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In a two-part series, we will explain how to select the best shrimps from among the wide variety on sale according to the recipe and, of course, how to cook them.
First in line is a risotto made with a generous amount of chopped shelled shrimp, which are available at affordable prices. Risotto is an Italian dish in which rice is cooked in soup with ingredients of your choice for a smooth texture. The shrimps may not be conspicuous, but the flavor is quite sumptuous. The rich shrimp flavor blends nicely with the rice.
Chef Kuniaki Arima, who oversaw the cooking aspect of the dish, learned the recipe in Italy. He provides a twist by using the more convenient shop-bought "mentsuyu," a sauce used to season noodle dishes, to cook rice instead of chicken or fish stock.
Since the noodle sauce contains saltiness, sweetness as well as umami flavor, it can serve as the base of the seasoning. By diluting it considerably, the noodle sauce amazingly does not get in the way of the Italian taste created by the garlic, onion and tomato.
We chose fresh cream that goes well with shrimp as the oil and fat component that adds richness to the risotto in the final stages.
Choose shrimps with transparent shells
The volume of imported shrimps, including frozen ones familiar to consumers, is about 10 times the total for domestic shrimps.
Yoko Ishii of Tsukurin, an intermediate wholesaler specializing in shrimp and based in the Toyosu Market in Tokyo, says: "If you want them to be bright red, choose the black tiger shrimp. For tempura, natural white ('howaito’) shrimps and 'flower’ prawns (green tiger prawns) that come in a variety of sizes are popular."
In the case of king prawns ("banamei"), which are known to be low priced, how they are cultivated or shelled makes a difference in their flavor.
Telling them apart is not easy.
But when buying thawed shrimps, Ishii advises people to choose ones whose shells are more transparent and whose heads and tails are not blackish.
"Since they tend to lose freshness quickly, shrimps with heads should be kept in a bag and placed on ice in the fridge until it is time to cook," she says.
BASIC COOKING METHOD
(Supervised by Kuniaki Arima in the cooking aspect and Midori Kasai in the cookery science aspect)
* Ingredients (Serves two to three)
100 grams shelled shrimps (ebi-mukimi), 1/2 cup boiled and canned tomatoes, 60 grams onion, 1/2 clove garlic, some Italian parsley, 1 cup (170 grams) rice, 3 Tbsp noodle sauce (triple strength), 1 Tbsp olive oil, 2 Tbsp fresh cream (or 1 Tbsp butter or 1 Tbsp olive oil)
1. Mix shrimp with 1 tsp sake and a pinch of salt and leave for about 5 minutes (PHOTO A). Crush garlic and chop finely. Finely chop onion as well. Chop shrimp coarsely into 1-cm squares.
2. Pour noodle sauce and 700 ml water in pot and bring to a boil. Turn off heat to use the sauce warm.
3. In another pot, place 1 Tbsp olive oil and garlic over low heat, mix to let aroma rise. Turn up heat a little, add onion, fry while stirring with spatula so water evaporates. When edge of onion colors slightly, add shrimp and stir-fry. Add rice without rinsing and stir for about 2 minutes until oil coats entire grains and they become warm (PHOTO B).
4. Add 1 or 2 ladleful of warm noodle sauce and mix so it reaches the entire content. Wait until most liquid is gone over simmering heat. Add 1 or 2 ladleful of noodle soup again, mix with spatula and wait. A key is not to stir too much as this will turn the rice sticky. After 7 to 8 minutes repeating this process, add chopped tomato (PHOTO C).
For the next 7 to 8 minutes, add noddle sauce and continue to heat. If sauce runs out, use hot water. Cook until core of rice remains textured. Mix in fresh cream and season with salt. Add finely chopped parsley.
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Kuniaki Arima is the owner-chef of Passo a Passo, an Italian restaurant in Tokyo’s Fukagawa district.
Midori Kasai is a professor at Ochanomizu University and chairwoman of the Japan Society of Cookery Science.
Keep leftover risotto in the fridge and pan-fry crisply the next day. Heat a bit of olive oil in the frying pan. Hold risotto, form into a disc and sprinkle flour lightly on one side. Place the flour side down in the pan and spread out flatly. Cook both sides until brown over medium heat. Serve with young salad greens.
Risotto is a dish in which rice is stir-fried before being cooked in soup. Dry rice that is not rinsed is used. Since the oil coats the surface, the rice cannot absorb water easily and the core of the grain does not gelatinize sufficiently. The rice has a texture similar to al dente pasta, and despite being soupy like porridge, the rice grains do not stick together.
From The Asahi Shimbun’s Gohan Lab column