Nobu Miami Branzino Tempura With Florida Amazu Sauce

A couple of months ago I took an interest on trying Nobu Miami’s Branzino Tempura With Florida Amazu (p. 95, 96).  From past experience, making the branzino tempura itself wasn’t a big deal.  However, making the sauce was a surprise.  Both my wife and I felt the sauce was way too sweet; we actually wondered if this was a type of sweet and sour sauce.  After a couple of phone calls, I had the privilege to begin an email conversation with Chef Buckley – co-author of Nobu Miami: The Party Cookbook.  After explaining my situation with Chef Buckley, he graciously provided the ‘original Florida Amazu’ recipe from the restaurant ‘notebook’.

The original recipe specified (with the implied microbatch version):
*   1000 ml minneola juice  implying 5 ml implies 25 ml or 5 tsp implying 1 Tbls + 2 tsp
*     200 ml usukuchi soy     implying 1 ml implying   5 ml or 1 tsp
*     600 ml amazu                implying 3 ml implying 15 ml or 3 tsp implying 1 Tbls
(ml to tsp conversion taken from Nobu: The Cookbook, p. 20) So the microbatch yield was 3 Tbls of sauce.

The microbatch amazu recipe based on Nobu Miami: The Party Cookbook (p. 183)  turns out to be:
1 T rice vinegar
1 t + 1/2 t + 1/2 t + 1/4 t  (or 2 1/4 t) sugar
1/4 t + 1/16 t salt
whose yield is 1 T + 2 t + 1/2 t + 1/16 t= 1 T + 2 t + 9/16 t amazu

The key observation here is that there was 2 1/4 t sugar in the microbatch as compared to the 3 Tbls of sugar listed in the actual Florida Amazu (p. 96).  My sense is that it’s possible that there was a typo since the 2 9/16 tsp sugar approached 3 tsp sugar.  So instead of the actual 1 Tbls of sugar, 3 t sugar might have been typo’d as 3 Tbls.

So imagine my pleasant surprise when I discovered Whole Foods in my area were selling mineola oranges/tangerines this

mineola's at market

mineola’s at market

a mineola brought home

a mineola brought home

past weekend.  Now I had another chance to try the recipe.  Juicing a nice mineola yielded about 1/3 cup of filtered juice

Preparing to get some mineola juice

Preparing to get some mineola juice

Since the microbatch had a yield of 3 Tbls, I chose to double the receipe for myself and my wife.  So I needed to make:

juiced mineola with pulp

juiced mineola with pulp

Nobu Miami Amazu
2 T rice vinegar
1 T + 1 1/2 t sugar
1/2 t + 1/8 t salt

1/3 cup of filtered juice for the sauce

1/3 cup of filtered juice for the sauce

Nobu Miami Florida Amazu
3 T + 1 t mineola juice
2 t usukuchi soy
2 T amazu

So I began to assemble the sauce before dinner. I got the seasoning cast of characters together –

Mineola juice, usukuchi soy, sugar, rice vinegar and salt

Mineola juice, usukuchi soy, sugar, rice vinegar and salt

The amazu base would be the sugar, vinegar and salt, the rest of the sauce ingredients would just be the usukuchi soy sauce and mineola juice.   So I started with the amazu base by measuring out the sugar and salt

sweetness for the amazu

sweetness for the amazu

and then measured out 2 Tbls of rice vinegar

salt brightness

salt brightness

and got them into a warm preheated saucepot to quickly dissolve the dry ingredients

all the amazu ingredients in a medium hot sauce pot to quickly dissolve the salt and sugar with the 2 T of vinegar

all the amazu ingredients in a medium hot sauce pot to quickly dissolve the salt and sugar with the 2 T of vinegar

with the vinegar to complete the amazu.  Then it was just a matter of measuring out the light soy sauce and then

Measuring out the light soy sauce

Measuring out the light soy sauce

blending in the mineola juice

The addition of mineola juice to the usukuchi soy sauce

The addition of mineola juice to the usukuchi soy sauce

and then adding in the appropriate amount of amazu to finish the sauce.

The finished sauce!

The finished sauce!

Now it was just a matter of making the vodka tempura batter which was just

3/4 c all purpose flour
1 egg yolk (large)
200 ml (about 1 cup) ice cold (Absolut) vodka

While the recipe calls for 1 1/3 lb of whole branzino, I got 4 filets totaling about 1 lb from my local Whole Foods which

16 pieces of branzino filet shake-n-baked in 6 tablespoons of flour with 1 teaspoon 4:1 salt/pepper mix

16 pieces of branzino filet shake-n-baked in 6 tablespoons of flour with 1 teaspoon 4:1 salt/pepper mix

I cut into 16 pieces (a bit more than called for in the recipe).  I know the recipe said to dredge the pieces of fish, but I thought I would be ok to ‘shake-n-bake’ it.

3/4 cup organic unbleached white all purpose flour

3/4 cup organic unbleached white all purpose flour for tempura batter

Once I got the fish ‘dredged’ in the flour, I started making the batter.

a separated egg yolk for the batter

a separated egg yolk for the batter

I measured out the flour, separated an egg yolk, measured out some ice cold Absolut

a cup of ice cold Absolut vodka

a cup of ice cold Absolut vodka

and then quickly mixed the batter with chopsticks – making sure not to over mix it.

tempura batter mixed using the chopsticks ("don't over mix!")

tempura batter mixed using the chopsticks (“don’t over mix!”)

Once I got the batter done, my spouse wanted to do the deep frying since she’s done a lot of tonkatsu and thought she could do

cooking the branzino tempura at medium heat at about 5 mins

cooking the branzino tempura in grapeseed oil at medium heat at about 5 mins

a good job of cooking it.  I stood by and recorded that, for us, it took about 5 minutes to get it nice and crisp with the right color at 50% max heat on our stove. By the way – my wife really makes a mean tonkatsu.

Branzino tempura with florida amazu dipping cups, fresh shredded lettuce, grilled asparagus/carrots, fresh mixed cherry tomatoes

Branzino tempura with florida amazu sauce dipping cups, fresh shredded lettuce, grilled asparagus/carrots, fresh mixed cherry tomatoes

While we didn’t garnish the dish with thinly shredded red onion, thinly sliced serrano and cilantro, we did have grilled asparagus and carrots as well as the Florida Amazu sauce.  While I presented the fried branzino on tempura paper, I had been thinking about serving the tempura on shredded lettuce.  Both my wife and I put out a bowl of shredded lettuce almost as a palate refresher.  On tasting the branzino tempura, my wife and both thought the sauce pairing gave it a wonderful fragrance and an acidic sweetness to provided a balanced contrast the lightly salted fried richness of the fish.  The next time I do a version of this dish, I’ll have to remember to provide some fresh shredded red onion.

Chef Buckley thank you so much – I’m grateful for your help and guidance in making this dish.  Thank you Matsuhisa-sama for sharing the recipe.

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