In 2016, in between my fifth and sixth month of pregnancy, I volunteered to cook lunch for a workshop with 80 people. I wanted to cook something special that at least most of the participants have never tasted. However, with my bulging baby-filled stomach, no one wanted me standing for long and staying too much in the hot kitchen.
However, I have been wanting to cook for this spiritual workshop (where they talk about the spirit and meaning of life, do yoga and/or tai-chi, make arts while reflecting upon oneself, play games, et cetera). I really wanted to have a nice menu for them, without risking my or my baby's health.
Then one afternoon, weeks before the workshop, I went to the supermarket for a walk (it's too hot to walk in the park). While I was strolling leisurely down every aisle, I spotted hijiki in the seaweed section. And a bulb lighted up beside my head and I imagined, beside my baby's too.
Hijiki is a kind of short, black seaweed that is sold dried in Japan and is usually boiled or stir-fried with Japanese sake, mirin, shouyu/soy sauce and dashi. It is also sometimes mixed in takikomi gohan and pasta.
I worried though that hijiki might be a bit scary for people who are not familiar to it, because of its solid black color and w*rm-like shape or something, but something in me kept pushing that it's a great idea to serve it then. I'm the type who follow my instincts at least 90% of the time, so I went for it.
And to people who were worried that I'll be cooking for that much people, I assured them I will be fine-- hijiki is very easy to cook. But I couldn't assure them that they will like it, because when my husband first cooked it for me, I couldn't eat much of it. I liked the taste surely, but the appearance was too scary for me.
Luckily, or perhaps because the people were very excited to eat 100% vegetarian safe Japanese food, no one hesitated in front of this daunting black seaweed. And! Though I cooked more than enough, the big bowl of hijiki came back, I thought, even emptier than before I put hijiki in it.
So, after lunch, people visited the kitchen and asked me questions about how to cook the different kinds of food I served them that lunch (hijiki, miso soup, nasu dengaku sushi, furikake sushi). And I found out, it was everyone's first time to eat hijiki and they all seemed to like it!
So to those who have been wanting to cook hijiki, I'm sorry it took a year before I could share the recipe. But to make up for it, I also made a hijiki cooking video for you! Enjoy!
Usuage, 2 sheets
Soy sauce, 1.5 tbsp
Mirin, 3 tbsp
Kombu powder, 2 tsp
Olive oil, 1 tbsp
Japanese sake (optional), as desired
Dried shiitake mushroom (optional), 1 piece soaked in 70mL water
Sugar (optional), 1 tsp
Soak hijiki in water for about 20 minutes, then strain off the water and rinse it.
On a non-stick pan over medium heat, put hijiki to dry a bit.
Add carrot, usuage and soaked shiitake mushroom (all cut into strips).
Once most of the extra water dries up, put olive oil to stir fry for around 3-5 minutes.
Put kombu powder, soy sauce, mirin, sugar, Japanese sake, and shiitake dashi (the water where you soaked the dried shiitake). Mix well then cover to simmer for a few minutes.
Serve right away or keep in an airtight container in the fridge for a week.
Tips and tricks
To make it healthier, add renkon (lotus root). Some even add edamame too, but I have never tried it. Also, I once used a hijiki pack with strips of kombu and wakame and my husband loved it very much for the increased "sea" taste.
My husband also recently commented on my hijiki when I forgot to put shiitake dashi-- he said he thinks it tastes better because I tended to put too much shiitake flavor which kills the "sea" flavor.