All recipes are for 2 servings unless noted. Oil is canola oil and salt is kosher salt.


Dinner, October 8, 2016

Our town recently held its 15th annual Crab (and Seafood) Festival, and we decided to have our own crab dinner with leftovers from temakizushi hand-rolled sushi from the day before.

  • Kani-dashi no mukago gohan / steamed rice with mountain yam bulbs, cooked with crab shell broth
  • Kani shinjo no osuimono / clear soup with fish & crab dumplings, with Japanese turnip stems and chrysanthemum-cut carrot
  • Kani to yurine, ninjin no happa no kakiage, hanaho no tenpura / mixed tempura of crabmeat, lily bulb and carrot leaf, and green perilla flower spike tempura
  • Kani to kyuri, kikka no shoga amazu-ae / crabmeat, cucumber and chrysanthemum in ginger-flavored sweetened vinegar
  • Kanimiso-iri gomadofu / sesame tofu with crab "butter" (innards)
  • Yaki-shimeji no momiji-oroshi-ae / grilled shimeji mushrooms dressed with grated carrot & Japanese turnip and citrus soy sauce

A whole or half crab served with kanizu vinegar comes to mind when I hear "crab feast," but we had already shelled the crab the day before and used one-third in sushi. We had a bit more than a handful of crabmeat, lots of crab shell, and kanimiso crab butter, plus several other ingredients from the garden waiting their turn at our table.

Mukago are aerial tubers that grow on the vines of yamaimo mountain yam. They are another reminder of the season. Larger ones can be bigger than your thumbnail, but ours seem to fall to the ground before they reach that size, and I've only tried the smaller ones in mixed rice (larger tubers are often roasted and served with salt). Kani dashi crabshell broth provided just enough underlying note to link the rice with other crab dishes.

I planned to make my favorite kakiage tempura of shungiku garland chrysanthemum, crab and yurine lily bulb, but then realized we were out of shungiku. I needed greens with a distinctive punch as a substitute ... and I harvested one carrot with tender leaves from the garden. The leaves work great in tempura, and the orange root was sliced and curved into chrysanthemum flowers to accompany fish + crab shinjo dumplings in clear soup. The flower spikes of aojiso green perilla were also used as an additional aromatic, with tasteful tempura as yet another seasonal reminder.

Cucumber, a summer vegetable, is not so desirable after the weather cools, as it chills your body. But since we have quite few, a small amount went into sunomono with crab and chrysanthemum flower petals. Ginger, with its invigorating taste and aroma, is grated and its juice added in hopes of mitigating cucumber's cooling effect.

Kanimiso crab butter is a delicacy like foir gras. I do not care for kanimiso but have been interested in testing it with a few dishes such as tamagodofu steamed savory custard and gomadofu sesame tofu. The amount of kanimiso from this 1.5 lb crab was only 11 grams, less than one tablespoon, and was barely enough to add a rich note or aroma to gomadofu. Using more kanimiso would definitely be an option for guests who like stronger flavoring.

It was a crab dinner, but everything with crab seemed boring. So I grated a small kabu turnip and leftover carrot from making two other dishes, mixed them with ponzu citrus soy sauce, and used it to dress grilled shimeji mushrooms -- instant autumn in a little bowl at the table. Yes, it's all about the season and you get to play with ingredients as you would with a motif like a painting or a poem. It's fun to cook while letting your imagination run wild and enjoying the smell, sound, taste, aroma, color, and so on.

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