Modified from Japanese Cooking: Contemporary and Traditional by Miyoko Nishimoto Schinner
I had the honor of meeting Miyoko Schinner at this year’s Naperville Veggie Fest. She is the amazing author of several cookbooks, including the mind-blowing bestseller Artisan Vegan Cheese. She is on the verge of opening her own restaurant in the San Francisco area.
These seaweed and shiitake cutlets are billed as Vegetarian Eel over Rice in Miyoko Schinner’s book (highly, highly recommended). I don’t find them similar to any kind of dead animal food, including eel. Unfortunately, I have eaten eel in my life. Eating an eel is disgusting and wrong and doesn’t even taste very good. In the past I have noticed that if there is a dead fish sushi tray being passed around, the eel (unagi) is the last item to disappear. Probably because it looks gray/black and nasty and it has a pronounced fish smell if it is not very, very fresh. I also find the idea of eating a squid or an octupus revolting not because even though the taste is much better than eel, I will never again kill and eat such magnificent, intelligent creatures.
These cutlets have all the salty-sweet greatness of Japanese restaurant food without the grotesque aspect of eating a beautiful sea creature. They are crunchy on the outside and chewy on the inside. The saltiness is balanced with a sweet tare sauce. How lovely it is to taste the flavors of the sea without resorting to violence against the wonderful animals who live there.
Makes 4 cutlets
10 dried shiitake, soaked in water for 20 minutes and drained
1/3 cup wakame seaweed, soaked in water 20 minutes and drained
1 cup yuba (tofu skins, available in most Asian grocery stores) soaked in water 20 minutes and drained
2 tablespoons soy sauce
1 tablespoon Chinese rice wine or dry sherry
1 teaspoon sugar or 1/2 teaspoon agave nectar
3 tablespoons mochiko (glutinous rice flour)
2 tablespoons oil
TARE SAUCE INGREDIENTS:
3 tablespoons sugar or 2 tablespoons agave nectar
1/2 teaspoon konbu powder (make konbu powder by grinding konbu squares in a coffee grinder or blender)
1/2 cup water
1/2 cup soy sauce
1/4 cup Chinese rice wine or dry sherry
White or brown rice, to serve
4 sheets of nori
Make tare sauce by combining sauce ingredients in a small bowl, set aside.
Cut any hard stems out of soaked shittake mushrooms. Place reconstituted shiitake and wakame in a food processor and process until they are chunky. Add the yuba to the processor last and continue processing until all ingredients are minced but not yet a paste. Scoop the mixture out of the blender and add mochiko. Season it with soy sauce, cooking wine, and sugar or agave nectar, taste testing it until it is right.
Divide the mixture into four equal portions and divide the portions onto nori sheets, folding up the corners to make a square packet/cutlet. Heat two tablespoons of oil in a pan until it is near smoking hot. Fry the cutlets on medium-high heat in the oil. Turn the heat down to medium and flip them. Drizzle the cutlets with a tablespoon of tare sauce as you fry them for extra flavor.
Serve over rice with more tare sauce.