Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Asian Fusion: Hijiki and Carrot Corn Fritters with Sesame Dipping Sauce Recipe

I returned home Sunday night realizing I'd have to craft something together from my barren fridge. I had one carrot, some pantry ingredients, and an onion. Inspired by a dish once brought to me by a Japanese colleague at Juilliard, I planned to make hijiki with (one) carrot and some type of grain, but I had no grain in sight except corn meal. Seaweed-carrot polenta? Hmmm...Ok, why not?

As I cooked the polenta, I thought I would do as the Italians sometimes do: let it cool, slice it, and pan fry it until crispy. Then, I imagined dipping my crispy fritters in a sauce of tamari, rice wine vinegar and some spicy sesame oil, and suddenly my Sunday improvisation sounded more and more like a planned meal. The carrot in this recipe added some color, and pan frying the polenta gave a nice textural contrast to the soft interior, and helped it hold up well when it was dipped in the sauce.

My fusion dish was surprisingly great, and now that I write this, I am remembering the long-standing Japanese culinary tradition of reinterpreting Italian classics, ie. fried chicken cartilage (in lieu of calamari), and spaghetti a la hundreds of tiny dried fish on top, both of which I puzzled over, and ate, at Italian restaurants in Japan. My seaweed polenta would not be shy at all in that company. You go, Asian polenta; don't be intimidated by those little fishies.

Hijiki and Carrot Corn Fritters with Sesame Dipping Sauce

For the polenta:
Olive oil
One onion, chopped
One large carrot, chopped
1/4 cup dried hijiki seaweed, soaked in hot water for ten minutes, and drained
1 to 1 1/2 cup corn meal (or polenta)
Water, three to 4 cups (ratio should be 3-1, water to polenta)

For the sauce:
2 tablespoons brown rice vinegar
2 tablespoons tamari
1 teaspoon mirin
1 teaspoon spicy sesame oil

You will need a small baking dish; I used one that was 8x8.

For the polenta:

In a medium saucepan, and over medium heat, saute the onion in a little olive oil until soft but not brown.
Add the carrot, and continue to cook, until carrot softens a bit.
Add the hijiki and stir.
Add the water, and bring to a boil. Slowly add the corn meal, and using a fork, incorporate the corn meal into the water. Lower the heat to a simmer, and continue cooking, stirring continually, until the mixture is thick and the cornmeal is cooked.

Pour the mixture into a lightly oiled 8x8 baking dish and let the mixture cool until it solidifies.

For the sauce:

Combine all ingredients. Adjust to your taste; my measurements are approximate. Set aside.

To make the fritters:

Cut the polenta into 1 inch strips and carefully remove them from the baking dish, being careful not to break them. Cut these strips further, into lengths of about 3-4 inches.

Heat a large saute pan over medium high heat. Add olive oil, and when it's hot, add the strips to the pan, being careful not to crowd them. Cook them on one side until brown (about 3-4 minutes; you'll know when the strips "let go" of the pan without much prodding), and turn over and cook on the other side.

Serve warm, with the sauce on the side for dipping.


mikel said...

I believe this recipe could have fed 2 to 3 people or provided a couple of days of delicious leftovers. But this dish was so sumptuous that it fed one person for one night. Thank you for the tremendous blog!

Banu said...

Thanks, Mikel. I am so glad you appreciated my improvised recipe!