If I had to pick my favorite kind of restaurant on this planet, I would probably pick an Izakaya. Not the smoky drinking-dens of yesteryear, but the newer and more vibrant version that serves delicious food at reasonable prices.
Izakaya’s are a form of Japanese restaurant that serve up small plates of delicious food to be shared. In addition to the food, they serve also alcohol and other drinks to patrons in need of refreshment. Think of something like a Spanish tapas bar or a British gastro-pub that serves small plates, and you won’t be far off.
Typically a single plate of food at a Izakaya costs around $4-$10, and you’re likely to purchase multiple plates during a visit. This format gives everyone at the table a chance to sample a wide variety of food, and a chance to socialize/drink while they wait for the next round of food to be delivered.
It’s all about having fun, eating, and socializing while filling your belly with plenty of delicious food.
At home, I try to reproduce the Izakaya ‘small plate’ experience whenever I can — especially when we’re entertaining guests! We love to entertain friends with food, drinks, and a few good board games.
In today’s post, I’m going to share one of my favorite Izakaya recipes — Yep, it’s a recipe post! Don’t worry it’s not complicated! This one is extremely easy to make!
Izakaya Cucumbers — The Recipe
Step One: Gather ingredients
Like any good recipe, the first step is to gather all the ingredients together. Collect the following:
- One large English Cucumber
- 1 tablespoon of salt (approximately)
- 1 tablespoon of good quality soy sauce (Amazon recommendation)
- 1 tablespoon of ground sesame (Amazon recommendation)
- 1 tablespoon of sesame oil (Amazon recommendation)
- 1.5 teaspoons of chicken bouillon powder (Amazon recommendation)
- 1.5 teaspoons of sugar
I know there are many varieties of cucumbers available, but for this particular recipe an “English Cucumber” works best. Typically when you find them in the grocery store they’re wrapped in plastic.
The only tricky ingredient to find here might be the pre-ground sesame. Pre-ground sesame can be a little hard to find — In which case, just purchase common whole sesame seeds and then spend a few minutes grinding them yourself.
I recommend getting the best quality products you can afford here, as some items like the soy sauce can significantly affect the flavor of the final recipe.
Step Two: Beat Your Cucumber
OK OK! For those of you with dirty minds, “beating the cucumber” sounds like some kind of vague sexual innuendo, but I can guarantee you it’s not. This is an actual step in the recipe. What you do with cucumbers on your own time is your business, but here we’re just trying to breakup or “crack” the cucumber a little.
I’ve seen this cucumber-beating step done hard enough to actually break it down into smaller pieces, but I generally aim for ‘softening’ the cucumber. You don’t want to beat the cucumber so hard that it creates a mess all over your cutting board, and you don’t want it solid as a rock either.
I typically use a rolling pin to perform this step. There’s a balance to find here, but how long and how hard you beat your cucumber is entirely up to you.
Step Three: Slice And Salt!
Once you’ve show that cucumber who’s boss, it’s time to slice and dice. Typically I’ll slice a whole cucumber in six to eight equal width strips.
Then, chop the remaining trips into 1-inch (2.5 cm) segments. Larger than 1″ tends to be too big, and smaller than that tends to be too tiny.
Next, pour on the salt and mix it thoroughly. The salt will draw some of the water out of the cucumber. You want to let the salted cucumbers rest for at least 30 minutes (an hour is better) to draw out the water.
Yes, that’s a lot of salt, but DON’T WORRY! We’ll wash it off later!
Step Four: Prepare the Sauce
While the cucumbers are soaking in the salt, I usually preparing other dishes. This is also a good time to prepare the sauce!
In a small bowl, combine the bouillon, sugar, and ground sesame together, along with the sesame oil and soy sauce. The result will look like this:
Step Five: Rinse and Combine
After waiting for the 30 minutes to one hour, rinse off the salt from the cucumbers. Rinse the salt off thoroughly and then squeeze out any excess water. Combine with the sauce and mix gently.
And that’s it! Your done! The only step left is to put it on a fancy plate and then feed it to your hungry guests or family.
The Art Of The Small Plate
Wasn’t that an easy recipe? It’s really is! Creating delicious food doesn’t have to be hard OR expensive.
It can be cheap and easy! Don’t believe me? You might be surprised by how good this simple recipe is!
Got any “small plate” recipes you love? I’d love to hear about them. Please share in the comments!
[Image Credit: Flickr]