Thursday, February 16, 2012

Osechi 2012 Tier 2: Kaki Namasu

The second Osechi tier traditionally contains grilled and fried seafood and meat, as well as pickles, basically fancier versions of everyday fare. My 2nd tier rather un-traditionally contained Date-maki, a sweet rolled omlette made with hampen, a fluffy steamed fish paste, and  Kaki Namasu, a "red-and-white" pickle of daikon, carrot and dried persimmon.

After having boring cylindrical date-maki two years ago, I bought a special onisudare date-maki rolling mat, like this one, in Kappabashi, Tokyo's kitchen and table ware mecca. The mat is made of triangular "dowels" of bamboo, and rolling the date-maki with this rather than a sushi rolling mat creates the traditional date-maki zig-zag. You could try to achieve a similar result by placing round bamboo disposable chopsticks at regular intervals on your sushi rolling mat before rolling but, honestly, its probably not worth the bother.

If you can't find hampen for the date-maki, you can use the same weight of white fish of your choice, chopped to a pulp.

Kaki Namasu: Pickled daikon and carrot with dried persimmon
Symbolizes progress, education and culture
Time/Effort: * Cost: * Flavour: ***

Dried persimmon adds a luscious sweetness to this pickle, but it is not something I've come across outside of Japan, although they are a common sight in winter here, when it's slim pickings for fresh fruit. If you don't have access to them, you could substitute soaked dried apricots instead, or just leave them out. Given all the other sweet Osechi fare, I think I will go with a yuzu citron-flavoured namasu next time.

Making this without a mandolin is possible, but I really wouldn't recommend it unless you have chef-level knife skills. A LOT of liquid comes out of the daikon. Some effort is required to squeeze it all out. You should think of it as stress relief ; ).

You want to make this a day in advance to let the flavours meld.

600 g daikon
80 g carrot
2 cups (400 ml) water
1 tbsp salt
50 g deseeded dried persimmon

For the pickling liquid
2/3 cup (66 ml) Japanese rice vinegar
6 tbsp sugar
1 tsp salt

1 Using a mandolin, shred the daikon and carrot along the grain into fine ribbons 4 cm long. Place in separate bowls.

2 Mix salt and water and pour 2/3 of the amount over the daikon and the remaining amount over the carrot. Soak until the vegetables become pliant. Squeeze the vegetables in the water a few times with your hands, drain and squeeze until very dry. A great deal of liquid will come out of the daikon. Keep squeezing until no more liquid comes out.

3 Chop the dried persimmon fairly finely. Mix into the pickling liquid ingredients.

4 Add the daikon and carrot and mix gently.


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