Monday, December 05, 2005



Here's how to make a horoku-yaki. First, cover the bottom of donabe with coarse salt, then scatter pine needles all over. You might want to place a piece of washi (Japanese traditional paper) so that the ingredients wouldn’t touch the salt and pine needles directly. (Some online Japanese recipes recommended it while others didn’t). I didn’t do that this time because I wanted to know how salty the food would turn out without washi.
Though no recipe mentioned about this, I sprinkled a little sake over all the ingredients (prawns, ginkgo nuts, shiitake and shimeji mushrooms, carrot and sliced yam) and placed them directly on the pine needles. Then I put the lid on and heated the donabe on mid-low heat for….Sorry…I forgot to time it. Could have been less than ten minutes, maybe???

When I opened the lid…

Oh, the aroma!! The food inside was steam-baked with the effect of far-infrared ray from the clay pot. (Believe me. We Japanese are crazy about far-infrared ray effect.) See the dew on the shimeji mushrooms?

With a zest of sudachi, everything tasted WONDERFUL! I often hear the phrase, “It brings out the true flavor of ---“, and I think this cooking method really does it. I mean it. Prawns were oh so good, and I especially loved the yams! The coarse salt did not stick to the food almost at all, and I carefully scraped it off if it did. But if used finer salt, it might be necessary to use more pine needles or a washi paper.

As you can probably see, this was actually a little overdone. I left the donabe on heat even after hearing small crackling noise from the pine needles… Maybe I should have removed the pot from heat as soon as I heard the first crackling noise, or even earlier.

* I use this type of heating device, and I had no trouble making a horoku-yaki with my donabe this time. But it may not work the same way or could be even dangerous when a different type of heating device is used. I have no idea what it would be like if you tried donabe-cooking on an electric range like this, so please be warned.

Anyway, these were the main entries of my special donabe dinner, Autumn 2005.

(Doesn't this look like one of those photos on autumn package tour pamphlets by Japanese travel agencies?)


Pim said...


This looks fabulous. Just fabulous. You could come over and be my obachan any day.


Anonymous said...

Obachan, the dishes look so good! Would love to try them :)

Evangeline said...

what exactly is the far infrared ray effect? it's the first time i've heard of it!

also..i've often wondered about the criss-cross cuts u make on top of shiitake mushroom caps. isn't it a bit of a waste having to throw away perfectly good mushroom bits (even though it does look pretty)? i would probably just eat them raw (but then again, i like raw mushrooms...)

obachan said...

OK, my virtual niece. ;)

Amber Amethryne
Any time! :D

I don’t know how reliable this page is, but I guess most of the FAQ sites of far-infrared ray (FIR) products say basically the same thing as this. In cooking, it is said (at least in some Asian countries) that FIR improves heat conduction, causing the inside of the food to cook faster, thus makes the food much tastier. That is why meat/fish taste better when grilled over charcoal heat, and rice taste better when cooked in a clay pot. Now, I don’t know why and how charcoal and clay pot radiate FIR. Anyone?

As for the mushroom bits, I was totally surprised that you mentioned “throwing away.” I’ve never dreamed of throwing away those bits. Do people often do that over there?!?! When I make that kind of criss-cross cuts, I’m usually cooking simmered food or soup so I throw in the cut-off bits in the soup. I think I threw them in takikomi gohan this time (or maybe the soup?) It is not only for the looks when we make that kind of cuts…it helps mushrooms absorb flavor of seasonings.

Reid said...

Hi Obachan,

Wow! Everything looks so delicious. I wish I could have been there to enjoy the meal with you.

I was happy that I had Yonehachi okowa a couple of weeks ago, but now I see this and I'm sad...and hungry!

obachan said...

Hi Reid,
I just checked your okowa entry, and I’m jealous… we don’t have Xmas okowa here. ;)

Evangeline said...

thanks for the long detailed answer, and sorry for getting back so late!
(i wish blogspot had notification for replies to comments, like in livejournal...)

i still don't really "get" the FIR effect i think, but umm...i will buy a claypot and try it out!

oh, i don't know if people actually throw away the criss cross mushroom bits in australia (it's just a japanese thing), but i know some who throw away the mushroom stalk, which i think is a bit of a waste. but it's nice to know that japanese don't just throw away the criss cross bits!

the chinese don't make criss crosses on top of mushrooms, as far as i know though. it's a bit too fussy for us XD

Anonymous said...

Looks wonderful! May I feature this post as well at Ginkgo Dreams?

obachan said...

Hi Kelly,
Sure. I'm so glad that another photo of mine is going to be posted on your beautiful site. As far as my photo(s) are used under the conditions stated in the creative commons license, I feel happy to find out that someone likes my work and wants to use it for a good purpose.