Young leek and smoked eel

Young leek and smoked eel

Sea-river pairing, Dashi broth with Japanese Matcha tea.

This is one of my favorite dishes. The combination of leek and Matcha tea has always kindled my interest, and even today the astringency of the latter seems worthy of the most exquisite combinations.

Matcha is a powdered green tea from Japan produced by grinding the tealeaves. The ground texture is attributed with special properties, and according to tradition it is whisked with water that has been freshly drawn. I discovered this traditional tea for myself eight years ago during my trip to Japan. At first, I was surprised with its pasty texture, but then I learned to derive maximum flavor from it. In this dish I use the tea of outstanding quality, bright green, specially ordered from Tokyo. But combining leek with tea was not enough for me. I needed an element that would give a distinctive structure to the whole dish. I am fascinated by Japanese cuisine, so I chose Dashi, a traditional Kombu and smoked tuna broth. In order to achieve the needed body and texture I whipped the broth with butter infused with Matcha tea.

The smoked eel is the strongest Japanese element of the dish; its delicate woody flavor blends favorably with the slightly crunchy texture. Several drops of vinegar and lemon juice give the dish necessary vivacity and expressivity.

This dish most clearly expresses the concept of the sauces that are my hallmark, and recur in my cuisine: neither whipped butter sauce nor broth in a pure form, but a mixture of both, which is what gives them intensity, softness, and lightness.