Chicken with a Miso & Ponzu Marinade, Namasu Salad & Wasabi Yuzu Kosho
Chicken sashimi is rather popular in Japan, and given the number of people who asked prior to my trip whether I intended to try it, I really was not given much option other than to do so. Very keen to retain my foodie credentials, I ate it not only once, but twice. The first time just to say I’d done it, the second time to check that it really was just as un-exciting as I thought it was the first time. Slathered with quite a lot of wasabi, it tastes, not surprisingly, like wasabi. Scrape the wasabi off in order to try to taste the flavour of the raw chicken, and it tastes, rather surprisingly, of nothing at all. A little ironic I feel given that people seem very ready to ascribe a ‘chickeny-ness’ to almost every exotic meat in the world!
More interesting, I thought, than completely raw chicken, was that most of the ‘cooked’ chicken dishes I came across in Japan were served on the decidedly pink side. This took a little getting used to, but I kind of came around in the end. And although I can hardly recommend purposefully under-cooking chicken at home, I do think that some of the more fearful over-cooking that we subject it to might be worth a re-think. Especially if you have a lot of trust in the source of your chicken.
The inspiration for this dish came from a little izakaya in Shibuya. Served almost charred on the outside, moist in the middle, and accompanied by a dot of spicy yuzu kosho, we devoured our first order so spectacularly, that we had to immediately get a second.
Yuzu kosho, a condiment made from cured yuzu peel and hot chilies, is wonderful mouth-popping stuff. Combined, as I’ve done here with wasabi paste, it’s even more so. You can buy yuzu kosho pre-made in little jars from Japanese grocery stores, or make it at home by combining yuzu peel and bird’s eye chilies in an 80:20 ratio before adding 10% of the total weight of that mix in salt. Pop this in a jar in the fridge to cure for 1 week before using. It will keep in the fridge for up to one month.
Lastly, namasu, a slightly pickled salad of daikon and carrot, traditionally served at New Year in Japan, adds some colour to this dish. It is especially pretty, I think, against a black plate. In this recipe, I’ve added tarragon to the namasu. It’s not traditional, but the herby citrusy-ness works well with the other ingredients, and the bright colour complements the deeper green of the yuzu kosho.
- 2 skin-on chicken breasts
- 2 tablespoons shiso (white) miso
- ⅛ cup sake
- ⅛ cup mirin
- 1½ teaspoons yuzu kosho
- 3 tablespoons ponzu sauce
- 10cm daikon radish – peeled
- 1 medium carrot – peeled
- Heaped teaspoon of sea salt
- A few sprigs of fresh tarragon – leaves picked
- 1 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest strips
- 1 tablespoon caster sugar
- 1 tablespoon rice vinegar
- 1 teaspoon water
- 1 teaspoon lemon juice
Wasabi Yuzu Kosho (to serve)
- ½ teaspoon wasabi paste
- 1½ teaspoons yuzu kosho
- Drop of lemon juice
The chicken needs to marinate overnight, so start the night before you intend to serve.
In a small saucepan, over medium heat, mix the sake and mirin and bring to a boil. Allow to boil for 1 minute in order to evaporate off the alcohol. Now reduce the heat to low, and introduce the shiso miso, stirring to dissolve. Cook for a further 2 minutes in order to reduce the mixture to a thick-ish consistency.
Remove from heat, and add the 1½ teaspoons of yuzu kosho, along with the ponzu, stirring to combine. Now put aside to cool to room temperature.
Slather the cooled paste over the chicken breasts before placing these in either a non-reactive container or zip-lock bag to marinate in the refrigerator overnight.
To make the namasu salad, thinly slice the peeled daikon and carrot using a mandolin. Next, carefully julienne the slices into narrow strips using a sharp knife.
In a small bowl, mix the sea salt through the julienned vegetables and allow to sit for 10 minutes.
To make the dressing, mix all the ingredients together, whisking until the sugar is completely dissolved.
After 10 minutes, squeeze the daikon and carrot strips gently with your hands to remove excess water, then place in a clean bowl. Add the dressing and refrigerate for a minimum of four hours.
To make the wasabi yuzu kosho, mix the two pastes together in a small dish along with a drop of lemon juice and refrigerate until needed.
When you are ready to cook, heat your in-oven grill to high. Remove the fillets from the fridge, and gently wipe off some of the excess marinade (but not all of it). In particular, make sure that some marinade still clings to the chicken skin. Now, place the fillets on a baking sheet, and grill for approximately 6 minutes, or until the chicken skin has become golden, and even a crispy dark brown in parts.
Finish in a 200°C oven for a further 6-8 minutes, depending on the size of your chicken breasts. If in doubt make a small incision in the thickest part of the fillet to check progress. The moment you can no longer see pink – it’s done.
Remove from the oven to a chopping board and cut into approx. 1cm slices.
To finish the salad, add the picked tarragon and lemon zest. Then, to serve, arrange the chicken on a platter, with a little of the namasu salad, and a small dollop of the potent wasabi-yuzu kosho paste alongside.