My favorite course of the sixteen served at the Noma Japan pop-up in Tokyo this year was a delicate bowl of cooked pumpkin and salted cherry blossoms, which looked and tasted just like you would imagine spring in Japan would. Lars Williams, head of development for Noma, describes how the dish was conceived.
"Nagano was one of the most inspiring areas we visited in terms of wonderful produce. It was really great going into the forests where we found wild cherrywood, which tastes a bit like bitter almonds. The pumpkins are also from this area, as are the dried cherry blossoms. In a way we feel that this dish is a wonderful expression of what we found and discovered in the forests of the Nagano prefecture."
The Noma team, thanks to a collaboration with All Nippon Airlines, flew all over the country researching various techniques, tasting delicacies, and gathering regional ingredients before opening their pop-up. For this adapted recipe (and every other served at Noma), ambitious home cooks will have to fill in a few blanks using kitchen know-how, technical prowess, and creativity. A foraging background is a plus. As is knowing a guy who can source things like wild cherrywood.
PUMPKIN AND CHERRY WOOD
300 g. lacto-fermented barley-koji water (see below)
150 g. butter
lemon juice to taste
Lacto-Fermented Barley-Koji Water
200 g. barley-koji
400 g. filtered water
12 g. salt
1/2 Nagano pumpkin
oil for poaching — sesame oil and 10g katsuobushi (similar to young bonito)
1 piece rausu kombu (kelp)
80 cherry blossoms, soaked and dried
Cherry Wood Oil
100 g. wild cherry wood
200 g. grapeseed oil
1. Mix ingredients for lacto-fermented barley-koji water and allow to ferment in a warm place for five days.
2. Portion the pumpkin into wedges and remove both primary and secondary skin, so that the flesh is a uniform color. Bag with the poaching oil and cook in a 92c/197f water bath for one hour. Shock in ice water. When cool, cycle in the vacuum machine three times.
3. Warm the lacto-fermented barley-koji water and blitz in the butter with an immersion blender to form a light emulsion. Season with lemon juice at the last moment. The broth should be served as cool as possible without splitting.
4. Roast kelp at 150c/300f for 60 minutes. Slice into matchsticks.
5. To assemble, fan out slices of pumpkin, add broth, kelp matchsticks, cherry blossoms, and cherry wood oil.
Fantasize about other Noma recipes you'll never make with Noma: Time and Place in Nordic Cuisine, by Rene Redzepi.