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Japanese stew with shirataki (konnyaku noodles)

Japanese Vegetable Stew

A rich and hearty vegetarian stew with vegetables, tofu, and the interesting ingredient called konnyaku

Course Main Course
Cuisine Japanese

Ingredients

  • 2 large carrots peeled and roll cut
  • 3-4 Japanese sweet potatoes peeled and cut in odd-shaped pieces
  • 3 waxy potatoes cut in odd-shaped pieces
  • 2 inches burdock root a.k.a. gobo
  • 2 inches lotus root peeled and roll cut
  • A few mushrooms preferably shiitake
  • 4 ounces deep-fried tofu
  • 1 block konnyaku about 12 oz.
  • 1 tbsp neutral vegetable oil
  • 3/4 cup vegetarian dashi see recipe below
  • 2 tbsp soy sauce
  • 2 tsp sugar
  • 1 tbsp sake

Instructions

Preparing the konnyaku

  1. When you open a package of konnyaku, you will probably notice a somewhat funky aroma. Do not worry, this is not a sign of spoilage (assuming the konnyaku is opened before its sell-by date).
  2. Rinse the block with clean water.
  3. To make triangles, first slice it in half lengthwise.
  4. Tip each piece onto its flat end and slice through the middle to make two thin sheets (you'll have four pieces now).
  5. Next, use the tip of your knife to make shallow cuts into the surface of the konnyaku to provide additional surface area for flavor absorption.
  6. After scoring both sides, cut the pieces in half lengthwise, and then into triangles. Do not stack pieces on top of each other as you cut, as they might slip as the knife applies pressure.

Making the stew

  1. The first step -- and quite a fun one -- is to dry roast the konnyaku in a pan to remove excess moisture and thus allow it to absorb the flavors of the stock.
  2. Heat a large skillet or wok over high heat.
  3. When it is hot, add the konnyaku to the dry pan. Do not worry, it will not stick. Shake the pan to loosen the pieces and turn them now and then.
  4. When the konnyaku starts to squeak, add the oil.
  5. Stir fry the konnyaku for an additional 30 seconds, then add the vegetables.
  6. Stir fry for a few more minutes.
  7. Add the tofu and pour in the dashi (stock), soy sauce, sugar and sake. Stir the mixture.
  8. Reduce the heat to medium-low. Cook, covered, until the vegetables are tender.

Serving

  1. Serve with some rice, a salad, some Japanese quick pickles, and a nice saké.

Recipe Notes

Recipe inspired by Elizabeth Andoh's "Soy-Stewed Chicken with Vegetables" on page 254 of Washoku

Variation: You can also use shiritake, a noodle-like product made out of konnyaku. To prepare it, rinse it thoroughly after opening the package, cut the threads into shorter pieces if desired, then follow the same dry roasting process as for the konnyaku block.

Note: the roll cut is used to create uneven shapes that have extra surface area for flavor absorption or to reduce the chance of sticky during stir-frying. However, it also makes for vegetables that can be tough to pick up using chopsticks.