Is it possible to cook outside one’s culture?
The eating is easy. We love the exotic food of others – new flavours and combinations, new associations of history and memory. For example, I love cooking the food of India. I love to recognise the Persian influence in northern Indian cuisine, I love to cross-over ingredients, I love to prepare (what I call) Indian food. And of course it is my right to do so but I do wonder whether Amrik say, of the Jasmin restaurant here in Adelaide, would recognise this food as his cultural heritage! (No need to wonder what he would say, of course, as Amrik is the epitome of grace and politeness.)
My mother is French from Algeria and couscous was a ritual celebration and treat. It took her a day to make the "grain" before it could be bought in packets at the supermarket (with “value added” flavourings, if one chose). It is soooo delicious. I do have a wee chuckle when I see what can be done badly with couscous – soggy and tasteless. (A post on preparing couscous coming up.)
So I’ve been playing with Japanese dishes. The Chawan-mushi wins me everytime. At home, it can use up some of the eggs from our three hens. For the dashi (stock made of bonito flakes & wakame seaweed) see Google or substitute chicken or vegetable stock. Instant dashi, like instant coffee crystals, is available, but I leave this up to you.
Chawan-mushi (for 4 people)
250 ml dashi, 3 eggs
1 tsp mirin, 1 tsp soy sauce
2 shiitake mushrooms, 8 medium, peeled green prawns
1 spring onion
Beat all ingredients together without causing too much foam. Strain it through a fine sieve to ensure silkiness. Slice the mushrooms, discarding the stem. Halve the prawns. Slice spring onion diagonally.
Divide prawns & mushrooms between 4 cups that will fit your steamer situation. Pour over the egg mixture and arrange a few spring onion slices on top.
Steam gently, covered, for about 15 minutes. When firm but still tender, remove from the steamer, rest for a couple of minutes then serve hot (with a teaspoon).
Steaming is a gentle heat so I safely cook the Chawan-mushi in (c.1910) Wedgwood teacups.