Tsukudani is the umbrella term for seafood, meat, seaweed, or vegetables that have been simmered in soy sauce and mirin. First invented during the Edo period, the tsukudani cooking method uses salt and sugar to preserve ingredients, transforming them into a storable side dish. Accordingly, kikurage (wood ear mushroom) tsukudani is made from wood ear mushrooms that have been simmered in a salty, sweet, and slightly spicy sauce.As it reintroduces flavor to boiled ingredients and prevents food waste at the same time, preparing tsukudani is a popular way to reuse ingredients that are leftover from making dashi stock.
Kikurage (wood ear mushrooms) can be found growing wild in the woods around temples and monasteries in Japan. They have a mild, earthy fragrance and a distinct crunchy texture. Referred to as "mysterious medicine for immortality and longevity", kikurage contains nutrients such as vitamin D, calcium, iron, and dietary fiber.
In our recipe, we use kikurage from the producerNiyodogawa Kikurage located inKochi prefecture. Niyodogawa Kikurage harvests their mushrooms in the mountains of Shikoku Island, Japan’s smallest main islands. The mountains are at an altitude of 750m and experience a large difference between day and nighttime temperatures, regulating the thick and fresh texture of kikurage grown in the area. The kikurage is kept moist through a combination of the clear waters of Niyodogawa (Niyodo River) and the surrounding natural fog.
To make kikurage tsukudani, simply rehydrate dried kikurage by soaking it in water for about 40-60 minutes. Then, squeeze out any excess water and julienne the mushrooms into thin, bite-sized strips. Add sugar, soy sauce, mirin, and sake to the kikurage, and stir to combine. Next, in a separate pan, add a bit of ra-yu (chili oil) to fry the kikurage mixture in. For a non-spicy alternative, use sesame oil instead. Stir-fry the kikurage mixture over medium heat until all the liquid has evaporated. Finally, sprinkle in sesame seeds as a garnish.
Kikurage tsukudani can be enjoyed hot, or refrigerated and served chilled at a later time. Try serving it as a topping for steamed rice, as a side dish for teishoku (set meal), or simply on its own.
- 5g kikurage (dried wood ear mushrooms)
- 1 tsp sugar
- 2~3 tsp soy sauce
- 1 tsp mirin
- 1 tsp sake
- 1 tsp Ishigaki Gourmet Chili Oil (or sesame oil)
- 2 tsp ground sesame seeds
- Dissolve a pinch of sugar in lukewarm water in a bowl and rehydrate the Wood Ear Mushrooms (takes about 40-60 mins).
- Squeeze out the water from the rehydrated mushrooms and finely julienne. Combine with the sugar, soy sauce, mirin and sake.
- Put the Wood Ear Mushrooms from step 2 in a frying pan on medium heat and stir fry with the ra-yu (or sesame oil) until there's no moisture left in the pan.
- Mix in the ground sesame seeds to finish.
Introduction courtesy of Britney Budiman
Britney Budiman (@booritney) is a writer, minimalist, aspiring effective altruist, and runner-in-progress with a penchant for saying “yes.” Previously, she has worked in Cambodia at a traditional arts NGO, in Brazil as a social sciences researcher, and in San Francisco at a housing start-up. She currently lives in the countryside of Kagoshima, Japan, where she teaches English. Her favorite thing in the world is good conversation.