I had been wondering what to post this week, when one kitchen disaster reminded me of another. My most recent mishap is still a bit fresh, so I’ll save that one for another time.
A few weeks ago I came across something that looked a lot like rhubarb and I thought to myself, could it be? I bought a bunch and took it home to find out. I washed it, dried it and chopped up the stems. I put them in a saucepan with a good amount of sugar and a splash of water and turned on the heat. I sat on the couch, picked up a book (a cookbook of course!) and completely forgot about my experiment on the stove. And boy, by the time I got there, it really did look like an experiment… A smoking black experiment.
After airing the house and scrubbing the saucepan I told the story to my Japanese teacher who laughed. A lot. She then proceeded to tell me it was probably just as well that my experiment had failed. What I bought was not rhubarb at all but a bitter Japanese mountain vegetable called fuki. Not fruit, vegetable, she reiterated. I laughed with her but I was not yet ready to put it all behind me. On the way home I bought another bunch. I checked Hideo Dekura’s Encyclopedia of Japanese Cuisine to find that he not only describes how to prepare fuki but also provides a very clear picture, that had I consulted earlier would have informed that fuki is fuki, not rhubarb.
With Hideo’s recipe as my guide, I set about as follows: Wash, salt, rinse, dry and chop the fuki. Drop in to boiling water for 2-3 minutes. Drain. Place in cold water while peeling each piece (a bit like de-stringing celery). Put ½ cup dashi stock in a saucepan with 1 tablespoon sugar and ½ teaspoon salt and bring to the boil. Add fuki, simmer for 5 minutes. Remove fuki from pan and set aside in a bowl, leaving stock in the saucepan. Add 1 teaspoon soy sauce to the stock and simmer for 10 minutes. Pour stock over the fuki and set aside until ready to serve. Arrange on a plate and sprinkle with sesame seeds.
So as you can see, it was quite a bit of work. Was it worth it? Well, let’s just say, it didn’t taste anything like rhubarb!
I purchased Hideo Dekura’s Encyclopedia of Japanese Cuisine from The Book Depository and it has become an essential member of my cookbook collection. As well as the recipes, I have used the descriptions and images provided to help me decipher the many unusual ingredients that I come across in the supermarket here.