Recipe: Hijiki Doughnuts and Hijiki Hotcakes

Hijiki (Sargassum fusiforme) is a type of seaweed that grows along the coastlines of China, Korea, and Japan. Available in grocery stores in dried form, hijiki is commonly used in Japanese home cooking. Its crinkly, tea-like leaves are soaked in water for about an hour, swelling to tadpole sized pieces. Hijiki is very high in iron, calcium, and magnesium. Although it contains minute levels of inorganic arsenic toxin, Japanese health authorities do not consider hijiki to be health threatening as it is consumed in such small amounts. Furthermore, the toxicity level decreases significantly when hijiki is soaked, rinsed, and cooked.
For more about cooking with hijiki see this post from Just Hungry. For more on seaweed, see my post on agar-agar.

Hijiki seaweed, with a late 19th century English copper tea canister in the Aesthetic style, depicting cranes.

Hijiki has a mild seaweed fragrance, chewy texture, and a nutty flavor that is delicious in soups and mixed into rice. Yet the first time I tasted hijiki was in doughnuts that my mother had made in a Japanese cooking class: ping pong-sized balls of sweet and crispy, fried dough that concealed a soft interior filled with hijiki. Although I haven't been able to locate my mother's recipe from the cooking class, I have adapted my favorite recipe for baked doughnuts from 101 cookbooks to include hijiki.

Baked Hijiki Doughnuts
Yields about 2 dozen 2" balls


2 Tbs hijiki
2/3 cup warm milk
1/2 packet active dry yeast (about 1 generous teaspoon)
1 Tbs cooking oil, such as canola
1/2 cup sugar
1 egg
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp salt

1/4 cup butter
confectioners' sugar

1. Cover hijiki with water and soak for 30 minutes to 1 hour. Drain in a colander, rinse, and place hikiji in a towel to wring dry, as you would with spinach. Set aside.

2. Place half (1/3 cup) of the warm milk in a large bowl and sprinkle yeast over top. Stir until dissolved. Let it sit for 5-7 minutes, or until you can see the yeast start to activate and produce little bubbles. Place remaining milk in a mixing bowl and stir in oil and sugar. Add this to yeast mixture. Whisk in egg, flour, and salt. Stir with a wooden spoon until well combined and then knead with your hands (either in bowl or turn onto a floured countertop) about 5 times, or until the dough becomes homogenous, elastic, and soft. If the dough is too sticky, sprinkle more flour on as you knead. If too dry, sprinkle more milk on as you knead.

3. Place dough in a large, greased bowl. Cover with a damp cloth and place in a warm spot to rise for 1 hour, or until doubled in size.

4. Punch down dough and knead hijiki into dough until evenly distributed. Place 1 1/2" balls of dough on parchment lined baking sheets. Cover with a damp towel and let rise another 45 minutes.

5. Bake doughnuts in an oven preheated at 375 degrees for 8-10 minutes. Meanwhile, melt butter in a saucepan. After 8 minutes, check on doughnuts. When the bottoms are golden brown they are ready. Remove from the oven, brush liberally with melted butter, dust with confectioners' sugar, and serve.

Another way to use hijiki is in dorayaki-style hotcakes. Dorayaki are Japanese filled pancakes, consisting of two castella cakes encasing a filling of either red bean, peanut, chocolate, or cream cheese.
The recipe below features hijiki and cream cheese inside a pancake made buoyant with whipped egg whites. I'd like to experiment with flavor combinations, substituting whole wheat pastry flour for all-purpose, and adding pureed pumpkin, sweet potato, or carrot to the batter.

Shown in an onigiri (rice ball) carrier, that works well for transporting hotcakes too.

Hijiki Hotcakes
Yields about 4 hotcakes. To make a large batch, simply multiply the proportions below. Freeze any extra hotcakes and thaw in the microwave to serve.


1 Tbs hijiki
2 oz. cream cheese
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 Tbs sugar
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
2 eggs, separated
1 cup milk or soymilk
2 Tbs butter, melted and cooled, plus more for the pan

1. 1. Cover hijiki with water and soak for 30 minutes to 1 hour. Drain in a colander, rinse, and place hikiji in a towel to wring dry, as you would with spinach. Set aside.

2. In a medium bowl, whisk flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. In a small bowl, whisk egg yolks with milk and butter. Add to flour mixture. In another bowl, beat egg whites at high speed until peaks form. Fold egg whites into batter in 2 additions.

3. Heat a pan over medium high heat with butter. Add a spoonful of batter and as the edges start to firm, gingerly place a teaspoon of cream cheese and a pinch of hijiki (about 7 pieces) on the center of the cake. Top with a little more batter. When bottom is golden (1-2 minutes), flip over and cook 1-2 minutes more. Repeat with remaining batter.

Culinary Ephemera: Siew Kee Restaurant Menu, Malacca ca. 1960

Restaurant related objects such as business cards, matchboxes and matchbooks, menus, and advertisements, as well as utensils, promotional memorabilia, and decorative accessories, can illustrate and help determine the tastes and customs of particular places and time periods. I have a small collection of business cards taken from roadside restaurants on a cross-country U.S. trip some years ago. Looking at the restaurant name, its specialties, and the graphics reveals an encapsulated sense of time and place. Menus are an excellent source of information on culinary trends and anomalies as well as social interaction.

Below is a menu from the Siew Kee Restaurant in Malacca (Melaka) in present day Malaysia, specializing in Chinese dishes. Malacca was one of the three port cities, including Penang and Singapore, which comprised the Straits Settlements of the Malayan peninsula when it was under British control up until 1946. Long before British rule, these trading centers attracted Chinese, Indian and European immigrants. Intermarriage between these groups and the indigenous Malay population created a region of cultural diversity. At this cultural interface, the culinary practices of each immigrant blended and expanded into unique, regional specialties. For more on Straits Chinese cuisine see my post on Peranakan Cookery.

Siew Kee Restaurant Menu

With red leather front and back covers, a blue cloth spine and silver lettering, this bilingual English-Traditional Chinese text menu features 15 leaves with the watermark of Loh Printing Press in Malacca. The restaurant's offerings are divided into: Baa Mee, Shark's Fin, Bird's Nest Soup, Snow Fungus, Pigeon, Duck, Chinese Dishes, Hot and Cold Drinks, Beer and Stout, Special Chinese Small Dishes, Special Chinese Dishes, and Champagne. There are no prices listed. The menu is undated but I suspect it to be from around 1960, based on the graphics and condition. The menu is well preserved, with slight foxing on some pages. I've included some of the pages below (click on the images to enlarge), along with a brief description.
Size: 5.5" x 8.5" (14 cm x 21.5 cm)

Also of interest...

The Science of the Menu