In Hawaii, we have a type of delicatessen called Okazu-Ya. Here’s the funny thing, I had to look up the meaning of the word. It is Japanese in origin, Okazu meaning side dish and Ya meaning shop. That makes sense to me now. These delis are take-out joints only; you won’t find a place to sit and devour your booty, best to head to the beach or a park.
The glass front cases in these shops are chock-full of big bowls and restaurant pans overflowing with delicious things. On any given lunch hour, you’ll find folks lined up waiting their turn to drool and point as the shop keeper ladles your choices into a Styrofoam container. I won’t laundry list the menu to you, as each shop has its own specialty.
One dish will always be found in the Okazu-Ya and that’s Namasu. Think of a cold pickled vegetable salad. This plays nicely off of unctuous pieces of Garlic-Mochi flour battered Fried Chicken or any of the other hundreds of choices you’ll find. Here in the middle of the desert, I have yet to find an Okazu-Ya, so as I guess I just have to make my own.
Couldn’t Be Easier Namasu
1 Hot House or English Cucumber, thinly sliced (do not peel)
1 large Carrot, peel & thinly slice
1 Daikon or White Radish, peel & thinly slice
1 Tbsp. Sea Salt (or Kosher Salt, which ever you have)
1 inch piece of fresh Ginger Root, peeled & course chopped
½ C. Rice Wine Vinegar
½ C. granulated Sugar
Water as needed
In a small saucepan, heat the vinegar; remove from the heat and add the sugar, stirring to dissolve. Stir in the Ginger and set aside to cool completely.
In a large glass bowl, toss the vegetables with the Sea Salt and set aside for 15 minutes. Rinse and drain well, pressing out as much water as possible.
Return the veggies to the bowl and pour the vinegar mixture in; add enough cold water to cover the vegetables. Stir well and cover with plastic wrap.
Refrigerate for at least 1 hour.
I like to cut my veggies into ‘flower’ shapes, which is easy to do. Cut V-shaped notches along the lengths of the piece of Cucumber, Carrot and Daikon before you slice them into thin rounds. Don’t throw away those chunks of veg from the pattern; toss those into the bowl too.