Hi, Ken. I know the pan you’re talking about, and it doesn’t stir-fry very well unless you have a very hot gas burner. I’d recommend getting a carbon steel wok (which you can find new for under $30 or used for $10) or a large carbon steel skillet (which your local Goodwill probably has for $5).
Hi, anonymous #14. Here’s a store that sells a 1-pound bag of black sesame seeds for $3.45 plus shipping:
They’re not from Japan, however. It doesn’t state the source, but they’re probably from India, which is by far the largest sesame exporter. They’ll work fine in Japanese cooking, though, I’m sure.
Lisa, I think the answer is just very high heat. I’m terribly inexperienced at grilling, so my advice there is probably no help, but for a restaurant-style sear on fish, you really need to crank the stove up all the way and let the pan preheat for several minutes. When you put oil in the pan, it will shimmer and start to smoke almost immediately. It’s very hard to burn fish, especially the flesh side, so turn on the fan, mute the smoke alarm, and go for it.
Anonymous, a good source for sesame seeds is an east or south Asian market with finicky customers and lots of turnover. Sesame seeds have the hull removed for appearance, mildness of flavor, and better storage properties, but I prefer seeds with the hull on. A little bitterness is fine with me.
Hi, Gabrielle. I find it’s really easy to burn the aromatics, and if you add them at the end, you minimize their contact with the hot pan. Yes, traditionally it’s done the other way. I don’t know what the trick is. (If any readers know, please divulge!)
One other thing I mentioned during the chat is that my favorite Japanese tea supplier, o-cha.com, is in Fukushima prefecture. The owner is fine and his office wasn’t badly damaged, and he’s working hard to get his business back online. I have no relationship with this company other than as a satisfied customer, but I’d like to see their business survive, because the product is phenomenal. If you like green tea, I hope you’ll join me in ordering from them once they’re back (follow @bestgreentea on Twitter).
If you’re not sure what to buy, I recommend the Kagoshima Sencha Sae Midori.
It’s this one:
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