Simmered Taro (Satoimo no Nimono) is a classic home-cooked recipe that compliments the main dish in a typical Japanese meal. A humble yet wonderful way to appreciate the remarkable texture and pleasant sweetness of this starchy root vegetable.
Simmered Taro, is a classic simmered dish in Japan. In Japanese, we call this dish Satoimo no Nimono (里芋の煮物) or Satoimo no Nikkorogashi (里芋の煮っころがし). Just like the other simmered dishes, simmered taro is cooked with the basic Japanese seasonings – dashi (Japanese soup stock), sake, soy sauce, mirin, and some sugar. The simplicity of this preparation allows taro to take the center stage while it soaks up the savory flavor of the sauce.
If you’re unfamiliar with taro, it is a starchy root crop that is known for its nutritional values and essential minerals. The variety of taro varies in size and shape, but the ones we use for Japanese cuisine are often smaller, round, dark in color, and hairy. These unassuming root vegetables are called Satoimo (里芋) in Japanese and you can find them at Japanese or other Asian grocery stores. Simmered Taro is very simple to prepare, which is why it has been a popular home-cooked dish.
How to Prepare Taro
While the recipe for simmered taro is uncomplicated, there are a few things you want to take note of when preparing taro. If consumed raw, it can cause mild irritation and itchiness and the flesh is slimy. Why then bother cooking with it? Well, aside from its many nutritional values, taro is appreciated for its unique texture and ability to soak up flavors. Give it a try and you’ll discover why it is widely enjoyed in Japanese cuisine.
I include some tips below on how to prepare taro, especially if this is your first time cooking with taro.
- Taro has hairy, tough, and thick skin which is hard to peel with a peeler. Make sure to rinse it well underwater and remove the hair as much as you can.
- Cut off both ends first and peel from one end to the other end. And it’s okay to peel the thick skin off.
- To get rid of the sliminess, use salt to rub the taro and rinse under cold water.
- Boil the taro to get rid of the bitterness and foam/scum. Drain the water completely and the taro is ready to get seasoned!
Tips to Make Best Simmered Taro
1. Blanch taro first to avoid bitterness
If you start cooking taro directly in a simmering sauce, taro will release bitterness and affects the final taste. Therefore, it’s best to blanch taro first before coating it with savory sauce.
2. Coat the taro with oil after pre-blanching
The oil helps lock in all the flavors inside the taro and prevent umami from going away. It also helps to keep the shape without breaking into pieces.
3. Season with sweet condiments before salty condiments
When working with an ingredient that requires some time to cook, make sure to season it with sweet condiments such as mirin and sugar. If you add salt or salty condiment, the natural sweetness of the ingredient will be lost and it requires more sugar/mirin to sweeten again.
4. Use otoshibuta (drop lid) to keep the taro submerged at all times
Otoshibuta is an essential kitchen tool to make nimono or simmered dishes in Japan. The drop lid helps the ingredient submerge in the simmering sauce at all times while preventing the sauce from evaporating too fast. It also keeps the taro steady in place so it won’t break down into pieces. You can buy an adjustable stainless drop lid like mine or you can make your own otoshibuta with aluminum foil.
5. Drizzle mirin last for luster
Mirin is known for adding luster to the dish, which is why mirin is an essential ingredient when you make Teriyaki (as Teri means “luster” in Japanese). Not only it adds sweetness, but it adds beautiful and delicious shine to the dish right before you turn off the heat and serve.
What Other Dishes to Serve
Simmered Taro (Satoimo no Nimono)
- yuzu peel (or julienned lemon peel)
- Gather all the ingredients.
- Wash the taro with water and drain. Cut both ends and peel the skin. Taro will be slimy so be careful when you’re handling with the knife.
- Sprinkle kosher salt over the taro and rub it with your hands. Then rinse under cold water and then drain completely.
- Place the taro in a large pot and fill up with water to cover the taro. Bring the water to boil.
- Once boiling, reduce the heat and simmer for 5 minutes, or until the skewer goes through. Pre-blanching helps to absorb flavors when you simmer with seasonings. Drain and remove the sliminess under warm water.
- Heat the oil in the pot. Add the taro and quickly coat with the oil. The oil helps lock in all the flavors inside the taro and prevent umami from going away. It also helps to keep the shape without breaking into pieces.
- Add dashi, sake and sugar, and bring to boil. Skim if necessary.
- Lower the heat and place otoshibuta (drop lid) and simmer for 5 minutes.
- Remove otoshibuta and add soy sauce (adding soy sauce later helps the sweet flavors easily soak in). Place the otoshibuta back and simmer for 20-25 minutes (depends on the size of taro – mine is large). Lastly, add mirin and gently shake the pot to coat the taro with the sauce. Adding mirin toward the end gives a nice luster to the dish.
- Garnish with julienned yuzu (lemon) peel, if you like.
- You can keep the leftovers in an airtight container and store in the refrigerator for up to 3-4 days.