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Get Oriented (October 18, 2002)

OK, so we love Asian cooking of any kind. You've surely caught onto that by now! It's fascinating to us just how mainstream recipes and ingredients from the East have become. We were going through a new stack of cookbooks and realized that no matter the subject, there will be a delicious mouthful or more of Asian-influenced recipes.

Sublime Vegetarian by Bill Jones is a terrific collection of recipes and gorgeous photographs that will tempt even the most dedicated carnivore. Wendy Sweetser's new book, Asian Sauces and Marinades, tells you what you need to produce these wonderful dishes. Herewith, three of our favourites!

On today's menu:

Download these recipes in printable form as an Adobe Acrobat PDF (78 KB)

Charred Asparagus Roll

Oh, this is so delicious. You'll want to choose young, slim stalks of asparagus; if only fat ones are available, then split the stalks lengthwise into halves or quarters. Charring brings out the deep flavour while leaving the interior crisp and sweet. From Sublime Vegetarian.

Serves 4 to 6

  • ½ lb asparagus, trimmed (250 g)
  • 1 Tbsp garlic, minced (15 mL)
  • 1 Tbsp olive oil (15 mL)
  • Salt and pepper
  • 4 sheets nori (seaweed)
  • 1 cup cold water (250 mL)
  • 1 tsp rice vinegar (5 mL)
  • 2 cups cooked sushi rice (500 mL) (see below)
  • 1 batch sushi mayonnaise (see below)
  • Wasabi paste
  • Pickled ginger for garnish
  • Soy sauce

In a shallow casserole dish, combine asparagus, garlic and olive oil. Season well with salt and pepper. Transfer to a nonstick skillet and sauté over medium high heat for 3 to 4 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the asparagus begins to char. Remove from the heat and set aside. Let cool to room temperature.

In a small bowl, combine water and rice vinegar. Lay the sheets of nori on a flat work area. With clean hands, dip your fingers into the vinegar water and scoop out a small handful of sushi rice. Place the sushi rice in the middle of the nori and spread out to an even thickness of ½ inch (1 cm). Repeat with additional rice until the nori is covered, except for a strip 1 inch (2.5 cm) wide along the top edge of the sheet. Keep dipping your hands in the vinegar water and wiping them free of rice starch.

Place ½ of the asparagus in a compact line across the bottom edge of the rice. Top with ¼ of the sushi mayonnaise. Fold the bottom of the nori sheet over the filling and roll up into a solid log. Dip your finger in the vinegar water and rub it on the empty part of the nori to seal the log with a smooth seam. Repeat with the remaining sheets of nori, rice, asparagus and mayonnaise.

To serve, use a sharp knife to slice the rolls into bite-sized pieces. Arrange the slices on a platter, with a small lump of wasabi paste and mound of sliced picked ginger. Place a small bottle of soy sauce on the side.

Sushi Rice

Makes about 4 cups (1 L)

  • 2 cups sushi rice (500 mL)
  • 3 cups water (750 mL)
  • 1 tsp sea salt (5 mL)
  • ½ cup rice vinegar (125 mL)
  • 1/3 cup sugar (65 mL)
  • 1 tsp sea salt (second amount) (5 mL)

Wash rice about 1 hour before you start to cook. Place the rice in a mesh strainer and place that inside a medium bowl. Rinse well with water (rubbing rice gently to release starch) until the rinse water runs clear. Drain rice and let it sit in the strainer for 1 hour.

In a heavy saucepan with a lid, combine rice, water and 1 tsp (5 mL) sea salt. Let the rice sit for 5 minutes, then turn the heat to high. Bring to a boil, uncovered, then reduce the heat to the lowest setting and cover the pot with a lid. Cook for 20 minutes or until all the water evaporates. Keep covered (do not peek), remove from the heat and let rest for 20 minutes.

In a small bowl, combine rice vinegar, sugar and sea salt (second amount), stirring until dissolved. Transfer the cooked rice to a large shallow pan and spread out evenly. Sprinkle seasoned vinegar over the rice and mix in well. For the next 5 minutes, try and separate the rice grains as much as possible and break up any lumps. Cover with a damp, clean kitchen towel. Can be kept at room temperature for 1 to 2 hours before using.

Sushi Mayonnaise

In a small bowl, combine 1 tsp (5 mL) sesame oil, 2 Tbsp (30 mL) sesame seeds, ¼ cup (50 mL) low fat mayonnaise, 2 Tbsp (30 mL) minced pickled ginger, and salt and pepper to taste.

Accompanying wine? Tony recommends...
Sauvignon Blanc will be ideal, especially if it has good fruit, as in New Zealand Sauvignon or California Sauvignon, rather than the leaner Loire Valley or Ontario style.

Country-style Sushi Salad

We love sushi, we love salad, and when they're combined, out comes the perfect dish. Serve as an appetizer or a main course, and substitute any garden fresh vegetables for the ones in the recipe. Just remember to cut everything into evenly sized pieces, says Bill Jones in Sublime Vegetarian.

  • 1 Tbsp vegetable oil (15 mL)
  • 1 Tbsp garlic, minced (15 mL)
  • 1 cup asparagus, sliced (250 mL)
  • 1 cup red peppers, seeded and diced (250 mL)
  • 1 cup zucchini, diced (250 mL)
  • 1 cup snowpeas, cut in half (250 mL)
  • 1 Tbsp pickled ginger, minced (15 mL)
  • 1 green onion, sliced
  • 4 cups cooked sushi rice (1 L)
  • 1 Tbsp chives, minced (15 mL)
  • 2 Tbsp sesame seeds (30 mL)
  • Pickled ginger for garnish

In a non-stick skillet, heat vegetable oil. Add garlic, asparagus, red peppers, zucchini and snow peas. Sauté over medium high heat for about 5 minutes, or until the asparagus turns bright green and softens. Add the pickled ginger and green onion, tossing to mix well.

Add the cooked sushi rice to the pan, tossing well to separate grains and distribute the vegetables. Remove from the heat and allow to sit for 5 minutes.

Serve warm or at room temperature. Transfer the rice mixture to bowls and garnish with chives and sesame seeds. Arrange a small mound of pickled ginger in the middle of each bowl. Place a small bottle of soy sauce on the side.

Accompanying wine? Tony recommends...
A dry, aromatic white wine,such as Alsace Gewurztraminer or a dry Alsace Muscat. A cool climate Gewurz from Ontario, BC or New York State would be good also, or an Oregon Pinot Gris.

Sesame Shrimp Toasts (Zhima Xia Tushi)

Warning. Danger. This recipe only makes 24 crunchy, irresistible shrimp toasts. What are you going to serve everyone else? From Asian Sauces and Marinades, a book you won't be able to put down either! [Editor's note: the Chinese name is pronounced "jer-ma shya too-sure" – if you have a Canadian accent]

  • 14 oz raw medium-sized shrimp, shelled and coarsely chopped (400 g)
  • 1 slice ham, chopped
  • 4 scallions, chopped
  • 1 egg white, lightly beaten
  • 1 tsp finely grated gingerroot (5 mL)
  • 2 tsp light soy sauce (10 mL)
  • 1 tsp sugar (5 mL)
  • 1 tsp sesame oil (5 mL)
  • Salt and pepper
  • 6 large thin slices white bread, crusts removed
  • 3 tsp sesame seeds (45 mL)
  • Peanut oil for deep-frying
  • Chopped green onions, to garnish
  • Serve 1 quantity plum dipping sauce (see below)

Place the shrimp, ham and scallions in a food processor and blend to a paste. Transfer to a bowl and stir in the egg white, ginger, soy sauce, sugar and sesame oil. Add the salt and pepper to taste.

Cut each slice of bread into four squares. Spread the shrimp paste quite thickly on the bread squares and sprinkle with the sesame seeds.

Heat the oil in a wok or large pan to 350°F (180°C) and deep-fry the toasts three or four at a time, paste side down, for 2 minutes, then turn them over and fry for a further 2 minutes or until golden brown and crisp.

Remove with a slotted spoon, drain on paper towels, and serve warm with the plum dipping sauce. Garnish with chopped green onions.

Plum Dipping Sauce

  • 4 Tbsp plum sauce, bought or homemade (50 mL)
  • 1 tbsp light soy sauce (15 mL)
  • ¼ tsp sweet chile sauce (1 mL)
  • 1 garlic clove, peeled and minced
  • Stir ingredients together until combined.

Accompanying wine? Tony recommends...
An off-dry white wine to match the spicy condiments in this dish – Off-Dry Riesling (Kabinett or Spätlese Halbtrocken if from Germany) or Vouvray from the Loire.

We wish to thank:

Douglas and McIntyre for permission to publish material from The Sublime Vegetarian by Bill Jones. © 1999. Photography by John Sherlock.

Firefly Books Ltd. for permission to publish material from Asian Sauces and Marinades by Wendy Sweetser. © 2002. Photography by Iain Bagwell.

Happily tested by Helen Hatton and Ron Morris.

Download these recipes in printable form as an Adobe Acrobat PDF (78 KB)




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