Saturday, October 31, 2009

Kakitama-jiru (clear soup with swirling yuba eggs)

One last October Japanese dish. This was inspired by the kakitama-jiru in Kimiko Barber's The Japanese Kitchen. You may recall that after I made the crisp yuba rolls from The Artful Vegan, I had some yuba trimmings left over, and that I had briefly experimented with texture changes by soaking them in water. This gave me an idea for an adaptation of a wonderful soup. Originally, you make this soup by creating a light dashi broth seasoned with a little sake, mirin, and soy sauce to taste, adding mushrooms (I used oyster and enoki and a few of the ever-present shiitake from making dashi), then pouring a beaten egg in through a strainer and stirring things around a bit so that the egg cooks into beautiful airy strands in the hot soup.

Anyway, the strips of fresh yuba make a soft, pale, lovely, and in my opinion quite comparable replacement for the egg; in fact, my picture is remarkably like the one in Kimiko Barber's book (though she has a very kewl spoon, silver with a bowl made from half a shell). The leftover yuba bits were in various shapes, so I rolled them up into a tight roll, which I then sliced finely, so the yuba came out in very fine long shreds, which I added to the soup along with the mushrooms. Now this was an inspiration, one that I would encourage everyone to try, if for no other reason that that it is so extremely easy and tasty.

So October is over, and with it my VeganMoFo 2009 Japanese challenge. Was it fun? Yes! Absolutely, and I have to thank everyone who has left comments on these posts: they were so encouraging!

Since no one's here to debrief me at the moment, let me debrief myself.

Was it all as effortless as you made it look?

Are you joking? I really knew next to nothing about Japanese cooking when I started, so far more time was spent researching and poring over recipe books and websites than I actually spent cooking and writing up the posts.

What did you like best about the Japanese dishes you made?

I have to say the requirement for attention to detail. Everything has to be just right—cooked just to the right texture and temperature, coordinated with everything else as to taste and appearance, and served attractively. By no means did I succeed every time, but the practice was invaluable.

What did you like least?

The sweetness. It's no wonder that there isn't really a concept of dessert in traditional Japanese cooking, since the main dishes are so often seasoned with mirin or sugar. It's refreshing at first, but then you need to balance it out. I think that's where the huge range of Japanese pickles comes in, which I, unfortunately, hardly did more than sample.

What did you miss most?

Bread! Oh, bread! And whole grains generally. I didn't realize how fiber-rich my diet had been until suddenly I was eating all this white rice and white pasta and feeling the need for something more substantial and wholesome. I admit I did sneak whole wheat pasta into my lunches now and again. Also, it was torture reading some of the other MoFo posts and wanting to make what they were having, but being under restrictions. I guess that's why there's a November ;-)

What was your favourite of all the things you made in October?

That's tough. Most of the dishes I tried I really liked, or at least they had some sort of an educational component that I appreciated. Nishime stands out, and just for weird and wonderful vegan adaptations, I would say the second thing I tried, the "braised omelet" donburi. For pure fun deliciousness, the gyoza (both kinds).

Least favourite?

The noodle cakes in my Cooking from ingredients post. Because for me the seaweed just wrecked what should have been a great noodle cake. The saddest thing about this month is that I never did develop a taste for wakame. The kombu taste in dashi, yes—I even got so I could tell the difference between several kinds of kombu. But wakame, not at all.

Neat stuff you had seldom or never tried before but which will become regular pantry items?

Lotus root
Shichimi togarashi
Mirin (the alcoholic kind for soups and so on, and the non-alcoholic kind as an affordable quite tasty replacement for brown rice syrup/agave nectar/corn syrup/honey, etc.)
Beech and king oyster mushrooms
Pea shoots
Abura age (fried tofu, as an ingredient in soups and stews)

Recipes you'll be making again and again?

Miso soup
Clear soup (like the kind at the top of this post)
Japanese-type "arranged" soups and stews generally
Scrambled "eggs" with tofu
that fantastic nishime
and, of course, sushi

Did you lose weight?

I gained a little weight, my friends, but I blogged pretty much everything I ate, and think the gain was more because I spent so much time researching that I had (much) less time for exercise than because of anything in the actual food.

So, thank you for hanging out with me! The Airy Way now returns to its regularly scheduled programming—except there's a special on later today, though I might not be able to blog it until Sunday because of Halloween and all: my sister and I, as we have every year for almost a decade, are making our own soap…


  1. Great final Post!! Congratulations on sticking it out for the whole month. I'm really looking forward to Xmas Eve Sushi dinner, now that you will be "assisting"!

  2. Congratulations! This was no easy feet.