Robert-Gilles (from Shizuoka Gourmet) reminded me by one of his comments I haven’t cooked yet any recipe from Izakaya: The Japanese Pub Cookbook by Mark Robinson, a fascinating book I was offered several months ago. Apart from the mostly easy and seducing recipes, the book describes the atmosphere, the menus, the history and even the etiquette of several Japanese pubs. It is a real tribute to the izakayas, showing a real passion of the owners, each of them creating a unique place which seems more than just a pub. Reading this book is a bit like travelling without moving from your sofa… (but then every good cookbook has this effect on me). Anyway, yesterday I have finally chosen Ume-Shiso Rolled Chicken, in other words chicken skewers with shiso (perilla) and bainiku paste, presented in the Morimoto izakaya’s chapter.
Shiso (紫蘇), or perilla, is a Japanese aromatic dark red or green herb (though it’s also used in other countries, since my Thaï grocery shop sells a particularly strong-scented perilla variety all year long), with an astringent taste and strong fragrance, while bainiku is a paste made with pickled Japanese ume plum. I am a huge fan of pickled ume (umeboshi), but it was the first time I used the bainiku paste, rarely appearing in the Japanese recipes (at least the ones I happen to find). Ume plums are often pickled with shiso leaves, which apart from the taste change the plums’ colour and my bainiku also had this beautiful dark pink colour. According to Mark Robinson, shiso, umeboshi and chicken are classic pairing in the Japanese cuisine.
The rolling and cutting were a bit tricky for me and every round had a different size (I am sure CG, the highly skilled bento magician from the Cooking-Gallery wouldn’t have the slightest problem). The result was however worth my efforts, since shiso and bainiku proved perfect with the chicken. The sour bainiku taste “woke up” the delicate chicken, while the grassy, strong shiso added another dimension, creating a very complex and original combination I have never experienced before (I understood at once why this combination is so popular). I had these skewers (with a glass of shiso shochu of course) for dinner, with some rice and stir-fried vegetables, but I can very well imagine them served as a snack at a home party and, even better, in one of the izakayas featured in Mark Robinson’s book… (My only modification is marinating the chicken for 15 minutes in sake.)
By the way, I would like to proudly announce that my traditional Crème Brûlée recipe was chosen and sucessfully prepared by Three Cookies‘ and Easily Good Eats‘ author (yes he is a very hard-working person with two frequently updated blogs!). He has even managed to obtain a delicious result without a blowtorch. So, if you want to make a crème brûlée and don’t have a blowtorch, visit one of his blogs and ask for advice.
I would also like to thank once more Giulia from Alterkitchen, for having honoured me with so many blog awards. Grazie mille Giulia! She is also one of those hard-working bloggers and has two blogs: one in Italian and one in English.
6 – 8 skewers, depending on their size
a very sharp knife
Preparation: 30 minutes
Ingredients (serves 2):
2 chicken breasts
about 10 big shiso leaves (here I have used very dark “red” perilla, but green variety is more often used in such recipes)
(a couple of tablespoons cooking sake)
“Butterfly” the chicken breasts or simply cut them in two, reducing the thickness.
In order to obtain thinner meat layers, you can butterfly the chicken breast and then, with a sharp knife cut the meat’s width again in two (this is what I did with meat in the cas of the above skewers; the grilling time is quicker, but the meat is slightly drier).
Click here to watch an excellent short video explaining how to butterfly a chicken breast.
Cut the meat horizontally into 2 cm strips.
Marinate the strips in sake for 15 minutes.
Pat them dry.
Cover them with shiso leaves and roll very tightly.
(You can put a bit of salt on the side where the leaves are placed, but not too much, since the bainiku is very salty.)
Cut the rolls into 3 mm slices and put the resulting “wheels” on the skewers.
Grill them or fry them until cooked.
Brush the skewers with bainiku and serve.