I’m not really big on making desserts, or sweet stuff, in general.
Periodically though, I will get into making a treat now and then. Then recently, I had a meal over at Asian Gourmet in Concord, MA which featured ‘tofu pudding’ in ginger syrup as a dessert offering. As a result of having that tofu dessert, I thought it might be fun to make the “Yuzu Soup” from Nobu Now. The soup seemed pretty straight forward 6 3/4oz both of yuzu juice and ‘mineral water’. When I saw the ‘mineral water’, I went ‘hmmmm…. want to bet that’s the FIJI brand?’ So on Sun, 18 March 2012, I ran out to get the small 6 pack of FIJI water (each bottle was a pint) and bottled yuzu juice over at HMart, Burlington. I must say, I was startled by the 5 1/4 oz of sugar that was in the recipe, not to mention the addition of kuzu starch – that
suggested to me that the ‘soup’ was more like a thickened syrup. So in place of the apricot ice cream, I thought about substituting in a commercial ‘tofu pudding’ from Hong Kong Market (Packards Corner, Boston) and then adding in canteloupe, honeydew, watermelon and mango. I’d also be dropping the winter melon compote altogether.
In making the soup, I thought I’d start by melting the sugar in the FIJI water and then adding in the yuzu juice once the sugar had dissolved. The recipe also called for 2 tablespoons each of the Matsuhisa Chardonnay and sake. Knowing the Matsuhisa relies on the Martin Ray Winery for its cabernet sauvignon and chardonnay, I looked around and made some calls. Unfortunately, I couldn’t get the Martin Ray Chardonnay, but Kim over at Martignetti Liquors, Brighton suggested Martin Ray’s Angeline Chardonnay with the sense that it might have nearly the same flavor profile for the dessert. For the sake, I would be using the Wakatake Onigoroshi.
So my wife and I thought we’d have the dessert this past Tuesday (27 Mar 2012) night. She volunteered to help out by making yuzu/Fiji water/sugar base, let it cool and then store it in the refridgerator on Monday the 26th. I had mentioned to my wife that I was suspicious of the 5 1/4 oz of sugar listed in the recipe, so I mentioned to her that she might want to taste the soup base as she was adding the sugar. In the end, she mentioned that she’d stopped at about 6 tablespoons – that suggested to me that there might be a misprint in the book and that the 5 1/4 oz might actually be 5 1/4 tablespoons.
When I got home, I weighed out 3/4 oz of kuzu starch and the crushed/powdered the starch. On
re-measuring, I found out that the 3/4 oz was about 3 tablespoons + 1 teaspoon. I got the
yuzu/sugar/FIJI water base back onto the stove and warmed it on 50% power (medium) heat and added the kuzu to the soup base. The soup quickly thickened within a minute (just like the recipe listing mentioned) and the color went from a lemony yellow to an almost light creamy yellow.
The recipe indicated that the soup needed to be strained and looking at the soup, I could see why –
even through I did a good job in gradually blending in the kuzu starch, I could still see whitish clumps. So I strained it into a bowl so that it was nice and smooth and set it aside to cool. Once the
yuzu ‘soup’ had cooled, I moved it to a glass storage container and put it into the refridgerator to chill overnight. All that was left was to add two tablespoons + two teaspoons of the chardonnay and 2 tablespoons of the sake. The final steps would be to portion out some unsweetened ‘tofu pudding’ and some fruit and then pour the ‘soup’ over the tofu and fruit to serve.
On the way home (on the 27th), I stopped by Whole Foods to pick up some suggested fruit for the dessert. So I got pre-cut mango, canteloupe, honey dew and watermelon.
Earlier in the week, I had ran over to Hong Kong Market in Allston to pick up the unsweetened tofu pudding (made by the local Chang Shing Tofu Co.).
After dinner on the 27th, when I got the yuzu soup out of the refridgerator, I noticed it had the consistency of loose jello, so I ran it once more through the strainer. Once the soup was ‘smooth’ again, I added the chardonnay and the sake and mixed it in as evenly as I could. Now it was just a matter of assembling the dessert. So my wife placed an assortment of fruit on one side of the bowls and a portion of the tofu pudding on the other side.
With the non-soup elements in the bowl, it was now a matter of moving an equal portion of the yuzu soup to both bowls…
…and then serving the dessert.
Tasting the dessert, we both definitely got the alcoholic tingle from the charddonay and sake in the dessert and a definite citrus tartness from the yuzu. The tartness did serve as a good counterbalance to the sweetness of the ripe mango and other fruits. I do have to wonder if the 5 1/4 oz (10 tablespoons+1 1/2 teaspoons) of sugar listed was a bit much relative to the apricot ice cream originally part of the recipe.
Update: So I called Matsuhisa, LA @ 4pm EDT 1 April 2012 and had brief conversation with Pastry/Dessert Chef Kei Hasegawa. Chef Hasegawa indicated that the Yuzu Soup did not originate at Matsuhisa, LA and was likely created at one of the other Nobu restaurants. However, Chef Hasegawa was helpful and expressed his opinion that the amount of sugar as listed in the recipe would seem to make the soup uncomfortably sweet. Chef Hasegawa encouraged me to retry the recipe and to try to ‘tune’ the amount of sugar that I thought would make the soup’s sweetness level ‘comfortable’.
As to the amount of kuzu – Chef Hasegawa was of the opinion that the amount in the recipe was excessive and suggested it was between 1 and 2 tablespoons and not the 3 that I had encountered after crushing powdering the kuzu fragments. Chef Hasegawa highlighted one other technical bit of information – once the kuzu was in the soup, the whole mixture should be brought to a boil and then immediately taken off from the heat source to cool. Leaving a yuzu/kuzu solution to applied heat might also result in the ‘jello-like’ texture of the yuzu mixture.
Chef Hasegawa, thank you so much for taking the time to answer my questions about this dessert. I will be trying this again in the very near future and I will place updates here regarding the recipe adjustments.