Friday, April 4, 2014

Hijiki with Gen san (vegetarian cooking with a Buddhist priest)

As part of our third Buddhism class this past Thursday, one of the priests, Gen san, wanted to tell us about his time spent as the kitchen manager of his monastery. "Tenzo" is the word for the chef at a Buddhist monastery, and when he was in this role, he said there were three rules:
  1. Do not waste.
  2. Do not use instant seasoning.
  3. Do not eat meat or fish.
In addition, all cooking is done over a wood fire. These rules and stove are used to preserve the way of the ancient monks - a tradition followed for the last 1,000 years - and as a way to be prepared in case of emergencies like the March 2011 earthquake and tsunami. 

At a previous class, Gen san brought a delicious dish to share with everyone and I asked him for the recipe. So at the next class, Gen san came prepared with more hijiki to share, as well as large pictures to illustrate how to prepare the sea vegetable dish. 

Hijiki is a brown sea vegetable growing wild on the coastlines of Japan, Korea and China. Hijiki can be sautéed with other root vegetables, tofu, and/or legumes for a delicious side dish. 

For your hijiki dish, you'll need:
  • 1 package of hijiki
  • 1 package of kelp
  • 3-4 dried shiitake mushrooms (soak overnight prior to use)
  • 2-3 carrots
  • 1 package of abura age - pronounced "AH-geh" (seasoned deep-fried tofu pouches)
  • 2-3 tbsp of olive oil
  • sake
  • soy sauce

Hijiki package

Soak your hijiki for 1 hour prior to cooking.

Kelp package
 Also soak your kelp and mushrooms.

Dried shiitake mushrooms
Gen san said the dried mushrooms are better, so you'll need to soak them overnight. 

After the mushrooms have soaked all night, cut off the stems and set aside (you'll use them later), and save the water in which the mushrooms were soaking. Cut the mushroom tops into slices.

Package of age ("AH geh")
Cut the age into pieces and set aside.

Cut your carrots into fourths and cut off the peels to form cubes. 

Slice the peels.

Now slice the cubes. 

After you have prepared your other ingredients, you should have your mushroom stems, kelp (soaked), hijiki (soaked), age, mushroom tops, and mushroom water. These are the ingredients we'll add to the carrots after they have cooked.

Grab your olive oil and sake.

Heat some olive oil on high heat. 

Add all of your carrots.

After the carrots have cooked for a few minutes and begin to soften, add your mushroom stems.

Add the sake. When we asked how much to add, Gen san made a pouring motion. So add a lot!

Add your kelp and some of the mushroom water. You'll want to add enough so that your carrots will boil and soften.

When the carrots are very soft, turn the heat back down to low. Now, go grab your hijiki that was soaking.

Wash it a couple of times, rinsing with clean water each time. Then strain.

Add your hijiki to the carrots.

Then add your mushroom tops.

And now the age.

Turn off the heat and let it cool off a bit before adding your soy sauce. I didn't know this, but high heat changes the taste of the soy sauce. Add as much or as little as you like. 

That's it! You're ready to serve your hijiki. In temples, it is typically served with white rice and miso soup. And it will keep in your refrigerator for 2-3 days if you'd like to serve it later.

I will be attempting to fix hijiki for the first time tonight, though I'll be using only carrots. Maybe next time I'll try it with some of the age. 

Thanks, Gen san!

1 comment:

  1. I think I'm going to try this, I'm vegan. Once I find the ingredients, I'll update here.