Bekana

Minos is obsessed with Japanese food.  I mean, i like it fairly well, but she has spent time and effort learning how to prepare it.  She has an impressive stock of Japanese cooking utensils and seasonings.

A few weeks back at the Decatur Organic Farmer’s Market i found a vendor with a green i had never seen before.  The vendor enthusiastically talked about this green, called Tokyo Bekana, and how she had grown to love it while in Japan doing missionary work.  Given Minos’s obsession, it seemed logical to pick up a bunch.

Raw, Bekana reminds me of Bibb lettuce.  It has a creamy texture and a light flavor.

Minos found me a simple recipe for an easy Japanese preparation of this green.  This is a very Japanese dish — the flavors are simple, and crisp.  It’s a very different cooking style than the Indian food that i love, but it is still tasty.

Ingredients
4 tablespoons sesame oil
2 tablespoons sesame seeds
4 teaspoons peeled, minced ginger root
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 bunch Tokyo Bekana, chopped
2 tablespoons soy sauce
4 teaspoons Sake

Directions
1.  In the wok, heat the oil over medium heat.

2. Add the sesame seeds and stir fry until the start popping and become fragrant.

3. Add the ginger and garlic and stir fry for about a minute, until the just start to soften.

4. Add the greens and the soy sauce and sake, and simmer in the open wok for about a minute. Bekana is a tender green, so it doesn’t need a lot of cooking time.  Be careful not to let it wilt too much.

5.  Serve over steamed Japanese sticky rice.

I enjoyed mine with green tea and assorted pickles.

This was a delicious light meal.  The soy, sake, ginger, garlic, and sesame flavors all blend together very well.  None of them overpowered the light taste of the Bekana.

Plus, as an added bonus, it was quick and easy to make — probably less than 15 minutes cooking time.  That makes it great for a quick lunch, or a simple dinner on a busy day.

However, that is the only time i have ever seen Bekana.  None of the markets around here carry it, not even the Asian ones.  However, i think this would be good with a mustard green, or maybe bok choy.

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Crappy Day Pa Jeon

Today I feel puny.  I am looking for a new job and a new place to live, the left side of my face is all kind of nauseating colors from a random softball injury and the weather outside is gray and drizzly.  Oh, woe is me.  Normally I would cook up a big batch of soup on a day like this, but there really isn’t time.  What kind of comfort food can be whipped up quickly?

When I got an e-mail from PostLibyan with links to lots of pickle recipes, one of them went to David Lebovitz’s blog.  Maybe it’s heresy to say it, but I’ve never dug around his site much.  Today I did and found a recipe for Pa Jeon.  I had been thinking about making these mostly because I have an H-Mart calendar over my desk that shows a huge picture of them.  So that was a natural answer to the dilemma.

A hunt through the produce drawers produced no spring onions, so I used what I had.  This was the result.  Instead of spring onion, I used thinly sliced shallot and added some shredded collard greens.  The dipping sauce was soy sauce and brown rice vinegar with finely diced shallot and thin slices of red chili given me by PostLibyan.  The pickles are a japanese take on daikon kimchi.  Very comforting.

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Ingredients for the Greens
1 small shallot, cut into thin shreds
1/2 cup shredded collard greens
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 teaspoon soy sauce
2-4 tablespoons water

  1. Heat the oil over medium heat and saute the shallots until they start to wilt.
  2. Add the collard greens.
  3. Once they greens wilt, add soy sauce and water.
  4. Put a pot lid or drop lid over them and let them stew for 3-5 minutes.
  5. Once the greens are done to your liking, take off the lid and let any remaining liquid cook off.

Ingredients for the pancake batter
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup water
1 egg
1 teaspoon sesame oil
a pinch of salt
a pinch of baking powder

  1. Mix all these ingredients.
  2.  Pour pancake batter over the vegetables.  Use a chopstick or a fork to make sure that the batter mixes into vegetables well.  I put a pot lid over the pancake at this point.  The mixture is fairly thick, and I wanted it to cook through without burning.
  3. Once it’s browned, turn it over and brown the other side.

Ingredients for the dipping sauce
2 tablespoons soy sauce
2 tablespoons rice vinegar
1 teaspoon finely minced shallot
1 teaspoon thinly sliced chili

  1. Mix together and serve with the finished pancake.