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


Nagaimo no ebi-iri kinchuakuni / Chinese yam with prawns in thin deep-fried tofu packets, simmered in broth

The soft texture and taste of nagaimo, enhanced with prawns and a fall harvest of gingko nuts and mushrooms.


7-8 cm (150 g) nagaimo Chinese yam
4 small or 2 large usuage thin deep-fried tofu
3-4 prawns
4-8 ginnan gingko nuts
2 shiitake mushrooms or tiny handful mild-flavored mushrooms
2 tsp sake
1 tsp usukuchi soy sauce
2 tbsp egg white (approx. 1/2 white of 1 egg)

For broth
200 cc dashi
1 tbsp sake + mirin in combination (equal parts)
1 tbsp usukuchi soy sauce

Something green (for serving; leafy vegetables, snap peas, sugar peas, broccoli, for example; not in photo)


Crack ginnan shells, remove nuts, blanch for 1-2 minutes, and skin.
(See Ginnan prep.)

Set aside.


Wash prawns with potato starch, rinse, drain, and sogigiri slice at slant into 3-4 sections.


Slice shiitake thinly.


Prep-boil usuage, cut one edge (or cut in half, if using large usuage) and open to form packets.


Grate nagaimo, add sake, usukuchi soy sauce and egg white, and mix well.


Place usuage packets in a smallish container that can hold four packets open. Put prawns, gingko nuts and shiitake, and spoon in nagaimo mixture.

Put spoon and gently jiggle it up and down to settle nagaimo mixture as you add it (otherwise, nagaimo mixture will overflow).
Close opening with a toothpick.


In a small pot that will hold four packets (ideally in standing position), put all ingredients for broth, and bring to boil.


Once boiling, stand usuage packets upright, reduce heat to low, place a drop cover (parchment paper cut to fit in photo), and cook for 15 minutes.

  • When time allows, let packets cool completely, and reheat. Packets take on their full flavor during reheating.
  • Blanch the greens while cooking packets or in advance, and add to the broth for 30 seconds to 1 minute toward the end of cooking or reheating packets, or after packets are served in bowls. Time to cook in broth depends on the size and temperature of greens (longer if thick or kept in the fridge).
  • This dish is premised on using thin deep-fried tofu without holes or broken parts. When the only usuage on hand has holes, bring the broth to a vigorous boil before you add the packets filled with goodies. Some nagaimo mixture will escape, but your loss should be minimal. (And don't forget that boiling vigorously means the broth is getting salty -- you might want to add some dashi or water to counter the saltiness once nagaimo mixture stabilizes).
  • Egg white is added to make the nagaimo mixture somewhat firm, to the degree that it will not come apart while biting into it. If you prefer a slightly firmer texture, use 1 egg white or add 2-3 tsp potato starch to nagaimo mixture.
  • Any goodies should work. Try something in season, keeping contrasting texture in mind.
  • This also tastes good the next day.  

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