Tuesday, July 6th, 2010
My mom whipped up this recipe one day after gardening for a few hours. I could tell she wanted something hearty and flavorful after slaving away under the hot sun. It was summer and her herbs were growing happily after nearly a 7-month winter. My parents live in Hokkaido, also known as "Snow Country," so when the ice melts and the ground breaks with life, it almost feels like an event.
She walked into the kitchen with a handful of fresh sage leaves and a grin. I asked her what it was because I had never seen or used fresh sage before.
The only sage I knew was an old room mate's boyfriend who we called Sagie behind his back.
She told me that she was going to make tempura sage and potatoes. I was curious.
I watched her with a keen intensity as she made a tempura batter while keeping one eye on her boiling pot of special Hokkaido potatoes and juggling a few other side dishes. With almost no effort at all, she perfectly executed the timing of her tempura with the timing of the potatoes. I often think my mother could have been the Martha Stewart of Japan.
I was skeptical about using tempura batter with such an unconventional ingredient as sage and the idea of putting it together with potatoes that strongly resembled steak fries left me bemused.
After a bite of each ingredient I was hooked. I begged my mom to make it again the next day but we were out of her special potatoes.
Recently, I was at a friend's house. She has the warmest and most inviting garden I've been to. Currently she has 18 tomato plants, cucumbers, eggplants, shiso, herbs, two varieties of carrots, wala wala onions, two strong loquat trees that look like the guardian gate keepers of the garden, a variety of other fruit trees and much much more.
The sage caught my attention because I knew that if I ever got my hands on fresh sage again, I would try to come up with my mother's potato sage dish.
2 medium russet potatoes or 1/2 lbs of Yukon gold potatoes or those teeny tiny yellow potatoes.(The teeny tiny ones are my favorite)
2 Tablespoons of canola oil to fry the potatoes.
8-10 Sage leaves
1-2 cup of canola oil for the tempura
Freshly ground black pepper
Sea salt or kosher salt to taste
A pinch of kombu powder or kombu cha (optional)
1) Boil potatoes with the skin on. They are done when you can poke a skewer or knife easily through it.(approx. 20-25 minutes) Be careful not to over cook them where the skin is falling off and the potatoes are getting soggy. The teeny tiny ones take about 7-9 minutes.
2) Make either vegan
(Bottom of the page) or egg tempura batter
and heat a small sauce pan with canola oil.
3) Coat the entire sage leaf or just half with tempura batter and drop them into the oil.
4) Place them on a wire wrack to cool and sprinkle with kosher/sea salt or a mixture of salt and kombu cha while hot.
5) When the potatoes are done cut them into wedges.
6) Get a frying pan nice and hot. Add the canola oil and coat the pan.
7) Lay the potatoes down and try not to move them until it's golden brown, then do all sides. (About 30 seconds to 1 minute on each side.) For the teeny tine potatoes, about 1-2 minutes and roll them around.
8) Place the potatoes on a paper towel to absorb the excess oil and add generous amounts of salt and black pepper while hot. (This isn't necessary with the teeny tiny potatoes.
9) Plate the potatoes and tempura sage together.
Start the potatoes in cold water.
Fresh sage leaves washed and patted dry.
Once the potatoes are done. Cut them up into wedges.
Fry them on all sides. They look like Stonehenge.
Put them on a paper towel and drain the excess oil.
Dip sage into the tempura batter. You can do half the leaf or the entire leaf.
If you dip the whole leave in. Hold on to the stems and let them stick to the sides of the bowl.
Hold onto the stem and drop them into the hot oil.
Allow the tempura to cool on a wire rack so they don't get soggy.
Sea salt and kombu-cha mix. You only need a few pinches of each.
Sprinkle with kosher or sea salt and kombu-cha or kombu powder.
If you pan fry the potatoes into two batches then heat them up again and add freshly ground black pepper and sea salt.
If you use the teeny tiny yellow potatoes, let them get get crispy and brown so that when you take a bite, the skin cracks. It's delicious.
Arrange the potatoes and tempura on a plate as a side or in a bowl as a snack. Potato wedges with vegan tempura sage.
Teeny Tiny Potato version with eggy tempura sage. Sprinkle a little more of the salt and kombu powder to finish it off.