Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Cucumber with Yukari purple perilla seasoning

Cucumber with Yukari purple perilla seasoning
Spring has come to my part of Japan in a rush. The cherry blossoms are blooming and the sun out and the wind up. The hearty vegetable sides of last week are making way for this week's fresh and crunchy salads. I've been waiting for this!

This simple salad, if you even want to call it that, features cucumbers pressed to release their juices then tossed with a tart-fruity-savory seasoning mix and sesame seeds. It's the sort of thing you can easily whip up on short notice if another small dish is required.

Japanese cucumbers are long and thin, and usually measure about 15 cm in length. Their flavour is mild and cooling. Continental cucumbers and other Western varieties can be substituted here, but it might be worth removing the seeds and any bitter skin first. Lebanese/Middle Eastern cucumbers make a better substitute.

Fresh green perilla leaves (aojiso or oba) can be hard to get outside of Asia. Mint or basil (or a combination of the two) can be used instead. Whatever takes your fancy, really.

Yukari is a brand of dried purple perilla seasoning more often used to flavour cooked rice, although it goes well with crunchy vegetables, too. It contains dried purple perilla leaves, salt, sugar and other flavorings. I've heard it called Japan's sumac, so feel free to substitute sumac if you have that but not Yukari in your cupboards.

Cucumber with Yukari purple perilla seasoning

Serves 2 as a side dish

2 Japanese cucumbers or 3 Lebanese cucumbers
5 fresh green perilla (aojiso) leaves
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp Yukari brand red perilla seasoning (or sumac)
2 tsp white sesame seeds

1 Slice the tops and tails off the cucumbers, halve lengthwise and slice thinly on the diagonal. Cut the stalks off the fresh perilla leaves and tear into small pieces.

2 Place the cucumber slices in a plastic bag (a sandwich bag is ideal), add the salt. Holding the opening of the bag tightly closed, gently squeeze the cucumbers to help release their juices. Squeeze the air out of the bag, twist the top and leave for about 10 minutes. Squeezing the cucumbers lightly from the top, pour the juices out of the bag. Add the Yukari or sumac, toss quickly to coat, and arrange in a bowl or serving dish. Sprinkle with the sesame seeds.

Recipe source: Orange Page April 17, 2010 edition (no longer available for purchase)


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