asazuke

Life in Japan, food, music, whatever…

Myoga 9 September, 2011

Filed under: countryside,food & drink — johnraff @ 2:56 pm
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This is funny stuff. Myoga is a kind of wild ginger that grows freely around the house with no help from us at all; although it dies down in the winter it’s quite frost resistant and always comes back up. There’s no thick root to speak of though, in spite of being in the ginger family. What is used sometimes in Japanese food are the flowers, or flower buds. These are small and pink, and appear from the ground around August. You should pick them while they’re still buds, before the small yellow flowers start to emerge, which means searching around under the plants in the sticky heat, fighting off leeches and mosquitos, trying to find the buds when they’ve just shown above the ground and are still firm.

Once they’re picked you can slice them and put them in miso soup, add them to pickled eggplant or even put them in fried rice. Myoga has a very special fragrance which is hard to describe – sort of floral and bitter at the same time. It’s quite possible not to like it at first, and too much is definitely on the astringent side, but it’s one of the tastes of summer. Interestingly, there’s a “wild ginger flower” used in Southeast Asian cooking too, called bunga kantan in Malay. I was surprised to find one day in Singapore that it tasted almost exactly like myoga, although it’s bigger and longer, and the flower that comes from the bud looks quite different. There they sprinkle it on salads or put it in fish curries. It goes especially well with sour flavours like tamarind.

At Raffles we were delighted to have this authentic ingredient at hand, and use the myoga leaves to wrap our steamed “otak otak” spicy fish paste, sometimes make a cucumber and myoga salad and also put it in “myoga chicken” which is on our blackboard right now. This is an adaptation of a Penang dish called “ayam tumis” which also contains lemon grass, galangal, fresh turmeric, shrimp paste and tamarind. I’ve boosted up the myoga content so you can really taste it, and I think it’s pretty good. It looks just like a curry, and you eat it the same way, with rice, but there’s no spice in there which would be found in normal “curry powder”: if you don’t call it a “curry” though, people won’t order it…

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Farmlog 24th April 2011 1 May, 2011

Filed under: countryside,food & drink — johnraff @ 1:37 am
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Well my spell back in Britain meant a month since the last trip up to our place in Gifu, and Spring has well and truly arrived. Paddy fields in the area are already filled with water ready for the rice seedlings to be planted. This really has to be my favourite season out here. From late March to early May all kinds of flowers come out one after another and on a warm sunny afternoon it feels like a yet undiscovered corner of paradise. This time, unfortunately, the weather wasn’t with us – wet, cloudy and chilly. Ah well. Maybe better luck next week.

The first warabi (fern shoots) of the season are up, and they’re delicious, although possibly poisonous and carcinogenic… You put wood ash on them, pour on boiling water and leave them overnight. This gets out some of the bitterness. Then just rinse and eat them with a drop of soy sauce, some dried fish flakes and a dab of wasabi. Good. T likes to stew them with chunks of fried tofu, which is OK too. Someone else shares our appreciation for these wild vegetables, and had already picked quite a few before we arrived on Sunday. This annoys T no end, and she put up some notices warning tresspassers and warabi-thieves away. We’ll see if they do any good.

Min. temp. -4°C, max. 20°C (over the last four weeks, remember).

 

 
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