Farmhouse Nishimi is often served for New Year’s or solar equinox celebrations. Because it is largely made from root vegetables and other ingredients that can be stored in a root cellar or larder, it is an excellent choice for a spring meal before many fresh vegetables are available. This nishimi differs from the type typically served in cities by using miso in the broth, making for a heartier and richer stew.
One of the more unusual ingredients in this dish is konnyaku cake, which is made of flour ground from the dry roots of Amorphophallus konjac, a plant closely related to Calla Lilies with leaves well over a yard across and with a corm (a type of root) that can weigh up to 5 pounds. This flour is largely made of the soluble dietary fiber glucomannan, a high molecular weight polysaccharide consisting primarily of mannose and glucose sugars. Glucomannan is one of the most viscous soluble fibers known, and also has the highest known water-holding capacity. Just 2 teaspoons of glucomannan flour is enough to make 2 cups of konnyaku cake, which has no calories, a firm rubbery texture, and no flavor of its own. However, with long stewing it will pick up the tastes of the foods it is cooked with, especially miso broth.
FOR MORE ABOUT BENTO AND ITS COMMON RECIPES, SEE JAPANESE BENTO.
• 3-1/2 cups Shiitake Dashi (broth from shiitake mushrooms)
• 1/2 cup red miso
• 1/4 cup mirin
• 1/4 cup sake
• 1/2 teaspoon salt
• 1 konnyaku cake, cut into 1/4-inch slices
• 1 large carrot, peeled and cut into large chunks
• 1 large potato, cut in 8 pieces
• 2 inch section of daikon root, cut into 1/2-inch slices, and then into half-moons
• Half of a lotus root, cut into 1/4-inch slices, and then into half-moons
• 8 inch piece of kombu, cut in half, and then into 1 inch strips
• 1 bamboo shoot, cut into large pieces
• 6 dry shītake mushrooms, soaked for 30 minutes in hot water, then quartered
1. Combine dashi, miso, mirin, sake, and salt in a soup pot and bring to a boil. Simmer while you braid the konnyaku.
2. Take each konnyaku slice, and slit lengthwise down the middle, starting and ending the cut about 1/2 inch from each end. Then take one end and thread it through the slit and pull it completely through.
3. Add braided konnyaku, carrot, potato, daikon, lotus root, kombu, bamboo shoot and shītake to the broth.
4. Return to a boil, reduce heat to a simmer, and cook for about 40 minutes to an hour until the vegetable are tender and only 3/4 cup of broth remains.
5. Remove from heat and let sit for 24 hours. May be served cold or can be reheated.
Jeff Nekola has a PhD in Ecology from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and has a passion for biodiversity in its many forms, whether it be plants, butterflies, and land snails in the wild or crops grown in gardens, orchards and fields, or the use of those foods as expressed by the entire range of humanity's cuisines. You can learn more here.
Linda Fey's first and finest childhood memories are of helping her mother and grandmother in the garden and then bringing in freshly picked produce to the dinner table. As an adult, she has over 20 years of experience in market gardening and teaches middle-school English at the Albuquerque Institute for Math and Science. Visit www.LindaFey.com to view her writing about food and life.