Week 8: Japanese – Unagi, scallion & macadamia nut pizza

Unagi: one of the great standards to be unhesitatingly penciled in on a sushi order sheet. With their own dedicated sauce, those puppies don’t require a hit of wasabi to jazz up the flavor rollercoaster. They are a closed-system of deliciousness, which is being tapped for this week’s kitchen challenge: Japanese.

The local Japanese grocery store keeps a range of inspiring ingredients, anything from yuzu to octopus arms, for Japanophiles to get giddy about. Despite my Chinese heritage, I get a little dizzy with excitement over Japanese culture and cuisine. While shopping, a load of unrelated foodstuffs, including a large bottle of Kewpie mayo, find a new home in my kitchen along with the freshwater eel I originally came for. Even still, this pizza will remain a simple but moderately snazzy unagi experience. (And yes, this entire paragraph was built to prop up a single irrelevant gif.)

Unagi Pizza

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To complement the eel, I decided on including both traditional & non-traditional toppings. Scallions were chopped coarsely with half joining the eel during the cooking process while the other half for garnishing afterwards. This would offer two types of textures and a bit of extra complexity with the range of fresh and cooked onion flavors.

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Cheese bowed out of this project and instead I substituted the milky creaminess of macadamia nuts, which were lightly pummeled with mortar and pestle.

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To craft this pizza appropriately, the dough needed to be a bit more oblong in shape, stretched out into a more rectangular platform so as to not require the usual circular symmetry in flavors.

While eel sauce would make-do as a sauce, it needed a bit of thinning out. For an extra bump of flavor, I blended in sesame oil and slathered the mixture right onto the dough with a brush.

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Though this dough seems perfectly eel-shaped, instead the eel was chopped into three pieces to fit evenly side-by-side to create more uniform pizza slices.

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Due to the high oven heat, the macadamia nuts threatened to crisp up beyond what might delight the palate. Next time, it would be wiser to wait until the final minutes of baking to add the nuts on top. Luckily, any possible off flavors from over-toasting did not distract from the larger flavors of sweet, tender unagi.

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A wine fit to go with both aspects of sweet and savory in this pizza would need a touch of sweetness of its own to balance this pairing. Joh. Jos. Prüm – Riesling, Kabinett, Graacher Himmelreich, Mosel, Germany 2012 is refreshingly mineral-tinged with lime, green apple and peach offering a range of vibrant aromas that sing loudly on its own. While Kabinett in style, this Riesling keeps the touch of sweetness needed to manage the big flavors of unagi and eel sauce. Each sip energizes the palate to chase those unagi flavors while each bite of pizza begs for another taste of wine. It’s a near-perfect union and an experience worth recreating, which makes this metatheme project a win.

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