My adventures recreating Alinea Restaurant’s food at home

JUNSAI, Bonito, Soy, Mirin

Junsai, Bonito, Soy, Mirin – Alinea cookbook recipe, pages 270-271.

Junsai, bonito, soy, mirin

It’s a texture thang. This Alinea cookbook recipe is a cold shot of dashi with a floater of slimy junsai — water lily buds, that is. These rare ‘veggies’ come from the submerged parts of the Brasenia schreberi plant, and are coated with a clear mucilage that imparts quite a unique mouthfeel when eaten. Some will like it, others not! I liked it.

Once you find all the ingredients, this is a really easy recipe to make. Once you find them are the key words. Finding junsai in San Diego was impossible. I say near, because someone must have it secreted away somewhere, but hell if I can find them…

Junsai, Bonito, Soy, Mirin

One of the simplest in the cookbook, in fact. It uses only a few ingredients…

Bonito, junsai and kombu

I’ve heard dashi (出汁, だし) is traditionally known as a basic cooking stock, not a straight-up beverage. I spoke to my son’s karate sensai about this recipe, and Shihan replied with disgust, “uugghh, that is no good.” I, personally, like it — however lowly it may be thought of.

Mise en place:
Mise en place: bonito flakes, mirin, rice vinegar and soy.

Think of it as fundamentally as veal stock, chicken consumé, or miso broth. It’s made by boiling dried kombu seaweed with kezurikatsuo (dried, shaved bonito tuna flakes).

Dried bonito flakes

Pretty simple recipe. Oh, by the way, cats like kezurikatsuo…

Cats like bonito

I soaked the kombu overnight in a bowl of water.

Kombu seaweed soaked overnight

I boiled the kombu to get extract its seaside, kelpy taste…

Simmer the kombu seaweed

…and poured it over the bonito to steep. After about 15 minutes, I strained it through a coffee filter, then added some mirin cooking wine, rice wine vinegar and soy sauce to taste, and refrigerated.

Soak the bonito, then strain

Dried kombu seaweed
Dried kezurikatsuo, bonito flakes
Kikkoman reduced sodium soy sauce
Mirin cooking wine
Kikkoman rice vinegar

Junsai (Brasenia schreberi), also commonly known as ‘water shield,’ ‘dollar bonnet,’ and ‘water target,’ is a type of floating flower related to the lily family. In fact, many people consider it to be a water lily. It looks like one: flat, oval, greenish-purple leaves floating on a pond’s surface with small purple flowers. But, unlike virtually all water lilies, its submerged parts are covered with a thick, clear mucilage. This slimy goo protects the flower’s buds, fruit and emerging leaves, all of which are edible and have been consumed for eons by Asian and Native American cultures. Today, junsai is grown and commercially harvested in China.

A close-up of junsai, showing its 'water shield' mucilage.

Never heard of it here in the States before? No.

Not so surprising… until you know it’s indigenous to many parts of the U.S. and Canada! I did not know that.

I suppose people just think of it as a pretty pond plant. But just try buying some here. Hahahaha!

I went online to the Alinea Mosaic to see if anyone had found junsai. No.

Allen Hemberg of The Alinea Project was still looking. Carol of Alinea at Home used enoki mushrooms in her version. Which, I may say, sounded pretty tasty! But no junsai.

I was determined. And eventually found several sources online. Nishikidôri Market and Workshop ISSé, both located in Paris, France had it in stock! A bit expensive at 8,00€ for the junsai + 28,00€ for shipping (US$42.42 total, for a 60ml bottle delivered to the US), but I found them!

Bottled junsai

Workshop ISSé, Épicerie fine japonaise
11 Rue Saint Augustin
75002 Paris, France
tél: +33 (0)1 42 96 26 74

A close-up of bottled junsai buds

White hawk Brand bottled junsai

Junsai in bottles

To Assemble and Serve
Add some chilled dashi to a shot glass and toss in a few junsai.

Junsai Brasenia schreberi

Cutting board and kitchen knife
Salter digital scale
Large pot for boiling
Strainer or sieve
Coffee filters

Shot glasses

Yields: plenty for 16-32 servings

This entry was posted in Autumn, Recipes. Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.