In Japanese, ni
refers to simmering, mame
refers to beans. Simmering beans is a lovely picture, homey and simple with an otoshi-buta floating gently in the pot, allowing the smallest bit of steam to escape.
I like beans but many people find that beans don’t like them. Most cultures cook beans with special herbs to mitigate their gaseous effects. In Mexico it is epazote, in India they use asafetida, in the Middle East it is cumin, in Europe garlic is often used, Germans use bohnenkraut.
In Japan they use kombu (giant seaweed), which adds umami. You won’t miss meat with this savory magic. I’ve been using kombu whenever I cook beans, and it really seems to work for Mr. Tess’s delicate digestive system.
So enjoy these salty-sweet Japanese style beans for dinner soon!
A hill of beans in colloquial American is a symbol for something of trifling value, … Its most famous appearance, … was at the end of the film Casablanca, in which Humphrey Bogart says to Ingrid Bergman, “Ilsa, I’m no good at being noble, but it doesn’t take much to see that the problems of three little people don’t amount to a hill of beans in this crazy world”. …
…a book on rural affairs by one J J Thomas dated around 1858 used [hill of beans] in describing how to grow lima beans: “A strong wire is stretched from the tops of posts placed at a distance from each other; and to this wire two diverging cords from each hill of beans are attached”. A little drawing alongside makes clear that the writer is referring to the mounding along the row of bean seeds.
It would seem that this is the origin of the phrase, and that it was then applied figuratively to the illogical idea that if one bean was worthless, a whole hill of them would be even more so. Michael Quinion: World Wide Words
•a simple art•
by Shizuo Tsuji
introduction by M.F.K. Fisher
- 1 pound dried soybeans
- 2 medium carrots, scraped
- 4-inch square of kombu
- 2 ½ cups dashi
- 3 Tablespoons sugar
- 2 Tablespoons light soy sauce
- 3 Tablespoons dark soy sauce
The day before: Soak dried beans in 3 to 4 times their volume of cold water and let stand 24 hours. Discard beans that float.
To cook: Discard soaking water, and gently boil soaked beans in fresh water, uncovered, for 10 minutes, or just till the smell of raw beans disappears. (The water soybeans soak in becomes bitter, so soybeans must be boiled in fresh water. This is not true of many other beans, which may be boiled in the water in which they have soaked.) Drain and wash under cold water.
Cut carrots into thin rounds or half moons. Parboil in lightly salted water, rinse under cold running water and drain.
With a very sharp knife (a large knife is easier to use) cut kombu into flakes, about ¼ inch squares.
In a medium post, mix all the ingredients for simmering. Add carrot slices, kombu flakes, and boiled soybeans. Simmer, covered, with a drop-lid (otoshi-buta) or circle of baking paper with a vent, for 30 minutes, or until tender. Stir occasionally. Simmering liquid should be almost entirely reduced by the end of the cooking time.
To serve: Serve—hot or cold—3 to 4 heaping Tablespoons in small dishes.