Togarashi Testing

This week’s entry in quarantine cuisine takes me from the Mediterranean across Asia to the islands of Japan. I came across a small packet of togarashi spice blend and decided that would serve nicely as the next entry.

There are different versions of togarashi but some elements are pretty much consistent which are; red chili peppers, orange peel, sesame seeds, nori (seaweed), ginger, and white pepper. Other items are added depending on who’s making it and what profile they’re going for. The blend I have uses hot and sweet paprika, black and white sesame seeds, orange peel, poppy seeds and powdered nori but no ginger or white pepper so I added both to the mixture myself.

Typical uses are adding it to soups, noodle dishes or rice dishes. In my case I decided to make a simple soup using thin sliced beef, dashi broth (thanks Lynn), shitake mushrooms, green onions and udon noodles and add the togarashi.

I marinated the beef in a mix of soy and teriyaki sauces then browned the bite sized bits just a tad before adding to the dashi broth with the other ingredients. So I never took a snap of the beef at any stage and even in the finished product below it is hiding beneath the other ingredients but trust me it was tender and tasty.

This turned out to be very tasty and quite filling. The togarashi spice added a little bit of heat and some nice color to the dashi broth. The pepper flavor was there and melded well with the marinated beef and green onions, which also added a color element. I really liked the finished product and there were left overs so I’m expecting one of those “better the next day” experiences.

I’ve used this spice blend as a rub before and also sprinkled on roasted vegetables. Both good but for some reason this blend smoked at any highish heat. I’d definitely recommend trying it if you never have.

Za’atar Thyme

This installment I go a bit further east along the Mediterranean Sea to the middle east for a spice blend. Thyme is not the only herb in Za’atar, the particular version I used also has the requisite sesame seeds, sumac and salt but also marjoram and oregano. A very aromatic blend.

If you haven’t guessed this is another cooking at home entry. Za’atar is used a lot of different ways from adding it to olive oil dipped pita to sprinkling it into hummus to adding it to meat and vegetable dishes. I opted to try the last of those by using pork as my protein. While pork is not a huge middle-eastern favorite I had that 2lb slab of pork left from the sausage making so it would do. I had about 2 tbsps of the spice so mixed it with olive oil to make a paste to spread on each side of the pork and then let it marinate (sort of) for a while.

I wanted it tender so I decided to sear it on both sides and then throw it in the pressure cooker with some chicken stock for the pressure liquid and a small onion sliced thin. It came out tender, however in hindsight I think baking it would have preserved more of the spice blend on the pork. It still tasted nice with the thyme and oregano coming through well. I captured more of the other flavors using some of the juices later.

To keep the meal in theme I made some couscous and homemade pita bread and then added some mixed vegetables for color and just because they’re good.

After taking the picture I added the aforementioned juices to the couscous and pork and that perked up both.

I’ve used za’atar before in chicken dishes from Blue Apron so I know it goes well with chicken too. My favorite way to date though was using some on a pita with olive oil and a bit of feta and baking it just a bit. It’s a very versatile blend and worth trying out.

Scandinavian Yums

The April 2020 box from Universal Yums had snacks from various Scandinavian countries one of which was my hoped for licorice.

The countries represented in this box were: Denmark, Norway, Sweden, Finland, and Iceland. I expected the licorice to be from Denmark but it turned out to be Finnish.

As the package says it was indeed salty. It was packaged such that you could peel the strips apart and there were three layers of strips together so you could stretch out the fun of this for a long time. In spite of the the fact that I’ve mentioned it so many times it wasn’t my favorite item from the box.

My favorite item turned out to be the Choko-Flager, an oat cookie sandwich with chocolate filling.

The cookies were light and crispy with some really nice darkish chocolate. Was amazing with a cup of coffee. I wouldn’t have known they were oat cookies. It had a nice texture and that dark chocolate had just the right amount of bitter to compliment the sweetness of the cookie.

The runner up for me in this box turned out to be one of the little candies in the Yum bag. Sadly I didn’t snap a picture of any of these which is truly unfortunate because they made up two of the four highlight spots.

Number 2 was the Nöt-creme cookie dough pralines. Man these were close to number 1. The chocolate outer shell was okay but the cookie dough flavored filling was excellent. It was definitely thinner than real cookie dough but the taste was spot on unlike my least favorite snack in the box.

The Kolafabriken Fizzy Toffee was supposed to be bubblegum toffee and it was a pink and blue sugar bomb that would pull teeth out. It was very colorful and that’s about all I can say for it. At least the one I’m classifying as the weirdest got cool points for the shape.

When I first saw this package I thought that was an octopus and was very afraid of what this might be but then I noticed the name and looked closer and saw it was a skull and crossbones. Well nothing says cheery snack like pink skulls and crossbones. Turns out that’s true. These little raspberry gummies had a sour sweet outside dusting that dissolved into a sweet chewy raspberry workout for your jaws. It was a big bag and required more than one sitting to finish. I don’t know what the Swedish fascination with skulls is but there was another snack shaped like a skull as well (chocolate with strawberry filling).

Have to give a shout out to these Norwegian chips just for the name, although they did have a nice spice blend.

Overall not a bad box. I think they could have done better but I enjoyed most of the treats. Next month is another repeat country, the Philippines.