Three Textures of Corn and an Uni Extravaganza

photo-10-12-16-11-50-33-amOne of the ingredients I love to use in dishes when I entertain friends is sea urchin (“uni” in Japanese). It’s a product I’ve come to really enjoy in recent years. We’re especially lucky in Singapore that we’re able to access (through retailers like Zairyo) exceptionally high quality product. Poor-grade uni, or uni that’s past its “use-by date” is awful. It’s pissy and horrible. But fresh, high quality uni is beautiful. It’s sweet and rich and really quite special.

While an uni course has become a staple on dinner party menus for friends, I’ve refrained from serving uni to my own and my wife’s parents. I don’t know why. I never asked them if they didn’t like it. I guess I assumed it was too rich for them. So when my father-in-law recently expressed his love of uni, my wife and I felt really bad. He’d clearly seen, via Instagram and Facebook, pictures of uni-covered dishes we’ve created for others. Thinking about it now, he must have wondered why he wasn’t getting the same luxe treatment.

To make it up to him, and because his 70th birthday was coming up, we offered to whip up an uni extravaganza in his honour – six courses of uni indulgence for him, my mother-in-law and my parents. And because I needed to make up for lost uni opportunities, which dictated doing something very special, I ordered three varieties of uni for the meal: Hokkaido uni, Bafun uni (strong flavours and sweet) and Ensui uni (gorgeously sweet yet delicate; it is stored in salt water).

photo-10-12-16-1-03-00-pmThe first course was something that came together by chance. When shopping for ingredients in Meidiya, I came across a Hokkaido snow crab promotion and picked up a bag of legs. At home we had a jar or sriracha cream cheese that Su-Lyn had prepared for a Philadelphia Cream Cheese shoot she’d recently worked on. And we had some beautiful bread she had also made. This course was easy peasy: fried some bread rounds in olive oil so they were nice and crispy; spread some of the cream cheese on them; top them off with the crab legs, which I’d steamed for a few minutes; and finished the dishes off with some Ensui uni.

photo-10-12-16-1-13-50-pmThe second course was something I’ve made before and also written about — uni encased in a tomato water gelee. With the uni I added a little calamansi zest and some shiso. To make the dish more festive, a little gold leaf was placed on top of each jelly.

photo-10-12-16-1-30-37-pmThe third dish was inspired by something I saw on a friend’s Instagram feed. She had enjoyed a gorgeous and very cool sounding dish at Pierre in Hong Kong that was built around three textures of corn. I knew I wanted to try making my own version. Not having actually tasted the original I think was also a good thing. It meant I could exercise more creativity in what I did — as opposed to trying to recreate the flavours of the Pierre version. I made a puree with roasted garlic, fresh corn and Japanese leeks as my base. More fresh corn was sautéed with butter, shallots and sprinkled with nori. Similarly my popcorn was sprinkled with nori, shiso and salt. Bacon bits, a sous-vide egg and a helping of ensui and Hokkaido uni finished off the dish. I’ve written up a recipe for this dish, at the end of the post, so that if you’re keen, you can try making this.

photo-10-12-16-1-47-20-pmThe next course was probably the most unattractive of the meal but resulted in the most compliments. The base of the dish is freshly grated nagaimo mixed with fresh wasabi, soy and sesame oil. When my son saw this, he was like, “Eeeeew! Slimy!” But it’s the most delicious slime ever. Over the nagaimo I spooned fatty tuna belly that I’d mixed with leeks that had been cooked in bacon fat, chives, shiro miso, and soy. A big helping of Bafun uni was placed on top, with some Japanese pepper leaf. The dish, when mixed together, was just so wonderfully comforting and umami.

photo-10-12-16-2-14-45-pmNext up was a small helping of uni pasta. For this version, I used bucatini and made a sauce with butter, sake, mirin and chicken stock. After the pasta was tossed in the sauce, I added a big portion of grated karasumi (salted mullet roe) and mixed the roe and noodles together. More Bafun uni went on top of this.

photo-10-12-16-2-44-36-pmThe final course was the only meat course of the meal. I used Ito A4 wagyu ribeye as the foundation of the dish. Paired with the beef was thinly sliced baby radish, zucchini pickle (Zuni Cafe style), sesame seeds, a few cress leaves, Ensui uni and salmon roe. I love the combination of wagyu and uni, and the addition of pickle and the roe helped cut through the fattiness marvelously.

All in all, a very successful meal and one that wasn’t, in retrospective, too difficult to prepare. The menu went over really well with the father-in-law, which was the most important thing. Amusingly, and also surprisingly, my own father, once we started serving the dishes, also expressed a love for uni — again, something neither my wife nor I knew. Go figure.

 

 

About Aun Koh

Aun has always loved food and travel, passions passed down to him from his parents. This foundation, plus a background in media, pushed him to start Chubby Hubby in 2005. He loves that this site allows him to write about the things he adores--food, style, travel, his wife and his two kids!

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2 Comments

  1. Belle 20 December 2016

    I hope you won’t mind answering a silly question that popped into my head – when you host dinner parties, do you normally sit down and enjoy the food with the guests? Or since you’re cooking a la minute, do you just serve to them and prepare the next course?

    • Aun 20 December 2016 — Post Author

      I try as much as possible to sit down and eat the course when it is served. Then pop into the kitchen and get the next course ready. I make sure my mise en place is done way ahead so as to minimise the time spent between courses.

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