This is a very classic Japanese staple dish. More often than not, I have some variation of it in my refrigerator. The base is hijiki seaweed , which is soaked and reconstituted then cooked in dashi with various other ingredients that give it flavor. It’s great to add to a bento box.
This version has carrots and fried tofu in it. Cutting them into fancy shapes is totally optional, but it does make your bentos a bit more fun.
I’ve used me-hijiki for this but you can use the regular long branch hijiki too.
Soak the hijiki in water to cover until it is swelled to about 5 times its original volume. Drain well and rinse.
Blanch the block of fried tofu in boiling water, to wash off the surface oiliness.
Cut the tofu and carrots up. (I used a pig cookie cutter for the tofu. The carrot is cut into a ‘nejiri-ume’ (twisted plum blossom) shape. I’ll put up the instructions soon in the decorative cutting section. You could use a cookie cutter for the carrots too. Again, it’s not necessary to cut decorative shapes! Any leftover bits can just be chopped up and added to the dish.)
In a heavy-bottomed pan, add the heat up the sesame oil. Sauté the well drained hijiki, tofu and carrots until coated with the oil.
Add the dashi and other ingredients and bring to a boil. Top up with water or more dashi if the liquid doesn’t cover everything. Lower the heat, and simmer until everything is tender - about 20 to 30 minutes, depending on how thick your carrots are.
Instead of the atsuage (thick fried tofu) you can use chopped up aburaage (thin fried tofu, the kind you use for inarizushi , instead. This is a good way of using up leftover skins from a can of them.
This keeps in the refrigerator for about a week or so.
Vary the amount of soy sauce if it’s too salty or not salty enough for you.