Kushi-age ("Fried Sticks")
We were served these snacks garnished with pickled and variously carved Japanese red and white turnips and broth-simmered red carrots.
Yield: serves 8
- 1 oz. hanpen (Japanese fish cake)
- 4 oz. fresh lotus root, peeled, trimmed, and sliced crosswise into G"-thick pieces
- 1" pieces young ginger, thinly sliced crosswise
- 8 medium shrimp, peeled, with tail shells intact
- 1 lemon, halved
- 4 baby artichokes
- 4 oz. beef tenderloin, sliced into 8 thin 2" x 1" strips
- 1⁄4 head cauliflower, separated into florets
- 1⁄4 head broccoli, separated into florets
- 1 sweet potato, peeled and sliced crosswise into ¼"-thick pieces
- 3 cups rice bran oil or peanut oil plus 2 dashes of Asian sesame oil
- 3 cups panko (Japanese breadcrumbs)
- 1 cup potato starch
- Put fish cake into a medium bowl and break up into fine crumbs with the tines of a fork. Using a rubber spatula, pack fish cake crumbs into holes of lotus root pieces, then skewer each piece crosswise with an 8" bamboo skewer and set aside.
- Put 3 slices ginger on belly side of each shrimp just above tail; fold head end over to meet tail to encase ginger. Skewer each shrimp through tail end, ginger, and head end with an 8" bamboo skewer and set aside.
- Squeeze lemon juice into a medium bowl of water, add spent rinds, and set aside. Trim stems and top third off artichokes, snap off dark outer leaves, then cut artichokes in half lengthwise. Skewer each artichoke half lengthwise with an 8" bamboo skewer. Put skewered artichokes into lemon water and set aside.
- Thread each strip of beef onto an 8" bamboo skewer and set aside. Skewer each cauliflower and broccoli floret lengthwise with an 8" bamboo skewer and set aside. Skewer each sweet potato piece crosswise with an 8" bamboo skewer and set aside.
- Heat oil in a heavy-bottomed medium pot over medium heat until temperature reaches 350° on a candy thermometer. Meanwhile, put bread crumbs and potato starch into two separate wide medium dishes and set aside. Break eggs into a small bowl, beat lightly, and set aside.
- Working in small batches, lightly dredge stuffed lotus root, stuffed shrimp, artichokes, beef, cauliflower, broccoli, and sweet potatoes in potato starch, shaking off excess, then dip into eggs and thouroughly dredge in bread crumbs. Deep-fry skewered pieces until golden and crisp, 6-8 minutes for the lotus root, 1 ½-2 minutes for the shrimp, about 2 minutes for the artichokes, 1 ½-2 minutes for the beef, cauliflower, and broccoli, and 3-4 minutes for the sweet potatoes. Drain on paper towels. To serve, dip skewers in fresh lemon juice or soy sauce, or sprinkle with salt to taste, if you like.