Myoga will always have a special place in my heart because I fell under its spell during the first meal I had in Japan. Actually I ordered it accidentally in Morimoto, a fabulous Tokyo izakaya (a pub where food is served) specialising in skewers. I absolutely wanted to taste there the famous Japanese rare chicken breasts and these were skewered with myoga, then brushed with wasabi. I was obviously concentrated on the half-raw breasts, which proved extraordinarily tender and juicy, but myoga was a flavoursome bonus I didn’t expect at all. It was a perfect company for delicate chicken breasts and its combination with wasabi was a successful mixture of bold flavours and scents. I didn’t even dream that day being able to reproduce anything similar at home.
If you have never heard about myoga (茗荷), it’s a plant belonging to the ginger family (Zingiber mioga) and what you see above are its edible flower buds, which at first sight might be similar to French shallots (at least when skewered and grilled, served in a dark izakaya!). Myoga is popular in both Japan and Korea and, according to Wikipedia, its shoots are also eaten but I haven’t had the chance to taste them yet. Myoga buds can be eaten raw (shredded on rice or on tofu, as advised me Nami from Just One Cookbook, served in vegetarian sushi, according to Shizuoka Gourmet), but they are also excellent grilled and absolutely amazing when pickled. Myoga has a rather strong and complex aroma, but the flavour is surprisingly delicate. When pickled, it becomes bolder in taste and so irresistible, I could have pickled myoga every day with every single meal.
I have learnt at Shizuoka Gourmet blog that myoga contains vitamins B1, B2 and B6, helps stamina, digestion and is known in Japan since the IIIrd century as a medical plant. Combined with different food products it is said to prevent cancer, kidney diseases or combat ageing… In short, it’s a wonder food.
I regretted a lot I hadn’t brought any fresh myoga with me, so imagine my joy when I saw fresh myoga sold in my Japanese grocery shop! I didn’t even look at the price (luckily!) and snatched the last remaining bag. The humble-looking skewers you see above are my attempt to copy the excellent chicken skewers I had in Morimoto (of course I didn’t try to serve my chicken rare!; unless you live in Japan and have access to specially bred chickens, do not attempt it). Even though the skewers didn’t taste half as good as in Morimoto, I brushed them with freshly grated wasabi brought from Japan and it was one of the best meals I have ever had in my life. If you ever stumble upon myoga, I advise these skewers with a glass of good shochu on the rocks.
Talking about, wasabi, I have good news for those lucky people who live in UK! I have recently discovered the existence of Wasabi Company which grows… wasabi and which is located in Dorchester. They sell even single wasabi roots. Click here to see their website.
TIPS: If you have a garden you can try growing myoga which is apparently very resistant to low temperatures and easy to grow. I plan buying it next year and growing it on my balcony.
I don’t have a real grill, so I grilled these skewers (like most of my skewers) on a grill pan.
Preparation: 20 minutes
Ingredients (for ten skewers):
2 chicken breasts skinned
10 myoga buds
(oil for the grill pan)
Cut the chicken breasts into bite-sized pieces.
Cut the myoga buds in two vertically.
Skewer both ingredients, putting two myoga halves per skewer.
Season with salt.
(Brush the grill pan, if you use it, with oil and heat it.)
Grill on both sides until the meat is done. (If you use a grill pan, cover it when you grill the first side of skewers. When you turn them, grill without covering).
Served brushed with wasabi.