Sweet Simmered Oriental Vegetables

Uma Ni

Black mushrooms, carrots and bamboo shoots are the classic combination of vegetables to be simmered in a sweetened soy broth. Served at room temperature as a side dish to almost any chicken or fish entrée, these vegetables are moist, tender and incredibly flavorful. The mushrooms alone, prepared in the same manner, find their way into a number of seasoned rice and noodle dishes, too.

Ingredients

  • 5 large dried shiitaké (black Oriental mushrooms)
  • 1 carrot
  • 2 small whole boiled bamboo shoots
  • 1 cup dashi (Basic Soup Stock)
  • cup reserved mushroom liquid
  • 1 teaspoon saké (rice wine)
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • tablespoons soy sauce
  • 1 teaspoon mirin (syrupy rice wine)

Method

Soften the black mushrooms for 20 minutes in 1 cup warm water to which a pinch of sugar has been added. Strain the mushroom liquid and reserve cup of it. Rinse the mushrooms thoroughly and squeeze them dry before removing and discarding the stems. Cut the mushrooms in halves or quarters.

Scrape the carrot and cut it obliquely ( for cutting instructions) into 8–10 pieces. Drain the bamboo shoots and rinse them under cold water before slicing them vertically into ¼-inch-thick wedges. Each piece will look like a hair comb (in fact the name for this cut in Japanese is kushi-gata or “comb shape”). Occasionally some white grainy material lodges between the “teeth” of the “comb.” Rinse it away with cold water.

Combine the basic soup stock, reserved mushroom liquid and rice wine in a saucepan and bring it to a boil. Add the mushrooms, carrots and bamboo shoots and reduce the heat to maintain a simmer. For best results in simmering, use a dropped lid, otherwise baste frequently. Simmer the vegetables for 3 minutes before adding the sugar. Cook for another 7–8 minutes or until the liquid has been reduced by about half. Add the soy sauce, cook for 3–4 more minutes and then add the syrupy rice wine. Cook over high heat, shaking the pan, for 30–40 seconds. Let the vegetables cool to room temperature in the saucepan before serving. By the way, these vegetables keep well, refrigerated, for 2–3 days.

Note: Peeled, obliquely cut and blanched gobō (burdock root), braid cut and blanched konnyaku (a pearly-toned, gelatinous cake made from a tuber vegetable) or halved water chestnuts are also very good prepared in the same way, either singly or in combination with the other vegetables.

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