By Request


Wednesday, January 29, 2003

Root veggies
and seaweed imbue
tasty Japanese stew

ONE of my e-mail correspondents is intrigued by konnyaku, a wiggly, jiggly Japanese ingredient made from a yam plant in the taro family. She's seeking a way to serve konnyaku in the traditional comfort dish of nishime or umani.

These two Japanese stews are quite similar, made primarily with root vegetables and a small amount of meat. A soy sauce and sugar base is used to flavor the pot. Also common to both dishes is the use of konnyaku and kombu -- strips of seaweed that are tied into knots.

Traditionally, the stew is simmered until cooked, then cooled and reheated, a process that may be repeated a few times. This infuses the soy-sugar flavors deeply into the ingredients and leaves very little soupiness. Few modern recipes call for this time-consuming procedure, but you could approximate it simply by making your nishime/umani a day ahead and refrigerating it overnight.

This recipe is adapted from "Cook Japanese Hawaiian Style" by Muriel Miura Kaminaka (1980).

The dish may be adapted to include more of the veggies you like, less of what you don't like. I usually double the kombu and add shiitake mushrooms. Many people also like adding tiny Japanese taro (araimo).

Konnyaku is easy to find in the refrigerated section of supermarkets, where tofu is sold. Use either the white, refined type or the brown, unrefined version.


2 cups dashi (Japanese soup broth), chicken stock or water
1 cup boned chicken
1 cup gobo pieces (see notes)
2 medium carrots, peeled, in bite-sized chunks
1 10-ounce can bamboo shoots
1 strip nishime kombu (see notes)
1 block konnyaku, in bite-sized pieces
1/4 pound Chinese peas
>> Sauce:
2-1/2 teaspoons salt
1 tablespoon sugar
2 tablespoons soy sauce

Bring dashi to a boil over medium heat. Add chicken, gobo and carrots; cook 5 minutes. Add bamboo shoots, kombu and konnyaku; cook 10 more minutes.

Combine sauce ingredients and add to pot, stirring to mix thoroughly. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer until vegetables are tender. Remove from heat and add peas. Serve hot or cold. Serves 6 to 8.

Notes: Gobo, or burdock root, should be scraped and cut into 1/2-inch diagonal pieces. Soak in water until ready to use. Kombu, or dried kelp, should be soaked in water until soft, then washed. Tie into knots at 1-1/2-inch intervals and cut between the knots. Both ingredients are available at most supermarkets, gobo with the fresh produce and kombu in the Asian section.

Approximate nutrient analysis for 1/4-cup serving: 80 calories, 1.5 g total fat, 0.5 g saturated fat, 15 mg cholesterol, at least 1,000 mg sodium, 10 g carbohydrate, 7 g protein.*

Food Stuffs: Morsels

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"By Request," Honolulu Star-Bulletin,
500 Ala Moana, No. 7-210, Honolulu 96813.
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Asterisk (*) after nutritional analyses in the
Body & Soul section indicates calculations by
Joannie Dobbs of Exploring New Concepts,
a nutritional consulting firm.

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