Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Eggplant, pork, and what the heck is cornflour?

Continuing with the Japanese cuisine, I made two dishes on Monday: Ginger-stewed Eggplant, and Gingery Seared Pork. The theme ingredient, by sheer coincidence--ginger!

Both of these recipes called for ginger juice. Ginger juice? How do you get juice out of a ginger? It turns out, if you peel and then grate the ginger, you can squeeze the "shavings" to get ginger juice. I liked the result. In the past, when I wanted some ginger flavor, I would cut up a few pieces and hope it would infuse the dish, but it was more like ginger "surprise" rather than an infusion. I may use this technique in future Chinese dishes.

The eggplant prep was also interesting, as it called for making many shallow diagonal slits on the skin. It seems to have helped make it easier to eat, as well as help the eggplant to more readily absorb the flavor of the broth.

Although the pork recipe calls for marinating the meat for at least 20 minutes, I felt like it could have been longer. The ginger flavor was not as concentrated as I would have liked, and I suspect it would have been better with one hour of marinating.

For dessert, my wife requested this recipe for grapefruit soufflé. Let me tell you, I'm not trusting a recipe from Australia again! First of all, apparently their version of a tablespoon is 20 mL, and the American version is 14.2 mL. Second, and most importantly, they have an ingredient called cornflour.

I thought I was being smart when I thought "cornflour" was Aussie for "cornstarch". Makes sense, no? No. Definitely not, especially when I tried to mix 30 g of cornstarch with 2 American tablespoons of water. Remember in science class when they taught you about liquids and solids? This one was a solid, and there was no way I was going to get 30 g of all-purpose flour to somehow join that party. I even added 1 more American tbsp of water to the mix, but to no avail.

After doing some research online, I found that Australian "cornflour" is some type of wheat product, because the British used to call wheat by the name "corn," and the Aussies call it maize. Wikipedia says Aussie "cornflour" is "wheaten starch." Thanks, Wikipedia. What's wheaten starch? Google doesn't seem to know, either. Maybe this ingredient just doesn't exist in the US?

Oh well, at least the extra grapefruit juice was good.

Ginger-Stewed Eggplant
(adapted from Washoku)
serves 4
4 Japanese eggplants, about 3 oz each
1/3 cup dashi
1 teaspoon sake
1 teaspoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon ginger juice, with peels reserved
1 tablespoon soy sauce
light-colored soy sauce, to taste
mirin, to taste
vegetable oil
  1. Cut each eggplant in half, lengthwise, and make shallow, parallel slits on the diagonal into the skin side of each half
  2. In a skillet, sear the eggplant, skin side down
  3. Flip the eggplant halves over so the skin is facing up, sear for another minute
  4. Add dashi, sake, sugar, and ginger peels, and lower the heat to maintain a simmer
  5. Cover with an otoshi-buta
  6. Cook for 2-3 minutes, or until liquid is reduced in half
  7. Add soy sauce and discard the ginger peels, simmer for another minute
  8. Add ginger juice and cook for another 30 seconds
  9. If necessary, adjust seasoning with soy sauce or mirin.
  10. Remove pan from heat, and let the eggplant cool in the pan, covered
  11. Serve at room temperature or chilled
Gingery Seared Pork
(adapted from Washoku)
Serves 4
12 ounces of pork loin, sliced thinly
2 teaspoons ginger juice
2 tbsp sake
1 1/2 tbsp soy sauce
3 bell peppers
vegetable oil
  1. Mix ginger juice and sake, and marinate pork for at least 20 min
  2. Add soy sauce to marinade 10-15 min before cooking
  3. Quickly sear pork on both sides over high heat, set aside
  4. Lower the heat and sear bell peppers, set aside
  5. Return the pork to the pan, along with any juices released. Sauté for 2 minutes, or until the surfaces are well glazed and slightly browned.
  6. Return the peppers to the pan and warm through.
  7. Serve immediately.


natalie said...

Now the question is, when you squeezed the ginger shavings, did your fingers smell like ginger for the rest of the day?

chiscotti said...

Hey Jason,

I looked it up and someone from Asia Food said:

"Wheat starch"

A starch derived from wheat. Also known as non-glutinous flour and wheaten cornflour, wheat starch is the by-product when gluten (derived from wheat protein) is made. Although a suitable substitute for cornflour when thickening, it really comes to the fore in the tender pouches of translucent, pleated dough that enclose tiny, tasty steamed morsels of Chinese dim sum. Don't be confused by the packaging: wheaten cornflour is not a feat of genetic engineering, but merely a misnomer. It is actually a fine wheat starch.

This might be a good webpage to bookmark :)

jko said...

I got beat to the comments. :)

This was another homey-type meal. The ginger pork was, as you said, missing the ginger flavor. If the recipe wasn't called "Ginger pork" I would have thought it was "Soy sauce pork."

The eggplant had good flavor, but it seemed to be slightly overcooked? Not sure.

Still, food is food and I'm not going to complain if my husband cooks food for me on his day off when he could have been playing, oh I don't know, virtual tennis. :)

Very sad about the grapefruit souffle. I had been looking forward to it all day. It looked so pretty on that Australian blog too. Oh well.

B- (C on the pork, B on the eggplant and a little extra for good effort!)

Jason said...

natalie - Haha, no. Actually I used a silicone spatula to press the ginger against the side of a bowl. However, I actually think ginger won't have the same properties as garlic with regard to that propery. =P

chiara - Thanks...maybe I'd have to go to a Chinese market to buy it. Too much trouble though--I have no idea what the Chinese name for it would be.

Eilonwy said...

Interesting about the corn flour. Maybe I would have guessed something like...corn meal =P