Friday, September 22, 2006

Asari Takikomi Gohan

Asari no Takikomi Gohan (Japanese Pilaf with Short-necked Clams)

When it starts getting cooler and more and more autumn fruits start occupying the shelves at local grocers and supermarkets, I feel this strong urge to make takikomi gohan (Japanese pilaf) with my donabe (clay pot). Today I went for asari (short-necked clam) takikomi gohan, which was actually part of the course meal at our kaiseki place last month.

When it comes to takikomi gohan, there is one rule that I always follow: I never make takikomi gohan without sake and mirin. Well, actually I might go for it if I had either one of them, but if I run out of both, I never make takikomi gohan. For me these two ingredients make a lot of difference. As I probably wrote somewhere before (did I? I don’t remember exactly…) alcohol and amino acids they contain contribute in adding extra flavors as well as helping the food absorb flavors of the seasonings.

And what’s more, mirin prevents food from being mushy while being cooked. It is said that it prevents certain binding substance between cells from melting when heated. So, for me, mirin is a crucial ingredient for this kind of dish because I cannot stand mushy rice, especially mushy takikomi gohan. (I heard that professional Japanese chefs often add a little mirin or salad oil when they cook rice for making donburi, because mushy rice is a big no-no for that type of dish.)

For this takikomi gohan, I used asari and wakame kelp. The topping -- sansho (Japanese pepper) leaves and minced ginger -- were supposed to reduce the fishiness and bring out the flavor of asari clams. I made nameko mushroom miso soup to accompany this rice dish.

Oh, there’s one more thing: To make this takikomi gohan, I used the new rice harvested just recently. Actually, here in Kochi, it’s not a big deal to be able to eat new rice in September, because it is usually available in late August. Here people plant rice earlier so that they can harvest it before the typhoon season comes. One thing you have to be careful about cooking new rice is using a little less amount of water. New rice contains more water than older rice, so adjustment is necessary. Well, I’m talking about the sticky short-grain rice we eat here in Japan, but I wonder if it is the same with long-grain rice.



Anonymous said...

Obachan, that looks delicious! Would you mind sharing the recipe? I'd like to try it myself as it's starting to get cooler here too, and it'd be nice to have a dish like that for dinner!

Fish Fish said...

Obachan, great post!! You bring me back to the days when I would cook a big pot of takikomi gohan for my 3-meal when I was very busy to have longer time to prepare.

Oh~~~ now I know I need mirin and sake for avoiding the lumpy rice. In fact, when you were saying the reaction of alcohol and amino acid, it is actually will be a form esterification!!! Brilliant!! How could I never thought of this. Ester, the compound that is produced, is responsible for the great smell of many food and fragrances!! No wonder I couldn't resist takikomi gohan.

Keep posting your washoku for autumn. I looking forward to seeing them.

One more question, is Ki No Me = Sansho leaf? I am confused as I always know that is supposed to be a Ki No Me, but never realised it is a Sansho leaf??

Lysithea said...

My mouth is now watering!! :) Do share the recipe with us all!


obachan said...

I’m so happy that you are interested, but I don’t think I can post a recipe this time. The recipe I found on the net did not call for sake and mirin, so I added them but didn’t measure them. Also I adjusted the amount of water because I used newly harvested rice. So with all those adjustments, what I did was probably very different from the original recipe, and I can’t figure out the amount I actually used. Sorry… I’ll post a recipe next time I make takikomi gohan.

fish fish
Oh, I used to do the same thing, too! :D When I made takikomi gohan with my electric rice cooker, I always made 2 gou or 3 gou at one time because most takikomi recipes are in that amount. So I ate them in a chawan first and then made onigiri with the leftover for the next meal.

Thanks for the explanation of the reaction. And come anytime when you miss Japanese food. I’ll make you homesick ;P (Japan-sick? Kyoto-sick?)

Yep, when they say kinome in washoku, it almost always means sansho leaves. I love those tiny but pretty fragrant leaves.

Terribly sorry, but for the reason I wrote in my reply to rc, I cannot post the recipe this time.
Maybe next time. OK?

Chubbypanda said...


That's a delicious looking dish. Takikomi gohan is always hard for me to do if I'm using a donabe. I have to fight to keep myself from raising the lid for just a little peek!

- Chubbypanda

obachan said...

Hi chubbypanda,

Yeah, I see exactly what you mean! :D

bòn said...

Obachan, new rice have more water accross the board in general. I learned this lesson the hard way when I came across a few kg of jasmine rice that smelled sooo good but were so mushy when cooked. Turned out I got new rice.

obachan said...

Hi Idlehouse,
So it's the same with long-grain rice. Thanks. :)
Talking about jasmine rice... I haven't smelled its wonderful aroma for quite a while... maybe more than 2 years. Now I miss it.

Plume said...

Mmmm, I'm looking forward for the recipe too!

obachan said...

Hi Plume,
OK. I'll make sure to post the recipe next time ;)