Course 7 - Cucumber, kumquat, wakame

Japanese cucumber salad is a very common refreshing side dish or appetizer. This dish is a palate cleanser more than anything else - wakame seaweed paired with thinly sliced cucumber and a thin slice of kumquat to make it interesting, served in a sweet rice vinegar dressing. It's a nice way to come off the rich steak course that preceded it.

You may be frustrated that the recipe for the sweet vinegar doesn't come with exact quantities. This is because quantities vary depending on the taste of the ingredients you're using, and I just eyeballed mine until I got a taste that I liked. In general, rice vinegar and sugar are the most prominent ingredients, the sugar balancing the strong sourness of the vinegar. Mirin is added sparingly to sweeten and neutralize a bit, soy sauce even more sparingly to add salt and depth, and dashi to neutralize even more if needed. This dressing will be best if you buy the best rice vinegar you can find; I haven't had much luck with the Marukan stuff.

Ingredients

For 4 servings.

1 1/2 Tbsp dried wakame seaweed

1 Persian cucumber, or Japanese if available

1 kumquat

Sesame seeds, for garnish

Daikon sprouts, for garnish

For the sweet vinegar dressing:

Rice vinegar

Sugar

Mirin

Soy sauce

Dashi

Equipment:

Mandoline

Directions

  1. Prepare the sweet vinegar dressing (this can be done ahead of time): combine the rice vinegar and sugar in largest quantity, then balance with the mirin, soy sauce, and dashi in small quantities to taste.
  2. Prepare the wakame: hydrate the dried wakame in cold water for 8 - 10 minutes until soft and pliable.
  3. Thinly shave the cucumber and kumquat on the mandoline.
  4. Drain the wakame and gently squeeze out excess water.
  5. To serve: place a small pile of the wakame at the bottom of a small bowl. Lay a few slices of cucumber on top, and top with a slice of the kumquat. Spoon over a spoonful or two of the sweet vinegar dressing. Garnish with a few sesame seeds and the daikon sprout; serve with chopsticks.

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