Nimono is a category of Japanese dishes that are simmered as the method of cooking. Most are simmered slowly as the foods absorb the flavors of the liquid ingredients as they reduce. The reduction period involves evaporation of the liquid, leaving behind a more intense flavor of juices and seasonings.
Hijiki is a type of brown seaweed (it looks black when dried), rich in minerals and fiber. According to Japanese old wives’ tales, eating hijiki contributes to full, lustrous black hair. But before you rush off to overeat hijiki, know that food safety agencies in some countries advise against eating hijiki since studies showed it contains inorganic arsenic in potentially toxic levels. Most people, even the average Japanese, will not eat hijiki in those amounts, but just be forewarned to consume only occasionally.
Hijiki comes packaged dry and needs to be rehydrated in cool water. I add hijiki to chirashi sushi rice, soups and salads. The hijiki in this recipe absorbs the flavors of the sweet carrots, dashi and seasonings. The aburage (fried, dried tofu) is optional but it gives the dish body and soaks up the good flavors as well. Serve with hot steamed rice for a nice vegetarian lunch or dinner.
3/4 cup dried hijiki
water for rehydrating
1/2 small carrot, peeled and cut into thin matchsticks
1 aburage, rehydrated
1 tsp. toasted sesame oil
1 ½ cups dashi
¼ cup soy sauce
3 Tbsp. sugar
1 Tbsp. mirin
Rinse and soak the dried hijiki in cool water for about 2o minutes. Drain well. Do the same with the aburage, and then squeeze out the water and slice it thinly. In a small sauté pan, heat sesame oil and sauté the carrot and aburage slices. Add hijiki and sauté briefly. Add dashi, soy sauce, sugar and mirin. Stir and bring to a simmer and cook until most of the liquid has evaporated.