Hoba-yaki is a dish, in which scallion slices and mushrooms are cooked together over a charcoal fire on the bed of flavored, simple miso sauce placed that are placed on a dried hoba (magnolia) leaf. In the past in the mountainous, rural areas where not many cooking tools were available, this preparation was born. The leaf was used as a cooking vessel. Since the leaf has antiseptic property, the use of leaf in the kitchen was win-win situation. Of course, the leaf must be far enough from the charcoal so that it does not burn or ignite. Anyway, dried hoba leaf is very arty.
Times have changed. Today artistic presentations using hoba leves can be very attractive for diners, so this once-humble dish has adopted by high-end restaurant kitchens. At these venues’ chefs devise more creative version of the sauces and use expensive and varied ingredients such as the combination of wagyu beef and mushrooms, seasonal seafood with vegetables and briefly seared chicken with scallions. The resulting dishes are sensational to see and are delicious.
If you are using the hoba leaves, please do not forget to soak them in water before using in order to prevent burning and ignition.
Recently I found a fresh, very attractive, deep-green fig leaf at Union Square Farmers’ Market in NYC. The leave has five large pointed lobes and resembles a giant maple leaf. The vendor’s sign says that the leaf has anti-diabetic property. After carrying them back to my kitchen, I washed them and divided them into two piles; one for fresh use and the other for drying.
I used the fresh leaf to present cooked food items on top of the leaves. Does this configuration contribute to our health, especially the problem of diabetes? I can’t say that I really have any further information about this.
One-week dried leaves are sitting on the kitchen counter. They will have to wait for my return from Japan at the end of this month. I am leaving for Japan tomorrow, July 7, to lead my tour, Kyushu with Hiroko 2018. So at that point they will be 5 weeks-dried leaves. Please follow the tour on Instagram; and you will enjoy what you see and you may want to join me with others for Kyushu with Hiroko 2019!