Most of us know we should eat more vegetables. Macrobiotic niishime style vegetables are slowly steamed or braised until the cooking liquid has evaporated, leaving the vegetables sweet, flavorful, and creamy, but not overcooked or mushy. Here, we take it up a notch by adding some crispy pan-fried tempeh. Traditionally, this dish is a Japanese dish served at New Year’s or to people healing from an illness.
There is an art to making this dish– you must use the minimum amount of water so that you don’t lose nutrients or flavor into the steaming liquid, you avoid burning the bottom of the pot. Ideally, you will steam the vegetables just long enough that no liquid remains. This can be achieved with patience– you must slowly bring the pot to a boil, covered, until you see steam coming out the sides of the pot. Do not lift the lid when you see the steam, simply turn the burner down as low as it will go, and let steam for about 20 minutes before checking for doneness.
Tempeh should be a nice golden brown on at least 2 sides before seasoning with shoyu or tamari.
Dried lotus root is a specialty ingredient in this recipe. You can substitute another vegetable such as green cabbage, but lotus root has a delicious and unique flavor (almost like a very flavorful, less starchy potato) that you’ll want to try sometime. In Austin, you can buy this at Central Market. For an extra special touch, try pan frying the lotus root (after it has rehydrated) before putting into the pot with the other vegetables.
Another specialty ingredient used in this recipe is kombu sea vegetable. It adds flavor and minerals to the vegetables and also helps prevent the vegetables from sticking to the pot. You can find Atlantic varieties of kombu at Wheatsville Coop such as the Ironbound Island or Maine Coast Sea Vegetables brands.
- 8 ounces tempeh, cubed
- 2 teaspoon untoasted sesame oil or extra-virgin olive oil
- shoyu or tamari, to taste
- 2 small squares kombu
- 1 cup kabocha, butternut, or delicata squash, cut into 1-inch chunks
- 1 cup carrots, cut into 1/2-inch chunks or roll cut
- 1 cup yellow onion, large dice
- 1 cup daikon, cut into 1/2-inch rounds
- 1/2 cup dried lotus root slices, rehydrated (soak in water overnight)
- spring or filtered water
- Heat cast iron skillet over medium heat and add oil. Pan fry tempeh for about 3 minutes on each side. Remove to a plate and sprinkle generously with shoyu or tamari. Set aside.
- Place kombu in bottom of heavy pot with lid (such as a Le Creuset round oven) and cover the bottom with about 1/4-inch water. Layer vegetables on top of kombu and sprinkle evenly with a few pinches sea salt. Add pan-fried tempeh.
- Cover pot and place on medium heat until it comes to a boil and a good steam is generated (you will see the steam coming out of the sides of the pot). Do not open lid at this point.
- Lower the flame and simmer for 15 to 20 minutes or until vegetables become soft. Check for doneness by piercing a carrot or daikon chunk with a fork to see if it is tender.
- Season lightly with shoyu or tamari, turn off flame, and cover for a few minutes (or simmer for a few more minutes if needed).
- Toss pot gently with the lid on (do not stir) to distribute juices and serve.
Mmmm… Now eat your veggies!