Brazil and Peru are two countries with vibrant, multinational food cultures, and Nikkei cuisine is no exception. A product of the Japanese diaspora, the Nikkei are ethnic Japanese who have lived in Latin America for generations. Their influence on Peruvian and Brazilian cooking resulted in a new kind of Asian food that is distinctly East Asian with South American twists, depending on the ingredients available over the years. Nikkei dishes have gained popularity in recent years, thanks to those like classically trained, Brazilian-born Japanese-Italian chef Luiz Hara, who continues to popularize this vibrant hybrid cuisine in London and just released a book of recipes. Hot out there? These noodles will cool you right down.
The fine and delicate Japanese somen noodles are flavored here with shredded chicken and a nutty sesame dressing to create a light and refreshing salad, perfect for a summer’s day. The flavored Japanese egg, known as ajitsuke tamago, can be made a day or two in advance and kept in the fridge; these eggs will give the dish a wow factor.
- 1 1/4 inch piece of root ginger, skin left on, sliced
- 1 spring onion (scallion), roughly chopped
- 1 chicken breast (or 2 chicken thighs), skin off but reserved
- 1/2 small cucumber, skin on
- 1/4 ounce chives, to garnish
- 3/4 cup sunflower oil, for deep-frying
- 1/2 portion of Goma-dare sesame dressing (recipe included)
- 5 1/2 ounces somen noodles
- 2 Japanese flavored eggs (ajitsuke tamago)
- A handful of micro herbs or baby cress, to garnish
- Shichimi pepper, to garnish
- A sprinkle of toasted white sesame seeds, to garnish
- 1/4 cup light tahini (sesame seed paste)
- 1 tablespoon light soy sauce
- 2 tablespoons mirin
- 1 tablespoon rice vinegar
- 1 teaspoon caster (superfine) sugar
- salt, to taste
- Shichimi pepper, to taste
For the noodles and salad
Put the sliced ginger and spring onion (scallion) in a pan, then add the skinned chicken along with enough water to cover. Simmer gently for 15 minutes or until the chicken is cooked through. Turn off the heat and let the chicken cool in the broth. Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 400°F.
Scrape off any excess fat and feathers from the chicken skin with a knife without tearing the skin. Stretch it out on a flat baking tray (baking sheet) in a single layer. Place a smaller metal tray, such as a roasting tin (pan), on top of the skin to keep it flat while roasting.
Roast for 10 minutes until crisp and lightly golden. Remove from the oven and transfer to a cooling rack. When cool enough to handle, break the skin into four triangular pieces.
Next, prepare the garnishes. Deseed the cucumber and, using a mandolin, cut it into juliennes. Finely chop the chives, deseed and slice the red chili, deep-fry the chili slices in sunflower oil at 310°F for 30 seconds, then drain on kitchen paper (paper towels).
Once the chicken is cool enough to handle, remove it from the broth (keeping the broth) and shred it finely, season with salt and keep it covered to avoid it drying out.
Make the dressing by mixing all the ingredients together. Add a few tablespoons (one at a time) of the chicken broth until you get the correct consistency (something akin to single cream). Check for seasoning and add salt and a little shichimi pepper, to taste.
When you are just about to serve, cook the somen noodles according to the instructions on the packet — it shouldn’t take more than 2-3 minutes. Then drain and refresh thoroughly under cold running water. Let them drain for 2-3 minutes before adding the finely chopped chives and, using your hands, mix them into the noodles.
Carefully and very delicately, cut the Japanese flavored eggs in half lengthways, trying to keep any runny yolk from spilling along or outside the egg white.
To serve, use a flat bowl: Make a tight but flattish mound of noodles per bowl, top with shredded chicken, spoon 2-4 tablespoons of dressing over the chicken, place some julienned cucumber on top, then the micro herbs and a slice of red chili. Now, very carefully place a triangular piece of crispy chicken skin in the middle of the mound, sprinkle some chopped chives, a little shichimi pepper and sesame seeds over the chicken and garnishes.
Carefully place half of the Japanese flavored eggs by the noodle mound and serve.