Nambanzuke – Japanese escabeche – is a quick & easy and perfectly-refreshing dish for this hot summer!
Escabeche has taken root as a popular dish in countries across the globe where Spaniards have ever set their foot on, and Japan is no exception! Namban (a word that was used to describe Portuguese and Spanish) cuisine was introduced to Japan in the 16th century, and nambanzuke or 南蛮漬け is one of the Namban dishes that became so familiar in Japan that it’s now considered a Japanese dish.
The word “zuke” means, in broad terms, to marinate but in Japanese sense, it means more to pickle. So in old days, nambanzuke was a popular way to preserve fish/meat, pickling it in vinegar, sugar and salt. Now, it’s regarded as a great way to transform leftover fried or grilled fish/meat dish into a new dish.
I like nambanzuke because you can put essentially any vegetable you like and a lot of it! For today’s nambanzuke, I’m using onions and carrots, but you can also use peppers, long onions, cabbage etc. etc.
As for the “meat” portion, I used two vegan substitutes: koya dofu and soy meat. I boiled them in water for 1-2 min, cooked them in 1 cup water (or dashi stock or vegetable broth) + 1 tbsp shoyu-koji (or soy sauce) for 10 min and let them sit for a while. The longer you wait, the tastier they will get!
For the marinade, mix 1/2 cup vinegar, 2 tbsp amazake concentrate (or sugar), 1 tbsp shoyu-koji (or soy sauce), 2/3 tsp shio-koji (salt), 1/4 cup water and 1 dried red chili.
I lightly microwaved onions and carrots because I don’t like them to be too crunchy, but you can put them raw also, especially if you will be marinating them for a long time (1-2 days).
Squeeze out excess liquid from koya dofu and soy meat, and coat them with starch.
Pan fry them with oil. (Or, you can deep fry them!)
Once both sides are browned, immediately soak them in the marinade. It’s important to marinate them while they are still very hot so they really soak in the flavors.
Leave in the fridge for at least 30 min (longer the better!).
For nambanzuke, I must say, soy meat tasted better than koya dofu! Koya dofu came out bit on the dry side, but maybe I squeezed out too much liquid before pan frying or it might be better if I deep fry them.
Nambanzuke goes really well both with rice and bread. In Japan, we like to have it with rice, but I think it would also make a great sandwich!