Japanese Cooking 101, Lesson 3 extra: Nimono without dashi
Not all nimono dishes need to be made with dashi. If one of the ingredients has plenty of umami on its own, you can make a dashi or broth from it without having to add any more. One such ingredient is squid (ika) or calamari. If you live in an area with a sizeable Italian, Greek or other Mediterranean immigrant population, as well as us Asians, chances are you can get a hold of good quality squid. If you can, get a nice one and try this quick and simple nimono.
Recipe: Squid and potato nimono
Yield: About 4 1/2 to 5 cups, enough for 2-3 Japanese style meals as a side dish
- 1 large fresh squid
- 3 medium potatoes
- 1 tablespoon sake
- 1 tablespoon mirin
- 1 teaspoon sugar (optional)
- 2 tablespoons soy sauce
- approximately 500ml (2 U.S. cups) cold water Gut and peel the squid. You may want to ask the fishmonger if he can do this for you. Otherwise, here is a good video that tells you how to do it. The advantage of doing it on your own is that you get to use the guts and skin for a bit more flavor in your broth.
Cut off some of the legs and cut into pieces. Slice open the body so that it lies flat. Score the surface of the body and the back fins lightly in a crosswise pattern. Cut the body into squares about 1-1.5 inches (2.5 - 3cm) in size. Reserve the skin and guts.
Peel and cut the potatoes following the instructions in the basic nimono lesson.
Put the water, squid bits, and squid guts and skin into a pan and bring it to a boil. Put the squid pieces and legs in the water and boil for one minute, no more. Immediately drain the squid, making sure to reserve the boiling liquid. The boiling liquid will be your dashi or cooking broth. Take the guts and skin out of the blanched squid and discard.
Return the liquid to the pot and put the potatoes in. Simmer the potatoes until tender. Put in the sake, mirin and optional sugar, then add the soy sauce. Return the squid to the pot and simmer for an addtional 2-3 minutes. Don't over cook after you re-add the squid or it will turn tough. Taste, and adjust the seasonings if needed.
Serve warm or at room temperature, garnished with slivers of onion and lemon or yuzu peel.
Any kind of protein with lots of umami will work with this method. You may want to try chicken for instance - the dark meat works best. Chicken wings will work well too. Thinly sliced beef or pork work well too.