kruizing with kikukat

Monday, May 21, 2012

Cucumber and Chicken Namasu

I'm not sure I'm quite in sync with Hawaii time yet, and I've been back for over a week.  Oddly enough, The Rents, who returned from Japan on Friday, seem to be weathering the time change a lot better than me.  They even went to a party the night they returned!

The Rents went to Hokkaido and Tokyo with UMiles, AKathy & Dus on a tour organized by Marukai, the large Asian store on Oahu (and California).  The last time The Rents were in Japan was fall 2009 when they went with the Marukai group to the Tohoku/Ura Nihon region.  They both said the food this time was far better than the food they had on the Tohoku trip.

I don't know if this is a sign, but I got an email last week from Hawaiian Airlines saying they are offering Honolulu-Fukuoka flights for under $800 rt.  It seems there are a lot of little messages popping up all over for me to take a trip to Japan.  Hmmmmm. . .

The last person in the Kikukat house to take a trip to Japan was D1.  She went on a friendship visit to Sumoto in September 2011 with some members of the HHS Key Club and the East Hawaii Kiwanis Club.  As part of the "debrief", the Key Club and Kiwanis members who went on the trip got together for a luncheon a few weeks after returning.  While most of the food was catered, there were a few dishes brought in by attendees (This is Hawaii, and I'm definitely someone who feels odd to attend functions without bringing something to share).  One of these dishes was cucumber and chicken namasu.  I took a serving, and it was absolutely delicious.  The cucumbers were crunchy, and the sauce was the perfect balance of sweet and pucker.

When I was growing up, I remember namasu being at practically every family gathering, and I made it a point to NEVER touch it.  Namasu is an Asian-style marinated vegetable dish.  It is always served cold and is supposed to be a balance of sweet and sour, hence sugar and vinegar being the main ingredients in the marinade.  I wasn't a big veggie fan, and the idea of vinegar and sugar together just didn't belong. . .back then, I didn't even touch sushi.  And when you are at a function where fried chicken and baked ham grace the table, namasu wasn't even something I even considered taking!  I was definitely an adult when I tasted namasu, and I only tried it because I could hear UJohn crunching on something, and it sounded good.  That something was thinly sliced lotus root, which was sitting in a light sauce with some carrots and shredded dried shrimp.  The lotus root namasu was made by, who else, Aunty Betty (of corned beef hash patty fame).

Since that time, I've been more game at trying different namasu, although I'm still rather selective about the ingredients I see in it.  I don't usually care for namasu with seaweed in it. . .don't ask me why, but I think anything with wet seaweed in it is likely to be slimy.  I also look at the cucumbers to check out the seed factor; too many seeds floating around makes me stay away too (this is why I prefer Japanese or English cucumbers).

As was the case with cucumber and chicken namasu, as soon as I got home, I looked in a dozen cookbooks for the recipe, knowing I had seen it in several of my books.  I took a chance on one of the recipes and adjusted the ingredients so it tasted like the one brought to the luncheon.  Don't worry about having to finish eating the dish in one sitting.  The cucumbers will stay crunchy for several days.

 click on recipe title for printable recipe
Cucumber and Chicken Namasu

     2 boneless skinless chicken breast halves
     4 japanese cucumbers
     1/2 c sugar
     1/2 c shoyu
     1/2 c vinegar
     1 1/2 tsp hondashi
     2 tbsp sesame seeds
     3 tbsp sesame oil
     1/4 tsp hot chili oil

Boil chicken in salted water for 30 minutes.  Shred.  Cut cucumber into pieces and soak in ice water for 30 minutes.  Drain well.  Combine cucumbers and shredded chicken with all other ingredients.  Chill until ready to serve.

Cutting the cucumbers:  The recipes I came across all said to cut the cucumber in thin slices.  In the dish brought to the luncheon, the cucumbers were cut in the most interesting way.  Each piece of cucumber actually had 3 thin slices (the middle 2 cuts are not cut all the way through).  I tried to duplicate the cucumbers in the luncheon dish because I found the larger chunks of cucumber to be easier to manage.  In the picture to the right, in the lower right quadrant, you can clearly see a cucumber with this type of cut.  The cuts allow the sauce to penetrate, but the thicker (overall) cucumber pieces match better with the shreds of the chicken.

And if you're still with me, please enjoy the slideshow I made for The Rents.  It goes well with the whole Japanese-y theme of this week's post.  Be sure your speakers are on.
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  1. Thanks. I never thought of adding shredded chicken to the cucumber namasu. Now, I have another use for my shredded huli huli chicken. BTW, someone taught me to put the cucumber between two pieces of chopsticks to have an even cut 3/4 of the way through the cucumber, then cut all the way through every 3 slices. Made life so much easier. -lance

    1. Thank you for the cucumber cutting hint! I will try it next time I make this.