Japanese Kelp and Mushroom Relish

Sunday, June 01, 2014

Recipe: "Kelp and Mushroom Relish" from "Washoku: Recipes from the Japanese Home Kitchen" by Elizabeth Andoh
Rating: This is a good way to use up konbu which is left over from making dashi or other items.
Status: Made twice.

I love the way that Elizabeth Andoh's recipes frugally turn side products into new dishes. This recipe is wonderful because it turns a side product of making dashi, large pieces of rehydrated konbu (kelp), into a umami-filled side dish. The rehydrated konbu, leftover from dashi or other dishes, can be stored in a container in a closed container in the fridge for up to a week until you have collected enough to make this dish. Discard the kelp if it develops a sticky, pasty whitish substance on the surface.

This kelp and mushroom relish is also great as a filling for onigiri (form each rice ball from about 1 cup of hot cooked rice which has been mixed with a pinch of salt and use about 2 tsp of minced filling per rice ball).

The relish can be stored for up to 2 weeks in the refrigerator.

The recipe is available at BeyondSalmon.

Some additional notes about the recipe:

Either dried shitake mushrooms or enoki mushrooms is nice, but using a mixture of both types of mushrooms is wonderful. The dried shitake mushrooms absorb the sauce and turn into umami bombs, and the enoki mushrooms add texture.

Boiling the kelp softens it (as well as removes any possible bacteria from kelp that has been stored in the fridge for up to a week), so you don't need to julienne the kelp too thinly. About the 1/4 inch thick is fine. In fact, if the kelp is julienned too thinly, it will break easily and the relish won't have enough texture. It's best if the kelp has a small amount of chewiness.

Either my soy sauce has a higher salt content or there may be slightly too much soy sauce in this recipe. I recommend adding the soy sauce to taste, starting conservatively, letting it boil down and then tasting and adding more soy sauce if necessary. Also note that the dish gets a little saltier after it sits overnight in the fridge; the dish should have only a light soy sauce flavor when its done cooking.

One improvement that I'd like in the recipe is to have the weight equivalents of the dried and rehydrated konbu. The current recipe only specifies the surface area of the kelp (presumably the rehydrated kelp). In the picture above, the relish was made from 1-1/2 oz dried konbu or about 2 long dried 12-inch sticks of konbu (leftover from making dashi). For the vinegar, since it is just added to the boiling water to tenderize the konbu and eliminate bacteria, I use cheap white vinegar (instead of my nice rice vinegar that I reserve for making sushi rice), and I just pour a small dollop into the water (exact quantity isn't important). I used 1 dried shitake since it was already rehydrated from another recipe and 1 package enoki mushrooms. 1 package of enoki was the right amount of mushrooms for this amount of konbu. I tripled all of the other ingredients in the recipe (sugar, sake, mirin). I lost count of how much soy sauce I added, but it was about 5 Tbsp.

The relish improves after it sits in the fridge overnight or for 1 or more days. I think this is because this gives the konbu time to release its flavor into the sauce (apparently the konbu still has lots of flavor to release), so the sauce gets even more umami.

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