牛蒡 1 條、紅蘿蔔半條、乾辣椒 1 條、芝麻適量 調味料： 醬油 2 小匙、味醂 2 小匙、砂糖 1 小匙；清酒 1 小匙、麻油 1 小匙。
- 拌入除麻油外的調味料，炒至收汁； 6. 撈起，拌入芝麻，吃前再繞上麻油
‘I’m home.’ Instantly Hatuta felt a sensation of something fluffy rubbing against his calf, he knew very well it is Kisaragi. ‘Meow…’
After putting down the belongings and switching on the lights, he picked up Kisaragi, who leaned her head against his shoulder. As he petted her with a certain rhythm, he remembered Yukiko was out with their daughter for her classmate’s birthday party. Kisaragi is rarely attached to Hatuta, so her sudden approach caught him by surprise. She was even purring loudly, perhaps out of the satisfaction that someone finally recognized her cuteness after a long lonely stay at home.
He took off his shoes and washed his hands alternately with one hand holding Kisaragi at a time. Trying to grab a can of beer from the fridge, he saw a memo on the fridge door saying, ‘Kimpira Gobo. Warm it up and drizzle sesame oil before eating. Remember to feed Kisaragi.’
Kisaragi used to be his cat, since when has she become closer to Yukiko? Together with the tupperware, he warmed up the Kimpira Gobo in microwave. The microwave started to send out a low-frequency buzz after the timer was set. Looking at the Kimpira Gobo slowly rotating under the light, he suddenly remembered Kisaragi was never his cat; she belonged to Yukiko. She once belonged to another Yukiko.
In their third year of living together, Yukiko abruptly vanished without a trace.
It was almost dinner time when Yukiko told him, ‘I’m buying some soy sauce.’ And then, she just never came back. He spent the entire night calling and texting her, but never got any reply from the other end. The Gobo had been soaked through the night and turned the water brownish. Even then, Yukiko didn’t come back. He received a message from Yukiko the next morning, she wrote, ‘I’m off for a long journey. Please take care of Kisaragi.’
He was at the same time confused and terrified. He was so worried that she might be caught in some accident. However, all her family and friends seemed to be aware of her planned trip. No one was confused except him. Why was this departure without goodbye? Why didn’t she discuss with him?
A week after her departure, he started to tidy the room to organize his thoughts. He opened the shoe cabinet and rearranged the closet. Although Yukiko didn’t own too many clothes and shoes, he couldn’t tell if she brought any shoes or coat along. Where did she use to keep her passport? When did she take away her suitcase? The water soaking Gobo started to smell, he discarded it along with the carrot that went bad on the kitchen worktop. He threw away the garbage and sat in the living room without Yukiko.
When reheating the Kimpira Gobo, Hatuta put down Kisaragi and opened a canned food for her. She walked towards her bowl; her feet made some kata-kata sound, the tip of her tail curled into a smile. Kisaragi is already 15 years old. Although she is relatively healthy, her teeth have all fallen out and therefore cannot eat dry food anymore.
Caressing Kisaragi’s lowered head with the back of his hand, ‘she must have forgotten about the old Yukiko’, Hatuta thought. One Yukiko disappeared from her life 10 years ago; this Yukiko later entered Kisaragi’s life, as well as Hatuta’s.
Hatuta heard from a friend that Yukiko got married a year after her departure. She was married to her travel companion. He remembered the hurtful feeling that was mixed with puzzlement, but all have become history. Everything just fades like mist along with time.
Hatuta was clearing cabinets and drawers before moving, for that reason he sent all Yukiko’s clothes to her parents, and packed all books and records. Opening the kitchen cabinet, he found loads of expired seasoning: seasoning oil, mirin, soy sauce… he simply collected them all in a trash bag. Deep inside the closet in the living room lied half a bottle of Yukiko’s perfume. There had been a long time when Hatuta would sniff the perfume when he thought of Yukiko, but it’d been a long time since the perfume last got taken out.
Hatuta occasionally would still visit the homey Japanese restaurant that he used to go with Yukiko. In there he always ordered a sunny side up, Kimpira Gobo and drank sake alone. Yukiko got inspired by this place in making Kimpira Gobo, that’s why the taste was similar. The restaurant closed as the owner couldn’t afford the raised rent, after that, Hatuta switched to an Italian restaurant nearby. And that was where he got to know the restaurant lady manager.
‘Please call me Yukiko.’ Hatuta was shocked upon hearing her name at first, but the unfading shadow in his mind was completely blown away by the lady manager’s bright smile.
Ding! Light in the microwave was off and the kitchen was filled with a tasty smell of soy sauce. Hatuta sprinkled sesame oil on the Kimpira Gobo, opened a can of beer, and enjoyed his meal at the kitchen worktop. As usual, the dish was a little too salty, but it tasted just right with beer. This is the taste prepared by his Yukiko.
1 Gobo, ½ Carrot, 1 Dried chilli, some sesame
2 tsp Soy sauce, 2 tsp Mirin, 1 tsp Sugar, 1 tsp Sake, 1 tsp Sesame oil.
- Cut gobo and carrot into fine strips, cut dried chilli into small pieces.
- Pour oil into the pan, add gobo and carrot when oil is heated up.
- Stir fry gobo and carrot until golden brown in medium low heat (using medium low heat can prevent vegetables from turning watery or soggy).
- Add dried chilli to stir fry.
- Add all seasoning except sesame oil, stir fry until sauce is thickened.
- Remove from pan and add sesame. Drizzle sesame oil before serving.
Note: Prepared Kimpira Gobo can be kept in fridge for around 3 days.
Container of the day: An’nan style pottery by Ichino Yoshiki