Komachibu is a small round form of yakifu, grilled and dried fu. Fu is a traditional Japanese form of wheat gluten, that is a good vegan protein source. (Read more about fu and how it actually preceeds seitan.) If you like to use seitan, you’ll probably like fu as well. Komachibu is available at any reasonably stocked Japanese grocery store (in the dried food section).
Komachibu are about the size of a large coin. When they are reconstituted in water, they swell up to about the size of a small scallop (they do shrink back down a bit when cooked with this method). The texture is very soft, like very very tender scallops. I don’t pretend that they are as good as real, fresh scallops of course, but if you’ve given up shellfish for dietary reasons, these are not bad at all. And, they are terrific in a bento box, vegan or not.
I’ve given two variations, one with a Japanese flavor and one with a more Western/European flavor. Note that the key is to add in lots of umami to the bland komachibu, via the mushroom liquid, Worcestershire sauce, oyster sauce and so on.
Cooking time for either method is about 5-10 minutes (longer for the European method since you have to chop the shallots and so on), not including the mushroom soaking time.
Soak the dried mushrooms in about 2 cups of water, preferably overnight. You will be using the soaking liquid here, not the mushrooms themselves. Reserve the mushrooms for another time in the remaining soaking liquid and use up within a couple of days.
Soak the komachibu in cold water to cover until soft. This only takes a few minutes. Drain off the water and squeeze out the komachibu gently.
In a small frying pan, put in a little olive oil and the shallots and ginger. Sauté until the shallots are transparent. Add about 1 cup of the mushroom soaking liquid, wine, thyme and the Worcestershire sauce, and add the komachibu. Let simmer until the liquid is almost all gone. Turn a couple of times that both sides of the komachibu get caramelized. Season with a little salt and pepper, and garnish with the parsley (optional).
Serve warm or at room temperature. If serving warm, it’s nice to drizzle a little olive oil on top.
Soak the mushrooms as for the European style, preferably overnight but at least an hour or so.
Soak and reconstitute the komachibu as for the European style.
In a small frying pan, combine 1 cup of the mushroom soaking liquid and all the other ingredients. Add the komachibu. Simmer until the liquid is almost gone, turning a few times to cook both sides evenly.
Serve warm or at room temperature.
You can use the soaked mushrooms in a stir-fry later. You can also cook it with the komachibu: just add the the mushrooms, cut into bitsize pieces, with all the soaking liquid and the flavoring ingredients, and simmer until the liquid has reduced to about half. Then add the komachibu. You can then serve the mushrooms with the komachibu, or as another dish. I prefer the komachibu on its own, because the meaty texture of the mushrooms tends to overwhelm the delicateness of the komachibu.
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