Every now and again I have a food and beverage pairing that unexpectedly blows my mind. It happened this very week when I made the Hiyashi Chuka (Chilled Chinese Noodle Salad) as part of the monthly Washoku Warrior Challenge that I participate in each month. We are cooking through Elizabeth Andoh’s ‘Washoku, Recipes from the Japanese Home Kitchen.’ Participating in a round table cooking club allows me to experiment and get my creative juices flowing. I really enjoy reading everyone’s notes and seeing the resultant pictures. (Check out lafujimama.com for more info.)
Anyhoo, this month’s recipe was pretty straightforward. It consisted of chilled noodles garnished with various toppings—ham, cucumber, soy simmered shitake mushrooms, pickled ginger and topped off with a chilled, creamy, sesame miso sauce. I loved the pungency of the individual ingredients and the sesame miso sauce was subtle enough to be a bridge between flavors. It was the Sesame miso sauce that made this dish for me. It’s subtle; a little nutty, a little salty from the miso and a little sweet too. It would be a fantastic dip for steamed vegetables—especially steamed asparagus or bok choy—or even fresh spring rolls. This sauce would be a great addition to a non-traditional 4th of July Barbecue buffet.
But with this kind of dish you just hope to find a beverage that can hang in there with the various flavors and textures. You wouldn’t expect to find something that really enhances the experience in “the sum is greater than the sum of its parts” kind of way. We opened a bottle of beer named La Fin Du Monde (yes, that’s ‘the end of the world’) made by the Canadian brewery Unibroue. It’s a full-bodied Tripel with notes of lemon and coriander and it played off the sesame miso sauce like they were long lost lovers. It gave richness, weight and texture to the sauce. I thought the dish was pretty good on its own, but after one sip of beer it immediately became exceptional. Even the stronger flavors of soy braised mushrooms, ham and pickled ginger were enhanced. It was two thumbs up all the way around.
Here’s the recipe for the Sesame Miso Sauce
Adapted from: Elizabeth Andoh’s ‘Washoku, Recipes from the Japanese Home Kitchen.’
3 Tbsp. Tahini
3 Tbsp White Miso
1 tsp soy sauce
1/3 cup of water or Dashi
* The sauce should have the consistency of heavy cream. Use more water if you need to—add the extra water in 1 Tbsp or less at a time.