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Washoku apprentice / Removing water key to tasty vinegared dish

The Yomiuri Shimbun

Sunomono vinegared dish with cucumber, wakame seaweed and cooked shirasu whitebait

The Yomiuri ShimbunThis series presents basic information and tips for preparing washoku dishes. In this installment, we discuss sunomono vinegared dishes.

Sunomono are dishes in which vegetables, seafood and other ingredients are mixed with a vinegar-based dressing. Cooking expert Yoshiko Fujino showed us how to prepare a basic variety using cucumbers and wakame. She added cooked shirasu whitebait.

“Once you master the basics of sunomono, you can enjoy several variations just by making little changes to the ingredients or mixture of seasonings,” she said.

The most important step is removing excess water from the vegetables. Otherwise, the water will dilute the dressing and your dish will lack flavor.

If you use cucumbers and other raw vegetables, sprinkle salt over them to help draw out excess water. Note that it’s inadvisable to vigorously rub the vegetables right after adding salt.

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  • Yomiuri Shimbun photos

“If you rub vegetables hard right after sprinkling on salt, they’ll break and lose their visual appeal,” Fujino said. Instead, lightly mix together the vegetables after adding salt and leave them for about five minutes before squeezing out the water (photo 1).

If you boil wakame or other ingredients, make sure to cool them afterward in the refrigerator. “Mixing them with other ingredients while still warm spoils the flavor of the dish,” she said.

Cooling boiled ingredients also makes their colors more vivid. If you boil vegetables, make sure to squeeze out excess water by hand.

Mix the ingredients with a vinegar-based dressing right before the dish is served (photo 2). If left for a while, vinegar and salt in the dressing can further draw out water in the ingredients, thereby diluting the dressing and making the dish bland.

If preparing a large quantity of sunomono, store each ingredient separately in the fridge. Squeeze out excess water from the ingredients, mix them together and add the dressing just before serving.

For today’s recipe, Fujino used a dressing called nihaizu, which contains an equal amount of vinegar and soy sauce. You can add one tablespoon of dashi broth to “mellow out the sourness,” she said.

Other varieties of dressing include sanbaizu, a mixture of equal amounts of vinegar, soy sauce and mirin, and Tosa-zu, in which dashi made from bonito is added to sanbaizu. You can choose whichever variety you like, Fujino said.

“Make sure to eat sunomono as soon as possible because water is still draining from the ingredients, even after the dish is on the table,” she said.

Recipe for sunomono with cucumber, wakame, whitebait

Ingredients (serves 2):

1 cucumber

20 grams salted wakame

20 grams cooked shirasu whitebait

1 tbsp vinegar

1 tbsp soy sauce

1 tbsp dashi broth

1 tsp graded ginger

Directions:

1. Sprinkle salt on a cutting board and roll the cucumber over it to make its surface smooth. Rinse and slice the cucumber. Sprinkle salt over the slices and mix lightly. Let sit for about 5 minutes and then squeeze out excess water. Immerse wakame in boiling water briefly and cut into bite-size pieces.

2. Put the cucumber, wakame and shirasu in a bowl. Mix vinegar, soy sauce and dashi and pour the mixture into the bowl. Thoroughly mix all ingredients. Place in serving bowl and add graded ginger on top.

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