Saturday, April 16, 2011

Flavored rice with chicken 鶏ご飯

When I posted Chicken rice 鶏飯, I mentioned that if "鶏飯" is pronounced as "tori-meshi" とりめし instead of "keihan" けいはん, it means an all together different dish, which is the dish I am posting here. "Cooked rice" in a polite form in Japanese is "gohan" ご飯, so you could also call this dish, more politely, "Tori-gohan" 鶏ご飯. This is a flavored rice with pieces of chicken. There are many variations and the size and the amount of chicken in this dish also varies. This is my rendition.

The amount below is for 3 cups (Japanese cup, which is about 180ml, ones come with a Japanese rice cooker) of raw rice which serves 4-6 people (or 10 of us).

Chicken: I used two thighs, bone and skin removed, and cut into small chunks (half inch).

Vegetables: I used ginger root (one thin sliver, skin removed and minced), gobo 牛蒡 or burdock root (1/2), and carrot (1 small). For gobo, after scraping off the dark skin of the gobo using the back of the knife under running water, I cut it into small, thin, "small bamboo leaf shape" which is called "sasagaki" 笹掻き cutting ("sasa" 笹 is a type of small bamboo). This is a very common way to cut root vegetables, especially gobo. You do this by shaving the end of burdock like you are sharpening a pencil (I am not sure how many of you actually shaved and sharpened a lead pencil encapsulated in wood cylinder, i.e. an old fashioned pencil, using a knife). Here is a visual aid for "sasagaki". I put the sasagaki cut burdock in acidulated water (with rice vinegar) immediately. I changed the water several times and let it drain (to reduce the pungent smell/taste and prevent discoloration). I also cut a carrot (one small) in the same way as the gobo. If you like, you could add, a deep fried tofu pouch (abura-age), shiitake mushroom, and/or lotus root (renkon 蓮根); all cut into small pieces.

Seasoning: I added vegetable oil (1 tbs) in a frying pan on medium heat and first cooked the chicken. When the surface of the chicken became opaque, I added the burdock and carrot and sauteed them for 1-2 minutes. I then added sake (3 tbs), mirin (2 tbs) and soy sauce (2 tbs) and cooked for 1 minute or so. Using a colander or strainer, I separated the solids from the liquid (preserving both separately).
Rice: You could use a just regular Japanese rice but I added sweet rice or glutenous rice. Japanese will call this rice "mochi-gome" 餅米* since rice cakes or mochi 餅 is made from this variety of rice. I used a mixture of regular rice (2 Japanese cups) and sweet rice (1 Japanese cup).  This adds a stickier texture to the cooked rice but this is optional. I washed the rice under running cold water until the water ran clear. I then drained and let it sit in the strainer.

*(Digression alert) Mochi-gome contains mostly amylopectin as a type of starch, which gives it a stickier consistency than regular Japanese rice. It can be easily distinguished from a regular Japanese rice since the germ of mochi-gome is opaque. As a result, after washing, the rice grains look white and opaque rather than slightly transparent like regular rice. Some rice dishes, beside rice cake, can be made solely from mochi-gome, which are called "okowa" おこわ. Red rice or "sekihan" 赤飯 served on celebratory occasions in Japan is the example of "okowa".

Cooking: This time I used an electric rice cooker but I could have used a Donabe rice cooker. To set up the rice cooker, I added the washed and drained rice and then added the seasoning liquid reserved from cooking the chicken and other ingredients. I then brought the liquid level up to the 3 cup mark by adding dashi broth (or water). I added the chicken and vegetables and stirred it once or twice. I then cooked it like regular rice. After it finished cooking I let it steep for 10-15 minutes (see picture below).  With a rice paddle, I stirred the rice and other items (in Japanese culinary parlance, these are called "gu" 具).

Serving: You usually want to add some greens to this dish. Cooked green beans cut into small segments, green pea, snow pea or snap pea can be added as a garnish. In my case, I added a chiffonade of perilla and nori.

This is a very nice and tasty dish. The addition of sweet rice gave it more body or a "mochi-mochi" もちもち texture, if I am allowed to use a Japanese expression. My wife thought she could not tell the difference from regular rice. This is a perfect "shime" 締め or ending dish or, by itself, with a salad or tsukemono 漬け物 and miso soup, this could be a whole meal.

No comments: