Local Produce into Japanese Cooking and Gomadofu

Posted on May 23, 2013 in Hiroko's Blog

Thank your for Greenmarkets for organizing the Greenmarkets Educated-eater-international-cuisine-local-ingredients Event at International Culinary Center. Participating panelists were Romy Dorotan of Purple Yam, Carl Christian Frederiksen of Aammans and Hiroko Shimbo of Hiroko’s Kitchen. As an ethnic chef, each of us talked about how to incorporate local, seasonal ingredients from Greenmarket into our own businesses.

Each chef offered a sample tasting dish to the audience during the event using the produce from the greenmarket. My early morning trip on the day of the event to greenmarket at Union Square found me asparagus – coming to quite end of the season -, new baby beets and new baby turnips. They were perfect for what I was planning to create in terms of seasonal flavor and color in the dish. I also bought local, free-range and antibiotics free eggs. I needed to add yellow color in my dish.

I cooked asparagus in the traditional method – kuzu dofu. The traditional recipe, Gomadofu, uses kelp stock, sesame paste and kuzu (arrowroot starch) – you can find this traditional recipe in The Japanese Kitchen, page 179. To prepare this dish we cook the mixture in a pot for half an hour. Half an hour stirring the hot pot sounds a torture or too much labor to many people today, because we live in a society which demands quick and easy fix. Gomadofu was developed at Zen Buddhist temple over 800 years ago. For monks who prepare this delicious and nourishing dish for their fellow monks time spent in the kitchen means practicing meditation. The more stir the pot, the more the monks get calmer and clear. We may get the opposite reaction from doing it – the more we stir the pot, we get more frustrated, bored and agitated! We can fix this attitude by making Gomadofu with Zen Buddhist monks’ approach.

Turnip: I peeled the turnip carefully, parboil them in water (to remove harshness), change the water to cook them until crisp-tender and marinate them in the flavored dashi – another very standard method to prepare vegetables in the Japanese way. Beets: I deep-fried as in tempura. Egg: I made scrumbled egg (Japanese method does not use oil) and sifted through a fine sieve. The color which I was looking for in my dish was the color which impress us early spring in the country. White flower of dogwood, yellow flower of forcetia, purplish red flower of …..(I just cannot find the name of this tree!) and tender green of grass and tree leaves.

On my next blog I will write you more about asparagus kuzu preparation.