All hail the mighty broccoli. While it’s always available in the produce section, it’s one of the few fresh vegetables that haven’t been shipped halfway around the world to reach people who live in many parts of the northern hemisphere during the colder months. In the spring we even get very locally grown broccoli and its relatives like romanesco.
Broccoli can be rather boring if it’s just served steamed, boiled or, god forbid , raw. (I’m sorry, I don’t really get raw broccoli. Raw cauliflower yes, but not raw broccoli.) A way to perk up broccoli without relying on those yummy yet caloric additions like mayonnaise, cheese sauce or garlic-and-olive-oil, is to make aemono or ohitashi with them. Ohitashi is basically vegetables that have been steamed or blanched/boiled served with a sauce that contains soy sauce, often but not always a little dashi stock, and sometimes a bit of sake or mirin and sugar. Aemono uses a similar sauce, with added ingredients like ground up sesame seeds. In this recipe, the sauce contains wasabi, so it’s aemono.
As long as you have all the ingredients on hand it’s very quick to make, and very tasty. The sinus-clearing qualities of the wasabi are softened by the other ingredients in the sauce, while still giving the broccoli a nice, bright flavor.
It makes a great side dish as part of a Japanese meal, or even a salad. It’s also a very nice bento item (you may want to contain the sauce in a paper cup or its own container).
Bring the water and salt to a boil. Cook the broccoli until it’s crisp-tender and still a bright green in color. Drain, and refresh very briefly with cold running water. (Note: you can skip this step if you’re not in a hurry and have time to cool the broccoli.)
In the meantime, mix together all the remaining ingredients except the wasabi in a small pan, and stir over a low heat until the sugar is melted. Let cool, and add the wasabi, reserving 1/2 tsp or so. Mix well until the wasabi is dissolved.
Pour the sauce over the broccoli and mix well. Serve at room temperature or chilled, optionally with a little additional wasabi on the side for people to mix into the broccoli as they eat it (if they really like wasabi).
You can, in a pinch, use frozen broccoli.
While using fresh grated wasabi root is ideal, powdered wasabi is fine for this dish.
Use less wasabi if you find it too strong.
You can turn this into a one-dish meal by adding some protein of your choice, such as blanched and cut-up tofu, or poached and shredded chicken breast. The sauce is great with either.