“Ohira” is local cuisine in Shizuoka Prefecture served particularly at gatherings such as Buddhist memorial services. It’s a dish mainly with simmered root vegetables which are cut in large pieces to minimize the loss of nutrients. They also look gorgeous on the plate this way. Japanese home cooks make Ohira by cooking each vegetable separately in stock that is prepared for each vegetable using different combination of seasonings. The name Ohira came from how they serve the vegetables on large (ohkii) flat plates (hirazara). Everything except carrots is cooked in salty-sweet taste basically using soy sauce while carrots are cooked using no soy sauce to keep their bright color. As Shizuoka is famous for Asahata lotus root, which is one of the favorite foods of Shogun Ieyasu Tokugawa, the dish always includes simmered lotus root.
Ohira is originally a dish prepared for nightlong Buddhist fertility rites called “Ohimachi”, which means “waits for rise of the sun” in Japanese. It’s been told that the ingredients are cut in large pieces also to make it easier to serve to a large number of people on busy days. Satsuko Ira, 75, a chief of Shizuoka Chiyoda Branch of Japan Agricultural Cooperatives’ Women’s Group, said, “the dish is strongly seasoned so that it tastes good when eaten cold. We make it extra-sweet so that it can heal tired bodies.” Ingredients may vary from season to season. For example, the dish may have bamboo shoots instead of burdocks. However, it basically has five ingredients as the plate is prepared to pray for the productiveness of five staple grains. When the dish is served on celebratory occasions, people may add simmered fried bean curd cakes with vegetables and kelp to make it seven. Serving every ingredient in odd numbers on the plate is also one of the traditions. When it is served on Buddhist services, however, they are served in even numbers.
Recipe for Ohira
■ Ingredients (5 servings)
-400 grams carrots
-400 grams lotus root
-300 grams potato-derived konnyaku
-250 grams burdocks
-250 grams dried Japanese shiitake mushrooms
■ Ingredients for stock
-For carrots (half cup broth, 1 tablespoon sugar, 1 tablespoon sweet cooking rice wine, 0.5 teaspoons salt)
-For lotus root (half cup dried bonito and kelp broth, 1.5 tablespoons sugar, 1.5 teaspoons soy sauce, 1 tablespoon sweet cooking rice wine)
-For burdocks and potato-derived konnyaku (half cut broth, 1 tablespoon sugar, 1 teaspoon soy sauce, 1 tablespoon sweet coking rice wine)
-For dried Japanese shiitake mushrooms (half cup broth, 1.5 tablespoons sugar, 1.5 teaspoons soy sauce)
■ How to cook
1) Cut carrots into 12 cm blocks and then into thick slices. Cut burdocks into 12 cm blocks and then in half lengthwise. Cut lotus root into thick slices. Cut konnyaku into rectangles. Hydrated dried Japanese shiitake mushrooms with stems removed.
2) Cook each vegetable separately in the stock prepared for each.
3) When cooked to proper softness, turn off the heat and let them cool. Serve on a big flat plate.
(Aug. 1, 2014)