When temperatures start sliding to freezing and below, I love a big, steaming bowl of soba noodles from Tanpopo Restaurant, kitty-corner to the St. Paul Farmers’ Market in St. Paul’s Lowertown. But winter isn’t the only time a meal at Tanpopo comforts and dazzles. In summer and fall, when produce is available from the St. Paul Farmers’ Market, Tanpopo’s daily specials frequently feature produce from the market, including, if you’re lucky, Warm Green Beans with Tomatoes and Ponzu. Tanpopo Manager Benjamin Smith says: “We go to the farmers market every weekend to buy products for the restaurant. We also try to source local foods like Star Prairie trout or organic dairy products (for desserts). But we are a Japanese restaurant first, so there are limits on how much of our ingredients are local and / or organic. We do our best.” Chef / Owner Koshiki Yonemura, whose mother is American and father is Japanese, according to Smith, “grew up in Japan, but attended high school and college in the Twin Cities.”
Smith adds: “We put a lot effort into the daily specials (teishoku). I would encourage new people to try the specials.”
Green Beans with Ponzu
1 handful of green beans (about ½ lb)
1 small tomato
1 – 2 tbsp oil (soybean, Canola, or olive oil)
Ponzu sauce (see recipe below)
Garlic paste or powder (optional)
- Wash and prep (trim the ends of) the green beans and tomatoes.
- Dice tomatoes.
- Blanch green beans in boiling water for about two minutes, remove and drain water. Saute green beans in one to two tablespoons oil (soybean, Canola, or olive oil) until cooked. They should be slightly wilted.
- Mix together in a bowl with ponzu. You can also add a little garlic paste or garlic powder if you like.
- Plate and serve.
I refer to ponzu sauce as a secret weapon of Japanese food. We use a lot of it. You can buy it at an Asian foods store but it’s much better made fresh.
1 c dark soy sauce
1 c rice vinegar
small handful (or large pinch) of bonito flakes
- Combine soy sauce and rice vinegar into a small sauce pan.
- Cut lemon into 2-3 slices and add to sauce pan.
- Heat slowly to until mixture is just about to boil. Turn off heat and add bonito flakes.
- Set aside to cool and strain bonito flakes after 10-15 minutes.
It’s best fresh but will keep in refrigerator for about 2 weeks.
Check back next week for Tanpopo’s recipe for Beet Salad with Toasted Walnuts and Miso Vinaigrette.