I have often thought I was Japanese in a former life. Yes, I know I have also claimed a past-life connection with many a culture whilst in the midst of a culinary-inspired orgasm. What can I say? The way to my heart is through my stomach. The mouth-watering taste sensations of Thai, Vietnamese, Italian and Spanish cuisines (just to name a few) have bewitched me on more than a few occasions, transporting me into a pleasure-induced coma with delusions almost powerful enough to make me surrender my beloved Australian passport and move across the world just for the food!
However, as wonderful as the cuisines of so many nations are, if I had to name one as my all-time favourite or "desert island delight" it would have to be Japanese food. And no, I am not just saying that because it includes raw fish. I simply love it. I don't know whether it is because of my previous macrobiotic life, or the fact that we hosted so many Japanese exchange students through my dad's Lions Club, or that I learnt Japanese in high school for five years, but my body just craves Japanese flavours. By the way, the part about me learning Japanese at school would be somewhat interesting if I could remember more than your hog-standard introductions and greetings. I have a Japanese neighbour, and I swear, every time I see her in the elevator we have the same conversation. I have exhausted all of my stock sentences and I swear she thinks it is Groundhog Day! If I could form more sentences I could make that joke in Japanese and she would think I was witty.
So, in the absence of bilingual charm, I am going to go with this story -- that I love Japanese food because of my friend Mikaho, who is really like my second sister, the kindred spirit who has mopped up the blood this year and helped me heal my heart. Mika was literally the first friend I made when I moved to L.A to start my degree at UCLA almost 20 years ago. (Ouch! Has it been that long?) Fortunately, the stinging realization of the years that have passed is sweetened by the rich enduring friendship/sisterhood that has grown from a lifetime of shared experiences. Mika and her gorgeous boys, Rei and Kai, welcomed me into their home when I moved out to L.A with a loving embrace that continues to feed and nurture me. I will always cherish the time I spent living with them -- the late night conversation, bottle-of-wine debriefs, games of UNO and so many other fun times, and we are just getting started.
But one of the best things about living with a Japanese family? The food! Mika is a phenomenal cook, with a natural flare for flavours, and I admit without any hesitation or embarrassment that I am suffering chronic withdrawals now that I no longer have daily access to her inspired Japanese dishes. Mika is my number one foodie, who I trust to lead the way to every heavenly bite in L.A. No-one "nose" how to eat their way around this town better than her!
So, I post this simple little Japanese seaweed and cucumber salad in honour of Mika today. I will post some more of her fabulous vegetarian recipes later in the year, but this will always be my favourite. Maybe because it is so easy and tasty, maybe because I love seaweed, or just simply because cooking Japanese treats together all day for our weekly "game night/dumpling banquet" remains one of my fondest memories of last year.
But more importantly for the rest of you -- this vegan seaweed salad is absolutely piggilicious and really really good for you. I can never have enough seaweed in my trough. But I acknowledge that it is not always palatable to everyone else. Seaweed and cucumber salads are bursting with flavour, but they are often made with sauces that contain a lot of sugar. We have modified a traditional favourite using fresh raw lemon juice and agave nectar, making this vegan seaweed salad a quick, easy and spectacular introduction to seaweed. If you are looking for great allergy free recipes for the whole family this one is gluten free, dairy free, egg free, nut free and sugar free. Give it a go. It is irresistably delicious!
I love you Mika.