The Easiest Eggplant Dish Ever!

 

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I came to the US 15 years ago, and it was my first experience to live in a foreign country.  Sorry to say this, but I thought people in the US only had hamburgers, pizza, and hot dogs.  When I saw people eating SUSHI rolls with chopsticks, I was so surprised and impressed.  Now we have more varieties of international foods here and we can find any ethnic vegetables or condiments in most of grocery stores.  By the way I thought  familiar vegetables for me such as green onions, ginger, and okra all belonged to Japan.  It was several years later I found out okra is originated in Africa!  Eggplant is one of vegetables which I though is JAPANESE.

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People here make Eggplant parmesan and baba ganoush and more.  In Japan as well there are many eggplant dishes.  We often saute or steam them.  We pickle them.  Eggplant doesn’t  have strong flavor, that is why they are very versatile, I think.

One of my favorite ways to cook them is a saute/steam method.  After burning it on the pan, put a lid on and steam it.  It is so easy and you could put anything adds-on  depending on your favor.

Now I would like to introduce how to do that even though there are not so many processes.

Here are the ingredients example.

  • 1 eggplant halved
  • vegetable oil
  • daikon radish, finely grated
  • UMEBOSHI ( more about UMEBOSHI is here!)
  • green onion, chopped
  • lime
  • bonito flakes
  • soba tsuyu (dipping sauce for soba noodle)

Then let’s cook!

1.Wash eggplant well, and using paring knife (I used a knife for grapefruit! This works so well!), run it along the inside of the skin. (not cut through!).  Then make a square-cut inside the line.

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2.Heat the pan and add vegetable oil.  Put a half of the eggplant cut side down (if you make two of them at once, you could put two together.)  Saute in medium heat for about 3- 4 minutes until it gets burned-markings.

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3.Flip it and put a lid on and keep cooking for about 7-8 minutes. (This is a steeming process. Since eggplant has lots of water in it, you don’t need to add liquid here.)

THAT’S IT!

You get soft juicy, but not too mushy eggplant.  Now you could put anything on it.

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I put grated daikon radish, bonito flakes, green onion, along with a huge UMEBOSHI, a pickled plum.  Then I poured soba tsuyu on top.

I know it is a bit hard to find bonito flakes, Umeboshi and soba tsuyu, so you could just use grated daikon radish and soy sauce!  You may want to have citrus flavor, so use lime or lemon.

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This is so good.  My husband loves this.  He doesn’t know how easy it is to make this dish!

That is the best part!

Enjoy!

 

 

 

how to make KAKIAGE (Tempura)

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What do you think is the most known Japanese word?

SAYO(U)NARA, ARIGATO(U), FUTON, SUSHI, RAMEN, SOBA, TOFU,,,and,,,

 

TEMPURA!!!

 

Today I would like to show how to make tempura.

To be honest with you, I didn’t cook tempura often in Japan because we have tempura specialty restaurants.

 

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Like sushi, frying tempura needs lots of experience and technique.

 

 

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We make chirashi zushi (sushi) at home, but we don’t make regular sushi since we know we couldn’t do well like sushi chefs.

 

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Chirashi zushi is sushi rice in a bowl mixed with lots of ingredients, most of which are vegetables.

I made sushi rice, using black rice this time.  Black rice reacts with vinegar and turns to be pink, so I wanted to make this pink rice in spring, thinking of cherry blossoms in my country.

WAIT, WAIT, WAIT!!

I think chirashi sushi is like,,,

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this, isn’t it?

Yes, this is also called chirashi sushi.

I should probably write more about sushi in near future.

Today’s topic is TEMPURA!! (REMEMBER??!!)

The reason I wanted to make tempura today was because I had a bottle of frozen water, which was forgotten in the freezing car.

We need ice cold water to make good tempura.

The reason is because we don’t want batter of tempura to be gooey with gluten.  The higher the temperature is, the more gluten is produced.  Using ice water, we can make minimize the production of gluten.  It might be much better to chill flour until we use.

So,

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when I found this poor bottle, I said, OK, I could use that!

 

I decided to make tempura soba, which is a hot noodle soup with tempura.

That is also one of the popular soba dishes in Japan.

Today I focus only on tempura. (Please remind me!  I often go to the other direction!)

Among a variety of tempura, I would like to make kakiage style, which is a mixture of vegetables and other ingredients fried in batter.

I wish I had shrimp, but I didn’t, so I went vegetarian.

Here are the ingredients for today’s kakiage.

 

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  • 1 small carrot
  • about 1/4 of medium size onion
  • flour
  • ice water
  • egg
  • canola oil
  • hijiki (optional)
  • ao nori (optional)

You could use regular onion here.  The reason I used purple onion today was because it was too pungent!!  I tried several methods to get rid of this pungency, but I failed, so I decided to use this onion not for eating raw but for cooking.  The heating process changes the pungency to sweetness.

By the way, do you know what the green bottle is in the picture right?

That is AONORI, green laver.

Aonori has strong flavor, so I often use this when I want to add some punch to dishes.

I would like to put aonori in the batter.

For vegetables, you also use corn, bamboo shoot, snap peas, asparagus, green beans and even carrots leaves!

I also add some seaweed called hijiki with vegetables.  That is one of my favorite food.  I put this in my salad almost every day!

It is sold dry, so we need to hydrate this before using.

Once you prepare the vegetables, start heating the oil, and let’s move on to the batter.

 

As I mentioned above, the water  has to be very cold to make tempura crisp.

For the batter, water and flour is 1:1 ratio.

I only make 4 small kakiage this time, so I only use 1/4 cup of water and the same amount of flour.

When you mix them together, use chopsticks to avoid over-mixing.

Open chopsticks wide, and mix roughly.  Some flour has to be remained.

Remember?  We don’t want to produce gluten here.

 

I should have added aonori before mixing with water, but it is fine.

Add aonori if you have ,and now you put this batter into the vegetables.

 

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Before adding, coat 1/4 egg with the vegetables , and then add just a little bit of flour to cover them.

This makes vegetables stick together and makes frying easier.

(I used egg white in the bottle.)

Then add some of the batter into vegetables.

Heat the oil until it gets 340F.

 

 

It might be easier using the shallow pan, that way you could slide the vegetables from the side.

Spoon some vegetables  and slide it into the oil.

Don’t overcrowd the pan!

Otherwise they get soggy.

 

The tempura chef often say “don’t look!  Listen the sound!”.

You may be able to recognize the change of the sound.

The sound gets high and short when they are ready.

 

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Do they look delicious to you?

Usually we eat this with dipping sauce, but this time I will put this into soba noodle soup, so I didn’t make dipping sauce.

If you want to eat this as it is and you don’t have dipping sauce, you can try this like I did.

 

 

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Can you guess what the green powder is?

 

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This is Matcha Salt!

I just mix matcha powder and salt.  This is very simple but very good.

We decided to eat some with mathca salt, and some in the soba noodle in the soup.

 

 

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What do you think?

You might want to add some shichimi (Japanese seven spices) like we do.

 

Would you like to try to make tempura at home?

 

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It is simple and easy.  Just experience.

 

Don’t throw carrots’ leaves!

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I wanted to purchase daikon radish, but I reached carrots instead because daikon didn’t have leaves and carrots did.  I wanted leaves.

 

We Japanese have a tradition to have NANAKUSA GAYU,  porridge with Japanese seven herbs on the 7th of January.

After the Thanksgiving, would you like to continue eating rich meals?  I am sure that lots of people are tired of turkey and gravy, and go to Asian restaurants to find something different . (I would say something differnt, not “something light”.)

The New Year holidays are relatively long holidays for us, and after the hard work of the previous year, everybody want to feel relaxed, just staying at home with family and eating,,eating,,,eating,,,,AND,,,,,EATING!!!

YES, it it time for the stomach to feel relaxed next!

That is one of the reason to have porridge on the 7th.

However originally this custom was brought from China in the Edo period, and its original intention is to protect ourselves from evils and invite good luck and longevity by eating the seven herbs that endure the cold weather.

Even though I have been living here for more than 15years, I want to follow each Japanese events in each season.

Every year I try to make seven herbs porridge, but of course, it is hard to find seven of them.

Sometime I only find one, and make one herb porridge, which I couldn’t call NANAKUSA GAYU.  (“NANA” means seven in Japanese.)

What is NANAKUSA then?

I was taught them when I was in the elementary school, so I could utter like incantation.

SERI NAZUNA GOGYO HAKOBERA HOTOKENOZA SUZUNA SUZUSHIRO

Probably this sounds like true incantation to you.

They are water dropwort ( seri ), sheperd’s purse (nazuna), cudweed (gogyo), chickweed (hakobera), henbit (hotokenoza), turnip (suzuna), and daikon radish (suzushiro) in English.

Are they familiar to you?  I have to ask somebody.

 

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I gave up finding all these unfamiliar herbs here from the beginning this year, and tried to collect any seven greens this year.  This is American version of NANAKUSA GAYU!

What I got were,,

as an opposite clockwise, carrots’ leaves, wild arugula, kale, baby spinach, arugula (rocket), shungiku (crown daisy), and chard.

What do you think?

Then the porridge turned out to be so GREEN!

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We all including my lovely dogs enjoyed this, wishing our health all year long.

Happy Ending!

BUT,

it wasn’t END!

 

I had tons of greens in my fridge.  I had to use them before they went bad.

 

Then ,,,

 

 

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I made TOFU SAAG with spinach and kale!

 

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It was DELICIOUS!

HAPPY ENDING!

BUT ,

it wasn’t END yet!

 

Carrots’ leaves were dominating my fridge!

Then I decided to make THAT.

I will cook all of them!

Today I will introduce my way to use carrots’ leaves in Japanese style.

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They were so fresh and beautiful.  I wonder for what you would use carrots’ leaves.

Smoothies?  Pesto? Garnishing?

OK, let’s show how I use them.   So simple and so easy.

 

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Here are the ingredients besides a bunch of carrots’ leaves for this side dish.

(you can adjust the quantities of each ingredients depending on your favor.)

  • 2 teaspoons of sake
  • 2 teaspoons of sugar
  • 1 tablespoon of soy sauce
  • 1-2 teaspoons of mirin
  • white sesame seeds
  • bonito flakes
  • sesame oil

First cut the carrots’ leaves.

I don’t want to throw even the harsh stalks because they look so  good for the health.

When I cut them, they were so fresh that they danced out from the cutting board!!

Heat a pan with a little oil, and saute the leaves, the stalks first.

When they wilt,

 

add sake and sugar.

Remember? Always the sweetness first!

Then add 2 teaspoons of soy sauce. (Use the left 1 teaspoon of soy sauce at the end.)

Add a little bit of water and close the lid for them to get tender.

After a few minutes, take off the lid and,,,,

 

add 2 teaspoons of mirin and the remaining soy sauce.

Add sesame oil from the side of the pan, and stir.

Stir well and add bonito flakes and sesame seeds.

Saute them until most of the liquid evaporates.

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That’s all!

 

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You could keep this in the fridge for a few days.

This goes well with white rice, and also you could cook with beaten eggs.

I put some in my husband’s OBENTO as well.

 

 

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Would you throw carrots’ leaves?

I hope you say NO!

 

Kiriboshi Daikon (cooked dried daikon radish)

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Christmas is coming!!

I am not ready for Christmas yet ( I don’t want it pass quickly), and I haven’t decided our Christmas menu yet, but my Santas are already coming to our home every day!!

Thank you, Santas!

 

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Today I have received  traditional Japanese foods from my dear friend in my country.

We love American dishes and I love to cook those, but when we continue having them several days in a row, we miss OUR food badly, so before I prepare Christmas dishes, I decided to prepare very traditional Japanese side dish to enjoy the coming American Christmas dinner.

 

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Have you ever seen dried daikon radish?

Regular daikon radish is very familiar these days, and I think you can see them at any grocery stores, but not dried daikon radish.

We call dried daikon radish as Kiriboshi Daikon, and “kirigoshi” means “slice and dry”, so they are the daikon which is sliced and then dried under the sun.

The sunshine makes them sweeter, and also it enhances the nutrition!

I appreciate the sunshine even though I hate I got burned myself…

Anyway, dried daikon radish has more calcium, iron, and vitamin B compared with raw radishes, and it has lots of fiver as well.

I know some of you, or even some of Japanese people, don’t like the smell of daikon radish.  I totally understand.

It is very strong, and when I cook daikon dishes , the smell stays long in the house.

Sorry,  I have a bad news.

Kiriboshi daikon has stronger smell than raw daikon radish.  So sorry.

However  I have to introduce this dish because this is one of the most popular side dishes in Japan.

It might be difficult to get the dried daikon radish , but if you go to Asian grocery stores, I believe you could find them near dried food section along with seaweeds.

OK.

Are you ready?

I will cook this as one of the side dishes for tonight’s dinner, and ,,,

YES, I will freeze some of it!

This is a busy housewife’s wisdom.  It freezes very well, so I can just thaw when I need one more side dish or have space for my husband’s lunch box.

 

Here are the ingredients for kiriboshi daikon.

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  • 1 package of dried daikon radish (1.5 oz)
  • 3-4 pieces of dried shiitake mushrooms (hydrated in the water overnight, or you could put them in hot water with a little sugar when you are in a hurry.)
  • 2 small carrots
  • 1.5-2 tablespoons of sugar
  • 2 teaspoons of shiro dashi ( if you have)
  • 1.5 tablespoons of soy sauce
  • bonito flakes (preferable, but optional)
  • dried red pepper (optional)

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First wash the dried daikon radish briefly, then put them in the large bowl with enough water for about 30-40minutes.

Drain the water (squeeze the radish), but keep the water.

This is dried shiitake mushrooms.  Like dried daikon radish, after hydrating those, drain the water, but keep the water.  It has tons of flavor, so we want to use it.

As dried daikon radish, dried shiitake mushroom has lots of nutrition.

The drying process gives shiitake mushrooms much more hearty aroma and UMAMI.

Before using dried shiitake mushroom, if you have time, put them under the sun for a few hours, the backside of mushrooms upside.

They get more vitamin D, which is very important for calcium absorption.

Even after hydrating them, they have very stiff stems, so take it off from the body. (you could use the stem for stock.)

Julienne the mushrooms and carrots.

Heat a small amount of vegetable oil, and put some red pepper (optional).

Be careful.  They get burned easily and leave bitter taste, so watch not to burn them.

Then add carrots and saute, and add shiitake.

After sauteing for a few minutes, add hydrated dried daikon radish, and saute them together.

 

Add reserved water from shiitake, and add reserved water from dried daikon radish, enough to cover the vegetables.

 

As I mentioned several times in the previous articles, when we do cooking, add sweetness first because once saltiness gets into meats or vegetables, they don’t absorb sweetness.

Add the sugar ( I used brown sugar because I like their flavor which gives the dish depth), and then if you have, add shiro dashi.

Can you read the word VERSATILE DASHI BASE on the label of shirodashi bottle?

YES, that is so true!

Shirodashi is very versatile, and you can use them in place of salt or soy sauce, and it gives UMAMI flavor into the dish.

If you don’t have shirodashi, it is OK.

You can increase the amount of soy sauce.

 

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Add soy sauce, and boil it, and let it simmer with lid (loose) for about 15minutes.

After 15 minutes or so, take the lid off, and cook until the liquid almost evaporates.

You could enjoy now, but I like put some bonito flakes for further UMAMI.  They absorb the left-over liquid, so it would be very good for a lunch box, too.

 

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What do you think?

This dish really goes well with white rice.

 

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Now smell so good, and

 

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looks so good to me!

I hope you try even you are not tempted.

This is JAPANESE, and this is so good!

 

Now I have to think about the Christmas menu…

 

Have a wonderful holiday season!

 

 

O NASU and SHIO KOJI ( Eggplants cooked with shio koji)

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When I go to the grocery store, there are certain vegetables  I always purchase.

Lettuce, tomato, onion, carrot, broccoli, peppers and sometimes mushrooms and green beans.

I always see big eggplants sitting next to zucchini, but I seldom reach them.

WHY?

Because they are too big!

I think they are really good in lagsania or eggplant parmesan, but when I think about Japanese dishes, I only come up with one dish, BEINASU no DENGAKU.

We call big eggplants  as BEINASU, literally means “American eggplants”.

This dish is “cooked eggplants with sweat miso sauce”.  It is delicious!

Maybe I would introduce that someday!

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Today I will introduce a dish using Japanese eggplants.

When I go to the farmer’s market, I sometimes find them, but it is difficult to find at regular grocery stores.

Japanese eggplants are relatively small like Italian eggplants, but the shape is thinner than Italian’s.

Japanese eggplants have thin skin, so you don’t need to take off peel.

The eggplants I got this time are from Suzuki Farm, and they are gifts with purchase.

When you purchase value pack at Suzuki Farm, you could get OMAKE (small giveaway)!

How nice!

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They have some scars, but they are as delicious as the regular ones.

By the way, I read an article about ugly produce.

The farmers used to compost them to landfill since  they don’t look perfect and not qualified as grocery stores’ produce even though they are as delicious as the regular ones.

Some farmers started donating those ugly vegetables, or selling to the restaurants where chefs don’t care what they look because they eventually turn into soup or mashes vegetables.

I am glad to know that they are saved!

Today I would like to save this a little ugly but  delicious vegetables in Japanese style.

I found this recipe in a Japanese magazine, and modified a little.

Here are the ingredients.

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  • 2-3 medium size of Japanese eggplants
  • bonito flakes
  • 2 tablespoons of shio koji
  • 1 tablespoon of mirin
  • 1 cup of water
  • 1 small piece of ginger
  • sesame oil

Let’s preparing!

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Cut eggplants in half in lengthwise.

Then,,,

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give slits diagonally, but not cut through.

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Eggplants have some strong AKU (harshness), so once you cut them, they get easily darken and they give dish bitter taste, so put them in water for about a few minutes to get rid of AKU.

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Then save them from water, and towel dry them.

Next prepare the condiments we use.

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I have already introduced SHIO KOJI several times.

They are salt with fermenting koji mold, and they have lots of UMAMI.

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It smells sweet and also it has a SAKE flavor.

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Also we need bonito flakes to get more UMAMI into the dish.

Let’s start cooking!

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Heat the pan and put generous amount of sesame oil.

As you know, eggplants absorbs oil well, so don’t hesitate ( forget about calories!).

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Put eggplants.

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Then flip over and cook both sides well.

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Meanwhile mix shio koji  and mirin with water.

Then, when eggplants are cooked,

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pour the shio koji mixture and,,,,,

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bonito flakes into the pan.

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Then cook this for a few minutes.

THAT’S IT!

How simple is that!

Take this from heat and cool it down.

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Put them in a container, and keep it in the refrigerator.

They are delicious in cold.

When you serve this, grate ginger, and put it on top of eggplants.

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Eggplants and ginger are a good match.

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Just grilling eggplants with soy sauce and grated ginger is also a delicious dish!

Next time when I go to the grocery store, let’s reach BEINASU (American eggplants) and cook in Japanese way.

SATOIMO no NIMONO ( how to cook taro)

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Japanese people love O IMO.

We collectively call starchy root vegetables such as regular potatoes, sweet potatoes (not like the one here, ours are purple outside and golden inside), yam (yamaimo), and taro(satoimo) as IMO.

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Other than regular potatoes, it is difficult to get here, but fortunately thanks to the Suzuki farm, I could get satoimo, which is one of my husband favorite vegetables.

What should I cook with them, then?

Japanese like simple dish, taking advantage of vegetables’ freshness and flavors.

My husband and I also like simple dishes.

OK.

Let’s make SATOIMO no NIMONO, the very basic Japanese dish!

It is SATOIMO version of KABOCHA no NIMONO.

Here are the ingredients.

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  • 6-7 of medium size of satoimo (taro)
  • 1.5 cup of dashi
  • 1.5 tablespoon of sugar
  • 1 tablespoon of mirin
  • 1 teaspoon of salt
  • 1 teaspoon of soy sauce

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By the way, what beautiful satoimo!

Usually they are covered with dirt, but this time I didn’t need to wash them vigorously with vegetable brush.

Let’s start cooking!

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Peel the skin thick.

Be careful!  They are very slippery!

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Cut into bite sizes.

Then,,,

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cook them for about 2-3 minutes in the boiling water to take their sliminess.

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Drain the water, and then wash them well.  (you can do this under the running water. )

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Drain, and we need to prepare dashi stock.

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I have a secret weapon.

This is dashi pack, and there are 30 packs which has bonito flakes and dried powdered sardine.

I know you don’t have this, so you can use instant dashi you could get at any Asian grocery store.

If you use instant dashi, prepare 1.5 cup.

When we cook potatoes, we always need to cook them from the water, so,,,,

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I put one pack in the water, and then,,,

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heat with prepared satoimo until it boils, and cook them for 3-4 minutes under medium flame.

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After 3-4 minutes, put sugar.

Remember!  Always sweet agent goes first.

Then add salt.

I added ,,,,

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shiro dashi (concentrate dashi stock with saltiness) instead of salt to enhance dashi flavor.

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Cook them with lid ,or  you can put  UCHIBUTA (literally inside lid.  You could cut parchment paper into circle, and poke it several spots, and then you could put it directly onto the satoimo.).

The UCHIBUTA method is traditional way, but since my pan does a great job, I didn’t do UCHIBUTA.

Cook 7-8 minutes.

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Then add mirin and

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soy sauce and ,,

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cook extra 7-8 minutes until the satoimo absorb most of the soup.

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Not yet.

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Almost there!

THEN,,,,

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They are waiting for my  husband to enjoy.

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They soaked up all dashi flavor, so they are good in OBENTO  like KABOCHA no NIMONO!

As soon as my husband came back home from work, he peeked the table and found SATOIMO on NIMONO, and,,,

OF COURSE!

He danced!