My Drinking Culture: Wrapped Green Onions

I always like to have something to snack on when I drink. In fact, I’m not a big fan of going out to drink, unless there is something to snack on. The primary reasons are 1.) if I don’t have food to shove in my face, it means I have to talk more (I’m a pretty quiet person and am not good at small talk); and 2.) if I don’t have food to pace the drinking and have something in my stomach, the alcohol affects me at lightning speed. But honestly, I don’t like snacking on most of the options available at bars or happy hours; and in almost every case, I’m not able to eat the majority of items on a bar menu due to my casein food allergy.

My ideal drinking scenario involves lots of different types of drinks, and an even larger assortment of things to snack on. I love being able to pick out four, five, six, seven dishes to eat while drinking. The smaller the dish, the better. Because it means I get to eat more. But the majority of restaurants/bars which focus on “small plates”  that I’ve come across in the U.S. are overpriced, overcomplicated, fail in execution, and are made to go with the wine flight the restaurant is trying to shove onto you. Thats not drinking to me.

Okay, I do sound a bit like a curmudgeon. In truth, I still have fun no matter the drinking situation I am in. Especially going out and spending time with friends. But recently on nights where its just the two of us, we’ve been spending them at home. So I’ve been exploring the world of drinking snacks at home. On a plus, we get to make whatever we want; on the minus, cooking = having to clean up. To minimize on the time spent on cooking, and the amount of cleanup, I’ve been looking for recipes to make that are simple.

August 2016 of Kyou no Ryouri (KnR) was a great resource to find some tasty looking dishes. The main feature within this issue was a focus on different summer dishes from different regions in Japan. Featuring summery ingredients, or dishes that are nice and refreshing, the feature had a mix of main and side dishes.

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The dish featured on the cover iscalled keihan; a chicken rice dish that is a specialty in Kagoshima prefecture.

Out of this issue, I chose a dish called “hitomoji no guruguru”. Hitomoji is a term used in the Kumamoto prefecture on Kyushu, referring to a type of green onion. Guruguru means going around in circles; in this case, being wrapped around. So “wrapped green onions”. According to rumor, this dish was created in the late 1700s-ish at request of the 6th Hosokawa Lord of Kumamoto. He was looking for a dish a tasty dish that would go with sake, and that was cheap to make. The result, are green onions that are briefly blanched which are wrapped up. Typically eaten with a vinegary miso sauce (sumiso). This dish continues to be consumed today.

Hitomoji no Guruguru
Adapted from Kyou no Ryouri, August 2016 issue
2 Servings

Ingredients:
1 bunch green onions (around 8)
1 Tb miso paste
1 Tb rice vinegar
1 tsp sugar
1 tsp water
butcher’s twine

Prep Work:

With the bunch of green onions, cut off the bottom root area, and chop off the very top of the green onions to get rid of any brown and dried out green part on the top. To prevent the white stalk of green onions from bursting in the boiling water, run your knife lengthwise in the white stalk of the onion, not cutting all the way through, or to the end of the onion. This allows the green onion to expand in the water, but not burst the white part. Then, bundle the green onions together with a piece of butcher’s twine.

Fill a pot large enough to fit the green onions, and fill with water. Place on the stove and bring to a boil.

While waiting for the water to boil, you can prepare the vinegary miso sauce. In a bowl, combine the miso paste and water. This allows the miso paste to thin out, and easier to incorporate the other ingredients. Then add to the miso-water mixture the vinegar and sugar. Stir to combine. Pour into a small dish for dipping.

When the water is boiling, it’s ready to blanch the green onions. Using a pair of tongs, place the bundle, white side down into the pot. Holding with the tongs, cook the white part for about 45 seconds. Then submerge the green part of the green onion, and cook until the green part is wilted. You’ll be blanching for no more than about a minute and a half. Once the green onions are cooked, place them into a mixing bowl filled with ice water to stop the cooking. After the green onions are cold, take them out of the water and let drain, or pat dry with paper towels. Be really careful with the green onions once they are cooked, they are pretty delicate.

Now for the wrapping part! Its a little tricky, so don’t be surprised if you mess up the first few times. You might have another technique, but the photos show what worked for me.

Lay out your green onion, and bend half of the green part over the white stem, while the other half hangs out on the other side. Use the green stalk piece in the back and wrap around the white stalk and green part of the onion. Once you use the first green stalk, (see photo 3), then use the larger green part to finish wrapping around. The bottom photo is how mine ended up.

Continue with the rest of the green onions.

Place the bundles on a small serving dish, with the vinegary miso sauce.

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Don’t forget something to accompany the snack!

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