PANKO: THE OTHER WHITE BREAD CRUMB
Modern American and Japanese food, art and medicine have an ever widening audience in both cultures. This exchange is not one sided. Our relationship is one of progress and growth. For every bite of wonderful, salt water expression in sushi, buttery Kobe beef, crisp tempura and gluten free pastas that we experience here, there is an equal reaction to hamburgers, Southern fried chicken and American-Italian foods in Japan.
This month we are exploring the uses of the coarse, white panko breadcrumb. Panko has been present in restaurants for a few decades but is fairly recent as a common grocery store product.
We import healthy foods and we export the fast food side of our culture. It would be amazing if our modern Southern, Northern California, New York and New Orleans food culture were more energetically marketed. They do appear in hotel restaurants around the world so that is a good start. Panko is one of those ingredients that make this expansion possible. We will be cooking fried panko pickles and baby bok choi; sautéed daikon (large white radish) pancakes with chili garlic sauce; and oven roasted panko salmon with orange sweet soy sauce Yes, Pacific salmon season has started!
Japanese holistic approaches to health have entered American homes with a positive integration of food, décor, mind and body. Modern American poetry has had an interesting and personal impact in Japan. Two scholastic literary collections that include things I have written have shown a great deal of interest in Japan. “American Diaspora”, a text book on the sense of geographic and cultural place for American poets; and “Last Call: The Bukowski Legacy Continues” which is a text of poetry and prose following the styles of Poet/Novelist Charles Bukowski. For every tanka and haiku that we all wrote as undergraduates, there is a contemporary American poetic form taken on in Japan and Asia. This is what makes all things “world” so beautiful, the exchange of culture through health, Art and cuisine.
Other dishes that make world foods possible are fried foods, pickles, pancakes/crepes, rice and pastas. How we prepare them is what defines recipe origins. Something as old as breadcrumbs has taken on vastly diverse manufacture and use. Some of us grew up knowing only Italian seasoned and plain breadcrumbs. Progress changes things. Japan found a way to toast bread from the inside out using electric probes in the bread dough. This way of bread baking made it possible for a whole new kind of breadcrumb, the white panko breadcrumb. It is cooked crispy from the inside out so that there is no crust and the texture is uniform throughout the bread.
Panko is coarse, white and allows for fast and crispy cooking. Progressive Chefs have found hundreds of ways of using panko throughout American and World cuisines. You can find panko in almost any grocery store. Some still keep it only in the Asian section, but most will have it alongside Western style breadcrumbs.
Bok choi or bok choy is a member of a family of Chinese cabbages. I have heard the word choi used to describe leafy vegetables in general. Bok choi has no cholesterol or fat, and is high in vitamins C and A. Raw, it has a crisp and clean flavor. I think all chois taste great, think of a marriage between baby lettuces and cucumber and you have a sense of the flavor. They are highly adaptable from raw to fried. Sesame oil, soy sauce, oyster sauce and fermented black bean (soy beans) and garlic each are compliments to bok choi. The bright flavor and crisp characteristics of bok choi is a perfect match for panko fried pickles.
The first time I saw fried pickles as a beer food was in Sausalito, CA. A table of Japanese men were eating fried pickles and drinking draft beer. I thought it was pretty cool because fried pickles are Southern and Japanese, with each culture thinking it is their own creation. That scene was in 1980. Thing is that open fires and boiling oil tend to encourage cooks to put anything to the test. Salty, sweet and sour, fried pickles take on a vibrant flavor that begs you to eat more. They are good as bar food or as an appetizer. Pilsner is the perfect beer for these crispy bar snacks. Salty and sour makes you thirsty, hence they are primary flavors in bar food.
FRIED PANKO PICKLES AND BOK CHOI
The dipping sauce is mayonnaise based. I recently bought two different kinds of Philippine vinegar bbq sauces at Fooks Grocery and in three days one is half full. They are that good. The brand is Kuratsoy from Isabel Village in the Philippines. It is a blend of coconut vinegar, “spices” and soy.
The world of vinegars is populated with white, apple cider, sorghum, cane, balsamic, pomegranate, red wine, sherry and champagne to the complex Japanese brown rice and deep, bitter Chinese black vinegar. Vinegars, alcohol, stocks, fruit and vegetable juices are all important for deglazing hot woks and sautéed dishes as well as important ingredients to our sauces and marinades. Never underestimate the quality of a vinegar, it’s all a happiness.
Isabel Village Mayonnaise
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
4 tablespoons Dukes mayonnaise
2 tablespoons Kuratsoy extra hot thin bbq vinegar
1 clove garlic, minced
1/6 teaspoon thyme
1/6 teaspoon basil
1 tablespoon cilantro, chopped
Combine well and refrigerate. Tightly covered, this will keep for several weeks.
3 bok choi, washed, thick slice
1 teaspoon sesame oil
Slice and toss with oil. Refrigerate until ready to eat.
10 dill pickles, 5 cut in spears and 5 cut in thick oblong slices
¼ cup milk
¼ cup Greek yogurt (plain)
Combine milk and yogurt, stir and add pickles. Refrigerate for two hours.
1/3 teaspoon sea salt
¼ teaspoon ground black pepper
¼ teaspoon paprika
¼ teaspoon ground cumin
¼ teaspoon ground Indian chili or ground red chili pepper
1/3 cup unbleached white flour or brown rice flour
1 cup panko
Mix dry ingredients.
1 quart corn oil heated to 350 degrees
Remove pickles from marinade and drain. Put the dry ingredients in a plastic bag. Add the pickles to the bag. Shake. Take pickles out of bag, shake off excess starch and fry for 2 minutes. Using a spider or slotted spoon lift pickles out of oil and drain.
Scatter the bok choi over a serving platter, spoon Isabel Village Mayonnaise in the center of the plate and around the edges. Stack pickles on the bok choi. Garnish with chopped Chinese parsley/cilantro and very small amount of coarse sea salt and crushed dried pepper. Dried jalapeno is very good pepper choice for this dish. It can be found in the Latin section of the grocery store along with several other kinds of dried pepper. At one time or another, try them all, learn how each has an important flavor.
DAIKON PANCAKES WITH CHILI GARLIC SAUCE
This is comfort food at it’s finest. My favorite is Hong Kong style but there are Korean, Taiwanese, Beijing, Vietnamese and of course Japanese styles as well. Our chili garlic sauce is simply, Srirracha. Srirracha was made by a Vietnamese immigrant in Los Angeles back in the 1970s because he was trying to recall his grandmother’s home cooking. “Rooster sauce” became an international hit.
Daikon is a mild white radish. They look like huge white parsnips. They are good raw or cooked. Daikon is used a lot in sushi restaurants. It is great cold to mild weather food. One of my fondest food memories is that of eating radish cakes hot off the stove, it was snowing and we were in comfort food heaven inside looking out at late winter. Radish cakes are popular at dim sum restaurants.
1 ½ cups daikon, peeled and shredded
2 cups cold water
Soak in cold water 30 minutes. Drain.
1 teaspoon sea salt
1 clove garlic, crushed and minced
½ onion, minced
1 egg, beaten
½ cup panko
1 teaspoon Five Spice Powder
1 teaspoon paprika
4 ounces corn oil for frying
Combine. Add daikon to mix and mash it all together. Shape eight pancakes. Heat oil in large iron skillet and pan fry until crisp outside, hot inside. Serve with Srirracha and chopped cherries for a complete set of flavors. Srirracha is also good mixed with mayonnaise.
Panko is the star today but with salmon season beginning it is a tough call as to what is our feature today. Pacific salmon are: Chinook, chum/keta, sockeye, coho/silver and pink. Stick to this set of salmon and you will never go wrong.. What does this mean? Buy Alaskan to Washington Pacific salmon in season, your body, taste buds and the fisheries will thank you. Do this, pretend that Atlantic Salmon has never been farmed in the Pacific Ocean. See how plentiful and untarnished the waters can be?
2, 7 ounce salmon fillets, skin on (crispy skin is tasty!)
1 teaspoon pink sea salt
1 tablespoon sweet rice vinegar
Mix vinegar and salt. Rub on flesh and skin.
1 cup panko
Dredge flesh side of salmon in panko. Press it into the meat so it holds.
1 tablespoon butter
1 teaspoon olive oil
Heat iron skillet with butter and oil. Put salmon in flesh side down. Cook three minutes. Use a fish spatula and turn. Cook two minutes and then finish in 450 degree oven for five minutes.
4 ounces Pearl River dark soy sauce
2 tablespoons date palm sugar or date molasses, or brown sugar/molasses
4 tablespoons fresh orange juice
Combine and heat over low heat until thickened. Stir as it cooks.
Set salmon on plate, drizzle sauce over salmon. Shredded carrots and zucchini, Indo-Asian pesto, and Japanese pasta is very good with salmon, and of course a side of wasabi is always welcome.
April is a big, breezy, blossoming, farmers market ready, food crazy, happy, pollinating month of rebirth and hope. Spread the love. There’s always love to spare.
For every passion
There is compassion,
With a prayer to peace,
To faith and hope,
This is our life alive
At the start of each day.
In each sunrise, sunset,
A thousand possibilities
Are cast into the world.
From the farmers we see
Of wild sweet peas,
Peppers, peppers, peppers,
All fill the carts
Of our local markets.
Winds crash down
From the Nantahala range,
Carrying rain clouds
And the thrill
Of June tomatoes,
Silver Queen corn,
Buckets of squashes
And piles of potatoes,
This is Georgia
At the beginning of Spring,
When our hearts
Reach as high
As Jack’s beanstalk
And our spirit
Dares to touch
The heavens above.