Nishime is a classic one-pot vegetable stew of Japanese home cooking where root vegetables and chicken are simmered in a soy-dashi broth. It’s also part of the New Year’s Day menu for Osechi Ryori, or traditional Japanese New Year foods. I make a big batch in a short time by using the pressure cooker function of the Instant Pot. It’s perfect for entertaining a large group of family and friends!
The Osechi (Japanese New Year’s food) menu is about preserving traditional recipes and celebrating the essence of food. Whether it’s for prosperity or good health, every dish plays a role in welcoming the new year. You’ll find simmered dishes such as Nishime (煮しめ) or sometimes called Chikuzenni (筑前煮), being served for its many auspicious significance.
In this one-pot colorful stew, root vegetables and chicken are simmered in dashi broth seasoned with soy sauce, sake, and mirin. I’ve shared my regular stove-top Chikuzenni recipe before, but this year I decided to speed things up by using the pressure cooker function of the Instant Pot. It can make a big batch in a short time, perfect for entertaining a big group of family and friends!
Table of Contents
What is Nishime?
Nishime (煮しめ) is a traditional Japanese vegetable stew sometimes prepared with chicken. The dish is the most popular nimono (煮物), or a simmered dish in English, and a classic representation of a Japanese home-cooked meal. It’s often served on special celebratory occasions and Japanese New Year because the ingredients have different meanings for joy, happiness, prosperity, and cleansing.
The stew commonly includes root vegetables, starchy potatoes, konnyaku (konjac), kombu, deep-fried tofu, sometimes chicken, fish cake (chikuwa and kamaboko), and occasionally fish depending on the region.
The cooking method where you simmer ingredients for a long time to reduce the cooking liquid is called Nishimeru (煮しめる), and shortened to Nishime (煮しめ). Sometimes it’s written as Nishime (煮染め) or Nishime (煮締め), or Onishime with an honorary “o.”
As a New Year’s dish, the vegetables and konnyaku are cut into fancy shapes to celebrate the occasion. Whether you want to cut the ingredients with decorative designs or not, it is entirely up to you. I have two reasons why it can be a nice thing:
- Dress up for the New Year. This is the special time we put on fancy clothing and dress up our homes, why not do it for the Osechi too?
- A “wow” factor for this very humble dish, with root vegetables and other low-key ingredients.
Too much work? I agree, especially when you have to make so many other dishes for the New Year. But hey, that’s why I’m introducing the Instant Pot version.
The following ingredients are included for auspicious reasons:
- Carrot – Welcome spring by shaping a carrot into a plum (ume) flower.
- Lotus root – The holes of the lotus root present a clear and unobstructed future.
- Burdock root – A skinny, long root that grows straight down into the ground symbolizes stability for the house and family.
- Shiitake mushroom – It represents longevity when you cut the edges of the mushroom into a hexagon that resembles a turtle shape.
- Taro – Taro symbolizes fertility or descendants’ prosperity as you can find a lot of baby taros in one root.
Japanese Ingredient Substitutes
Vegetables: Many of the ingredients used in Nishime that can be found in Chinese and/or Korean grocery stores, and sometimes Southeast Asian grocers. If you are lucky, some of the major grocery stores like Whole Foods or local co-ops may carry these unique vegetables too.
Konnyaku (Konjac): This, on the other hand, may be difficult to find. But you can skip it as konjac is included more for the texture and auspicious purpose.
Dashi Packet: To show you how quickly you can make dashi, I used a dashi packet in this recipe. You can buy a bag of dashi packets from my favorite brand Kayanoya on Amazon (or a less-expensive option). I really want to encourage you to ditch the dashi powder and start using the dashi packet instead. The flavor of dashi is really important for this dish or any other Japanese cooking.
Dashi from Scratch: Of course, it’s best to make dashi from scratch. It is so simple and takes only half an hour or less to make dashi (or can be faster). You can’t make authentic Japanese food without dashi, so please try your best to make dashi instead of using other stock (unless I mention it).
And may the New Year bring you and your family lots of happiness and new inspirations as you enjoy this Instant Pot Nishime together.
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Instant Pot Nishime
For the Dashi (Japanese Soup Stock)
- 1 cup water
- 1 dashi packet (or you can make standard Awase Dashi; for vegan/vegetarian, make Vegan Dashi)
- 5 dried shiitake mushrooms
For the Nishime Ingredients
- 10 snow peas (1 oz, 30 g)
- ½ block konnyaku (konjac) (4.5 oz, 130 g)
- 1 bamboo shoot (6 oz, 170 g)
- 1 lotus root (renkon) (6 oz, 170 g)
- 1 carrot (6 oz, 170 g)
- 5 taro (satoimo) (9 oz, 250 g)
- 1 gobo (burdock root) (8 oz, 220 g)
- ¾ lb boneless, skinless chicken thigh (I used chicken tenders here; you can also combine different cuts; use plant-based meat or mushrooms for vegan/vegetarian)
- 1½ Tbsp roasted sesame oil
For the Seasonings
- 1 Tbsp sugar
- 2½ Tbsp mirin
- 1 Tbsp sake
- 3 Tbsp usukuchi (light-colored) soy sauce (or use regular soy sauce)
- ½ tsp kosher salt (Diamond Crystal; use half for table salt)
Before You Start…
- If you will include this dish in your Osechi meal, I recommend cooking it 2 days before you plan to serve. For more helpful tips on planning your Japanese New Year feast, please read my A 5-Day Osechi Cooking Timeline blog post.
- Gather all the ingredients.
To Make the Dashi
- In a small saucepan, add the water and dashi packet. Slowly bring it to a boil on medium-low heat, while gently shaking the bag a few times to release more flavor. Once boiling, lower the heat and cook for 1 minute. Then, turn off the heat. If you want to make dashi using a dashi powder, click here.
- Remove the pot from the heat. Squeeze out the liquid and discard the dashi packet. Add the dried shiitake mushrooms to the dashi to rehydrate for 15 minutes.
To Prepare the Ingredients
- Remove the stem ends and tough strings of the snow peas.
- Next, make the Tazuna Konnyaku: Cut the konnyaku cake crosswise into slices about ⅛ to ¼ inch (7-8 mm) thick. At the center of each slice, cut a lengthwise slit 1½ inches long.
- Tuck one end of the slice through the slit. Push it in; then, pull out the end from the other side. The konnyaku will now be twisted on either side of the slit. Pull gently on both ends so the slice lays flat. Repeat with the remaining slices.
- Boil water in a saucepan over medium-high heat. Add a pinch of salt and blanch the snow peas for 30-60 seconds, until crisp but tender enough to eat. Scoop them out of the boiling water and drain them in a sieve or transfer to a bowl of ice water to stop the cooking and set aside. Keep the water boiling.
- In the same boiling water, add the konnyaku and cook for 2-3 minutes to remove the odor (which is why you cook them after, and not before, the snow peas). Drain and set aside.
- Cut the bamboo shoot lengthwise into quarters. Then, cut each quarter in half crosswise so the tip end is about 1½ inches (3.8 cm) long. Slice the tip end lengthwise into slices ¼ inch (6 mm) thick. Finally, slice the bottom end into ¼-inch (6 mm) slices.
- Peel off the skin of the lotus root with a vegetable peeler or knife. Then, cut the root in half crosswise.
- (Optional) If you want to make Hana Renkon (Flower Lotus Root), you can use my tutorial.
- Slice the lotus root crosswise about ¼ inch thick. Soak the slices in a bowl of water (or 2 cups water + 1 tsp vinegar to make the lotus root whiter).
- Peel and cut the carrot using the Rangiri Japanese cutting technique. If you want to make flower-shaped carrot slices (optional), first slice the top 2 inches (5 cm) of the carrot into ¼-inch (6 mm) rounds and set aside until the next step. Then, cut the rest of the carrot using the Rangiri technique: Slice diagonally while rotating the carrot a quarter turn between cuts.
- (Optional) For the flower-shaped carrots, use a vegetable cutter to punch out a flower shape from the carrot rounds. Tip: Repurpose the carrot remnants by mincing them and using in fried rice or soup.
- To remove the taro skin, slowly peel the tough skin with a sharp knife. It’s very tough, so I don’t recommend using a vegetable peeler. Tip: For taro, it’s recommended to peel the skin thick. It’s not considered wasteful to remove skin with more flesh attached.
- Cut each peeled taro in half and soak in a bowl of water to get rid of the starch and astringent taste. Ideally, taro should resemble a hexagon (with six sides) from the top view.
- Next, lightly scrape off the gobo (burdock root) skin with the back of your knife. (Unlike taro, you want to preserve the flesh as much as possible as the flavor of the gobo stays right under the skin.) Cut the gobo using the Rangiri Japanese cutting technique. Soak the pieces in a bowl of water to get rid of the starch and astringent taste.
- By now, the dried shiitake mushrooms should be soft and hydrated in the dashi. Squeeze the liquid from the shiitake mushrooms. Next, strain the dashi in a fine-mesh sieve over a measuring cup. You will need 200 ml (or measure 1 cup and remove 2 Tbsp) for 6 servings.
- Discard the stem of the shiitake mushrooms. (Optional) Cut the edges of the shiitake caps to form a hexagon, which resembles a turtle shape and symbolizes longevity.
- Cut the chicken into slanted pieces using the Sogigiri Japanese cutting technique: Angle your knife back and diagonally (nearly parallel to the cutting board), and then slice the chicken. This method creates pieces of equal thickness and increased surface area, which allows the chicken to cook faster and absorb more flavors.
To Cook in an Instant Pot
- Press the Sauté button on your Instant Pot. When the inner pot is hot, add the sesame oil.
- Next, add the chicken and stir to coat with the oil.
- When the chicken is no longer pink on the outside, add the lotus root, taro, gobo, and bamboo shoot. Stir to combine. Then, add the dashi.
- Next, add the sugar, mirin, sake, usukuchi (light colored) soy sauce, and kosher salt.
- Mix the seasonings and ingredients together well. Then, add the carrot, konnyaku, and shiitake mushrooms (save the snow peas for garnish).
- Press Cancel to stop the Sauté mode. Then, close and lock the lid. Select Pressure Cook mode and cook for 3 minutes under High pressure.
- Make sure the steam release handle points to Sealing and not Venting. The float valve will rise when pressurized. When it’s finished cooking, the Instant Pot will switch automatically to the Keep Warm mode. Let the pressure release naturally.
- Open the lid and gently mix the ingredients. Serve in individual bowls or in a large bowl, family-style. Garnish with snow peas (I cut each piece diagonally in half).
- Transfer the Nishime to an airtight container and let it cool completely. Store in the refrigerator for up to 5 days. The flavor will intensify as time passes, so consider reducing the amount of seasoning if you plan to serve it later. Nishime also freezes well, but the konnyaku texture will change, so I recommend removing them before freezing. Defrost overnight and reheat in a pot.
Editor’s Note: The post was originally published on December 25, 2018. It’s been republished in 2019.