Whet your appetite with amber jelly vinaigrette

The Yomiuri Shimbun
Sea bream and marinated vegetables with jelly vinaigrette is served.

Hot and humid days can ruin your appetite. Chinese cuisine chef Kotaro Otsu suggested sea bream sashimi and marinated vegetables with jelly vinaigrette as a cool and refreshing dish to whet your appetite.

Otsu of restaurant O2 said vinegar is a common ingredient in Chinese cuisine. The recommended dish, he said, enhances the rice vinegar’s sour flavor and the black vinegar’s richness.

“Using two kinds of vinegar balances out the dish and creates a sophisticated flavor,” he said. “It also adds a little something, as the fish is mild.”

To make a slightly sweet, flavorful marinade, oil in a pan is heated to the point that smoke is almost rising from it. Then it is quickly poured into a bowl containing rice vinegar, sugar and Sichuan peppers. Steam rises from the bowl, and a crackling sound can be heard. Then the strong scent of Sichuan peppers fills the air.

“I poured the heated oil [into the bowl] to bring out the Sichuan peppers’ aroma,” Otsu said.

The vegetables are prepped before being marinated so the flavors can soak in well.

Gelatin is used for the jelly vinaigrette, which is made by mixing equal amounts of rice and black vinegar with savory bonito dashi. The dashi and Shaoxing wine are boiled first, and then gelatin powder is added. After letting it cool a bit, add the two types of vinegar so the flavors won’t be lost.

To make a shiny jelly vinaigrette, the jelly needs to be chilled and hardened enough to be shaken and broken inside a container.

The jelly has a mild taste because of the black vinegar and the dashi’s savory flavor. The vegetables taste sweet and sour, with a hint of the Sichuan peppers’ elegant aroma. The two types of vinegar also bring out the fish’s subtle sweetness.

The jelly vinaigrette can be used as a regular dressing if there is some leftover, Otsu said.

Sea bream with vinaigrette

Ingredients (serves 4):

  • 200 grams sea bream sashimi
  • 8 cherry tomatoes
  • 2 myoga Japanese ginger buds
  • ¼ goya bitter gourd
  • One-eighth watermelon radish
  • Dill as needed
  • For jelly vinaigrette

  • 500ml dashi stock
  • ½ tsp salt
  • 22 grams sugar
  • 30ml soy sauce
  • 30ml Shaoxing wine
  • 10 grams gelatin powder
  • 25ml black vinegar
  • 25ml rice vinegar
  • For marinade

  • 240ml rice vinegar
  • 180 grams sugar
  • Sichuan peppers
  • 1 tbs vegetable oil
  • Directions:

1. Cut the watermelon radish into quarters that are 2 millimeters thick, and slice the myoga ginger in half lengthwise. Remove the pith and seeds from the goya bitter gourd and cut it into rectangles that are 1 centimeter wide and 2 centimeters long. Rub salt on the cut vegetables, rinse them under running water and pat them dry. Boil the tomatoes to peel off the skin.

2. To make the marinade, pour rice vinegar into a large heat-resistant bowl, along with Sichuan peppers and sugar, and mix. Heat vegetable oil in a pan, then pour it into the bowl while hot. Marinate the vegetables and chill in the refrigerator for at least six hours.

3. To make the jelly vinaigrette, pour the dashi stock, salt, sugar, soy sauce and Shaoxing wine into a pot and heat. Turn off the heat when it starts to boil, and then add the gelatin powder. Stir the mixture while the pot is sitting in a bowl of ice water. Pour the vinaigrette into an airtight container and chill it in the refrigerator to solidify.

4. When the vinaigrette hardens, shake the container to break apart the jelly into tiny pieces. Place the marinated vegetables in the center of a plate with slices of sea bream sashimi placed around them. Pour a generous amount of the jelly vinaigrette over the fish and vegetables. Garnish with dill and serve.

3 types of vinegar

Otsu often uses vinegar in his recipes and chooses from several kinds — generally rice, black and red vinegar — depending on the dish.

He said rice vinegar from Kyoto goes well with anything, and the mild acidity of the Chinese black vinegar gives depth to stewed dishes, such as braised shark fin. Red vinegar helps prevent fried rice from becoming greasy.

“You are missing out on a lot if you only use vinegar for its sour taste,” Otsu said.