Tag Archives: nori

Asian Sesame Sweet Potato & Squash Soup

Sweet Potato Squash Soup

Asian Sesame Sweet Potato & Squash Soup

Is it just me, or has anyone else noticed that as we grow older, eating becomes more tiring?  First world problems I know but whew!  After this past weekend I still feel like I’m in a food coma.  In general, I eat pretty healthy throughout the year so I think my body just shuts down when affronted with so much fat and sugar.  I love pigging out over the holidays, but I was really craving something healthy.  This Japanese-inspired Asian Sesame Sweet Potato Squash Soup was just what I needed after an overly indulgent weekend.

Over the years I’ve made every variation of sweet potato and squash: roasted, mashed, baked.   This holiday season, I really wanted to try something new.  Butternut squash soup is popular, but I decided to add sweet potato, to bring out the sweetness of the squash.  I had to keep this soup dairy free, so I used a bit of miso instead of cream for a richer taste.  Building on this Asian-inspired flavour, I included some mirin (sweet cooking wine) to add acidity to the dish.  For the garnish I topped with toasted sesame seeds and nori (dried seaweed) for a bit of salty crunch.

Asian Sesame Sweet Potato & Squash Soup

Asian Sesame Sweet Potato & Squash Soup

Festive and easy to prepare, I loved this healthy, hearty soup on a cold, winter’s night.  The nori, mirin and miso can be found in the Asian aisle of a big chain supermarket, or at any Asian grocery store.  If you don’t want to buy a whole bottle of mirin, you can substitute for sake and keep on drinking this holiday season!

Asian Sesame Sweet Potato & Squash Soup

51

Prep Time: 20 minutes

Cook Time: 25 minutes

Total Time: 45 minutes

Yield: 6 servings

Asian Sesame Sweet Potato & Squash Soup

Ingredients

  • 2 tbsp sesame oil
  • 1 yellow onion, chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, peeled and finely chopped
  • 1" piece of fresh ginger, peeled and chopped
  • 1 medium butternut squash, peeled, seeds removed and diced
  • 1 large sweet potato, peeled and diced
  • ¼ cup mirin (sweet cooking wine)
  • 2 tbsp light miso paste
  • 5 cups low sodium chicken stock
  • 6 snack size sheets of nori (dried seaweed)
  • 3 teaspoons sesame seeds
  • sea salt and freshly ground pepper

Instructions

  1. Heat sesame oil in a large pot or saute pan on medium-high heat. Saute onion, garlic and ginger until softened, about 2 minutes. Add squash and sweet potato and sauté 1 minute longer.
  2. Whisk together mirin and miso paste. Add to vegetables along with chicken stock. Bring to a boil, then turn heat down and simmer uncovered for 20-25 minutes, or until vegetables are soft.
  3. Using an immersion blender or food processor, puree soup until smooth. Return to pot and season with salt and pepper to taste.
  4. Lightly toast the sesame seeds in a toaster oven or in a small pan on the stove top over low heat.
  5. Serve and top with toasted sesame seeds and pieces of nori.
http://iseehungrypeople.net/2016/11/14/asian-sesame-sweet-potato-squash-soup/

Sweet Potato Squash Soup

Asian Sesame Sweet Potato Squash Soup

What is your favourite holiday soup?  Let me know if you enjoyed the Asian flavours in this Sweet Potato Squash Soup!

Restaurant Review: Michi

MICHI
4848 Yonge Street, North York
Phone: 416-224-0075

When Michi opened earlier this year I was worried. Over the years, the strip on Yonge just north of Sheppard seemed to be a jinxed location, and with numerous Japanese restaurants right around the corner, I was curious to see what Michi had to offer. Michi, the Japanese word for “method”, is empty for a Friday night. Elegant and cozy, the restaurant is sparsely decorated except for a brightly lit Christmas tree. Seating is also available at the sushi and sake bar near the back.
Restaurant Review Michi
Service is prompt and polite and the waiters keep the green tea flowing into our ceramic teacups. We begin our quiet meal with some aged dashi tofu ($4.00) and nori dumplings ($6.95). The cubes of tofu are deep-fried in a bonito sauce. While the lightly battered cubes are piping hot, they sit in a lukewarm fish broth that is bland, adding little to the dish. The dumplings on the other hand, are like delightful seafood presents. Diced shrimp, scallop and shiitake mushroom are wrapped in seaweed and deep-fried. The soft seafood is enveloped in the crisp wrapping and somehow avoids being too salty.

Restaurant Review MichiRestaurant Review Michi

Michi offers a healthy selection of sushi and sashimi as well as a variety of noodle dishes. No bento box combinations are available for dinner, which suggests a higher standard is set for the quality of their food. While many old favourites are available such as the Dynamite or the Green Dragon rolls, a few new rolls intrigue me and I order the Yamaimo Spicy Tuna ($6.50). Chopped, spicy tuna with caviar is paired with crunchy mountain yam that has a similar texture and taste to sugar cane, and the slight sweetness offsets the spice nicely.

Restaurant Review Michi

A true test of any Japanese restaurant is their sashimi, and so as an early Christmas present to myself, I order the Chef’s Signature Sashimi dish ($17), and wait in anticipation for ten pieces of the chef’s special selection.
The price is right for the gourmet selection that is too pretty to eat. The chef’s sashimi is a colourful variety of fresh sake (salmon), ika (squid), maguro (tuna), uni (sea urchin) aji (horse mackerel), hotate-gai (scallops) tai (sea bass) and pickled herring that sit amongst red and green caviar and daikon (long white radish).

Restaurant Review Michi

The herring is wrapped in a crispy cucumber shell and the texture is nicely accented with bursting salmon roe. The horse mackerel is covered with a good dose of Korean barbecue sauce, giving the thick cut a tasty punch. The lightly grilled sea bass doesn’t need the smothering of oily sun-dried tomato-like dressing. Chewy and tender squid leaves a decadent silky aftertaste, the green caviar an extra bonus. The sea urchin wrapped in tuna however, disappoints an otherwise intriguing selection. The shiso leaf overpowers the tuna and urchin, with the final egg wrap leaving little complimenting flavour.

As I swim in my sushi and sashimi dishes, I’m concerned for my fiancée who has ordered the apple pork special ($11.95), and for a moment I think that we’ve accidentally ordered an appetizer as a main course. The two small pieces of slow cooked pork belly are said to be in an apple juice and sake reduction served with creamy miso, mashed Yukon potato, asparagus and mustard sauce. While I admit the sinfully fatty port belly is quite filling, I find only a faint apple taste stands out. The asparagus is crispy, but the thin layer of potato adds little to the dish or a hungry stomach.

Restaurant Review Michi

I’m excited to finish off our meal with some tempura ice cream ($5.50). This summer, I had deep fried breaded ice cream in Kyoto and have been dreaming of it ever since. However, this time, I’m disappointed to find the green tea ice cream melting in a thick breading that seems more frozen than fresh and lacking any resemblance to a tempura that has been deep-fried.

Restaurant Review Michi

Despite a few minor misses, I found Michi a refreshing addition to the strip and feel as though their “method” is striving for more than just another Japanese bento box restaurant. With gourmet fresh cuts and unique takes on some dishes, I feel as though Michi can beat the jinx.

Restaurant Review Michi

Lunch specials available.

Sushi: A Cultural Representation

Despite my half Japanese background, I only discovered sushi in my early twenties.  Recently, I traveled to Japan where I truly gained an appreciation for the cuisine and now I believe I will never tire of the endless combinations of rice, fish and seaweed.   Why do I love sushi? Trying to pinpoint any reason of taste is difficult.  This is because flavour is only one of the elements.  Sushi also represents culture and ritual through colour, balance and texture, and it is meant to engage not only your palette but to be “eaten by the eyes.”

The definition of sushi is “to sour,”  referring to the origins of the preparation method.  Traditionally, 1300 years ago, salted raw fish would ferment in between layers of rice.  Decades later, vinegar replaced the fermentation process and the resulting sour taste is closer to the sushi we eat today.

The three basic types of sushi are nigiri sushi, vinegar rice formed into a long box shape topped with raw fish; sashimi, sliced raw fish; and maki, sushi rolled inside or around pressed, dried layers of nori (seaweed).

Rice and fish are an integral part of Japanese culture, with rice considered a sacred food and where approximately 3000 different kinds of fish are consumed each day.  The waters around Japan are world famous fishing grounds and the Japanese take full advantage of their fresh, local produce. Rice and fish have been staples in their diet for centuries, and with such a strong appreciation for their food, the preparation of ingredients becomes as important as the final presentation.

Like in Japanese art and architecture, discipline, balance and elegance are represented in their cuisine.  To begin making sushi, the cooked rice is transferred to a wooden tub with sugar, rice vinegar and salt, and then fanned to a precise temperature.  The vinegar breaks down the stickiness of the rice and dissolves the sugar, which in turn coats the rice to become sticky again .  The amount of sugar controls the sour taste, while toppings, or “gu,” such as wasabi, nori, fukube (gourds) and pickled vegetables, provide balance for what the Japanese believe are the other four tastes to a balanced diet — hot, salty, sweet and bitter .  Other gu, such as Japanese cucumber, are used in maki to bring a firm, crisp texture, while colourful carrots and snow peas brighten the roll.  These contrasting textures, colours and flavours are elements that must be balanced in each dish.

How the sushi is consumed is an important process. When eating multiple plates of sashimi if moved must be returned to the exact same position on the table, showing respect for the chef.  When eating nigiri sushi, the leaner cuts of fish such as hirame or kasugo must be consumed first to keep a sharp palate, leaving fattier fish such as salmon for the end, as the rich fat globules will stick to the tongue and soften the taste buds.  Nigiri is always presented in twos for an aesthetically balanced presentation.

As the number of sushi restaurants continues to rise across North America, we must keep in mind that sushi is more than the popular California rolls & maki.  I only began to understand the subtleties of a great sushi meal after one particularly delicious spread in Hakone, Japan.  There was such care and discipline behind my meal, that I took a moment to sit back and take in the presentation, slowly absorb the tastes and textures and only then did I fully appreciate the origins of sushi.

Zschock, Day. The Little Black Book of Sushi: The Essential Guide to the World of Sushi. Page 8.Peter Pauper Press. 2005 Wikipedia http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sushi Zschock, Day. The Little Black Book of Sushi: The Essential Guide to the World of Sushi. Page 13.Peter Pauper Press. 2005 Zschock, Day. The Little Black Book of Sushi: The Essential Guide to the World of Sushi. Page 22.Peter Pauper Press. 2005 Lowry, Dave. The Connoisseur’s Guide to Sushi: Everything You Need To Know About Sushi. Page 4. The Harvard Common Press. 2005 Lowry, Dave. The Connoisseur’s Guide to Sushi: Everything You Need To Know About Sushi. Page 4. The Harvard Common Press. 2005 Lowry, Dave. The Connoisseur’s Guide to Sushi: Everything You Need To Know About Sushi. Page 267. The Harvard Common Press. 2005