Spring vegetables are nowhere to be seen yet, so the only comfort one may find in the kitchen is a new exciting dish with winter ingredients that start to become boring. The discovery of takikomi gohan has not only made me forget that mushrooms and carrots have been my staples of last months, but it has also unveiled a whole new world of potential experiments with what I see as a lazier cousin of fried rice.
Takikomi gohan (炊き込みご飯) is a Japanese rice-based dish where all the ingredients are steamed together in a rice cooker or in a pan (for those who have mastered rice steaming in a pan). Its variations are infinite, they can change according to the season, to the fridge content, one’s preferences and for me the only limit would be not using the ingredients that become too soft during the steaming process (for example, I would never use courgette or French beans here). In short, I’m enchanted by this one-pot dish that doesn’t require much attention or efforts.
I found this recipe whole looking for new ways to use up my big stock of fresh shiitake mushrooms. I stumbled upon a video on Cooking with Dog, the food channel many of you know probably very well and didn’t look anywhere else. As always, the procedure is well explained and yields delicious results. I have made several modifications, also adjusting the amounts to a dish for two, so check the original recipe here.
TIPS: Normally you will end up with a thicker or thinner sticky, slightly burnt layer at the bottom, formed by juices, marinade liquids and rice. I must say I was scared at first that maybe my European rice-cooker reacted badly to this new method, but according to my Japanese friend A. it’s normal and for many people it’s the best part of this dish, so don’t worry if it happens to you too and enjoy the crunchy bits!
Since all the marinade juices ended up in a sticky layer at the bottom, my rice was barely seasoned, so I have added some soy sauce before serving.
You can easily make this vegetarian, skipping the chicken and adding more mushrooms.
I don’t like mushy carrots, so I have cut them into thick pieces. It’s up to you how big the pieces will be of course.
If you don’t like fresh ginger (I know some people find it soapy…) you can very well skip it. It’s far from necessary here.
Preparation: about 40 minutes
Ingredients (serves two):
1 Japanese cup of rice (180ml)
200 g shiitake mushrooms
1 medium carrot
1 small chicken breast
1 piece of konbu (about 4-5 cm long)
1 teaspoon of ginger, very finely shredded
3 tablespoons low-sodium soy sauce (or less if you use normal soy sauce)
1 tablespoon sake
1 tablespoon mirin
30 ml dashi (Japanese stock)
fresh herbs to put on top before serving (mitsuba would be perfect, but you can add also chives or green onions)
more soy sauce
Cut up the chicken breast into bite-sized pieces (slices or chunks).
Put into the marinade.
Wash the rice until the water in the bowl is clear (I usually rinse it three-four times and soak it for 30 minutes if I have time, but I admit skipping the soaking stage quite often), put into the rice-cooker, add water as required and the konbu sheet.
Cut the carrot into bigger or smaller pieces, depending on how soft you want it to be.
Slice bigger shiitake caps and remove tough stalks (small shiitake have soft stalks, so you don’t have to remove them).
Add the shiitake, the carrots and the ginger to the marinating chicken and coat well.
Place the vegetables and the chicken mixture on top of the rice in the rice cooker, close and cook as usually.
Before serving remove the konbu, then stir well the ingredients in the rice-cooker.
Add soy sauce and serve.