Sound of the Sea
Specialty Equipment: water bath, vacuum machine, thermometer
Specialty Ingredients: soya lecithin, sodium caseinate, N-Zorbit M maltodextrin, blue shimmer powder, brown carbonized vegetable powder
Days: 3 (1 month when making the ponzu)
Dish as in The Fat Duck:
The final dish. I think I’ve easily spent the most time on this dish. Obtaining some of the ingredients was pretty difficult. I say ‘obtaining’, but ‘trying to obtain’ are better words to describe what I did. Cooking the dish itself is actually not that hard, but the thing is in freaking Japanese: thin mouth soy sauce, rishiri-kombu, cod liver oil, shirasu, N-Zorbit M tapioca maltodextrin, blue shimmer powder, brown carbonized vegetable powder, dried dulse seaweed, dried hijiki seaweed, tamari soy sauce, Japanese lily bulb, dried wakame seaweed, shiro shoyu, fresh Codium seaweed, fresh yuzu, fresh sudachi, katsuo bushi, soya lecithin, sodium caseinate. WWWWW-What?!!!
In the end I got to grips with the ingredients, but was not able to get every one. I hope thou can forgive me. Here’s a list of the harder-to-find/possibly unfamiliar ingredients and where you can get them if you were so inclined:
Dried dulse seawead / dried hijiki seaweed / dried wakame seaweed – Almost every Japanese store sells them, although I never encountered dried dulse seaweed and dried it myself.
Fresh Codium seaweed – This was in the end not too hard to find. Two fishmongers could order it, but they both had a minimum order of 1kg, costing 45€. I couldn’t find a store selling it in smaller quantities, so to keep the costs down (and not tip the scale to having been able to eat the tasting menu at The Fat Duck from the combined costs of this recipe) I skipped this type of seaweed.
Thin mouth soy sauce (usu kuchi shoyu) / tamari soy sauce / white soy sauce (shiro shoyu) – The first two are sold by Japanese stores, but the white soy sauce may be a bit harder to find. I’ve dedicated, all in all, days trying to find some. I went online (the ones that sold it didn’t send it overseas), to Japanese stores, restaurants and more. I’m still pretty pissed off thinking about it. I won’t rest until I have some in my possession, although I might not have any need for it anymore.
Rishiri-kombu – Kombu, the Japanese kelp used in dashi, is sold everywhere. There are however a number of varieties and must say I’ve never found rishiri-kombu. In one Japanese store I found almost all the varieties, but they didn’t sold the rishiri one. I used kombu labeled as ‘dashi kombu’.
Japanese lily bulb – I was mislead by the word ‘Japanese’. In fact the Chinese adore the stuff and you can find it in Chinese stores, sold as ‘fresh lily bulbs’. It is tasty as hell by the way.
Shirasu – Almost every Oriental store sells these baby anchovies in the refrigerated section.
N-Zorbit M tapioca maltodextrin – National Food and Starch sends out samples (thanks you guys!).
Blue shimmer powder – Not too sure what it is, but Mandy pointed me to edible glitter and it seems to be the same product. It is sold everywhere. I got it at Ebay, but the weather was not playing along. We’ve been seeing snow and frost like nothing before in early December here in Western Europe. It has affected air traffic, which means my blue shimmer powder is still in the mail.
Brown carbonized vegetable powder – Your guess is as good as mine.
Soya lecithin / sodium caseinate – The first is sold everywhere. I skipped the second powder because it is a foam stabilizer and found that at home it is not really necessary (see the Anjou pigeon dish). If you do want to get it check Ebay for ‘casein’.
So, with almost all the ingredients and some understanding of them all I started with the recipe. I made the ponzu 1 month before finishing the dish. It is made from sake, fresh yuzu, fresh sudachi, mirin, rice wine vinegar, tamari soy sauce, thin mouth soy sauce, katsuo bushi and rishiri-kombu. I substituted the citrus fruits with fresh lime and store bought yuzu juice.
After 1 month it was time for the rest of the recipe. It was, cooking wise, pretty straightforward, not at like some of the crazier recipes (yes I’m looking at you lamb). The thing that took the most time was the sand, based on miso oil, made by mixing miso, cod liver oil and grapeseed oil and letting it sit for 2 days.
The oil didn’t float to the surface, so I had to squeeze it out with muslin. Maybe I mixed it too rigorously (the recipe states to mix the miso and oil ‘carefully’)? The oil didn’t taste salty at all by the way. I’ve always learned to dissolve salt in vinegar when making mayonnaise, so the grapeseed oil was probably not able to pick up any salt from the miso.
The rest of the sand is made up from fried shirasu, fried panko, ground ice-cream cones, ground kombu, blue shimmer powder (creates a glistering), brown carbonized vegetable powder (probably for color) and N-Zorbit M tapioca maltodextrin. When you add the oil to the dry ingredients the maltodextrin takes up the oil and turns it into a sand like texture. When you eat it though it quickly returns to its liquid form. My sand needed a lot of seasoning to give it a kick.
Without the vegetable powder the sand looks pretty pale. I didn’t try it, but thought of using squid ink (mixed in with the miso oil) to give the sand a darker color. Maybe try it in the future.
As I said I dried dulse seaweed myself. The dulse seaweed is pickled.
Hijiki seaweed needs to be flavored with usu kuchi shoyu and mirin.
One of the garnishes of the sand is a blanched lily bulb petal. You can easily peel the leaves to separate them. The outer leaves are most suited for this dish, because the petals quickly become, moving to the centre of the bulb, quite small.
The centre looks just like garlic.
Lily bulbs petals almost already have the appearance of seashells, so there is little to no need to shape them. I didn’t, for instance, shape the right petal in the photo.
As for the ocean part of the dish you have to make a shellfish stock from razor clams, mussels and cockles and mix it with oyster juice, white soy sauce (I used usu kuchi shoyu) and soya lecithin (to help with the aeration later on). Leftover shellfish make a wonderful pasta.
Some of the other ingredients include vermouth, dried wakame seaweed, parsley and kombu.
The fish garnishes of the dish are sea urchins (skipped that one, they were not available), razor clams and oysters. Razor clams are cooked sous vide for 4½ minutes at 65˚C with kombu infused water (made with water and kombu cooked at 60˚C for 1 hour). Must say I’ve never cooked shellfish under vacuum. It does leave you with very tender razor clams.
I removed everything but the white tube.
Oysters are the final garnish. The oyster juice is used for the shellfish stock.
With everything ready it was time to eat the Sound of the Sea. There wasn’t any last minute cooking action apart from foaming the sauce. I placed the foam on a sieve to stabilize the foam (like other recipes).
You might think, seeing the photos of this dish, it is style over substance. It’s definitely not. Making a ‘plate’ look like a miniature shore line is clever, but what I found really clever is the dish actually tastes and smells like the ocean. The sand dissolves in the mouth and gives a small bite due to the fried shirasu and fried panko. Combined with slightly salty shellfish foam, a range of seaweeds and different shellfish it adds up to a unique fish course. Fresh sea urchins would add another (bitter) ocean flavor, which would complement the dish well, so if you’re gonna make it try to find some.
To complete the multisensory aspect of this course it is served with an iPod playing the sounds of birds and waves crashing on the shore. It is suppose to be downloadable on the BBC website, but all I could find was a Youtube video. I played it from a computer, because of a sparse iPod collection, so everyone listened to the same sound source instead of having individual music players. I would also like some mystery when eating at The Fat Duck, so didn’t make an issue of it.
Well, this was it. No more Fat Duck dishes for the blog. Strange. I still have two posts in the making (non cooking), so you’re not rid of me yet.