Soybeans and Hijiki (Gomoku-Mame)
Gomoku-Mame is a dish that my mom used to make, and I didn’t realize until now, how much time it takes to cook soybeans (a lot). It is worthwhile though, every now and again to taste the pure flavor of soybeans, the food that gives us so many soybean products. It’s also amazing to watch the round, dried soybeans transform into the plump and oval-shaped, cooked soybean.
Gomoku Mame translates to “five things beans” because it usually includes five other foods besides soybeans. Hijiki seaweed is often cooked with soybeans, not only because it adds flavor, but it also adds a light brown color to the broth. Konnyaku is the jelly-like food that is made with from the devil’s tongue plant. It is unusual in that it has no calories, but it absorbs a lot of flavor and is enjoyable to eat. Takenoko, the bamboo shoot, has a delicate flavor and slight crunch. Renkon or lotus root is earthy and fibrous, and stays crunchy even when simmered for a long time.
Simmered Soybeans with Hijiki (Gomoku-Mame)
Serves 4 as a side dish
1 cup dried soybeans
4 cups water
1 (2 x 4 inch) piece of kombu seaweed (dried kelp)
1 tablespoon dried hijiki seaweed
1 (3×3 inch) block konnyaku (yam cake)
1 (3-inch) piece of renkon (lotus root)
1 (3-inch) piece of takenoko (bamboo shoot)
1 medium carrot
1 tablespoon light-colored soy sauce
3 tablespoons mirin
1 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons sugar
1. Wash the soybeans in several changes of water; drain. Place soybeans in a 3-quart pot with 2 cups of water and bring to a boil for 2 minutes. Drain the water. Place soybeans back in the pot with 4 cups of fresh water. Bring it to a boil; turn down the heat and simmer gently, partially covered, for 3 hours until the beans are tender. Add more hot water to the pot during this time to make sure the water does not boil down; you don’t want the beans to scorch. Just before the beans are fully cooked, add the kombu in the pot and let it steep in the water for 15 minutes. Take out the kombu and discard. At the end of cooking, see that there is about ¼ cup of water left in the pan; if there is more than ¼ cup, drain some water out. Leave the cover on and continue to simmer on very low heat while you prepare the vegetables.
2. Wash the konnyaku, renkon, takenoko, and carrot with water and dry off with paper towels. Peel the renkon and carrot and cut into¼-inch square pieces (or dice). Cut the takenoko and konnyaku into ¼-inch square pieces the same way. You should have about ½ cup of each vegetable.
3. Add the hijiki seaweed to the beans; then add the konnyaku, renkon, takenoko, and carrot pieces. Add the soy sauce, mirin, salt, and sugar. Stir to combine. Turn up the heat to a gentle boil; then turn down the heat and simmer, partially covered for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally to coat the beans and vegetables with the sauce. Turn off the heat and let the dish cool. Warm it slightly before serving.