boring and complicated

Japanese food is typically boring looking.


Unless of course you’re at a sushi bar or a kaiseki restaurant, where they spend a great deal time with those long metal chopsticks to make the aforementioned boring-looking-food look enticing… But you get the point. Traditional dishes uses a lot of root vegetables, soy sauce, and miso, so most of them are brown in color. Often enough, nimono (simmered dishes) are served with a garnish of chopped scallions or boiled okra to give it a little oomph.

But despite its looks, Japanese food is A LOT OF WORK. From prepping to the actual cooking, there are many tedious steps that you need to do in order to get a perfectly cooked dish.


So. Here’s an adaptation from one of the ooooooold-ass books that Mom bestowed upon me. I’ve been trying out recipes from this thing as of late, to get a better grasp of traditional Japanese cuisine. It’s pretty awesome, because you learn classic techniques like takiawase- or ‘kindling’.
Takiawase is when you cook different ingredients in different vessels, but with the same sauce – before serving, everything is combined on the platter. It prevents them from muddling each other’s flavor.

Kindled Chicken and Lotus Root (Tori To Renkon no Takiawase) – serves 4

2-3 chicken thighs (should total to about 200 g)
1 tbsp sake
1/2 tsp sea salt

Lotus Root
1/2 root (about 200 g)

Simmering liquid
3 cups dashi
3 tbsp soy sauce
3 tbsp sugar
6 tbsp sake
1 tbsp mirin, divided


First, make some dashi. For 3 cups of water, I use about 4 mushrooms and a handful of bonito flakes. Bring to a boil, take off of stove, and let it sit while you prep.


Peel your lotus root with a vegetable peeler and cut into 2 inch sticks. Here, I just cut up a lotus root in half, and sixth’d it vertically. Soak in water (with a dash of vinegar) for 10 minutes.


While your lotus root is soaking, cut chicken up into bite size pieces and marinade in sake and salt.

Rinse your lotus roots and then boil until soft, about 10 minutes or until a pick goes in without much resistance. When boiling, you should cover your pot with a small drop-lid (about 1 size smaller) or maybe a sheet of cut-up parchment paper. This helps to cook the vegetables evenly.


Me? I have this. It’s a piggie drop lid that I picked up in Japan… But you can buy one from the MoMA Store.


You pick him up by jabbing chopsticks into his nostrils. Sometimes you boil too much and he shoots out snot. Isn’t it awesome?


But back to the cooking. Combine simmering liquid ingredients and bring to a boil. Then divide into 2 pots.


Throw in your lotus root in one…


And your chicken in the other. I threw in my dashi mushrooms in there too because waste is bad. What I should’ve done is cook the mushrooms separately, but oh well. They’re all protein, right?


Cover both pots with a drop lid and bring to simmer. Cook for another 10-15 minutes. Add a swirl of mirin in both pots, shake it a bit, and then let simmer until most of the liquid is gone.


And then combine them on a platter! Nom with some rice and miso soup, maybe some pickles and a small side dish and… Voila! You have a perfectly balanced Japanese dinner.

{ 10 comments… add one }

  • christoofat September 24, 2010 at 2:41 pm

    I lol’d (no, LMAO’d) at the piggie drop lid. Classic!

  • Haruka September 24, 2010 at 4:38 pm

    That otoshibuta is amazing! and of course it’s so fitting. otoshi”pig” hahaha. classic.

  • Daily Gluttony September 24, 2010 at 4:46 pm

    I think the simplicity/minimalism of Japanese food makes it sooo NOT boring looking. To me, it makes it completely beautiful.

    And I must have that piggy drop lid! Like NAO.

  • Gastronomer September 24, 2010 at 5:27 pm

    Japanese food might look boring, but I bet it perfumes your house like no other! Brilliant work, Ila. And I want the piggy lid!

  • jenn September 24, 2010 at 10:25 pm

    that piggie drop lid is RAD! Its kitchen gadgets like that that make me wish i cooked more…

  • Jun September 25, 2010 at 4:47 pm

    omgzors ila. that pig droplid is LOL

  • ila September 27, 2010 at 5:36 pm

    christoofat & haruka, thanks! he’s definitely the kitchen gadget of the moment right now.

    Pam & Cathy, geeeet eeeett!!! unfortunately it’s a bit pricey at the MoMa store tho :(

    jenn, but you’re the one with all the expensive baking stuff!

    jun, lololz.

  • Wandering Chopsticks September 28, 2010 at 7:57 am

    Like everyone else, I want that drop lid. Especially so I can see water dribble out its nose. Too cute!

  • Tanya March 21, 2014 at 8:33 pm

    I love the recipe idea. My daughter and I have been looking for a good lotus root recipe and this looks like the one. She was explaining to me that a lot of Japanese people find the idea of a single dinner plate disgusting because of the “muddling” of flavors. I didn’t know it meant cooking as well. Is your piggy drop lid silicone or porcelain? I found a pink silicone version on Amazon, but think white porcelain would look so much classier. I couldn’t find it on MoMA anymore.

  • ila March 24, 2014 at 11:54 am

    Hi Tanya,

    It’s a silicone lid, so that it’s easier to pick up with chopsticks! :)


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