Grilled Shōjin Kabayaki: ‘Fried Eel’ Made from Lotus Root

Preparation info

  • Difficulty

    Easy

  • Serves

    4

Appears in

Ingredients

  • 120 g ( oz) Japanese soy sauce
  • 180 g ( oz) mirin (sweet rice wine)
  • 30 g (1 oz) sugar
  • 300 g (10½ oz) fresh lotus root
  • rice vinegar
  • 1 tsp katakuriko starch or cornstarch
  • ½ sheet dried nori
  • vegetable oil
  • sanshō pepper and Manganji peppers
  • nama-shichimi

Method

  1. Prepare a thick sauce by mixing the soy sauce, mirin, and sugar and cooking it in a pot. Allow the sauce to cool.
  2. Wash and peel the lotus root and soften it in water with some rice vinegar, about 1 tsp per liter (quart) of water.
  3. Grate the lotus root finely and squeeze the water out of it with your hands.
  4. If necessary, mix the grated lotus root with a little of the starch so that it has a reasonably stiff consistency.
  5. Spread the starch on the sheet of dried nori and distribute the grated lotus root evenly over the surface of the whole sheet.
  6. Preheat the oven broiler. Pour a little oil into a skillet, just enough to cover its surface, and turn on the heat.
  7. Carefully place the lotus root-covered sheet in the skillet, nori side down; fry until the lotus root is golden brown.
  8. Place the sheet with the lotus root in the oven and grill, brushing the browned lotus root several times with the thick sauce, until the surface is glossy and crisp.
  9. Remove from the oven, sprinkle with the sanshō pepper, and cut into desired serving pieces.
  10. Serve the kabayaki while it is still warm, possibly with crisply toasted pieces of lotus root and small green Manganji peppers stuffed with miso and nama-shichimi.

This centuries-old vegetarian temple cuisine, which is still practiced in Japan, has started to put in an appearance in Japanese restaurants in the Western world, where it is being infused with a new life and reintroduced in a modern context. Interest in shōjin ryōri is stimulated by the desire for simple, healthy food that is preeminently based on seasonal ingredients and in which palatability and umami are achieved by special combinations of fresh and prepared foods.

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