Serves 6-10 | Prep time 60-90 minutes | Cook Time 30-40 minutes
New Year is the biggest and most important holiday in Japan. People start preparing osechi — traditional New Year foods — in the last week of December. Making osechi can be extremely labor intensive and time consuming though, so some people opt to use simplified or fusion recipes, or order prepared osechi from local restaurants. Living outside Japan, it’s not always easy to find the special ingredients some osechi items call for. But there are a few everyday dishes that are also enjoyed as osechi.
Chikuzen Ni is one such dish. A mix of braised root vegetables and chicken, it is a popular everyday recipe. The name “Chikuzen” refers to a region in Fukuoka prefecture, where the dish originated, but other names are used as well, depending on region (such as Gameni and Iridori). Whatever the name, the dish features chicken and vegetables that are fried in oil and then simmered in broth until the broth reduces. With a few decorative upgrades, Chikuzen Ni becomes one of the main osechi dishes. It can last for up to a week in the fridge, so you can cook a big batch and keep enjoying it during the New Year’s holiday week.
- 2 cups kombu dashi (see below)
- 6-10 dried shiitake mushrooms, soaked in 2 cups of room temperature water overnight or in hot water for several hours for faster soaking
- 1 package konnyaku (Japanese yam cake, available in the refrigerated section at Asian grocery stores)
- ½ lb. gobo (burdock root), scrubbed and peeled
- ½ lb. precooked bamboo shoots (available at Asian grocery stores)
- 1 lb. satoimo (Japanese baby taro root), peeled
- 1 lb. renkon (lotus root), scrubbed and peeled
- ½ lb. carrots, peeled
- 4 oz. snow peas, trimmed and strings removed
- 2 Tbsp. canola oil
- 1 lb. boneless, skinless chicken thigh, cut into ½-inch pieces
- 2 Tbsp. soy sauce
- 2 Tbsp. sake
- 4 Tbsp. mirin
- 1 tsp. salt
- To make kombu dashi, soak a 3×3-inch sheet of kombu in 2 cups of water overnight, or place kombu and 3 cups of water in a small saucepan over medium heat, and simmer for about 10 minutes. Discard kombu.
- Squeeze excess water from hydrated shiitake mushrooms, cut stems off, and cut caps in half. Set aside.
- Boil water in a saucepan. Cut konnyaku into ¼-inch slices. At the center of each slice, make a 1 ½-inch slit. Place the bottom of the slice into the slit and pull it through to make a ‘tazuna’ (rein) shape (helpful link about tazuan konnyaku at NHK World website). Put the tazuna konnyaku in boiling water and cook for 30 minutes. Drain and set aside.
- Cut burdock root diagonally into oblique cuts. Soak in water for 10 minutes. Drain and set aside.
- Cut bamboo shoots in half lengthwise and thinly slice. Set aside.
- Boil water in saucepan. Cut satoimo into 2 or 3 slices and cook for about a minute. Drain and set aside.
- Cut lotus root into quarters lengthwise, and then into ¼-thick slices crosswise. Soak in water for about 10 minutes, drain, rinse under running water, and drain again. Set aside.
- Slice carrot into 1/3-inch slices. Using a cookie cutter or paring knife, cut each slice into a plum-flower shape. Optionally, you can make v-shaped cuts around the outside of the carrot slice to represent petals.
- Boil water in a saucepan and blanch snow peas for 30 seconds. Drain, rinse the peas under cold running water, and drain again. Cut a v-shape out of both ends of each pea. Set aside.
- In a large pot, heat 1 Tbsp. canola oil over high heat. Add chicken and sauté until the meat is no longer pink. Remove chicken and set aside.
- Wipe out remaining oil in the pan with a paper towel. Add another tablespoon of oil, then add burdock root, bamboo shoots, konnyaku, and lotus root. Coat the vegetables in oil well. Add shiitake and satoimo.
- Add dashi, soy sauce, sake, mirin, and salt. Place flower-shaped carrots on top. Place a piece of parchment paper or aluminum foil directly on top of the vegetables so that there’s no air underneath, and poke a few holes in it with a chopstick. This technique is called otoshibuta, and it helps heat distribute evenly and vegetables cook faster. Reduce heat to medium and cook for about 15 minutes.
- Remove the parchment paper or foil, and add chicken back in.
- Cook for another 10 minutes over high heat until the liquid is almost gone.
- Remove from heat and garnish with the snow peas.
Japanese Winter Vegetables
Satoimo – Japanese baby taro root
The taro root, native to tropical Asia, is slightly hairy on the exterior. Peel the skin to reveal a slick, slightly slimy interior. The tuber is served boiled, steamed and simmered and has been part of Japanese cuisine for centuries.
Gobo – burdock root
Chock full of nutrition, the burdock root is a staple of Japanese cooking and is also used in macrobiotic cooking. It’s used in many Japanese winter dishes such as stews and soups.
Renkon – lotus root
Peel off the reddish-brown skin and slice through the white flesh of a lotus root and a floral pattern will appear. The holes are said to be auspicious. Renkon has a nice crunch to it.
Recipe by Kanako Koizumi | www. kozmokitchen.com
Kanako, a native of Akita, Japan, is a chef, author and instructor focused on authentic Japanese home cooking. She is teaching Japanese cooking classes at Tom Douglas’ Hot Stove Society and ChefShop in Seattle. Chef Kanako also offers in-home private cooking classes for groups up to 12. You can reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Kanako’s Nabe hands-on classes
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