Jeff & Linda's Kitchen of Diversity
Carrot & Daikon Salad and Pickled Ginger
Bentō usually contains various vinegared foods or sunomono (酢の物) in which raw or cooked vegetables and fruits (or other foods) are dressed in a thin rice vinegar-based sauce. It is important to use rice vinegar for these dishes as it has a mild taste that will not overwhelm the main ingredients, yet has more flavor than distilled white vinegar. We’ll make a total of three sunomono for our spring bentō: two based on crops that have been held for the winter in the root cellar, and one based on fresh spring greens. Today we’ll focus on the root crop sunomono.
A major goal of any Japanese meal (and bentō in particular) is that it be as beautiful to look at as it is to eat. Thus, there should be an array of colors and textures present in the various nibbles. The carrot and daikon salad is stunning in with its deep orange and white matchsticks, interspersed with bits of dried apricot, and is wonderfully crunchy. It tastes great, too.
Carrot and Daikon Salad (なますor Namasu)
1 medium carrot, peeled and cut into matchsticks
½ pound daikon radish, peeled and cut into matchsticks
¼ cup slivered dried apricots
3 tablespoons rice vinegar
1½ tablespoons sugar
1 tablespoon mirin
½ teaspoon grated lemon peel
½ teaspoon salt
Place prepared carrot, daikon, and apricots into a bowl. In a small jar mix together the remaining ingredients and when everything is dissolved pour over the carrot/daikon/apricot mixture. Toss well and refrigerate at least 30 minutes. Before placing into your bentō box, let portions drain to remove excess dressing.
While cutting the carrot and daikon into matchsticks can be done by hand, it is an excellent job for a mandolin using the julienne plate. If you don’t own one, you should consider getting one for your kitchen: we bought ours for only a dollar at a second-hand store.
Next, we’ll make pickled ginger, the ubiquitous condiment served in sushi restaurants. It is a wonderful palate-cleanser, making it possible to switch between various foods and be able to fully appreciate the flavors of each. While most have probably only tried pickled ginger from the store, it is easy to make at home, and wow -- does the home made pack a much stronger ginger punch! You probably will never buy this again.
Pickled Ginger (ガリor Gari)
1/3 pound ginger root
1/3 cup rice vinegar
¼ cup sugar
1/3 teaspoon salt
3-4 dark red shiso leaves
Scrape the brown skin off the ginger roots using a spoon. Shave into paper-thin slices using a mandolin or a sharp knife. Blanch in boiling water for 30 seconds; drain.
Mix together the vinegar, sugar and salt until everything is dissolved. Shred the shiso leaves. Put the blanched ginger, shredded shiso, and vinegar dressing into a ½ pint canning jar. Cap and shake vigorously. Refrigerate. The ginger slices can be eaten after 24 hours, but will improve and turn a deeper pink over the next week or three.
Shaving the ginger into thin sheets really can’t be done by hand -- although you can try. You are better off using a mandoline if you have one.
We recommend you grow your own shiso (for the pink color of the pickled ginger), carrots (try a Japanese variety like Kuroda Long 8), and daikon (try Minowase or Miyashige) to make these dishes as fresh tasting and flavorful as possible.