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Blessings & Taste of the Islands Part 18: Jimami (Peanuts)
post : 2021.02.23 07:00
When you think of peanuts, you wouldn’t necessarily connect it with being something Okinawan, right? But when you think of Jimami Tofu, you might think differently.
“Jimami Tofu! I’ve heard of that Okinawan tofu!”
That’s right. You might have even tried it before.
The word for peanuts in Japanese is Rakkasei, with the characters meaning “nuts born after the flowers fall.” And that’s exactly how they form.
The Okinawan word for it is Jimami, meaning “ground nuts,” describing how they grow, just like the English word groundnuts which is also another term for peanuts.
From the end of summer to the end of October, you’ll see these peanuts in or out of their shells available at markets around the islands.
The rate of peanut production to the rate of consumption by the average Japanese person is just 11% overall.
So, the number doesn’t suggest that the production amount in Okinawa is especially high.
However, peanuts have been grown and harvested in Okinawa for quite a long time, and it is said that Jimami Tofu originated in the Yaeyama Islands about 120 years ago.
During that time, the Yaeyamas enjoyed a flourishing trade route with mainland Japan, and the food culture of the Japanese was introduced to the islands. When the Japanese sesame tofu was introduced as part of the Buddhist vegetarian diet, the people of the Yaeyamas used the peanuts grown in the area instead of sesame seeds and came up with the Jimami Tofu.
When you visit the local supermarkets, you’ll see Jimami Tofu sold in small containers.
When I first saw them at an Okinawan supermarket, I was surprised to discover that they were so commonly available!
We often see the Jimami Tofu at mealtimes in Okinawan homes, but compared to the amount of consumption, it would be difficult to steadily supply Okinawan Jimami to keep up with their production.
When I go to the markets during the time of year when they’re in season, I see the Okinawan Jimami on the shelves, and I get this feeling that they’re looking at me, telling me to spring to action.
That’s when I remembered that Takeyama-san, a friend and web designer living in Okinawa, had posted on his SNS account that he suddenly had the urge to make his own Jimami Tofu.
I thought, “Well, I’m going to call him up and ask him how to make them!”
The toughest part of the process was getting the nuts out of their shells.
It was a rainy day when I was cracking the shells to get at the nuts inside, and I called to my kids,
“Hey, do guys want to try this? It’s a lot of fun!”
But they ignored me.
So, I was a trooper and continued, and that sense of achievement I felt when they were all done was all mine to savor.
Peeling off the thin skin on the nuts was the hardest part of the whole process, but with the first step in the preparations complete, I anticipated the remaining steps left for the next day.
I left the Jimami submerged in water overnight.
Then, I drained and put the Jimami in a mixer and blended until it was smooth.
(If the blender stops because it’s too dry, add a little bit of water and use a spatula to even it out and try blending again.)
Remove the smooth Jimami from the blender to a cheesecloth and squeeze out the peanut milk.
This takes a bit of strength, but this is an important step to bring out the peanutty flavor, so do your best to squeeze to the last drop.
In making Jimami Tofu, the necessary ingredient is Imokuzu (sweet potato starch) powder.
I also recommend mixing the Imokuzu with tapioca powder, if you like it.
I used 2/3 cup of Imokuzu and 1/3 cup of tapioca powder for this batch.
Imokuzu is one of the staple ingredients in many Okinawan dishes. From snacks to tempura, they’re used in a wide variety of dishes. I noted that I want to do more research into using Imokuzu in various ways.
Place 6 cups of water, 1 cup of powder blended with Imokuzu and tapioca powder, and the peanut milk squeezed from the Jimami into a pot over low heat.
Now, this step is crucial. Be sure to keep mixing the contents in the pot, clockwise. Continue mixing well and after about 15 minutes, the liquid will become thicker.
“How long am I supposed to do this…should I take it off the heat now…?”
These questions will go round and round in your mind, but when the thickness has reached a point where you think, “that’s good!” then remove it from the heat.
Pour into a square vat and let it cool, and refrigerate to cool even more and to harden a little.
While it’s cooling, let’s make the sauce.
Mix bonito broth, soy sauce, and Mirin in a pot and let it simmer. OK! Finished!
“I wonder if it’s hardened enough…is it ready?”
I took out the vat from the fridge with excitement. Voila! It was perfect!
The jiggly, supple, and sweet-looking Jimami Tofu is ready to be served.
I placed a spoonful of Jimami Tofu and sauce in a small glass bowl, adding to the clearness to it all, and topped it with a little bit of ground ginger before serving.
With one spoonful, the aroma of the Jimamai spread in my mouth, and the thick and smooth texture of the tofu delightfully slid down my throat.
Jimami Tofu is available at many local supermarkets but what I found in making them at home is that although simple, the effort and the hard work required are all worth it.
I had a renewed appreciation for the Jimami Tofu that is so readily available, but I also found that the homemade ones with all that hard work offered a completely different enjoyment.
The experience made me want to make it again when the Jimami season comes around.
Takeyama-san, who taught me how to make them, was actually at a store looking to buy some Jimami Tofu as a light snack when the Oba (grandma) at the shop taught him how to make it.
Even a little shopping trip in town offers something charming about life in Okinawa.
[Jimami Tofu Recipe]
Ingredients (for a 20cm×20cm vat)
-1 Cup of Jimami
-1 Cup of Imokuzu, Tapioca Powder (blended to your preference)
-6 Cups of Water
Ingredients for the Sauce
-1 Tablespoon of Bonito Broth
-1 Tablespoon of Soy Sauce
-1 Tablespoon of Mirin
And a little bit of ground ginger.
1. Take the peanuts out of the shell, peel the thin skin, soak in water overnight.
2. Place 1 in a mixer and blend until smooth.
3. Wrap 2 in cheesecloth and tightly squeeze out the peanut milk.
4. Place 3 and Imokuzu/tapioca powder in a pot, add water, and place over low heat.
5. Keep stirring the contents in the pot with a spatula until it thickens.
6. Pour 5 in a vat and cool in the fridge for over 3 hours.
7. Place ingredients for the sauce in a pot and let it simmer, then cool.
8. Place the cooled and slightly hardened 6 in a bowl, top it off with the sauce, and ground ginger before serving.
Okinawa CLIP photo writers, monobox (Tetsumasa & Kozue Kawano)