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OyakuDonburi

The following recipe for Oyako Donburi is from master chef Shizuo Tsuji's revered cookbook: Japanese Cooking: A Simple Art. The book is not just a masterful collection of essential Japanese dishes, but is also a captivating philosophical treatise on what makes Japanese cuisine so special. Shizuo claims that although Japanese chefs have developed masterful skills in food preparation, the actual flavors (unlike, say, in much of French Cuisine) are not difficult to achieve

Donburi can be translated as "rice bowl" and the actual bowl it is typically served in is also called donburi. There are numerous kinds of Donburi. The dish may have as its main ingredient, seafood, beef, pork, chicken or eggs. Oyako means "Parent and Child" and Oyako Donburi contains both chicken and egg..One word of caution regarding this recipe. Shizuo's original preparation instructions call for not fully cooking the egg. With the recent problems with eggs America has been experiencing, this might raise some legitimate food safety concerns. If you want to play it safe, cook the egg until it is full set (not runny at all). Try to avoid overcooking the egg unless you like chewing on rubber.

Shizuo's directions also call for prolonged rinsing of the rice before it is cooked. This is the traditional method, but recent changes in rice processing has made rinsing largely obsolete. All rice starts out as brown rice. The outer portion of the rice (that gives it its brown color) is milled off to make white rice. In the past milling left a very thin layer or skin, called "hada nuka" or "bran skin". Rinsing the rice removed this layer. Also in the past Japanese rice was often coated in talc to give it a more of a sheen. This too was removed with prolonged rinsing. Somewhat recently a new process was developed for removing the hada nuka and adding talc to rice was abandoned some time ago. RIce that doesn't require rinsing is referred to as 'No-wash rice' (musenmai). Interestingly hada nuku that was washed off of rice in Japan has been identified as a significant water pollutant in Japan. Much like phosphate detergents, hada nuka rinse water running into waterways can create algae blooms, and a degenerative biochemical process known as eutrophication which ultimately depletes the free oxygen in water which then causes fish and other wildlife to die off. "No-wash" Japanese rice is now very common, so unless the rice you buy specifically calls for prolonged rinsing, it is perhaps best to forgo this time-honored and laborious tradition.

To make the rice for Oyako Domburi, it is best to follow the directions on the package. Depending on a number of factors, different rices require slightly different ratios of rice to water, so follow whatever the package directions say. You can use either a pot or an automatic rice cooker which wil make perfect rice every time. It is not a good idea to use American "Carolina" rice, Jasmine rice or Basmati rice. Japanese rice is either short or medium grain and has just the right amount of stickiness to it.

Ingredients:

Basic Ingredients, Dashi "teabag" is on the plate on the left

Commercially prepared dashi often contains liberal amounts of the flavor enhancer MSG. Many people do not tolerate MSG, many people (particular East Asians!) rather like it. You can get dashi that does not contain MSG. Just check the list of ingredients on the label if this concerns you. Some brands of dashi come in the form of large "tea bags" which is quite convenient. Follow the directions on the package to make the soup base. You can buy bonito fish flakes (katsuobushi and konbu kelp, you can find directions here. I have found that Japanese shoppers are quite happy to help out folks who cannot read directions printed in Japanese and give their advice as to which brands are the best tasting.

The other somewhat special ingredient in this recipe is "light" soy sauce. This version of soy sause is lighter in color and is thinner and more salty than regular "dark" soy sauce. It is somewhat confusing right now because Kikkoman, the most well known and trustworthy brand of Japanese soy sauce, now markets a low sodium (well, only slightly less salty) but dark colored soy sauce which is not the same as traditional Japanese light soy sauce. Shizuo says that if you can't find light soy sauce for recipes, just combine the two amounts in dark soy sauce.

Main Ingredients:

Sauce Ingredients:

Preparation

Sauce Preparation

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