Monday, February 9, 2009

Two Quick Vegetable Appetizers...Winter Melon Soup, and Wok-Fried Nira & Bean Sprouts

The light vegetarian appetizers I made last night are so easy, tasty, and cost next to nothing.

Since I had a big chunk of winter melon (or "togan", in Japanese), I decided to whip up a healthy soup with it. Winter melon is used in many "Shojin" style (Buddhist-style vegetarian) or "Yakuzen" (medicinal - cooking for health benefits) dishes. I love it so much. This soup is a completely vegan dish. Just 3 ingredients!

3/4-1 lb. winter melon, peeled, seeded, and cut into cubes
konbu dashi stock

In a pot, pour just enough dashi stock to cover the winter melon. Simmer at medium-low heat for 15 minutes or the winter melon is cooked through.
Transfer the winter melon and the dashi stock into a blender and blend until smooth. Season with salt.


I totally love the simplicity of stir-fried bean sprouts. When I go to a hole-in-the-wall kind of ramen stand in Japan, this is something I order to start with. Including the preparation, it takes less than 10 minutes to make this dish, so this is a "bachelor-friendly" dish, too.

Bean sprouts
Nira (Chinese chives), cut into 5" length
Dried red chili peppers, seeded and sliced thin
Black pepper
Sesame oil

In a wok, heat the sesame oil at high heat. Add the bean sprouts and stir for 45 seconds.
Add the nira and dried red chili peppers and continue stir-frying for another 45 seconds or until nira is wilted.
Season with salt and pepper.