hijiki: from sea to bowl ::::
Seaweed has always a steadfast place in my heart, whether it be from memories on the coast of Maine, popping bladder-pocked seaweed with stones as a child or studying the ropey lengths of giant kelp in Monterey last year with Peach. I’ve also found more and more varieties that I like to eat, most recently hijiki. Hijiki is a black sea vegetable, usually bought dried and reconstituted before eating. I’ve made a daikon-hijiki soup with udon noodles for the family, drawing on many recipes, but not quite getting the broth to my liking. Food & Wine magazine, my go-to mag, of all places, had a recipe in the spirit of Halloween. “Worms in Dirt” they called it, photographing the finished dish in gray-dark light, trowel nearby. This I had to try.
Besides the high nutritive value of seaweed, I knew its combination with eggs and carrots in this dish would round it out well. It’s a standout at a potluck dinner. Guests will ask what exactly you are trying to feed them, unless you are in the company of a majority of Japanese families or Morimoto fans. The glistening black almost rice-like sized hijiki along with the strips of egg and carrot matchsticks works well against a lime Jello-ed color palette of a typical American potluck meal. It tastes best as a side dish, as the hijiki is rather strong for most people. Be sure to serve alongside a light rice or tofu dish.
- ½ cup dried hijiki seaweed (about 1 ounce)
- ½ cup soy sauce
- ⅛ cup mirin
- 1 teaspoon sugar
- 1½ cups dashi (The original recipe called for dashi powder but I made my own -- see note below. Also, you can use water instead, but the overall flavor isn't as full and oceany.)
- 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
- 2 medium-large carrots, cut into 3-inch matchsticks
- 3 eggs, beaten (the original recipe calls for ½ cup thinly sliced fried tofu -- see note below)
- 1½ tablespoons seasoned rice vinegar
- 1 teaspoon toasted sesame oil
- Black sesame seeds, for garnish
- In a bowl, cover the hijiki with the dashi and let stand for 45 minutes. Drain, pressing out any excess water. In a small bowl, combine the soy, mirin, and sugar.
- Heat the vegetable oil in a large pan. Beat eggs in a small bowl with a splash of water. Cook beaten eggs into a large flat omelet. Remove from pan and set aside to cool slightly. Cut omelet into long, thin strips.
- Add the carrots and cook over high heat for 1 minute. Stir in the hijiki. Add the soy mixture and simmer over moderately low heat, stirring occasionally, until the carrots are tender and the liquid is absorbed, 5 to 10 minutes. Stir in egg strips. Transfer the hijiki salad to a bowl and refrigerate until chilled, 1 hour at least.
- In a small bowl, whisk the vinegar with the sesame oil. Add the dressing to the salad and toss to coat. Sprinkle with sesame seeds and serve.
Make Ahead: The hijiki salad can be refrigerated overnight.
Primary Dashi (Ichiban Dashi)*
minimally adapted from Shizuo Tsuji's book Japanese Cooking: A Simple Art.
1 (4-inch) piece of dried konbu (about 1 ounce or 30 grams)
1 quart of cold water
1 small package bonito flakes (1 ounce or 30 grams)
1. Fill pot with water and add konbu.
2. Bring to almost a boil, uncovered. (Konbu has a strong odor if boiled so remove just before the water boils.) It should be soft (use your thumbnail to check) when most of the flavor has been extracted. Remove it from the pot.
3. Boil the water fully now. Add ¼ cup water to bring down the temperature and add the bonito flakes. Bring to full boil and remove from heat.**
4. Allow flakes to settle to the bottom of the pot (about 1 minute). Remove foam and filter through cheesecloth. Reserve the bonito flakes and konbu for secondary dashi.
Keeps for 1 week in the fridge, or 1 month if frozen.
* There is also a Secondary Dashi (Niban Dashi) best used for seasoning thick soups, noodle broths, and a cooking stock for vegetables. Primary Dashi is best for clear soups. Since this hijiki salad had other seasoning included, I opted to use the Primary Dashi recipe here.
** If the stock boils too long or the stock becomes too strong or bitter, it is not recommended to use in clear soups. Use it as a secondary-type dashi instead.