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OISHII / Sour and spice and all things nice for summer

The Yomiuri Shimbun

Stir-fried chicken breast and cucumber with umeboshi

The Yomiuri ShimbunChicken, cucumber and umeboshi stir-fry

In this column, chefs and cooking experts share recipes that are easy to prepare at home.

In hot and humid weather, people tend to seek out dishes with sour or spicy flavors.

Hatsue Shigenobu, a cooking instructor, introduces a dish in which chicken breast and cucumber are stir-fried with umeboshi pickled plum and young ginger (also known as summer ginger), which will soon be coming into season.

It is as much the aroma of the cucumber as the taste that gives the refreshing flavors of this dish a boost, stimulating the appetite.

“Both chicken breast and cucumber are foods with refreshing tastes. So they are well suited for this season,” Shigenobu said.

Naganegi green onions and shimeji mushrooms are also used in this dish.

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    Umeboshi marinade

If you feel the chicken breast is too fatty, trim the fat. If you prefer it even leaner, you can remove all of the skin.

“However, the leaner a chicken breast is, the drier it tends to become. You can make it tastier by rubbing katakuriko starch into the meat to give it a smooth texture,” she said.

Peel uneven strips from the skin of the cucumbers. This allows the cucumber to absorb the seasonings easily while still retaining a crunchy texture — it also improves the appearance of the dish.

Scrape the cucumber seeds out firmly with a spoon. If any seeds remain, the texture will soften when it is stir-fried.

Cut the cucumbers diagonally into 2-centimeter pieces.

“If the pieces are too thin, they lose their firmness after frying,” she said.

After removing its pit, mince an umeboshi roughly with the blade of a kitchen knife. Because ginger has a strong flavor, slice it thinly into almost transparent pieces to make it easier to eat.

When starting the stir-frying, add the ginger first so that the flavor seeps into the oil. The main point to remember is to not fry the ingredients too much.

“Excessively stir-frying makes the umeboshi turn a brownish color and the cucumber lose its color,” she said.

If you use a type of umeboshi with reduced salt, slightly increase the amount of salt added.

When the dish is fresh out of the frying pan, the cucumber is particularly aromatic.

Try to eat as many of the ingredients as possible in each mouthful to fully appreciate the depth of flavor in the sour and spicy summer dish.

The crunchy texture of the cucumber together with the lean chicken breast pieces combine to create an appetizing meal.

Recipe for stir-fried chicken breast and cucumber with umeboshi

Ingredients (serves 2):

200 grams chicken breast

2 cucumbers

½ naganegi long onion

100 grams shimeji mushrooms

1 umeboshi plum

30 grams young ginger (or 10 grams ordinary ginger)

katakuriko potato starch

sake

Directions

1. Cut off both ends of the cucumbers. Peel to give them a striped appearance and cut in half lengthwise. Remove seeds and slice diagonally into 2-centimeter-wide pieces. Cut naganegi long onions into thin diagonal slices. Remove root base of shimeji mushrooms and divide into small bunches.

2. Cut chicken breast into bite-size pieces. Rub 1 tablespoon of sake, 1 teaspoon of katakuriko, and a pinch of salt and pepper into the meat.

3. Remove umeboshi pit and pound the fruit. Cut ginger into very thin slices.

4. Put ½ tablespoon of salad oil into a frying pan and heat. Stir-fry ginger lightly over low heat. Add chicken breast and turn heat up to medium. Stir-fry for 2 to 3 minutes.

5. Add naganegi and shimeji and stir-fry another 1 to 2 minutes. Add cucumber and sprinkle with a tablespoon of sake. When the cucumber color changes to vivid green, add ¼ teaspoon of salt and the umeboshi. Stir-fry lightly to finish.

Umeboshi marinade

A simple marinated dish is an alternative option if you don’t like the idea of stir-fried cucumbers.

After removing the pit, pound an umeboshi and mix it with a teaspoon of sesame oil.

Cut one cucumber in the same way as for the stir-fried version, then thinly cut half a celery stick diagonally, and tear two or three celery leaves into small pieces. Mix with 20 grams of thinly sliced young ginger and 120 grams of thinly sliced octopus sold for sashimi.

Leave for about 10 minutes until the ingredients become tender and tasty.

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