Sunday, September 28, 2008

Bento- Beef, pork, salmon

I am nineteen now. Just one more to the big 20. But I guess it is only after you're past the 21, you can call yourself a grown-up and watch the really R-rated films without guilt.

Stella and I went to Samurai (japanese restaurant) at Balmain on my birthday night. It was a lovely meal with good ambience. To make it sweeter, I didn't have to pay for it. HAHA! I didn't have to pay for anything much this whole week! HAHA! Owell, thank you Stella for your generosity!

The mopping around and feeling downright awful moments have passed. Thanks guys for your inspiring advice. Kim and Angel and my mum especially. Merci beaucoup! I will keep this phrase in my heart always: 作一个好的 Chef 要有好的修养.

I have learnt something new in the cookbook I recently acquired- Morimoto- The New Art of Japanese Cooking. Umami, according to Morimoto-san, refers to a less tangible quality that enhances other flavours. It is felt rather than tasted. I think this is a super-cool concept, that flavours are not only restrained to your tastebuds. In Japanese cooking, dashi stock is used to create that umami taste. The Japanese add dashi stock to everything, tamago, marinates, miso soup etc. And guess what, dashi is the original MSG (Monosodium Glutamate). It is because kombu, one of the main ingredients of dashi, contains a large amount of naturally occurring free glutamates. The other part of dashi, katsuobushi (bonito), contributes sodium inosinate, which is another naturally occuring substance associated with umami. Hence, when kombu and bonito is boiled together, they become a powerful flavour enhancer called dashi.

I find this new piece of knowledge quite fascinating. In fact, I tried to recreate it in my bento, though entirely without the dashi stock. I experimented with tamago (sweetened omelette). Monday's bento has fried crumbed beef, asparagus and tamago. The beef was stewed first in a mixture of soy sauce, mirin and sugar, before frying it with bread crumbs. The stew that was used to cook the beef was then added to the eggs to make the tamago. I wanted the beef flavour to be imprinted onto the tamago, though not so overpowering that it can be tasted, just subtle enough that it can be felt. When eaten together, the tamago acts as a complement to the beef, enhancing the flavour of the beef, hypothetically speaking. The actual result is pleasing but I don't think Stella can feel the beef flavour in the tamago though she does think that the tamago taste very good. And all the frying tend to draw moisture out, hence the beef turned out to be a little dry. haha.

Tuesday's bento. I made riceballs with sprouted green beans and mince pork. Tamago was leftover from the day before and some pickled carrots and asparagus to freshen the palette.

Wednesday's bento. I experimented with tamago again. I marinated salmon fillet in soy sauce, mirin and sugar mix the night before and I used the marinate in the tamago. I think marinate works better since it gives a stronger presence in the tamago. I still didn't taste salmon in the tamago but the tamago did taste better and more complementary to the grilled salmon compared to Monday's bento. Paired with green bean rice and pickles. Roasted sesame seeds does give a pleasing visual effect doesn't it?


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