stewed daikon

January 14, 2016 § 1 Comment

Like any other folks out there who have been in this industry for donkey years, we all meet people from various backgrounds. And by various, I mean a heterogeneous collection of eccentric or nonconformist individuals from all across the globe. They cross paths with you not simply because they wanted to be exactly where you met them, but due to grand leap of faith they took, to be where they were/are.

Nevertheless, there are far and few who know very precisely what they are doing and where the path they walk leads to.

If you happen to follow them, the road less taken is certainly more exciting than promising & rewarding than reassuring. These individuals, have ideologies and philosophical values that translate into food. Food that speaks their language despite if those were their first few words they spoke growing up. Cooking that gave them life because they experienced the emotions that went through making a meal/dish. Meals that gave them intimacy yet acceptance with everyone around them because where everyone comes from does not really matter as long as you enjoy the conversations at the dinner table during a staff meal and pull through service together.

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The last three days in a new kitchen was interesting. New faces, different menu, fun techniques, and quirky conversations. Yet it felt like home. The daily run to the wet market but at a fair distance away from the restaurant. New fresh seafood and greener produce to play around with. Larger. Dynamic. Yet, also familiar.

As Chef M said:” if there is one thing you need to learn in Hong Kong market is that they will always say that everything is good for soup. This, soup. That, soup!”

The Cantonese love their soups until their hearts bend. So that’s what we have had for every staff meals, soup. Cabbage pork soup. Spicy chicken soup. Fish tofu soup. Curry soup.

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It certainly brought me back to a spring Tokyo. When the air is still crisp and cool, perfect for a warm broth under the sunny daylight. But when night falls, and with the full moon up, we often found ourselves sniggering into eateries with scent of dashi stock perfuming from the entrance. A force of attraction with a deep iron or aluminum pot that comes up to my waist, seems to stew up the best umami slurping soup. It is filled with hours of patience and wisdom. Subtle to the taste but unforgettably heartwarming.

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My last trip to Hong Kong was short and very sweet. Not only did it allowed me to reconnect the dots with the previous Japan trip, but also open a whole new opportunity to learning a different cuisine and (crazy) crew. Coming back to Singapore, I could not stop thinking about the fresh ingredients at the wet markets. Despite falling ill upon arrival, I insisted on grocery shopping and picked out a large white radish (daikon) to continue my little culinary experiment in the kitchen.

This perhaps isn’t the most authentic way to do so but if you are trying out for the very first time, I assure you that it will promise a decent side dish to your soba or udon bowl.

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Stewed daikon

1 large daikon, skinned, sliced 8-10 cm long
a handful of white rice
bowl full of ice cold water

5 cm kombu (kelp)
3 cups of water

marinating sauce
3 tbsp of usukuchi (light soy sauce)
1 tbsp of sesame oil
pinch of shichimi or a light crack of black pepper

1. Blanched the daikon in pot of boiling hot water with white rice. After 4-5 minutes, dip into ice cold water.

2. In a deeper pot, place kombu and water, add in the daikon. Let it come to a roaring boil, then simmer it for at least 1 1/2 hours or until a pairing knife tips goes through the daikon effortlessly.

3. Let it cool completely in the stock. This might take the whole day or best let it sit overnight at the cool place on the kitchen top.

4. Once the daikon ready, transfer them on a kitchen towel or cheese cloth. Pat them dry.

5. In a medium small mixing bowl, whisk usukuchi, sesame oil and shichimi. Gently place daikon, spoon the sauce over them evenly and over it with a cling wrap for at least 30 minutes.

5. Serve it is or add a little bit more usukuchi, or chili oil/sesame seeds/grated horseradish to your pleasure.

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