Food & Drink

Futo Buta’s Brussels sprouts are a genius recipe

By Jennifer Lover

Bonito flakes and kecap manis are the keys to Futo Buta’s Brussels sprouts. The pottery in the picture is made by Asheville artist Melissa Weiss and is available at Lark & Key Gallery in Charlotte.
Bonito flakes and kecap manis are the keys to Futo Buta’s Brussels sprouts. The pottery in the picture is made by Asheville artist Melissa Weiss and is available at Lark & Key Gallery in Charlotte. Jennifer Lover

Sue Laguna-Whang and her family recently went to Futo Buta, SouthEnd’s new ramen house, and loved the meal. However, the dish that inspired her to write in was something unexpected:

“I’m not one to eat my greens because, well, they’re green. BUT, I would cross one thousand oceans for those Brussels sprouts.”

I figured anyone who would cross that many oceans for a vegetable deserves the recipe.

Owner and chef Michael Shortino, who was with BAKU before opening Futo Buta last month, says the recipe “is one of those things that is so genius because it is so simple.”

Part of what keeps it simple is picking up bottle of sweet soy from an Asian market. Called kecap manis, it’s thicker, sweeter and more complex than regular soy sauce.

You can also make your own sweet soy by stirring 2 1/2 cups brown sugar in a saucepan over low heat until dissolved. Add 2 1/2 cups of dark soy sauce, 1/2 cup mirin, 1/2 cup water, 3 minced garlic cloves, 2 slices of ginger and 1/2 star anise pod. Bring to a boil, stirring constantly, then lower the heat and cook for 10 minutes. Remove from heat, cool, then strain into a lidded jar and store in the refrigerator for up to 3 months.

When frying the Brussels sprouts, always work in small batches to avoid overcrowding. The sprouts will cool the oil when you first place them into the pot, so be sure to let the oil reheat to 350 degrees between each batch.

Are you looking for a recipe from a Charlotte-area restaurant? Send your request to Jennifer Lover, jen@jenlover.com or on Instagram (@jenniferlover). Please include your name, why you like the recipe, the area where you live and the restaurant’s location. Lover is a creative director, stylist and cook who lives in Charlotte.

Futo Buta Ramen House

222 E. Bland St. (it’s on the corner across from the Bland Street Light Rail Station); 704-376-8400.

http://www.futobuta.com/.

Futo Buta’s Fried Brussels Sprouts

16 ounces fresh Brussels sprouts

6 cups peanut oil

2 ounces sweet soy or kecap manis

1/2 teaspoon flaked sea salt (such as Maldon)

2 teaspoons sesame seeds, toasted and crushed (see note)

2 pinches shaved bonito flakes (see note)

Wash Brussels sprouts thoroughly, keeping the outside leaves intact if they look green and unblemished (the leaves are the best part). Dry well to avoiding spattering when placed in the hot oil. Trim the bottom of each sprout and use a pointed knife to cut a deep cross into the bottom of the core. Smash with a meat mallet to break up the sprouts and separate the leaves. If they don’t split, tear them apart.

Pour peanut oil into a deep, medium-size pot or Dutch oven until it reaches 2-3 inches up the side. Heat until a candy/fat thermometer registers 350 degrees when the bulb is submerged in the oil.

Fry prepared brussels sprouts in batches until golden brown and the edges are crispy, about 4 minutes. It’s OK if the leaves get a little darker. Remove with a slotted spoon or skimmer/spider and drain well on paper towels.

Pile sprouts in a pyramid on individual plates or a platter and drizzle with sweet soy. Sprinkle with flaked sea salt and crushed, toasted sesame seeds. Top with shaved bonito flakes.

Notes: Sweet soy (or kecap manis) and shaved bonito flakes are available at any Asian market. Toast sesame seeds in a dry skillet (no added oil) over medium heat, stirring occasionally, for 2-3 minutes or until golden brown and glistening. Let cool, then roughly chop with a knife or food processor.

Yield: 4 servings.

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