Sugar snap peas are here! When snap peas are in season, I like to prepare them as simply as possible so that their wonderful sweetness can shine.
I like my sugar snaps barely blanched so that the pods retain their crunch, but lose their rawness. This mixture of sesame oil, soy sauce and mirin is barely a dressing; it’s more like a very thin glaze or wash. Even though the dressing is thin, it is remarkably flavorful — but not so flavorful as to overpower the peas.
It goes without saying that if you shun cooking wine (that awful shelf-stable, salty, sugary stuff that you see in the supermarket) and avoid cooking sherry (equally as salty, sugary and awful), you should probably avoid the “mirin” that is typically found in the Asian section at most grocery stores. Tomoko calls it “fake mirin” and it is certainly as gross as cooking wine and cooking sherry: salty, sugary, harsh, unpleasant and full of MSG.
If you can, try to get your hands on some real mirin. Just like how you buy wine and sherry at the wine store, you should find mirin where sake is sold.
Tomoko says that she finds hers at the liquor store, but it seems like the liquor stores downtown aren’t nearly as Asian-conversant as the ones uptown (“Mirin? You mean Wild Turkey?”).
Following a recommendation from the New York Times, I placed an order at a Sakaya, a store that sells almost exclusively sake.
“It’s not so easy to find here,” the woman at the store explained when I told her that I had a little bit of a hard time. “Oh, if I can’t get real mirin, I don’t even bother!”
So what should you do if you can’t get real mirin? As a substitution, you can dissolve a pinch of sugar in sake. Ideally, you’re looking for about a 3-to-1 ratio of sake to sugar, but you can adjust the sweetness to your taste.
The woman at Sakaya agreed, ” Yeah, yeah. Sake and some sugar.”
“Mirin,” she said, “After you open it, they say to put it somewhere cool and dark, but you should put it in the refrigerator. It lasts a long time. I use one bottle of mirin, maybe every one or two years.”
Since I have never held onto a bottle of mirin for one to two years, I don’t know if I can vouch for that. However, I will definitely say that having a bottle around the house is an incentive to use it more often!
1 pound of sugar snap peas, topped and tailed
2 tablespoons of mirin
2 tablespoons of Japanese soy sauce
1 tablespoon of sesame seed oil
How to prepare:
1. Bring a large pot of water to boil. Add the sugar snap peas and cook them briefly for about two to three minutes, no more than four. You want them to be a little crunchy, but not raw.
2. While the snap peas are boiling, set out a large bowl of ice water. Scoop the peas out of the boiling water when they are done and plunge them into the ice water to stop the cooking and fix the color. Drain the sugar snap peas well.
3. In a small saucepan, heat together the mirin, the soy sauce and the sesame oil over low heat. Let the sauce simmer until it has reduced to a thin glaze. Adjust the seasoning if needed.
4. Toss the drained snap peas with the dressing in a large bowl. Sprinkle them with sesame seeds and shichimi to taste.