Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Arsenic for dinner?
Can you pick out the arsenic on the plate?

No no, this isn't a line from some bad V.C. Andrews book (which I will completely admit to reading when I was a teenager). It's actually possible that I consumed some for dinner the other night. So did my husband and my sister.

WTF, you ask? Well, there is a type of seaweed called hijiki which is one of my favorites. It's short, thin, black and very tender when cooked. It's usually served as a tiny side dish in an obento. A popular dish is Hijiki No Nimono, which is basically seaweed mixed with carrots, konnyaku, abura age and simmered in soy sauce, fish stock, sugar and mirin. It's also common to add chicken to this which is what I did the other night. It was soooo good, and I actually ate some more today since I had leftovers.

Well, here are the pros of hijiki:

- It is high in fiber and necessary minerals
- It aids in the growth of thick, black hair (probably IF you actually have black hair to begin with! I doubt Jessica Simpson would sprout black hair if she started eating hijiki...although it would be cool)
- It aids in overall health and beauty

Here is the con:

- Consumption of only a small amount of hijiki seaweed could result in an intake of inorganic arsenic that exceeds the tolerable daily intake for this substance.

And what does arsenic do? It's been linked to anemia, cancer, liver damage....yikes. New Zealand, Canada, The U.K. and Hong Kong have all issued warnings on consuming hijiki because of this.

Hmmm.....beautiful hair or LIVER FAILURE? How about some ANEMIA to go with those essential minerals?

Ok, I'm being dramatic and obviously wouldn't consume it if I was that worried...but when I was eating it at lunch today, I was thinking that wow...this is the second time this week that I've had this....maybe I'm getting too much arsenic for the week (I mean, can you ever have too LITTLE ARSENIC?). I mean, there are so many things in today's world that are bad for you that I don't want to be one of those paranoid people that won't eat this or that, but this does concern me a bit. I think I'll keep my hijiki consumption to once a month from now on.

Anyway, I also made something I'd been wanting to eat but had never cooked before- Renkon no Hasami Age. It's basically a meat mixture sandwiched between two slices of lotus root and deep fried. It's a common dish at many izakayas in Japan and I really missed it. After asking a few people for a recipe, I just combined what I'd heard and winged it. I mixed some ground pork and minced shrimp with chopped green onions, a bit of ginger and some garlic. I carefully spread about a tablespoon onto a slice of lotus root and enclosed it with another. Then I dredged it in cornstarch and deep fried. Success! You'd think that you would dip this type of food in soy sauce but no no no- at the izakayas, it is usually served with ketchup. I mixed some good 'ol Heniz with some Sriracha hot sauce and it was the perfect match for the crunchy renkon. Trust me- it's great!

Other dinner items:

Hiyayakko (cold tofu with ginger, scallions, shoyu & bonito flakes)

Pea shoot salad with miso dressing

Aforementioned arsenic...er...hijiki no nimono

Aspargus w/ dashi seasoning and sesame

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carlyn said...

Gosh, everything looks so delicious!!!!! Thanks for the info on hijiki...I have been eating hijiki for many years and love it...Yikes...!!!! Oh well...my hair IS black (or was...) tee hee.

Erin S. said...

Any chance you could share the recipe for the lotus root treat? It looks yummy and I'd love to try it. Also, I will embarassingly admit that I was a VC Andrews reader too!

Santos said...

it's odd that so many tasty japanese staples are so carcinogenic--hijiki, myoga, fiddlehead ferns....the incidence rate of esophogeal and stomach cancer is higher in japan than the rest of the world, but almost every other type is lower. i suppose the anti-carcinogenic properties of many of the other staples (green tea, wasabi, soybeans, etc) balances everything out.

sorry i couldn't be more help with the lotus root thingy!

Tokyoastrogirl said...

Carlyn: Doesn't it stink that such good and "healthy" food can contain such an unhealthy (understatement) ingredient? Still....I love it.

Erin: I didn't really measure out anything, but I bought 1 even sized lotus root at Mitsuwa in downtown. I say even sized since some are skinny at the top and fat at the bottom, too short, etc. You may want to buy 2 decent sized ones for this.

1) Peel lotus root and slice into 1/4 inch slices and soak in water.

2) Make mixture of about 1/2 pound ground pork and 1/2 pound diced raw shrimp. While you are at Mistuwa, pick up the pork and the shelled shrimp since the packages are a nice, smaller size. Mix this with 2 tsp minced garlic, 1 tsp minced ginger and 2 green onions chopped fine- green parts included for color. Season with salt & pepper.

3) Take lotus roots out of the water and pat with paper towels to dry thoroughly. Make "sandwiches" by taking one slice, topping it with about a tablespoon of mixture and topping that with another slice. Press together slightly to even out filling and wipe excess off with fingers.

4) Dredge these in cornstarch, dust off excess and deep fry in canola or veggie oil for about 2-3 minutes per side until slightly browned. Drain on paper towel and keep in warm oven while finishing the rest.

5) Mix about 4 parts ketchup with 1 part Sriracha hot sauce and serve with lotus roots.


Santos: your information was a huge help in finally creating the renkon. Thanks!