If you think all Japanese food is either sushi or kaiseki—the multicourse ceremonial meals made of artful small dishes—think again. When it comes to everyday cooking in the East, meals are uncomplicated, easy and often centered around a single dish.
With cherry blossom season in full bloom from Kyoto to Washington, DC, it’s the perfect time to discover the down-to-earth home cooking of the Japanese table, where every season is celebrated in vegetable-filled dishes. Right now, that means young leaves, shoots and sprouts, as well as snow peas and asparagus. Taking that cue, this menu combines traditional Japanese flavors with early spring ingredients in easy-to-prepare dishes.
In Japan, April is the time to pack up a bento box meal and take it to a hanami (“flower viewing”) party in a grove of blossoming cherry trees. But even if you don’t have a canopy of cherry blossoms to sit under, making these simple but delicious dishes is a great way to greet spring.
Sweet and Spicy Nori Strips
Makes 18 pieces l Vegan
Nori, the sheets of seaweed used to wrap sushi, is as versatile as it is delicious. Sweet, salty and spicy, these crispy bites make a satisfying snack and are great with cocktails. Or tuck them into a bowlful of Rice and Barley with Gingered Adzuki Beans.
1/4 cup brown rice syrup
3 Tbs. sesame oil or peanut oil
1 Tbs. dark sesame oil
1/8 tsp. cayenne
3 nori sheets
1. Preheat oven to 350F. Line 2 baking sheets with foil or parchment paper. Combine rice syrup and both sesame oils in small bowl, and whisk to blend. Stir in cayenne.
2. Tear each nori sheet into three strips. Place strips on prepared baking sheets. Using pastry brush, thickly coat each strip with sesame-syrup mixture. (Whisk syrup mixture occasionally.) Sprinkle each strip with coarse salt.
3. Bake 10 minutes, remove from oven and let stand 10 minutes to crisp. Turn strips over, brush with sesame-syrup mixture and sprinkle with coarse salt. Bake 10 minutes, remove from oven and let stand 10 minutes to crisp. Break each strip in two to serve.
PER SERVING: 44 CAL; 0G PROT; 3G TOTAL FAT (0.5G SAT. FAT); 4G CARB; 0MG CHOL; 16MG SOD; 0G FIBER; 2G SUGARS