Recreating a Japanese sauceless pizza

The various dishes created from Japanese fast food joints seem to be regarded with fascination and ridicule in this country. It is in fact fascinating to watch Japanese menus after being immersed in the US food culture for a certain length of time. Burgers with rice cakes instead of buns. Pizzas with curry mayonnaise sauce. A hamburger joint named “First Kitchen” that is abbreviated into what essentially sounds like “Fuckin.” Hearing kids cry out to their parents that they “wanna go Fuckin” is quite jarring.

However, what becomes overlooked is the fact that many of these absurd meals are, in fact, pretty good once you get over the factor of unfamiliarity. Discarding previously conceived notions of the defining characteristics of certain foods (in this case burgers and pizzas) can help you realize that the rice burgers are actually pretty well conceived, and the pizzas with strange sauces are not necessarily horrible.

However, US food culture seems to suffer from an attachment to the notion of “authenticity.” This essentialism in food and cuisine definitions can be seen in debates on “real” chili con carne, “traditional” banh mi, and “authentic” Chinese food. Although these monikers are helpful in guiding yourself through the vast amount of information that you can get on the internet, people do get a little too angry about deviating from the authentic formula, attacking certain writers or establishments as if they defecated on their mother’s grave. Of course, foreigners like me are partly to blame. I feel that in an attempt to assert our identity and grasp over what we regard as our own culture, foreigners often go into the default mode of walking into an US establishment that serves  cuisine from their homeland, and criticize it for not being exactly like the food served back home. Hybridity and mimicry in has been often regarded as subverting the notions of purity. This is why, in moments of resistance towards food cultural essentialism, I eat mozzarella sticks in Chinese buffets, with a side of sweet and sour sauce.

This discussion seemed most fitting for this pizza recipe, since the first feedback that I received for this was that it was “really fucking good, but it’s still an abomination.” This pizza recipe originates from the Japanese company that is the most famous for their bastardization of pizza, Pizza-la. Ironically, they serve the best pizza compared to other major pizza delivery companies in Japan, and their shrimp-mayo pizza is nothing to laugh about. A couple of years ago, they came out with a pizza named “negi-bê” (translates into scallion-boy or something roughly like that) that they advertised as “sauceless,” which was a completely novel concept for myself at that time. The idea of taking away one of the best things about pizza sounded horrible, but I ordered it anyway, out of curiosity or plain boredom. It turned out to be wonderful.

The publicity picture is absolutely horrid, though.

Uniform shape, color that suggests cookies or crackers rather than pizza, and white scallion parts that show no sign of browning. Frightening.

The ingredient list is as follows: scallions, bacon, corn, mushroom, black pepper.

So I set about recreating and improving this recipe.

First off, 70 percent hydration dough, consisting of only bread flour, water, and yeast, cold-fermented for three days.

This is my standard pizza dough, which I sometimes break off to make sandwich rolls and bread rolls.

Like this one:

simple rolls

To compensate for the lack of sauce, I brushed some toasted sesame oil on the dough.

Then some minced garlic and a light dose of shredded dried mozzarella. I put the bacon bits, scallions, sliced cremini mushrooms, and corn on top of the cheese so that they would be exposed to direct heat and brown.

I used the skillet-broiler method using my cast iron pan. Throw the dough on the hot pan, top, and throw into the oven with a blazing broiler.

After a couple of minutes, just as the dough was puffed up but not yet browned, I pulled the skillet out and poured two thin swirls of soy sauce. Then the whole thing went into the oven once more until the crust was browned.

And that’s how I ended up with this:

more negi-bê

I would have to give pizza-la credit for this one. The combination of bacon, corn, and roasted scallions are wonderful. The smell of burnt soy sauce (imagine yakitori or toasted rice balls) and garlic was a great addition.

I haven’t figured out my new oven yet, so the browning of the dough was not as intense as I would have liked it to be, but overall this was pretty successful. I might add a bit of oil and sugar to intensify the browning in the future.

By the way, I made the bianco rosa pizza that I saw in later that week using the same dough, but cold fermented for about six days. That was one angry pizza dough. It just kept puffing up, I had to keep it from trying to touch the heating element in the oven.

bianco rosa from pizzablogger: red onions, pistachio, parmesan

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