Mixed Rice, Japanese Style

Kayaku Gohan

MAKES: 4 servings

TIME: 40 minutes

Kayaku gohan (mixed rice) may be thought of as Japanese paella. It’s less sophisticated than sushi and, in the home at least, far more common. Like paella, it may be made with or without seafood. Like paella, it relies on good ingredients, including rice and stock, and, like paella, it’s pretty straightforward to prepare and easy to vary. But unlike paella, it’s made entirely on top of the stove.

Kayaku Gohan (along with, it seems, about a million other dishes in Japan) uses dashi for the liquid. Dashi can be made spontaneously and keeps well. If you use mirin instead of the honey, this dish is vegan.

Almost needless to say, nearly any green vegetable can be used in place of the peas; asparagus tips are especially wonderful. Or try edamame or lima beans for a little extra protein and great flavor.

1 quart Kombu Dashi

5 shiitake mushroom caps (save the stems for stock if you like), fresh, dried, or a combination

2 tablespoons neutral oil, like grapeseed or corn

1 medium onion, chopped

1 burdock root, peeled and julienned or finely chopped (optional)

1 carrot, julienned or finely chopped

13/4 cups short-grain white rice

1 cup fresh or thawed frozen peas or about 1 cup snow peas, slivered

2 tablespoons soy sauce

1 tablespoon mirin or honey

Salt

1 sheet nori, lightly toasted (see Nori Chips; optional)

Warm the dashi (do not boil); if you’re using dried shiitakes, add them to it; remove them when they’re tender, about 10 minutes later. Slice whichever mushroom caps you’re using.

Put the oil in a deep 10-inch skillet or fairly broad saucepan with a lid over medium-high heat. Add the onion, sliced mushroom caps, burdock if you’re using it, and carrot and cook, stirring occasionally, until the mushroom edges are brown, about 10 minutes.

Turn the heat down to medium, add the rice, and cook, stirring, until combined. Add the peas and the dashi, along with the soy sauce and mirin. Stir, reduce the heat to medium-low, and cover. A minute later, check that the mixture is simmering and adjust the heat if necessary; cook for 15 minutes.

04.png When you remove the cover, the mixture should still be a little soupy (add a little dashi or water if it’s dried out); raise the heat a bit and cook until the rice is tender and the mixture is still moist but not soupy. Taste and add salt or soy sauce, then serve, with the nori crumbled on top.