Foodie Night In: Japanese Style

Hello all! I hope you’re all having a very happy new year. Matt and I are settling back into our routine now that we’ve returned to work, but I’m still withdrawing from all the incredible meals we were served over the holidays. It was just one week ago today that we enjoyed a night of Japanese snacks, wild games and too much wine (thus the slightly blurry photos all night – sorry!) at the home of our dear friend Leduc, better known as Let’s Eat YEG.

Leduc does most of his blog posts on events and restaurant reviews, but those of you who follow his Instagram stories will know he’s also a very talented home cook. We were there with a foodie dream squad; Leduc’s food-loving girlfriend, Jenn, brilliant photographer Jamie as well as Alyssa of Alyssa Cooks Catering. Leduc, Jamie and Alyssa went on a big trip to Japan last year, so they came back with tons of ideas and new favourite snacks!

Hungry in Calgary | Poke Night Chicken
Photo credit to Jamie (you can find more of his photography on Instagram @j_shillz)

We started out the night with a giant tray of chicken karaage that had been fried up by Jamie and Alyssa, a Red Seal chef. The juicy, marinated chicken thighs had been de-boned personally by Alyssa, so we felt pretty pampered by all this care and attention. Sprinkled with scallions and served with a delightfully spicy Japanese mayo sauce, these were a great way to start the evening. The bite-sized pieces were a bonus – we could all  pretend we were eating way less fried chicken than we actually were! The magazine-quality photo above was taken by Jamie and will make the rest of mine look quite amateurish in comparison, but I’ll do my best to do this meal justice!

Hungry in Calgary | Poke Night Torch
All made possible by Alyssa’s kitchen torch!

Leduc wasn’t to be outdone by the chicken, as he had recently purchased a sushi press and was eager to put it to good use. He flash froze his own salmon at home using the natural -40C climate (Edmonton weather comes in handy for something, I guess?) and made us delicious salmon sushi.

Hungry in Calgary | Poke Night Sushi
Leduc made these!

Prepared with Leduc’s home-cooked sushi rice, these were also drizzled with homemade unagi sauce (soy sauce + sugar + Mirin, a Japanese rice wine) and Japanese mayo. He also torched them to get a bit of a sear on the fish. (You missed the heated debate about whether we should drizzle or torch first, and the winning order ended up being mayo > torch > unagi, a tasty FYI!) He also oh-so-tenderly sprinkled thinly sliced scallions over them with chopsticks. This guy’s taken, ladies, so back off!

Hungry in Calgary | Poke Night Pressed Sushi
Literally everything about this photo is thanks to Leduc as his patient tutoring is what helped me master chopsticks and in turn pass those skills on to Matt

My favourite part was that there was a bit of salmon and a dab of wasabi in the centre of each piece, so it was a huge mouthful of flavour in every morsel. On their self-guided tour of Japan, the gang learned and subsequently taught us that the spot of wasabi in the middle is the way to go – it is seldom used as a self-serve condiment over there. Interesting!

Hungry in Calgary | Poke Night Set Up
Muffin tin hack!

Next came the build-your-own poke bowls and sashimi! Leduc dished out bowls of rice while we took in the view. There were tons of fun ingredients to choose from, including my personal favourite poke toppings – irresistible crab salad, green onions, pineapple, pink pickled ginger and loads of avocado.

Hungry in Calgary | Poke Night Tuna
Tuna for days

There were lots of yummy proteins to choose from as well, including sushi-grade salmon, scallops and tuna! He had a lot of salmon so he’d also prepped some large, silky slices of sashimi. Delicious.

Hungry in Calgary | Poke Night Bowl
My messy bowl before drenching it in unagi sauce and Japanese mayo

After all these courses you’d think Matt and I would have contributed something sweet, but dessert came in the form of group games and serious indigestion after we all realized with horror how much we’d each actually eaten all night. Seeing how much prep must have been done in advance made me really appreciate my friends’ hosting skills, but it was also encouraging to see just how easy it can be to make your own Japanese feast at home if you take the time to do it right! Check out your nearest seafood market for sushi-grade fish and head to T & T Supermarket to find everything else!

Don’t forget to follow Leduc (@letseagyeg), Alyssa Cooks Catering (@alyssacookscatering) and Jamie’s landscape photography page (@j_shillz) for more visual delights!

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