With Japanese Farm Food (Andrews McMeel Publishing, Fall 2012), Nancy Singleton Hachisu is not merely conducting a 'farm to table' exercise as she herself lives and works the land on an organic farm in Japan's northern Saitama prefecture with her Japanese husband and 3 sons.
Her advice is "cooking farm-to-table food from another country is easy if you...take care to understand the heart of the food."
I hope I have the chance to talk with her soon about her life in food in Japan
I chose as a first excerpt her salty tea snacks.
Soy Sauce–Broiled Dango Balls
Makes 6 sticks of 4 Dango
Not all tea snacks need to be sweet, and since farm work can be quite physical, salty flavors are also welcome. These dango were traditionally made unsweetened, brushed with soy sauce and slow grilled over a charcoal fire. If you have never smelled that indescribable aroma of gently caramelizing soy sauce intermingled with the tantalizing smoke from artisanal Japanese charcoal, well . . . you haven’t lived. For me that is the smell of Japan.
You will need six (6-inch/15-cm) bamboo skewers to make this recipe.
1 cup (175 g) rice flour for dango (joshinko )
3 tablespoons organic soy sauce
Sweet Soy-Flavored Sauce (optional, recipe follows)
Bring a large, wide pot of water to a boil.
Set a large bowl in the kitchen sink and fill with cold water. Drop the bamboo skewers into the bowl.
Measure the joshinko into a medium-sized bowl. Whisk to break up any lumps and slowly add ¾ cup (175 cc) hot water to form a firm but pliable dough. Grasp the side of the bowl with one hand and knead the dough briefly with your other hand.
Divide the dough into 24 equal-sized balls and drop into the boiling water. After about 8 or 10 minutes, the balls will rise to the surface. Cook for another 4 minutes and remove from the boiling water by scooping up with a wire mesh strainer and dumping into the bowl of cold water in your sink. Run more cold water into the bowl to keep the overall temperature cool, but be careful the dango don’t flow out of the bowl and escape into the sink.
Prepare a small charcoal “hibachi”-style brazier (shichirin). The charcoal takes some time to burn down and the low embers are best for cooking. Alternatively, set the broiler rack on the third position from the top and heat the broiler.
Remove the skewers from the bowl before draining the cooled dango. Let air dry for a few minutes on a non–terry cloth kitchen towel. Pat dry if you are pressed for time.
Thread 4 dango balls onto each skewer so that they are gently nestled up next to each other but not smashed together. They should be centered on the skewer. Brush with soy sauce and broil or grill about 2 minutes on each of their 4 “sides,” brushing with more soy sauce each time you turn the skewer.
Serve hot from the grill with a cup of Japanese green tea for a midmorning or afternoon snack. If you prefer a sweeter flavor, dip in the sauce before serving.
Sweet Soy-Flavored Sauce
Makes ⅔ cup (150cc)
Mitarashi sauce is almost like a glaze, though a bit thicker. I prefer my dango (page 358) a tad more austere, with just the taste of charcoal-caramelized soy sauce. But if you like a sweeter flavor, by all means dunk the dango balls in mitarashi sauce after cooking.
8 tablespoons soy sauce
1 tablespoon potato starch (katakuriko)
4 tablespoons organic sugar
In a small bowl, whisk the soy sauce into the potato starch and pour into a small saucepan with the sugar. Stir to blend and bring to a simmer over medium-low heat, stirring occasionally to keep the sugar from sticking on the bottom. Simmer gently for 10 to 15 minutes until the bubbles are thick and the sauce is glossy. Remove from the heat. Keeps for several weeks in the refrigerator; warm before using.
Ratio: soy sauce : sugar : potato starch—8 : 4 : 1
On the farm for Tokyo Thursdays # 250
(* Recipe from Japanese Farm Food-Fall 2012- by Nancy Singleton Hachisu reproduced with permission of publisher Andrews McMeel, photographs by Kenji Miura, all rights reserved)