Colorful and warming, Chikuzen Ni is the perfect Japanese food recipe for the winter season. In fact, in Japanese food culture, it is often served to bring in the new year. Full of nutritious and medicinal ingredients, Chikuzen Ni is a healthy Japanese recipe that helps fight off winter colds and boosts the body’s natural defenses. The way Japanese people prepare the vegetables also make it seem like a work of art. With this easy to follow recipe and video, you will be whipping up an authentic Chikuzen Ni in no time!
What is Chikuzen Ni?
This traditional Japanese recipe once was based on turtle, but now simmered chicken and root vegetable dish are the heart of the meal. Typical recipe includes chicken, shiitake, konnyaku, lotus root, burdock root, and other hearty winter vegetables. You make Chikunzen Ni by stir-frying the ingredients in oil and then cooking them in soy sauce and sugar. It’s a traditional dish from the northern part of Kyushu (its name was “Chikuzen” back then, hence the name. “Ni” means to simmer).
What is Kazarigiri?
The most notable part of this dish is the decorative cutting techniques used for vegetables. This is the Kazargiri technique (literally meaning decorative cutting), and is an important part of Japanese food culture. Because of this, this dish looks very festive – a celebration of the winter season!
Flowers and pine needles are some of the most common shapes that the veggies and roots are cut into using Kazargiri. Lotus root is one of the most popular vegetables to use for kazarigiri, because it is easy to cut and play with. Both decorative and packed with medicinal and health-boosting properties, this winter vegetable can be integrated into many different Japanese dishes and allows you to keep practicing Kazargiri.
What is Burdock Root?
Another winter root vegetable that is an important part of Chikunzen Ni is burdock root. Although it actually grows all over the world, Japanese culture is one of the few that really utilize it on a regular basis in the cuisine. Burdock root is highly medicinal and can ward off many of the most common health concerns during the winter season. In fact, according to WebMD, burdock root can treat everything from joint pain and stomach flu to diabetes and liver disease!
Preparation and Cooking Tips
- Try cutting your vegetables in unique ways. Make sure you don’t cut your fingers!
- Don’t try to peel burdock root with a peeler. All you need is a regular aluminum foil. Rub it on burdock root with running water and then magically the skins are gone.
- Color is very important in Japanese food. Put neutral colored food first in the container, and then balance the color with vibrant vegetables such as carrots and snow peas.
- Japanese people used to take several days at the end of the year to cook new year’s food (osechi ryori). So, take your time preparing vegetables.
- Cut the chicken into bite-sized pieces, and mix together with 1 teaspoon of sake, mirin, and soy sauce.
- Peel and cut the taro so it has six edges, and quickly boil. Wash away the slime and drain.
- Slice the lotus roots into ¼ inches thick. Cut around the edges to make round-shape so each lotus root looks like a flower. Fill a small bowl with water and add a few drops of vinegar. Soak the roots.
- Wet the burdock root with running water. Rub with aluminum foil to remove the skin. Slice diagonally. Leave them in a bowl of water. When the water is brown, change the water to clean.
- Slice the carrot into ¼ inch thick. Make flowers using a cutter.
- Wash and remove the stem of the shiitake mushrooms. Cut mushrooms in half if they’re too big.
- Cut the konnyaku into ¼ inch thick. Make a cut in the middle, and loop the edges through to make ribbon/net shape. Quickly boil so it doesn’t unravel easily.
- Pour vegetable oil in a pot and cook the chicken over medium heat. Remove the chicken once done.
- In the same pot, pour a bit more vegetable oil in the pot, and lightly cook taro, lotus roots, burdock roots, carrots, mushrooms, and konnyaku altogether, about 2 minutes.
Add dashi stock, sake, and sugar into the pot. Place a drop lid and cook over medium heat until vegetables are soft.
In the meantime, prepare the snow peas. Remove the string, and quickly boil with a bit of salt. Remove from the heat and add them to cold water so the green color remains bright. Cut in half to make an arrow and a diamond shape.
Once vegetables in the pot are soft, remove the drop lid and add soy sauce, mirin, and salt. Place chicken on top and place the drop lid again. Cook over low heat until soup is almost gone. Stir occasionally.
- Place chikuzennni in an osechi box and decorate with snow peas.