This week you’re probably reading a lot about food, especially dishes that’ll make you feel stuffed just thinking about them. I thought I’d post about a simple dish that’s really like the Japanese version of a palate cleanser.
Ochazuke is a bowl of rice and tea, often served at the end of a meal. I didn’t really grow up with this, but I love the idea of rice and tea. I was at a food talk recently where a Japanese-American speaker talked about how his mom made a version of this using the scraps from the bottom of her rice pot, brushing some miso on the burnt rice and then serving it in a bowl of green tea. Now with the precision of rice cookers, you can’t find the burnt crispy rice from the bottom.
Another element of ochazuke is placing something pickled on top like ume, the pickled plum, because the sourness helps with digestion. All of this sounded good to me, so here’s my own version of this classic Japanese dish.
I start with making the pickled element a few nights before because I know it’ll take some time for it to pickle. I decide on cucumbers because the crunch from pickled cucumbers is one of my favorite things. I try to get some extra crispy cucumbers, like English cucumbers. In this case, I used a pound of Persian cucumbers.
To prepare them, I cut them into quarter-inch slices, and then toss them in a teaspoon of salt. I let them sit for awhile and then quickly rinse off the salt. I combine half a cup of sugar with half a cup of distilled white vinegar in a jar or (in my case) a glass container and place the cucumbers inside, making sure there’s enough liquid to cover everything. Then I place them in the refrigerator and they’re good to go in a day or so.
When I prepare rice for dinner, I reserve the bottom burnt rice for my ochazuke. I found that with my rice cooker, if I open it right after it’s done, there’s some crispy burnt rice to use. (If I let it sit, the moisture will get rid of the crispiness.) I then prepare a pot of boiling water with a tablespoon of miso paste with a pinch of bonito flakes. This is going to be like my dashi broth.
Then I use the broth to prepare my tea. Instead of just brewing my green tea with boiling water, I use the boiling miso broth I created. For the green tea, you can use traditional green tea matcha powder, or you can use a green tea like genmaicha (green tea with toasted rice), which is what I used.
I prepare my bowl of ochazuke, assembling the bit of burnt rice (I eat brown rice, which is why it looks especially burnt), with my pickled cucumber on top, along with some shredded nori (seaweed). Then I finish everything off with my green tea-miso broth.
Again, because I’m not Japanese this is probably not very authentic. But I think the idea of ochazuke is that you use what’s around the kitchen after you’re done making dinner, and it’s something simple to make while being simply satisfying.
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