A few years ago, I’d gotten a copy of Yoshihiro Murata’s Kikunoi: The Exquisite Cuisine Of Kyoto’s Kikunoi Restaurant. I wish I’d known about the restaurant when I visited Kyoto back in 1988. Not knowing when I’d get the chance to revisit Japan, I thought I’d try to do a few dishes from his book while visiting my folks for the holidays. I thought I’d begin with Kikunoi’s Komochi Ayu With Sweetened Walnuts (p. 108/178). The online version of the recipe can be found here:
I thought I’d do a variation by using mackerel instead of ayu since Murata-san comments: “…I…serve the ayu…with sweetened walnuts, whose tannins cut the richness of the fish.” I didn’t have access to ayu; Mitsuwa Edgewater didn’t have it available, so I chose to do a salt grilled mackerel (saba shioyaki) which had a similar richness/succulence. While cooking the fish is pretty straightforward, making the walnuts was a little different matter. Basically, the walnuts were to be deep fried and then coated with a syrup made from sake, regular soy sauce, usukuchi soy sauce, sugar and mizuame millet syrup. I really didn’t want to deep fry the walnuts. So http://www.walnuts.org/all-recipes/toasted-walnuts/ suggested an alternative –
Baking: Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Arrange walnuts on a cookie sheet in a single layer. Bake 8 to 10 minutes, checking frequently.
Stovetop: Cook walnuts in a skillet at medium-high heat for 3-5 minutes, stirring frequently.
Note: Walnuts can be toasted dry or with a dash of oil.
This seemed a much neater way to deal with the walnuts. It seemed to me that the amount of syrup was prohibitive and the addition of mizuame might make it too sweet. So I dropped the mizuame and opted to make about a quarter amount of the syrup. I would bring together –
1 cup sake
2 Tablespoons regular soy sauce
1 1/2 teaspoons usukuchi soy sauce
4 1/2 teaspoons sugar
The instructions for the syrup are the evaporate the alcohol from the sake and then combine the rest
of the ingredients. At that point, the mixture just need to simmer and reduce to a syrup. All that
would be left to do would be to toss/coat the walnuts with the syrup.
Finally, I also decided to add blanched snow peas, much in the manner they accompany Murata-san’s
rich ‘Kamo-Rosu’ (Chilled Roast Duck Breast, taro stems, snow peas [p.81/172-173]).
My folks were slightly unsure about the pairing of the walnuts with the mackerel. But once they tried the fish with some alternating bites of the walnuts, everyone thought it was a nice contrast to richness of the mackerel and the vegetal freshness of the snow peas. I’m looking forward to trying this dish again, especially if I can get my hands on fresh ayu.