Me, Myself, And I: 根菜の煮物共に油揚げ Stewed Root Vegetables With Fried Tofu

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Food for me is more than taste and sustenance. It’s a social axis where I can (re)connect with people who are important to me. My motto is life’s too short and my metabolism is too slow to eat mediocre food. Along the same lines, I cook for those I like and conversely have a hard time getting interested in eating alone so when the hubby’s on one of his many business trips, I have to think of things I really crave or want to eat otherwise I can end up losing weight out of lack of interest. I know, it’s strange for someone who really enjoys eating food, even gets excited by just ideas and theories about food, to have such a pronounced turnabout when left to their own devices but there you have it, I’m special😉

So what’s irresistible enough to entice me into eating when I just not that interested? You guessed it. Carbs, carbs, a soupçon of protein, and more carbs. Crunchy carbs that have been stewed in a savory, slightly sweet broth to give them a tender yet toothy texture over a bed of thirsty short grain rice that will suck up that delectable, gingery broth. Most people associate daikon radish with sushi which makes sense cuz its clean, slightly bitter taste is helpful in cutting through some of the unctuous fattiness of all that yummy fish. But despite its spartan nutritional stats, 1 cup contains 5 g of carbs, 2 g of fiber, 1 g of protein, and an underwhelming 58 calories, daikon can surprise you. It’s packed with digestive enzymes like amylase, diastase, and esterase helpful for breaking down starches as well as phenolic compounds which can prevent the formation of carcinogenic nitrosamines which can be found in many beloved foods like fried bacon, beer, and cured meats and less beloved items like tobacco products and pesticides. So if you like bacon, daikon might be the healthier pairing you’ve been looking for? It also tastes pretty yummy Japanese style in this simple vegan dish and with the filling broth and low calorie veggies, this is a great meal for those interested in shedding a few pounds without shedding taste or nutrients🙂

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Why we do the things we do…
1) Why par-boil the daikon in water used to rinse rice? Isn’t it already starchy? Actually, this step helps to remove some of the bitterness from the daikon as well as help it keep its white color. Daikon browns really quickly once exposed to air.
2) What’s with all the vegetable crosses? Is there a Nosferatu convention in town? Um, not that I know of? The X’s on the shiitake are purely decorative although I suspect they also have a similar effect as the X’s on the daikon–allowing the broth and flavors to penetrate better. This also helps to cook the daikon faster and the more tender your daikon is, the sweeter it will taste.
3) I can’t get fried tofu and don’t want to set my kitchen on fire frying it at home myself. Fair enough. If you want a protein in this meal you can either add 3-4 oz of chicken breast or you could crack an egg into the broth at the end and simmer for an additional minute🙂
4) Why blanch the fried tofu in oil, won’t it get soggy? Well since it’s going to be simmered in the broth it’ll be soft anyway. Blanching in boiling water strips off some of the excess oils so you don’t have to slurp them up with your broth so I suspect the estimated fat content in the nutritional infographic down below is overestimating the fat and caloric content by about 80-100 calories?
5) If the green slightly bitter flavor of the parsley isn’t your style kale or spinach would also be good substitutes. I couldn’t find any mitsuba at the store so tossed in some parsley I had lying around in the veggie bin.

Ingredients
4-5 inches of a fresh daikon radish (~1/3-1/2 c), peeled and in 1-inch thick rounds
Reserved water from rinsing your rice before steaming it
1 c konbu (seaweed kelp) dashi stock
1 tsp mirin
1 tsp light soy sauce (I like Yamasa)
1/2 tsp light brown sugar
1 tsp (~1/2 inch) crushed ginger
1/2 carrot, peeled and in 1-inch thick rounds
1/4 c sweet potato, skin on in 1-inch cubes
2 shiitake, stemmed
4 1-inch cubes fried tofu
2-3 sprigs of flat-leaf parsley
Steamed rice

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Boil 2-3 c of water and pour over fried tofu into a small bowl so that the tofu are submerged in the water. Smoosh the tofu to submerge them and soak for a few minutes to release the excess oils. Blot the top of the water with a paper towel to absorb the oil which has floated to the top. Drain the tofu and set aside.

Score the ends of the daikon with shallow X’s. They will cook faster this way as well as wick in some of the broth and absorb it. Boil reserved rice water in a small pot with daikon for 2-3 minutes. Drain and discard water then set daikon aside.

In small 1-2 quart pot or donabe (Japanese clay pot) mix together dashi, mirin, soy sauce, sugar, and ginger. Cover and simmer daikon for 10 minutes then add carrots, sweet potato, shiitake and tofu till daikon is easily pierced with a wooden toothpick ~10-2 more minutes. Add parsley if using. Serve over rice. Makes 1 serving (for me!).

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About Cam

Enjoying the hippie life in Portlandia :)

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