Sunday, October 25, 2009


Nishime is a Japanese dish of vegetables that is slowly braised until almost all the liquid is gone. Oh, woo hoo! This dish is so nice. I'm quite sure that I'm not getting the nuances of these stews and soups across to my readers; truly, you have to make them for yourselves to appreciate them. I showed the picture of this dish from Kimiko Barber's The Japanese Kitchen to my sister today while she was snuffling up vegetable gyozas (a later post, I promise, with recipe) and beer, and she said, "Oh, that doesn't appeal to me," and went off to make her date some chicken dish with Campbell's mushroom soup. To each her own. However…well, however, this is just great!

I have to admit that I cheated yesterday. I went out for lunch with my friend and ordered falafel and enjoyed it enormously—the first time I've eaten wheat bread (in the form of pita) for three whole weeks. And I'm not going to lie: you won't be seeing rice of any kind on this blog for a little while because I've just had enough. Asians can eat rice every day perhaps just as I could eat yeasted wheat bread every day, and never tire of it: but I am really, really tired of rice. That said, the falafel meal, oddly, only whetted my appetite for more Japanese dishes, like I was missing some Western nutrient which the falafel provided, and now that I've ingested it, I'm good to go, and my cravings are all about miso and shiitake mushrooms rather than this "bread and milk" thing that's been obsessing me since I read a scene involving same in William Morris's The Well at the World's End (available for free at Project Gutenberg, but my advice would be to read The Wood Beyond the World first).

Tabled business: daikon and renko (lotus root) want to be stored in the refrigerator, not on the counter, as I have learned to my grief. After two days on the counter, only about one quarter of the #2 lotus root was usable, and the lovely green daikon had become rubbery and sad. Just put them in the fridge, and don't be like me and have to learn from experience. I had such big plans for my remaining lotus root, and it was pathetic just to have to cut the good parts out and chuck them into a stew.

New business: gobo (burdock root), the rooty-looking brown thing in the photograph above, I was expecting from various descriptions of it (focussing mainly on its medicinal uses) to be rather awful, but actually it was rather nice, sweet and crisp, a little like parsnip.

Man, was this meal good. The recipe I can give you, since it is an adaptation by me of three recipes, Kimiko Barber's Nishime, and her Daikon to buta no nimono (simmered daikon with pork), and the Kabocha-udon winter stew from Veganomicon, which contributed the abura age (deep-fried tofu) and the kabocha squash. Kimiko would have added 2 tbsp of granulated sugar, but for me the dish was quite sweet enough with only the mirin. What I did was this:

Serves 4

4 reconstituted dried shiitake mushrooms
1/2 cup dry Soy Curls, reconstituted in warm water
3 abura age (deep fried tofu pieces), in slices
2 tbsp canola oil
1/2 medium-small kabocha squash, in slices, peeled
2/3 cup renkon (lotus root), peeled, sliced, and quartered
6 inches gobo (burdock root), peeled and cut into ¾ inch pieces
2 inches daikon, cut into bite-sized pieces
2 cups mushroom kombu dashi
1/2 cup mirin (the kind with alcohol)
1/4 cup light soy sauce

For garnish:
1/4 cup sweet red pepper, finely sliced
1 cup pea shoots or snow peas
1 green onion, finely sliced on the diagonal
enoki mushrooms
oshinko (Japanese pickled cabbage) or kimchee

Start by reconstituting the shiitake mushrooms (if you need to) and Soy Curls, separately.

Heat a large shallow saucepan over medium heat and add the oil. When hot, add the Soy Curls; cook for 2 minutes, then add the other vegetables and sauté for 3 minutes. Deglaze the pan with sake if things start to stick or burn.

Add the dashi, mirin, soy sauce, and abura age, and reduce the heat to minimum. Simmer for an hour or until almost all the liquid has evaporated. When nearly done, add the red pepper and pea shoots and cook just until the pea shoots are wilted. Remove from heat and serve hot, garnished with the enoki and green onion.


  1. My God! How gorgeous is your food!? I wish my meals looked that incredible when I plated them up. And great photography to boot!

  2. That looks amazing! I'm totally getting your recipes and have bookmarked LOADS of 'em.