Tempura enari pocket stuffed with spinach & shiitake rice with chilli pickled bean sprouts & braised lotus root

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Preparation info

  • For

    8

    • Difficulty

      Easy

Appears in

Fusion: A Culinary Journey

Fusion

By Peter Gordon

Published 2010

  • About

I bought the plate for this dish in Kyoto, knowing I’d be serving this recipe on it. I have to say that the flavours and textures of the finished dish equal what I think is a most beautiful photo. Enari are like a tofu pita bread in that they come flat but can be easily pulled apart. You’ll find them at Asian food shops and some health-food stores, and they’re most often used for serving vinegared rice topped with vegetables - like a vegetable sushi sandwich! We have served versions of this at various restaurants I’ve either owned or cooked at, and when you fill the enari up to almost bursting, they make a great vegetarian main course served with lots of vegetables. Lotus root can be found fresh and frozen at most Asian food markets and it has the most wonderful texture when cooked this way. I had thought about using sushi rice for this dish, but the Arborio risotto rice on my shelf was wanting to enter the Fusion debate so I cooked that instead and it worked a treat.

Ingredients

  • 1 medium beetroot - ideally a raw one, but a cooked one will work okay
  • 200 ml rice vinegar
  • 60 g caster sugar
  • 1 bird’s eye chilli (or other chilli), split lengthways
  • 150 g mung bean sprouts
  • 200 g lotus root, peeled
  • 100 ml soy sauce
  • 1 thumb of ginger, peeled and julienned
  • 4 star anise
  • 150 g risotto rice
  • 6 shiitake mushrooms, stalks discarded, caps thinly sliced
  • 100 g spinach, washed and drained, then coarsely shredded
  • 30 g Parmesan, grated
  • 8 enari pockets
  • 50 g flour, plus 4 Tbsp extra
  • 50 g cornflour
  • 20 g baking powder
  • vegetable oil for deep-frying the enar
  • cress to garnish

Method

If your beetroot is raw, put some gloves on, peel it, then coarsely grate it. If it’s already cooked, then wear the gloves and grate it. Place it in a pot with 150 ml of the vinegar, all but 1 Tablespoon of the sugar, the chilli and 250 ml of water. Bring to the boil then simmer for 5 minutes. Rinse the bean sprouts in cold water briefly, then place in a heat-proof jar or bowl. Strain the pickling liquid over them through a fine sieve and cover tightly while still hot. Leave to cool down then place in the fridge for at least 4 hours or up to a week.

Slice the lotus root ½ cm thick and rinse under cold running water for a few minutes, rubbing it a little to help release some of the slimy texture. Place in a saucepan and cover with cold water. Add the remaining vinegar and sugar, along with the soy sauce, ginger and star anise. Bring to the boil then simmer until cooked - at which point you’ll be able to just pass a sharp skewer through the flesh. Leave to cool in the liquor then store, covered, in the fridge for up to a week.

Rinse the rice with cold running water in a fine sieve for 30 seconds then place in a pot with 300 ml water, the sliced shiitake, 1 teaspoon flaky salt (less of fine salt) and cover with a tight-fitting lid. Place over high heat and bring to the boil, then turn the heat down, keeping the lid on, and cook for 15 minutes. At this point the rice should be cooked, the liquid should have evaporated, and the rice should be sticking to the bottom of the pan, turning golden and tasting toasted. If not, keep it cooking a little longer. Take the pan from the heat and, keeping the lid on, tilt it under a tap of running water to cool the base down. Alternatively, dunk the base of the pot into a bowl of cold water. Scrape the bottom bits up and mix into the rice then stir in the spinach and Parmesan and taste it for seasoning. Divide the mixture into eight 50 g portions and roll into a fat cylinder shape.

Take one enari pocket at a time and pull it gently apart. Tuck in one of the rice portions, gently flatten it into the enari to even it out, then dip the open mouth into 2 Tablespoons of the flour and press it firmly shut. This will help seal it. Do the same to the rest of the enari. Dust them gently with the other 2 Tablespoons of flour.

Make the tempura batter by sieving the remaining flour with the cornflour, baking powder and ½ teaspoon fine salt. Whisk in 120 ml cold water and leave for a few minutes - it will froth up a little but don’t worry.

Heat 6 cm of vegetable oil in a wok or pot to 180°C.

Give the tempura batter a stir, then dip the enari in, one at a time, to coat them then lower into the hot oil. You can cook four at a time, more if you have a huge deep-fryer. Take from the oil after 3-4 minutes at which point they’ll be golden brown and piping hot. Drain onto kitchen paper and cook the remainder.

To Serve

Lay some of the drained bean sprouts on a plate along with a slice or two of the lotus root. Cut the enari in half and sit this on top then scatter with some cress - I used red shiso leaves.