All recipes are for 2 servings unless noted. Oil is canola oil and salt is kosher salt.


Lunch, March 30, 2012

I have been trying to make a good nagaimo Chinese yam dumpling soup for some time, and I wanted to try it with less potato starch for a softer texture without the powdery taste.

  • Kuchinashi gohan / rice colored with dried gardenia fruit
  • Nagaimo dango no osumashi, suisuchaado iri / clear soup with Chinese yam dumplings and Swiss chard
  • Daikon, ninjin, age no itameni / daikon radish, carrot and thin deep-fried tofu saute simmered in broth

My experiment with nagaimo dumplings was pretty successful. But the soup got cloudy. Next time I will steam the dumplings – microwaving would probably also work fine. It's supposed to be a clear osumashi soup in my mind, so getting a cloudy liquid bothers me a bit. There must be a way, ideally a simple way, to solve the problem. Because I didn't have spinach, I used Swiss chard, one of the vegetables surviving in the greenhouse without watering since last November. Tastewise, spinach is better with this soup.

Yamaimo or jinenjo (Dioscorea japonica) is a yam similar to nagaimo (Dioscorea batatas), but much thicker when grated. Grated yamaimo tends to stay together when placed in liquid compared to nagaimo, which easily breaks into little pieces.

Kuchinashi-colored yellow rice is also called ohan or kiimeshi; both are written as yellow (steamed) rice in Chinese characters. I've never had it while in Japan and didn't know the yellow rice had a special name. Ohan or kiimeshi is a regional specialty rice dish from Usuki (Oita Prefecture) in the southern part of Japan and some other areas. It is said that a feudal lord in the early 19th century came up with the idea of using dried gardenia fruit to make this dish, possibly adopting the idea of saffron rice, as a substitute for celebration sekihan due to a shortage of azuki beans. Even after Japan closed its borders to most countries in the early 17th century, some feudal lords kept in contact with other countries, including China, Korea, Ryukyu (today’s Okinawa) and the Netherlands. Trade with Portugal and England was also present before those days, and some European influence (guns and Christianity arrived in Japan in 1540s) remained, especially in the southern part of Japan. So it may be true that the idea of using  dried gardenia fruit came from saffron rice…
Regardless of the historical background, it simply tastes good.

Daikon and carrot are such basic vegetables for me. When combined with usuage thin deep-fried tofu, these super basic vegetables become something comforting. I really needed this after being swamped with work for some time.

Whew… I felt much better after this meal.

No comments: