Nishime is a cold weather, one pot dish of simmered vegetables and meat. A Japanese stew that features rinkon (lotus root), konbu (kelp), gobo (burdock) and konnyaku (yam cake), it can be made with either fish stock or chicken broth. My grandmother preferred to use chicken broth along with chicken thigh meat but the more traditional fish stock is good, too.
You can buy rinkon or lotus root fresh or canned. Slice them so they are in half circles. This way, the attractive pattern of the inner holes will add to the visual appeal. Gobo or burdock root looks like a thin tree root, and unless it is cooked well, it has the texture of one. This is why my mother adds the gobo early, before adding the other vegetables that require less cooking time.
To prepare the konbu knots, soak nishime konbu. Nishime konbu comes in thin long strips as opposed to dashi no konbu which comes in wider sheet-like strips. Soak the konbu until it softens and tie the long strip into knots, cutting them apart with 1/2 inches between them.
This is my mother's recipe, in her own words, so as usual, there are no measurements. As with most stews, the increments depends upon the size of your pot! Adjust seasonings to taste.
dashi no moto broth or chicken broth
mirin (Japanese cooking wine)
gobo, scraped and cut into diagonal pieces
carrots, peeled and cut into diagonal pieces
renkon (lotus root), sliced
koimo (Japanese potatoes), peeled
aburage (fried tofu), optional
chicken meat, optional (thigh meat, chopped)
Put water and about a teaspoon or two of vinegar in a bowl, stir and soak gobo for about 15-20 minutes. This prevents gobo from browning. Make konbu ribbons (soak konbu until it soften, tie into knots and cut them apart). Add these to a large pot along with your choice of fish or chicken broth. Add seasonings and cook on medium heat until almost done. (Chi's note: I think this means when the gobo and knobu are tender.) Then, add vegetables, except for koimo. Cook on low heat, stirring now and then with a big rice paddle (so you don't mash the carrots) until the veggies are done and then add the koimo. Simmer until done.
Shoyu and sugar are equal amounts. Mirin I normally use a tablespoon then add salt, starting with a teaspoon for about 5-6 cups of broth. Taste as you go alng and add more seasonings to your taste. Do not boil or cook on high heat, especially if you add chicken as it will get hard.
You can add other veggies if you like but I do not recommend broccoli as florets will break off into little pieces and will not look attractive.