One of my favourite things to do is discover new ethnic shops; I could literally spend hours browsing at the weird and wonderful new discoveries. I always feel I just want to try everything and I have often bought items and have absolutely no idea what they are or how to use them. This often happens with Chinese, Korean or Japanese supermarkets, as fairly often the labeling will just be in the native language and the staff do not have a great grasp of English-admittedly my Korean is not great either!
I was introduced to this dish about ten years ago in a Japanese supermarket, where they were giving out tasters as their chicken was on promotion. I have to admit, I hesitated, having no idea what the name meant or what it was going to taste of. My curiosity did get the better of me, although it was in no small part to having been reassured that the dish contained chicken, rather than anything else.
For the uninitiated (as I was until I looked it up)
- Donburi is a Japanese rice bowl dish
- Oyakodon is a chicken donburi
- The word ‘oyakodon’ literally means parent and child donburi. (Are you keeping up?)
- ‘Parent’ comes from the use of chicken
- ‘Child’ comes from the use of egg
I hope that’s clear! Personally, I find the translation a bit unnerving, so I stick to thinking of it as oyakodon, but you must do as you wish. Donburi are incredibly popular in Japan, but have yet to make their way into the wider public consciousness outside the country. They can be made with any kind of fish, meat, vegetables or tofu, which is simmered in a sauce and served over rice. The ingredients of the sauce can vary between region, but also through the seasons and what is available.
If you have read some my previous posts (Ramen Musings) you will know of my love for the clean and simple flavours of Japanese cooking. Despite the incredibly healthy nature of most of its cuisine, Japanese food still manages to be intensely comforting and fulfilling. The use of sushi rice here creates a lovely glutenous feeling in the mouth, which melds incredibly well with the creamy, savoury comfort of the eggs, onions and chicken. If you aren’t keen on raw spring onions, you can leave them out, but I think they had a freshness and welcome crunchy texture. If you cannot get sushi rice, any sticky rice is ok, but the key is to use a rice that is almost gelatinous if you can. The chicken and eggs are a source of very lean protein and the dish also contains no fat or oil at all, which is not usually something which concerns me, but here it almost tastes too delicious to be so good for you. I warn you, it is addictively good.
Beauty is in the eye of the beholder and I’m not going to lie, this dish is no beauty. There is very little, if anything, you can do to make it look pretty; even the scattering of spring onions does little for it. Some people say that they eat with their eyes; well, if that is the case they will be missing out with this little gem of a dish.
This is one of those recipes you can’t quite believe tastes so good, with so few ingredients. Before you raise your eyes in protest at the seemingly exotic list of ingredients, you can get all of these in most supermarkets now-honestly! It is also super fast and ready on the table in about 20 minutes or less, so perfect for days when you can neither the time nor inclination to shop or to cook. Perfect.
300ml dashi (Japanese soup stock, but a good chicken stock is fine here)
2tbs light soy sauce
2tbs mirin (Japanese rice wine. You can use sherry at a push)
1 tsp sugar
1 medium onion, very finely sliced
2 chicken breasts or 4 thigh fillets, chopped into bite size pieces
4 spring onions, finely sliced
2 eggs (free range or organic please)
200g sushi rice (you can use a Thai sticky rice if that is easier to get hold of)
Heat the dashi (or stock) in a large pan with the mirin, soy and sugar until simmering. Add the onions. At this point, put your rice on to cook-it should take about 10 minutes but follow the packet instructions. Simmer the onions for about 5 minutes until they start to soften, then add the chicken to poach.
After another five minutes, whisk the eggs in a separate bowl, then add to the chicken, onion and dashi broth. This will look quite scary, as the eggs seem like they are curdling. They aren’t, they are just starting to cook. Stir lightly for a minute or so until the eggs look like they are lightly setting.
Divide the rice into two bowls, pour over equal parts of the broth and scatter with the chopped spring onions.
Edamame beans or steamed broccoli with soy sauce and sesame seeds are both great with this.