Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Hina-Matsuri Birthday Party: Tri-colour sushi "cake"

Tri-colour sushi "cake"
I had a girly Hina-Matsuri themed birthday party this year and this tri-colour diamond-shaped sushi "cake" was the centerpiece dish. 

Brightly coloured sushi is a feature of the Hina Matsuri (Girls' Day or Doll Festival) spread. 
I plotted this for a few weeks, checking out various ideas online here and here, and in the March 3 editions of Orange Page magazine, which has a Hina Matsuri feature most years (this year's edition was especially helpful). In the end, I took ideas from many places and mashed them up as I went along.

I couldn't exactly call this a "piece-of-cake" recipe (sorry, couldn't help myself ; )), but you will feel like a real Japanese domestic goddess if you take it on! In the end, I entrusted a dear friend to the decorating as I tussled with the rest of my ever so slightly over-ambitious menu. Thank you, M-san, for the fabulous job!

Here's the plan of action:
Make your diamond-shaped rice mould (a day or two ahead)
Make pickled lotus root flowers (a day or two ahead)
Dye daikon cherry blossom petals (optional; a day ahead)
Make sweet simmered shiitake (on the day)
Make omelette ribbons
Make sushi rice
Blanch snow peas and prep garnishes
Buy sashimi and form into "roses" 

And the shopping list:
dashi powder
Japanese rice vinegar
Japanese soy sauce
dried chilli
lotus root
daikon (optional)
dried shiitake (a meaty Japanese variety, for preference)
katakuriko (starch thickener; optional)
short-grain ("sushi") rice
Tamanoi Sushinoko powdered sushi seasoning (or homemade sushi vinegar, recipe included)
snow peas
shiso (perilla) leaves
frozen edamame (soy beans)
sakura dembu (pink fish "fluff"), or grated carrot, if unavailable
gari (pickled ginger slices)

Tri-colour sushi "cake"

Serves 6-8

For the rice mould

Open up an empty and washed 1 l milk or juice carton by cutting down one of the corners (avoid the corner with the seam) and around the base. Cut off the square that was the base, and the section that was the spout. You should be left with a rectangle. Cut in half across the width, creating two thick strips. Tape the short ends of the strips together to form a square.

For the subasu spicy pickled lotus root

half a section of lotus root (approx. 7 cm long)
splash of Japanese rice vinegar

For the amazu sweet vinegar pickling liquid:
2.5 tbsp (38 ml) dashi stock (made with water and a pinch or two of dashi powder)
1.5 tbsp (23 ml) Japanese rice vinegar
1 tbsp sugar
pinch of salt

1 dried Japanese red chilli, sliced finely
1 cup (200 ml) boiling water
1.5 tbsp Japanese rice vinegar
pinch of salt

1 Peel lotus root with a vegetable peeler. Cut away sections of flesh between the holes of the root to create a flower shape (optional). Slice the root into rounds 5-6 mm thick. Soak in water with a splash of Japanese rice vinegar added to it.

2 Make the amazu pickling liquid. In a small pot, heat the dashi stock, rice vinegar, sugar and salt. When the sugar has dissolved, remove from the heat, add the sliced dried chilli and allow to cool.

3 Bring the water to the boil, add the rice vinegar and salt. Boil the lotus root for 1-2 min, or until slightly transparent, and drain immediately. Take care not to overcook or the texture will become unpleasant.

4 Place the cooked lotus root and the pickling liquid in a zip-topped bag and leave to marinate for a day in the fridge. 

For the daikon petals, if making

Cut three to four 5 mm thick slices of daikon and press out shapes using a cherry blossom petal vegetable cutter like this one. Mix just enough water to cover the daikon petals with a little red food colouring. Soak the petals in the solution until they reach the desired colour.

For the sweet simmered shiitake

4 large dried shiitake 
1 cup (200 ml) water
1 tbsp sugar, divided
1 tbsp Japanese soy sauce

1 Place shiitake, water and 1/4 tsp of the sugar in a bowl. Mix and cover with wrap, pushing the wrap down on the shiitake to keep them submerged. Leave for 1-1.5 hours. Once re-hydrated, gently squeeze the liquid out of the shiitake and slice thinly. Reserve the soaking liquid.

2 Place the soaking liquid, soy sauce and remaining sugar in a small pot, stir, add the sliced shiitake and bring to the boil over medium heat. Skim off any scum that forms. Reduce heat to low and simmer for 8 min. Remove from the heat and allow to cool.

For the omelette ribbons

2 eggs, lightly beaten
1/2 tsp sugar
1/2 tsp katakuriko (optional, but helps prevent tearing)
pinch of salt
vegetable oil

1 Mix all ingredients, except the oil, together in a bowl.  

Heat a medium frying pan over medium heat. Brush with just enough oil to create a thin film. Pour in half the egg mixture and swirl to cover the base of the pan. Once the surface dries, turn the omelette (slipping a single cooking chopstick under one corner and picking up the egg in one go, if you fancy trying the Japanese method). Cook quickly, then flip onto a plate. Repeat with the remaining egg.

3 When cool enough to handle, cut omelettes into quarters. Stack the quarters and fold in half. Slice into fine ribbons.

For the sushi rice

3 rice cups (450 g) short-grain rice
3 tbsp (45 ml) Sushinoko powdered sushi seasoning
or (homemade sushi vinegar)
6 tbsp (90 ml) rice vinegar
2 tbsp (30 ml) sugar
1.5 tsp salt

1 Cook rice as usual if using Sushinoko, or using slightly less water if making your own sushi vinegar.

2 For the sushi vinegar (if using), mix the vinegar, sugar and salt together in a bowl. 

3 Once the rice is cooked, sprinkle with the Sushinoko or rice vinegar, and stir. Turn the rice in a folding motion while fanning it to create a sheen. Once the grains are glossy, cover rice with a damp cloth and leave to cool.

For tri-colour rice and garnishes

1 handful of snow peas, blanched
shiso (perilla leaves), stems removed
1/2 a Japanese cucumber, grated
400 g bag of frozen edamame (soy beans), defrosted and podded
good few shakes of toasted sesame seeds
sakura denbu (pink fish "fluff"; if unavailable, use grated carrot)
150 g of red and/or orange sashimi (tuna and salmon are good)
slices of gari (pickled ginger)

1 Divide rice into thirds and place in 3 bowls. In one bowl, make green rice by mixing through the cucumber and most of the edamame. In another bowl, make yellow rice by mixing through enough sesame seeds to make it interesting (I used around 3 tbsp). In the third bowl, make pink (or orange) rice by mixing though sakura dembu (or grated carrot) until you reach the desired colour.

2 Cover the centre of a large platter with wrap and place the rice mould on top in a diamond shape. You may need to use bottles or similar around the outside of the mould to help keep the shape while you layer in the rice. 

3 Gently pat the green rice evenly into the mould, making sure to reach all the way to the sides and into the corners. Repeat with the yellow rice, then the pink (or orange) rice. Make sure your cake is firm by pressing gently on the sides of the mould, then cut the mould away. 

4 If the sashimi slices are thick, flatten gently with a rolling pin or similar, place a slice of pickled ginger on top of each slice, then roll them into rose shapes.

5 Top the rice diamond with the omelette ribbons, then the simmered shiitake. Decorate with the shiso, snow peas and sashimi roses. Make sure a little of everything peeks out. Garnish the plate with the pickled lotus root, if using, and the remaining snow peas, shiso and sashimi roses. Lastly, sprinkle with the remaining edamame and dyed daikon petals, if using.


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