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A traditional Japanese vegetable stew sometimes prepared with either pork or chicken. A very comforting dish you will typically find at households to celebrate special occasions. A sure find at any okazuya-type restaurant. Similar to the Chinese Jai, the ingredients have different meanings for joy, happiness, prosperity and cleansing. We are fortunate here that we are able to find the many Japanese vegetables year round. There are many variations of this recipe, some more like a soup with vegetables cut a bit smaller and more liquid added, some enjoy the recipe with larger vegetables either dry or wet like a stew. Other recipes add more pork or chicken for a heartier dish. My family enjoys it like a dry stew, with chunky vegetables.
½ lb. pork belly or boneless skinless chicken thighs, thinly sliced
freshly ground black pepper
2 TB soy sauce
2 TB vegetable oil
1 (1 oz.) pkg. nishme konbu, soaked, tied in knots, cut between knots
1 large gobo (burdock root), peeled, 1-inch diagonal pieces, soaked in water until ready to use
6 dried shiitake mushrooms, soaked (*liquid reserved), stems removed, cut in half
1 (10 oz.) pack (2 pc.) konnyaku, sliced
1 (8.5 oz) can bamboo shoots, rinsed, drained, 1 ½-inch pieces
3 pc. aburage (fried tofu), sliced
2 medium carrots, peeled, 1 ½-inch pieces
1 small daikon (turnip), 1 ½-inch pieces
1 large hasu (lotus root), peeled, ¼-inch slices
2 pc. araimo (Japanese yam), 1 ½-inch pieces ** see note
1 (14.5 oz) can chicken broth
1 c. mushroom liquid*
½ c. soy sauce
½ c. sugar, as desired
Prepare your vegetables as indicated above. Set aside until ready to use. In a small mixing bowl; season pork or chicken with salt, pepper and soy sauce. Allow to sit 15 minutes. In your largest (the larger the better, as vegetables will cook more evenly) saucepan or Dutch oven over medium heat; fry pork or chicken in oil until lightly browned. Add chicken broth and mushroom liquid. Bring to a rapid boil. Reduce heat; add mushrooms, konbu, konnyaku, and bamboo shoots. Cover and cook for 10 minutes. Add soy sauce and sugar (optional to increase sugar amount according to your taste), carrots, daikon, gobo and hasu. Cover and cook for 15 minutes. Add araimo and abura age. Cook 8-12 minutes, until araimo is cooked through. Watch closely; stirring very gently. Serve immediately. A good substitution for the chicken broth is your favorite dashi. Optional to add crushed garlic cloves and ginger. ** Note: Take caution, while peeling araimo, leave it dry to avoid an itchy sensation. Serves 6-8.
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