Sunday, June 1, 2008
Hijiki and Carrot Salad
Since I had pledged to try a new vegetable each week, to familiarize myself with Japanese produce, I knew eventually I'd want to try some sea vegetables. While wandering through the fish section last week at the supermarket, I found packages of fresh hijiki, and decided to have a go at carrot and hijiki salad. I found the recipe for this in Washoku, and was interested in it, as the author mentions it keeps well for bentos. In fact, she said it would keep happily for 5 days in the refrigerator, which is just the sort of side dish I need when I drag myself out of bed every morning, and start scrounging to fill the lunch boxes. (Although recently, I've taken to diagramming the bento-breakdown on our kitchen whiteboard to help jog my memory for side dishes - some smaller leftovers tend to get lost in the back of our fridge and end up in the garbage on Sunday-purge-the-fridge-day).
I made the salad with julienned carrot and fresh hijiki. The recipe calls for dried, reconstituted hijiki, but I'm not sure if that is because the cookbook assumes that fresh hijiki would likely be unavailable for her readers. It's not really a salad, but more of a braise I suppose, as the carrot and hijiki are simmered in dashi, but it looks like a salad, so that's what I'll call it. The vegetables are sauteed briefly with a bit of oil, then sake is added, and sauteed until it evaporates. Then, after adding about 125 ml of dashi, you cook it covered, on a low heat. You cook it until the liquid is almost gone, then add a tablespoon or so of sugar, plus another 125 ml of dashi. That should
be cooked down again, and finally the soy sauce is added, and cooked for another minute or so. It should then be cooled in the pan with the lid on, to allow the flavours to mingle.
When I made this, I hadn't read that final step, and was a little disappointed with the salad - I thought the carrot and hijiki were too separate - and I thought the hijiki really overwhelmed the whole dish. But when I tried it the next day in my bento, I found that the flavours had settled, and it tasted like more than the sum of its parts. It looked so pretty in the bento as well - the orange and black provided a nice colour contrast with the green bean side dishes I had this week. When I mentioned to some of my co-workers I had made this, they were surprised- I guess it's a pretty old-school Japanese side-dish.
Next week, I want to make a few of the side dishes Maki has featured over on just bento - her spicy miso asparagus looks incredible!