Don’t Sneeze When You Eat Saimin

My gluten-free saimin attempt

As I sit here typing this, I’m praying for some friends that are in Japan and for my family and friends in Hawai`i after the 8.8 earthquake that hit Japan.  Hawai’i is now under a tsunami watch so it will be a trying night getting to sleep (it’s already 2am) while I make feeble attempts to not worry.

As coincidences go, I was looking up recipes for how to make ramen broth when I checked back on my Facebook feed and saw all the statuses from family and friends affected by the quake.

You know what I’m talking about, right?  Those cheap packages of noodles with the powdered broth base.  The basis of every college student’s diet.  No joke.  I remember doing an alcohol run one night with the tennis player I was dating at the time and some other friends.  Before we left the supermarket he asked if I needed anything and specifically asked if I needed more saimin (we call it saimin back in Hawai`i).  I thought it was sweet that he thought to ask and that he would offer to buy some for me (does that make me a cheap date if I say yes?).  The top of my microwave (aka my pantry) in my dorm room was already stocked with bread, saimin, peanut butter, jelly, Diamond Soda Crackers, microwave popcorn, kakimochi (arare or Japanese rice crackers…add it to your popcorn and instant heaven…of course it’s not gluten-free, though), and cans of tuna.  I’m sure I had a few other things, but those were the big ones.  The things I walked about a mile (or more) to the store for.

Saimin was a part of my diet for as long as I can remember.  Back home, it’s never just the noodles though (except when you’re a broke starving student).  You have to literally soup it up.  Add veggies, protein, fish cake.  Runny egg anyone?  (Shirley, I know you’re cringing, just go with it).  Nothing better than a runny egg on saimin.  The yolk mixes in with the broth and makes it richer.  I admit, I liked those dried noodles raw, too.  When I was still living with my parents, my mother was horrified when she found me eating them raw once.  I was forbidden to eat them raw ever again (she has a flair for the dramatic).  Well, let’s just say what she doesn’t know won’t kill me.  I mean, her.

Lately, I’ve really been wanting saimin.  There is something comforting about the broth, the noodles, and all the toppings.  Okay, maybe it’s just me.  No, no, no.  I know some of you out there know what I’m talking about.  Chaz likes to order udon sometimes when we go to Ando for sushi.  We know they make it themselves.   You can tell just by smelling it.  You can’t package that stuff.  He ordered it one night and I just had to have some.

One weekend last month while I was at work, Chaz generously made me some dashi, first run.  I used that as my base for the saimin.  I probably should have looked it up online, but me being who I am, I was trying to figure it out.

When it was all said and done, the broth just didn’t have the flavor either of us desired.  The shirataki noodles (made from yams) weren’t that thrilling, probably because the broth was much less than spectacular and it couldn’t pick up flavor from it.  Neither could the Bok Choy or the fish cake (that white and pink stuff in the picture).  I think the star of the saimin was the butterflied gluten-free panko shrimp I placed on top of it.  And yes, that’s a toothpick you see sticking out of one of them.  I threaded toothpicks through them to keep the butterfly shape while searing them.  If you know another way to do it, have at it.  So, at least with the disaster of a dish, I can at least give you the one success from it.

Butterflied Gluten-free Panko Shrimp

16 large shrimp, peeled, deveined, and butterflied

16 toothpicks

1 egg, scrambled

Gluten-free panko (I used Kinnikinnick brand), or coarse gluten-free bread crumbs

Choice of oil for frying (I used grapeseed)

Thread a toothpick through the middle of each piece of shrimp and set aside.  While doing this put a medium frying pan on the stove and let it warm up.  Add the oil (enough to give the bottom a nice coat) to it to get that heated before adding the shrimp.  Next to frying pan, set a bowl with the gluten-free panko in it.  On the other side of the panko, set a bowl with the egg in it.  And on the other side of the egg, put the plate or container with the shrimp.  This sets you up for an easy assembly line and you work your way down to the pan.  Dip the shrimp in the scrambled egg and carefully shake off the excess.  Next, place the shrimp in the gluten-free panko and give it a good coating.  Gently shake off any excess.  Place in the heated frying pan and oil.  Let it cook for no longer than a minute and then turn it over.  You just want it pink on each side and that will happen quickly since you’ve butterflied it have more cooking surface than it would normally have.  Once both sides are done set on a plate with paper towels or a washable cotton rag (if you’re a bit on the green side in your home like I am – no paper towels or napkins are bought in this household) to drain.

Use to top on some yummy gluten-free saimin, salad, or whatever your heart desires.  I enjoyed the leftovers right out of the container.  Shhhh.  Don’t tell anyone.

My lesson learned from all this?  LOOK.  THINGS.  UP.  FIRST.  Now that I have actually looked up recipes for it, I know better what to do.  This little recipe kept popping up in my search.  It will be time-consuming for sure.  Maybe I can get Chaz to do it while I’m at work on a weekend.  hahahaha  I’m not that bad.  Really.  I’m not.



I was trying to find a video of Frank Delima’s Don’t Sneeze When You Eat Saimin, but I couldn’t find one.  So, I’m leaving you with his Filipino Christmas song.  It’s all about food!  😀