Takikomi-gohan: Savory Rice
Lets be clear: standard Japanese rice is plain. No flavorings, no spices, no salt, no nothing. Just rice, water, heat and time. Older people in Japan – and even a good number of younger people – eat this kind of plain white rice three times a day. It’s like bread for Western people: there at every meal.
So that’s the standard thing. But once every great while mom gets frisky and decides to do something different with rice. Enter takikomi-gohan: a flavored rice that can serve as a main course. Takikomi-gohan can be eaten hot or cold, and it’s a popular lunch-box item. We don’t make this kind of rice every day. We don’t even make it often. But every once in a while, it really hits the spot.
- 3.5 cups of rice – use a short-grain variety, sometimes sold as “sushi” rice
- 4 cups of water
- One piece of konbu (edible sea-kelp) (about 10 cm. long piece)
- One tea-spoon of dashi soup base
- Four table-spoons of sake
- Three table-spoons of soy sauce
- One tea-spoon of salt
- 250g chicken thighs
- One carrot
- A bit of aburaage (deep fried tofu)
- One gobou (burdock root)
- Optional: chestnuts, konnyaku jelly, tinned tuna, or hijiki seaweed.
- Cut chicken into mid-sized cubes.
- Cut aburaage into small pieces
- Skin and chip the gobou like you would for kinpira gobou:
- Shave off the skin of the gobou with the sharp end of a knife
- Rinse gobou with cold water
- Cut the gobou into chips with a knife by shaving it as though you were sharpening a pencil
- Prepare carrots like you would for kenchin-jiru:
- Cut carrot in 10 cm. long chunks
- Slice each carrot chunk vertically, quite thinly
- Slice the slices again, until you end up with thin little strips
- Wash rice (do this quickly: no more than three minute.)
- In a mid-sized to large pot, place rice in water: for 3.5 cups of rice, use four cups of water.
- Place the cut carrots, the gobou chips, the piece of konbu, and the chicken thighs in the water and leave to soak together with the rice for about 40 minutes.
- After soaking, add the flavoring (dashi, sake, soy-sauce, salt) and stir a bit.
click to enlarge
- Cover pot and cook on high heat for about 15 minutes.
- When the water boils, turn to medium heat for about 5 minutes until the water evaporates completely.
- If you’re using electric stove, turn heat off. If you are using gas stove, turn heat all the way down. Let it sit for another 5 minutes.
- Turn over thoroughly and put cover back on. If you’re cooking with gas, turn it off.
Let the rice steam for at least another 5 minutes.
- Serve in rice bowls and, if you’d like, garnish with finely cut strips of nori sea-weed.
Takikomi-gohan works well hot or cold, and you can consider making a big batch and freezing the extra portions in saran-wrap, to be microwaved later.
Tonight, I made my husband some takikomi-gohan alongside a simple broth with chinese cabbage in it.