While visiting Japan two weeks ago, my husband and I took a Japanese cooking class from Taro Saeki, a former chef whose current career as a cooking instructor he considers a wonderful accident. His need to advertise is very little, as knowledge of his classes travels by word of mouth – with good reason. Not only is Taro kind (he rearranged his day off so that we could take his class), he knows his stuff. Oh, and his English is impeccable. If you ever plan to visit Kyoto, Taro’s class is a must.
As the title suggests, I will post recipes to comprise a full Japanese meal over the next few days, the first of which being this lovely side dish. Wanting to keep close to Taro’s recipe, I have only switched soy sauce colors based on preference (lighter colored soy sauce is actually more salty), cut the sugar in half, and replaced shiso with apple mint, due to availability. I used plum vinegar because it is a favorite of mine, but other light vinegars can be used instead. Other ingredients such as wakame seaweed, radish, mountain potato, and harusame can be added.
1 large cucumber
1/4 large carrot
1/4 teaspoon fine salt
1 teaspoon soy sauce, dark
1 teaspoon sugar
2 teaspoons plum vinegar
1 teaspoon chopped apple mint (or shiso)
Slice the cucumber into thin rounds, preferably using a mandoline. Place the cucumber into a small bowl and sprinkle with the salt. Set aside for 10 minutes, to draw out the water from the cucumber.
Meanwhile, slice the carrot using the Japanese sasagaki technique (typically used for burdock root), to achieve very thin strips. Starting 2/3 of the way down your carrot, make lengthwise incisions about 1/3 inch apart from each other. Next, flatten the knife and shave downward, as though sharpening a pencil with a knife. If the sasagaki knife technique is too tricky, you can opt to use a vegetable peeler to create thin strips of carrot.
When the ten minutes are up, lightly squeeze the sliced cucumber and drain the water. You may rinse the cucumber and lightly squeeze again to remove the salt.
Combine the sugar, soy sauce, plum vinegar, apple mint, and sesame seeds, mix well. Pour atop the carrots and sliced cucumber and gently stir before serving.