Okonomi’s Shira-ae

Okonomi is a small 12-seat Japanese kitchen in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. Their cuisine is an interpretation of Japanese traditional techniques applied using the local and regional ingredients available in NYC. The foundation of the restaurant is mottainai philosophy (being mindful of waste) and focuses on East Coast fish and seafood, drawing on the expertise of their founding chef/owner Yuji Haraguchi.

During the daytime, Okonomi serves a Japanese set breakfast meal Ichiju Sansai. In the evening, all the head and bones of the daily fish are used for broth and the restaurant changes its name to YUJI Ramen.

Okonomi’s Ichiju Sansai (meaning one soup, three sides) consists of fish, miso soup, rice, tamagoyaki (egg custard) and vegetables. One of the vegetable side dishes, Shira-ae, is simple and can be used with a broad range of vegetables at home.

Here, Okonomi shares two versions of this dish:

The traditional plating of shira-ae is to toss and dress vegetables with the tofu sauce. For this recipe we have used a variety of foraged greens, including garlic mustard, garlic pennycress, angelica bud. However, at Okonomi, they most often neatly stack blanched greens and place a single dollop on top. As part of the set meal is a blanched broccoli rabe shira-ae. Separating the tofu sauce provides the opportunity to taste just the simple pure flavor of each component before combining.

*There are a few variants for the recipe. The most simple one is 1 block of firm tofu, 20 milliliters of white soy sauce, 100 milliliters dashi (fluctuates depending on how dry the tofu is). Next option is 1 block of tofu with 10 milliliters of white soy sauce, 20 grams shio koji, and dashi until smooth.

1 | Press tofu to release liquid. Alternatively, slice tofu and drop into boiling water. Strain, and let air dry. This also pulls out much of the excess water, which is better than pressing the tofu.

2 | Add all the ingredients to a small container and puree with an immersion blender. Note, the amount of dashi to add depends on how “dry” the tofu is and its desired texture. Also, the warmer the shiraae, the more soft and loose it will be.

3 | Add in the vegetables of your choice. You can either spoon on top or toss in and mix.

4 | Sprinkle with a few toasted sesame seeds, and enjoy!

*Additional notes for ingredients:

Dashi is a basic building block of Japanese cuisine, most often made with kombu seaweed and bonito flakes. However, for this recipe a vegan/vegetarian dashi can be substituted.

Shio Koji is used, in this case, for seasoning and should be available for purchase in your local Japanese food market. It is a mixture of koji (rice mold), salt and water.

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