, we are going to steam. Ground meat- in this case pork, tends to have plenty of fat in it, so I figured I would steam rather than fry it. So, to this quarter pound of ground pork I added a half of a carrot, finely chopped, a Spring onion and a half finely sliced, a handful of finely chopped fresh cilantro and a good teaspoon of Wasabi powder.

The only way to do this is to be fearless and to get in there with your hands and to knead the ingredients together- making sure of course that everything gets evenly mixed. I added a little Thai fish sauce for a hint more seasoning and then began to shape the little meatballs, which were just the size of a ping-pong ball or so.

I set the meatballs out onto my steam rack, but being as I didn't have a lettuce leaf to lay them out on and prevent them sticking, I decided to innovate and use a sheet of parchment paper to do the trick for me. If you look carefully, you will see that I cut slashes into the paper to allow the steam to work its way through. A simple but effective alternative!

Whilst the meatballs steamed, I boiled the rice in my rice cooker and in the meantime opened the packet of Furikake powder. As I already mentioned, there is a huge number of flavors available, usually made from dried fish, sesame, seaweed flakes, salt and sugar- but this one had dried shiso leaves in it, giving it a deep, dark purple color. And the lady at the store said to me on Saturday- "Try it! You'll like the color!" Haha! So I did! And I did! 

Both the rice and the meatballs took 15 minutes of cooking time to prepare, so the only thing I needed to do was to pop the sugar-snap peas into the steamer besides the meatballs for the final 5 minutes, which is enough time to turn them a rich deep green and to have them perfectly cooked with just a slight crunch to them... and ready to serve along with the meatballs and rice!

I pressed the rice into shape using one of those metal rings, but of course you can simply use an upturned bowl, or simply spoon it up- it is a matter of taste and all that I will say is that it doesn't really matter as those purple sprinkles will "jazz it up" anyway, whatever you decide to do!

After the rice, I laid out a few of the peas decoratively and then came the meatballs, laid out on top of the peas... very easy and ready for, as I already called it, "jazzing up" a little with some yummy flavorings!

First, I added a few drops of sesame oil here and there, all over, on the peas, the meatballs and the rice. Then came the Furikake sprinkles onto the rice, followed with some finely sliced Spring onion and then sesame seeds, just a few, over everything.

Consider me a pagan if you must, but I tasted it and as delicious as the Furikake was and as spicy as the Wasabi was in the meatballs, I decided a light squeeze of Hoisin and Sriracha sauce would go very nicely indeed with this... and you will most probably agree! Give it a go- then let me know! Enjoy!

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