I spent this past Saturday cooking with my friend Fumiko Arao in the lovely home she shares with her husband Ken in the hills above Silicon Valley. Fumi grew up in Tokyo and learned traditional Japanese cooking from her mother and grandmother and cooks in a style influenced by kaiseki which I would characterize as light, clean and elegant. We made six dishes which together compose a complete vegan Japanese meal. In the next few days I will share with you everything we made, but I thought I’d start with the sunomono.
A sunomono is a traditional small side dish. Something between a pickle and a salad, a sunomono involves fresh, raw vegetables, sometimes cooked sea food such as shrimp or scallops, and always includes vinegar (“su” in Japanese). A sunomono which I’ve made many times combines lightly-salted, thinly-sliced cucumber with wakame, a sea vegetable, dressed with rice vinegar, a little sweetener of some sort, and sometimes a drop or two of soy sauce (not so much as give the dish a brown color). As these simple and quick-to-make dishes never contain oil, they are refreshing and low in fat (the vegetarian versions especially). Fumi’s sunomono, her grandmother’s recipe, beautifully balances the tartness of rice vinegar with the sweetness of dried apricots. Step-by-step instructions are after the jump… Continue reading