WARNING: The Canadian Food Inspection Agency has recently found unacceptably high levels of inorganic arsenic in Hijiki seaweed. They recommend you don’t eat it at all. (Warning added August 10, 2010)
Here’s a dish I first tried in Milan, of all places! Visiting one of my favorite Japanese artists, we were invited for dinner and presented with this heavenly, super-healthy dish of greens, Hijiki seaweed and sesame sauce. At my husband’s salivating insistence, I pressed our host for this recipe, and we’ve been making it in heavy rotation ever since.
Delicious though it is, I include it in the blog with trepidation. I’m well aware that finding Hijiki outside Japan is often very difficult, and as if that wasn’t bad enough, the sesame sauce (goma dare) can be tough to find, too.
The long and the short of it is that if you live in a big city with lots of Asian people, you have a chance: cross your fingers and ask for hijiki and goma dare by name at a well-stocked Japanese/Korean store. If you don’t live somewhere like Toronto or LA…I’m afraid this recipe’s not for you.
In honor of having discovered this dish in Italy, we usually use Cima di Rapa for the greens. But you could also make it with kale, chicory or mustard greens.
Here’s a home favorite that comes with its own story. When I was growing up in Shiga Prefecture, our next door neighbor was a keen gardner. Inoue-san loved to grow these big, delicious daikon radishes, and he was so successful at it that he would often end up with more than his family could eat.
At first, he would politely knock on our door to offer some of the surplus. After a while, we realized we could just knock on his door and ask: during the season, he always used to have some around. Come to think of it, I can’t remember my mom ever buying daikon from the store during daikon season: if she wanted some, she would just send us next door to fetch some.
Of course, when Mr. Inoue gave us a plant, he would give us the whole plant, not just the root. The recipe below is the one my mom developed as a way of using up the bitter leaves we got on top of the pulpy tuber.
Now that I live in Canada, I can’t get daikon leaves so easily. Luckily, I’ve found that chicory – which doesn’t exist in Japan – makes a very good substitute for them. (Dirty little secret: I actually like this recipe better than the daikon-leaf version!)
Tonight, I’m falling back on this old family favorite, and getting all nostalgic about my dear neighbor Inoue-san in the process.