Japanese Root Vegetable Stew

Yield: 6-8 servings

Cook Time: ~1 hour

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Nishime is a Japanese stew of simmered root vegetables with an optional protein. It is simmered until most of the water is evaporated, producing a reduced sauce with lots of umami, sweet, and salty flavors.



1/2 lb protein of choice*
2 strips nishime kombu
6 fresh or dried shiitake mushrooms**
2 cups araimo (dasheen)
1 block konnyaku (yam cake)
1 cup fresh daikon (winter radish)
1 cup fresh takenoko (bamboo shoots)***
1 cup fresh carrots
1 cup fresh gobo (burdock root)
1 cup fresh renkon (lotus root)***
2 tbsp oil
2-4 cups water
3/4 cup shoyu (soy sauce)
1/2 cup sugar
1 tbsp fresh grated shoga (ginger)
1 tsp salt
Optional: cornstarch

*Such as fried tofu, chicken wings, or pork.

**If dried, soak in water 10 min before using. Add to pot in Step 4, along with konbu knots.

*** Can also use frozen or canned.


1. Soak konbu in water for 10 minutes. If strips are wider than 3 inches, cut down the center. After 10 minutes, tie knots 2 inches apart. Cut between knots.

2. Cut konnyaku into 1/4-inch slices. Peel and cut daikon into 1-inch pieces. Peel and cut carrots into 1-inch pieces. Peel and slice renkon into 1/4-inch slices. Peel and cut takenoko into 1-inch pieces. Peel and cut araimo into 1-inch pieces. (To avoid itchy skin when peeling and cutting, wear gloves, or substitute with potatoes.) Peel and cut gobo into 1/4-inch diagonal slices. Soak gobo slices in water until ready to cook.

3. In a large soup pot, fry protein in oil until browned.

4. Add konbu knots and 2 cups of water. Simmer 10 minutes covered.

5. Add shoyu, sugar, shoga, and salt. Simmer 5 minutes covered.

6. Add daikon, carrots, gobo, renkon, and takenoko. Simmer 15 minutes covered. Watch the water level. You may need to add more water to give the ingredients liquid to simmer in.

7. Add araimo and konnyaku. Simmer 15 minutes covered. Check flavor. Add shoyu, sugar, or salt, if needed.

8. Optional: mix 1 tbsp cornstarch and 1 tbsp water to make a cornstarch slurry, add and mix gently. Simmer for 1 minute. Broth will turn shiny, thicken, and start to coat the ingredients.

10. Add shiitake mushrooms. Simmer 5 to 15 minutes covered.

Recipe by Jennifer Hasegawa

Nishime will always have a special place in my heart and belly because it is a dish my family had for every special occasion; it’s a New Year’s food (osechi-ryōri) so we always had it for the new year. But we also had it for Thanksgiving, Christmas, birthdays, memorial services, and other occasions in which our wider family would gather. We didn’t gather often, so when we did, it was special—and this dish was always on the table. Like a gumbo or chili, there is no one definitive recipe for nishime. Each cook makes it slightly differently, and while the stew’s origins are Japanese, this recipe has been adapted to the Hawaii experience and palate.

Nishime will always evoke memories of my grandma cooking the stew in her little kitchen at her plantation camp house. After she passed away, my aunt took over the nishime “responsibility.” Though I didn’t enjoy the dish as a kid, I developed a love for it in adulthood, and taught myself to make it using a recipe from a Hawaii community cookbook, and my childhood memories of nishime’s flavors and textures. 

JENNIFER HASEGAWA is a community cookbook archivist, poet, and information architect born and raised in Hawaii, and now living in San Francisco. Her roots in Hawaii and work as an information architect led her to create The Kau Kau Chronicles, a website dedicated to preserving a bit of Hawaii history in the form of out-of-print cookbooks published by community organizations in Hawaii the mid-to-late 20th century.

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