Wednesday, February 26, 2014

What to do with Renkon (Lotus Root)

I am such a HUGE fan of renkon! I get really excited when renkon season is here and I eat it as much as I can until the season is over. Hard to say what my favorite way of eating it is though... I love renkon tempura! I love reckon kinpira. I also love the renkon creme brûlée Trois serves for dessert. Sounds odd, I know, but it is sooooo good!

Many of you have probably seen renkon in the grocery store though, and just didn't know what it was or what to do with it. I'm hoping this will help to make you feel more comfortable about buying this delicious root vegetable and giving it a try.

There are so many ways to prepare renkon, but I just want to share a couple of recipes to get you started.

RENKON NO SUNOMONO - This is a delicious, marinated renkon. You can substitute the yuzu with another citrus fruit like lemon or kabosu (a citrus fruit similar to yuzu). You can also leave the citrus out, but I personally think it's so much better with it.

1 1/2 - 2 cups thinly sliced renkon
1/4 tsp salt
1 TBSP sugar
1/4 cup rice vinegar
fresh yuzu peel (just the outer part of the peel) and yuzu juice

Bring a small pot of water to boil. Add thinly sliced renkon and continue to boil for about 2 minutes. The longer you leave them in, the less crunchy they will be so don't leave them in for too long. Drain and while still warm, add the salt, sugar, and vinegar. Mix well. Taste and adjust by adding more salt or sugar if needed. The vinegar will be very strong, but will mellow out as it sits so don't worry if it seems very tart. Add a squeeze of yuzu juice and some yuzu peel and mix well. Cool completely and serve. I can just sit and munch on these all day.

RENKON NO KINPIRA - This is a renkon stir fry that goes very well with rice. If you want it to be a little heartier, you can throw in some ground beef.

1 1/2 - 2 cups thinly sliced renkon
2 TBSP dashi shoyu
1 TBSP sugar
1 TBSP sweet rice wine (mirin)
1 TBSP sesame oil
1 TBSP sesame seeds

Soak the sliced renkon in a bowl of water for a few minutes to get some of the starch out. Drain.
Combine the dashi shoyu, sugar, and mirin in a small bowl and mix well. Taste and adjust as needed.
Heat sesame oil in a frying pan over medium heat. Add sliced renkon and stir fry for a minute. Add the sauce mixture and mix well. Stir around for another minute or two before turning off the heat. Crush the sesame seeds between your fingers as you sprinkle them over the kinpira. Transfer to a bowl and serve with rice.

Oh! Renkon is a good source of dietary fiber and Vitamin C. They taste good AND they're good for you!

Another interesting fact about renkon is that Iwakuni is very well known for renkon, and I have heard from quite a few people that the Iwakuni renkon is unusual because there are nine holes instead of the usual eight holes that are in the renkon. Of course I had to count them. It's true. There really are nine holes.

Are you feeling like you need to rush out and buy some lotus root now? The season is coming to an end so don't wait too long!
I should mention that I did not slice the renkon all nice and pretty. My knife skills are not the greatest. Toshiko and Keiko have amazing knife skills though and they are the ones who sliced everything up for these recipes. I just took pictures and tasted and took more pictures and tasted some more.

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Sri Lankan Restaurant and Cafe LAMP

I have passed this place a few times on my way to Mominoki and I have been wanting to check it out.
I finally got my opportunity yesterday. I found myself driving to Mominoki in search of some snow for a photo shoot I was doing and as I drove past this place, I knew where I was having lunch. Good thing my client was also my really good friend, Tani. She knows about my food obsession and she is always up for a foodie adventure.

We walked in and we liked it right away. After picking a table by the front window and putting our stuff down, we asked if we could look around. It's not that it was a large space for us to explore, but he did have some spices and teas for sale that we looked at (I picked up a bottle of chili powder that smells amazing). We also wanted to see what the view was out the back window. It was beautiful! He said we could open the back door and go out if we wanted to, but he wasn't sure if it was a good idea with all of the snow. We looked and he was right. Not a good idea. So we decided to sit down and look through the menu.

The first thing I saw was the pumpkin curry. Tani and I decided we should order two different types of curry and share. She picked the dry chicken curry and I picked the pumpkin soup curry (big surprise). The owner then told us that we needed to order rice or roti separately if we wanted some to go with the curry. Roti?? I have no idea what that is so I ask and he kindly explains that it is a Sri Lankan bread that you eat with the curry. So... we ordered one rice and one roti. Of course.

When he brought the pumpkin curry out and set it down, the smell was amazing. I couldn't wait to dig in!
It was really like a bowl of soup and it was just as yummy as it smelled. I loved the chunks of pumpkin that were in the soup curry, and I loved the fact that it wasn't spicy at all for me. I'm a wuss when it comes to spicy foods so I asked about it when we ordered. He said the normal spice had a little bit of a kick. I can handle a tiny kick. This curry didn't really seem to have a kick to me so you can order it spicier if you like a big kick. I can't really explain how wonderful the flavors were in this curry. You will have to go and order it. It's the only way you will know.

The chicken curry looked and smelled delicious too!

I have to say the chicken curry threw me off just a little bit. It definitely had a little bit of a kick, but what got me was that it also had a slight sweetness to it. I wasn't expecting it so it was a surprise. It was pretty tasty.

The bread was also very good. I think getting one of each was perfect because the curry was really good with both the rice and the bread.

There should be a couple of weeks left for sledding season so head on up to Mominoki Park and make sure you stop here for lunch or dinner on your way back. To get to this wonderful wonderful restaurant, jump on Route 2 and head towards Otake. Turn left onto 186 and head towards the Yasaka Dam. Once you pass Yasaka Dam stay on 186 and continue on heading towards Yoshiwa. Turn right onto 488 (if you turn left you can go to Megahira for some skiing). Follow the road until you see the restaurant on the left (maybe 10 min). If you want to go sledding first, just keep driving past the restaurant until you see an entrance sign for Mominoki Park. You certainly don't have to go sledding to enjoy this restaurant though. You can do a little hiking at Three Peaks (Mikuradake) and then go enjoy a nice lunch here. You can also jump in your car and just drive to LAMP, eat delicious curry, and drive home. I would definitely make the drive up just to eat here.

LAMP is open from 1100-2100 and the phone number is (0829)77-2773.