In the Japanese Shōwa period, the locals of the Nyuto Onsen hot spring region of Akita prefecture sought to develop a dish that encapsulated the local culture and highlighted the local ingredients, and in particular the distinctive local Yamato potato – a type of mountain yam specific to the region. This simple stew was developed through a collaboration between local chefs and was officially decreed as a local specialty. This version, made at the Tsurunoyu hot spring, uses miso for a hearty and flavourful broth. As the Yamato potato is very hard to find outside Nyuto Onsen, you may substitute sweet potato dumplings in its place (see recipe below).
- 1 large Yamato potato (see Note)
- ½ piece burdock root
- 400 g pork belly, skin and bone removed
- 2 tbsp sesame oil
- 50 g unsalted butter
- 1 cup shirataki (see Note)
- 1.5 litres (6 cups) boiling water or heated dashi broth
- 60 ml (¼ cup) sake
- ½ cup miso paste
- 150 g shimeji mushrooms
- 150 g enoki mushrooms
- 2 Japanese leeks or 1 large leek, diagonally sliced
- 1 handful Japanese parsley (seri) (see Note)
Sweet potato dumplings (optional variation)
- 1 large sweet potato
- 35 g (¼ cup) plain flour, approximately
Oven temperatures are for conventional; if using fan-forced (convection), reduce the temperature by 20˚C. | We use Australian tablespoons and cups: 1 teaspoon equals 5 ml; 1 tablespoon equals 20 ml; 1 cup equals 250 ml. | All herbs are fresh (unless specified) and cups are lightly packed. | All vegetables are medium size and peeled, unless specified. | All eggs are 55-60 g, unless specified.
Chilling time overnight
You will need to begin this recipe 1 day ahead.
Grate the Yamato potato on a very fine grater. Chill the potato mixture in the fridge overnight.
If you prefer to make sweet potato dumplings instead of using the Yamato potato, preheat oven to 180˚C. Prick the sweet potato all over with a fork. Bake for 1 hour or until the potato is very tender. When just cool enough to handle, peel and mash the flesh (or push it through a fine sieve). Mix in the flour a little at a time, until the potato holds together in a dough. Roll the dough into small balls and set aside until ready to cook the stew.
Wash the burdock well and brush scrape the skin of the root with the back of a knife to remove any dirt and woody parts, but do not peel the root. Shave the burdock into thin strips into a bowl of acidulated water (water with a little vinegar or lemon juice added to it) and soak the burdock for about 10 minutes or until the water turns brown. Strain when ready to use.
Slice the pork belly into long thin strips, and then into 2.5 cm pieces. Heat the sesame oil and butter in a large saucepan and add the pork belly. Cook over heat, stirring, until the pork is lightly browned. Add the strained burdock and shirataki and stir well.
Add the water or stock and sake and bring to the boil, skimming any scum that rises to the surface. Place the miso paste in a strainer and submerge the strainer in the liquid. Stir the miso until it dissolves into the stew.
Add the mushrooms and leek, then drop in small balls of the Yamato potato (or sweet potato dumplings, if using). Cook until the dumplings rise to the surface and the mushrooms and leeks are softened. Remove from the heat, scatter with Japanese parsley and serve immediately.
• The Yamato potato is sometimes called a Yama-no potato or mountain potato.
• Shirataki are konnyaku (or konjac) jelly threads or noodles. You can buy them at Asian grocers, but they are becoming more widely available in Australia and you may find a version of them in some supermarkets.
• Japanese parsley is sometimes called Chinese celery. You can buy it at Asian grocers.