Oct 16

Washoku Warriors Challenge #4: Vinegar Vignettes

in Washoku Warriors

This month the Washoku Warriors tackled vinegar and its various roles in the washoku kitchen.  Our challenge was to make:

(1) Tori téba saki no su itamé (Tangy Seared Chicken Wings) (p.256)–Vinegar acts as a tenderizing agent in this dish

(2) And then choose one (or more!) of these recipes to make:
Karashi su miso (Tart Miso-Mustard Sauce) (p.99)–Great on seafood and/or (cold poached) chicken or as a salad dressing for greens
Amazu (Classic Sweet-and-Sour Sauce) (p.98): can be used to make things like sweet-and-sour lotus root, blushing pink ginger, or a tangy New Year’s salad
Tsukuda ni kombu (Kelp & Mushroom Relish) (p.110)–Vinegar also acts as a tenderizing agent here
Kohaku su-zuké (Red & White Radishes) (p.221)

We’re saving sushi rice for another challenge!

Fuji Mama

I am a huge fan of vinegar and so blasted through the recipes this month.  It was hard for me to pick a favorite, but Squirrel was a huge fan of the Tsukuda ni kombu (Kelp & Mushroom Relish), which I used to make onigiri (rice ball) and served with the Kohaku su-zuké (Red & White Radishes).  I make onigiri for lunch several times a week at Squirrel’s request, and I think this particular variation is going to be showing up on the menu a lot based on how quickly she scarfed down her onigiri.  I loved that the relish can be made using kombu used in making dashi (sea stock) instead of having to discard the kombu.  The concept of being able to use an ingredient more than once, instead of discarding it, really resonates with me.

Sarah of A Canadian in Meiji Japan

As always I was pleasantly surprised by this month’s recipes.  Not being a sweet-and-sour pickles fan I was nervous about the Sweet and Sour Lotus Root, but it turned out nicely crispy and perfectly tangy – a refreshing side dish to just about any dish (which is good as I ended up making a double batch, so I’m going to be eating sweet & sour lotus root for a while yet).  The Tangy Seared Chicken Wings were tender and juicy and also had a nice tang to them – although I would have liked more veggies besides just the Japanese leek I used.

Read Sarah’s full report here!

Andreas of Delta Kitchen

In their latest attempt at mastering Japanese cooking, the Washoku Warriors turned to vinegar as a key ingredient. No need to get your sushi matts out of the closet, yet. Sushi will get its own challenge sooner or later. The main dish was a tangy, seared chicken which is braised in rice vinegar, sugar and sake with some soy sauce added at the end. Not bad, but leeks (which were optional here) with soy sauce and rice are a frequent dish during winter in my kitchen.  Next there was an assortment of different sauces, relishes and the pickled red and white radishes on the picture below to choose from. The radishes are red on the outside and white on the inside at the start, but the red colour will leech into the vinegar and the whole radishes as time progresses.  I remember my grandparents having buttered bread with salted radishes and cucumbers as dinner during summer, so this was a new twist on an old favourite.

Read Andreas’s full report here!


This was quite an easy challenge – no complicated cooking or hard-to-obtain ingredients – I keep kombu in my pantry, the rest was everyday stuff. What I liked most about the chicken wings was the utter simplicity of the dish, although for me there was kind of a mantrap involved – I couldn’t, for the love of it, remove the leeks after I had added them to the skillet. Still, they turned out fabulous. I have never made chicken wings on the stovetop before, always in the oven (no deep-frying either), so this was a pleasant experience.  The radishes were also a snap to make – I have read about the art of tsukemono, and it looks like Japanese take their pickles seriously. I’d love to learn more about this.  I wonder, though, what was used in the pre-industrial times instead of the expensive sugar? The sweet balance is so essential to many Japanese dishes, but I think – as in many other countrys – before the days of the sugar beet and international sea cargo, sugar must have been a prized ingredient indeed.  Another great and yet simple dish from Washoku. Love the book, love the approach.

Read Foodfreak’s full report here!


I made the Tangy Seared Chicken *Thighs* and the Classic Sweet-and-Sour Sauce which I used in the New Year’s Salad.  Notes on preparing the Chicken: I put the thighs in skin side down in a cold not non-stick skillet on warm to try to render the fat.  The fat rendered nicely, but the skin stuck to the bottom and completely came off in pieces when I went to flip them, which was ultimately OK with me.  Then, I tried to imagine sautéing leeks with the chicken and then removing them, and thought it would be nearly impossible.  So, I browned both sides of chicken, removed the chicken, added and sautéed the leeks, removed them, added liquid, then returned the chicken.  After the chicken cooked, I removed the chicken, strained the sauce to get rid of all of the chicken skin floating around, then reheated the sauce with the leeks.  Notes on preparing the Sauce: I soaked the Kombu in the vinegar in a mason jar and then microwaved it right in the jar until it just boiled.  That was easy enough.  Equipment note: One thing I’ve found useful when without an otoshibuta, is to use a lid that is one size smaller than the pan you are using.  Tasting notes: Delicious! Will make again.

Julie of blukats

While this isn’t my first meal cooked from recipes in the Washoku cookbook, it is my first internet challenge.  After having experienced meals in Japan, I was intrigued by the way Japanese food came
together.  I found a few things out but the Washoku cookbook helped explain a lot to me.  Presentation, not cooking everything the same way, having various tastes, the principle of five all explained to me how a Japanese meal came together.  For the challenge I went with the Tangy Seared Chicken Wings and Tart Miso-Mustard Sauce.  The sauce was easy to prepare and I served it on romaine lettuce.  The chicken took a little longer than I thought it would, probably because I wasn’t sure how high to have the flame on the stove.  It still turned out quite well and it has really helped me to understand the reason for adding soy sauce to dishes at the end.  I was going to have five dishes but was a bit tired so just ended up with rice and vegetables sautéed in a little dashi stock.  The meal was greatly enjoyed by those who ate it.  Both of the challenge dishes were delicious.  The only thing was having two dishes with vinegar in them.  It was a little overwhelming.  I don’t think I would do this again but would rather have maybe a ginger dressing for the salad with the chicken, or fish with a salad with the Tart Miso-Mustard Sauce.  I will say this is a great way to cook chicken.  It’s a nice change from traditional American ways of cooking it.

Read Julie’s full report here!


This is my first challenge, and it was so much fun! The radishes were a revelation. I’m not a huge fan of them, but the sweet and sour pickling took away a lot of the hot “radishy” taste. The wings were easy and my step-daughter, Lindsey, and I enjoyed them very much. My husband, Harris, is working in Houston this week, so he’ll have to wait until the next time to try them.  I found little bottles of sake at my local Fresh Market … the cap is a sake cup, so I included them in my photo.

Nicole of discojing

There seemed to be a lot of prep work involved in the chicken but I didn’t like the flavor profile.  Even though I know all of the ingredients that went into this dish were Asian, the end result tasted like Chicken Marsala.  The sauce was too strong for me, and was mostly miso instead of tart or mustard-y.  I used the sweet and sour sauce to make the red & white radishes.  I chose to use the pink, ume-su based sauce instead of the rice-vinegar and kombu based one.  I haven’t had an opportunity to try the radishes that much, but I have mixed feelings.  I haven’t tried the Kelp-Mushroom Relish yet, but I did make it!  I tried to make onigiri with it as a filling, but the relish was too wet so I made inari with the relish as a topping instead.

Read Nicole’s full report here!

Foodhoe of Foodhoe’s Foraging

For the Washoku Warriors 4th challenge, we were assigned to cook Tangy Seared Chicken Wings where the vinegar acts as a tenderizing agent.  I was expecting something more like crispy fried wings based on the title, but while the recipe calls for pan-frying the meat until it’s crispy, you are supposed to braise it for 20 minutes with sake, rice vinegar and dashi until it is fall-off-the-bone tender. The chairwoman of the Washoku Warriors, fujimama, threw down the challenge of some additional dishes, which included Sweet-and-Sour Sauce, Kelp & Mushroom Relish, Red & White Radishes, but I chose the Tart Miso-Mustard Sauce which Andoh sensei says is great on seafood and/or (cold poached) chicken or as a salad dressing for greens.  It is a simple concoction of sweet miso, rice vinegar and Japanese mustard that I grew up with, although I usually add a bit of sesame oil, ginger, some green onion and lots of fresh cracked black pepper.  Initially I thought this would be too plain, but it has a classically Japanese taste that was improved with just a few drops of soy sauce and a bit of dashi.  In fact, that sauce sings with nutty bright vibrant flavors and really pulls the tip of your tongue up and makes you notice the deliciously sweet, tart, umami flavors.It really perked up the chicken dish, which seemed bland without it.  I must admit that the instructions said to check the braising every five minutes, and that I became distracted at some point so that when I ran back into the kitchen, the pan was making alarming popping sounds and that all of the liquid had evaporated and the bottom of the pan was black…  I have to say that this recipe is rather forgiving and that even though I burnt the hell out of it, the dish was still remarkably edible…  especially with the deliciously tart miso-mustard sauce.

Read Foodhoe’s full report here!

Jeanie of ROWR!!!

This dish was a win – I’d definitely make this again.  I used dark meat but skipped the skin and trimmed some of the fat off in an attempt to make this a little more healthy.  The dark meat kept the meat from drying out which happens so often when I try to use chicken breasts substituted in – I think I might use dark meat in my cooking a little more frequently from now on.  The tangy flavor wasn’t overpowering and was pretty tasty, and the cooked down liquid made a great glaze to drizzle over the warm chicken.  Because we love onions, we kept them all in the dish (you can tell the chicken is buried under them!).  Eaten with rice and some broccoli tempura on the side (just because I like broccoli tempura).

{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

nicole October 16, 2009 at 11:24 am

your onigiri are so cute! I tried to make onigiri with the relish and I couldn't get the two halves of rice to stick around the relish.

what's your trick here?


Print Brochures October 16, 2009 at 5:42 pm

Things you could do with vinegar. A lot of great and delicious things! The onigiri looks really yummy! :)


Sarah October 16, 2009 at 8:06 pm

My boyfriend saw the picture of your onigiri and promptly insisted we make them! They look delicious. Squirrel has a very good set of taste buds!


Mary October 17, 2009 at 12:05 pm

What a wonderful round-up. Having to pick and choose is going to be a -itch.


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