Monday, September 14, 2009
Great guesses everyone! Pika scat was pretty close but it's actually hijiki! Black, flat, tiny short strips of seaweed from Japan. It’s fibrous and packed with sea minerals. What you saw in the picture was the dry form and that’s how you typically find it in a store (unless you are in Japan). But it needs to be reconstituted and better cooked before eating due to risk of arsenic poisoning. Evidently (according to the Tokyo Health and Welfare Department), dried hijiki naturally contains significantly higher amount of inorganic arsenic compared to wakame, kombu or nori. It is recommended to soak it in water for at least 30 minutes and to rinse it for 2-3 times before eating. Soaking alone can reduce arsenic level to almost 15%. Cooking is another way to further reduce the amount of arsenic and of course, not to go on a crazy hijiki binge (i.e., eating more than 1/2 cup uncooked by itself everyday – but trust me, nobody eats that much). One fact to make you feel better—Japanese people have been eating hijiki for centuries and arsenic poisoning has never been an issue among consumers.
Considering how small it is, there are about 2g of fiber, 70mg of calcium and 3mg of Iron, 31mg of Magnesium in 5g (about 1/8 cup) of dried hijiki. That’s pretty impressive isn’t it?
Unlike wakame or kombu, hijiki does not have that sliminess that slips around on the tongue and tends to absorb flavors better, so it works great stir-fried with vegetables, stewed or cooked with rice. Since hijiki used in most traditional Japanese dishes might seem too alien to some people, I made something more approachable by incorporating a familiar ingredient - tofu. I took some leftover to work on the next day and people asked when I was going to blog about it.
Ingredients (makes 8 tofu squares):
1/8 c. dried hijiki
1 (14oz) pkg firm tofu, drain well
1/4 med. onion, chopped very fine
1+1/2 Tbsp pickled ginger (see picture below)
1/6 c. carrot, finely julienned
1 tsp dashi stock
2 Tbsp soy sauce
1+1/2 Tbsp mirin
1/2 fresh lime juice
1 large egg, beaten
3/4 cup panko (Japanese bread crumbs)
1-1+1/2 Tbsp bonito flakes (see pictures below)
In a medium sized bowl, soak dried hijiki in enough water for 30 minutes. Rinse hijiki 2-3 times and drain water very well.
In a large bowl, add hijiki, tofu, onion, ginger and carrot and mix together very well with hands.
In a separate small bowl, mix soy sauce, mirin, dashi stock and lime juice. Pour the mixture into the large bowl and mix well. Add egg and continue to mix. Add panko and bonito flakes and again mix very well.
Take about half a cup of mixture and form into 2" squares.
Heat non-stick skillet over medium, pour 1 Tbsp canola oil. After cooking one side for about 2 minutes or golden brown, flip on the other side and continue cooking for another 6-8 minutes.
For people who are not familiar with Japanese food ingredients, here are a couple of pictures showing pickled ginger and bonito flakes. They are both available at Japanese or Korean grocery stores.