I made takikomi gohan for my roomate when I was in college and she thought it was the best thing since sliced bread. She raved about it, but I was a little embarrassed since all I did was pick up a package at the store, wash the rice, empty the pouch of prepared vegetables, and turn the rice cooker on. She loved it because the rice was full of flavor and she could eat it as a meal on its own.
This time I made it from scratch. The rice is cooked in dashi instead of water and the chicken (with the marinade) gets tossed in along with carrots, shiitake mushrooms, gobo (burdock root), and konnyaku. The flavor is earthy and mild—I like to eat it with a side of Japanese pickles and soup.
Just like baking something divine, takikomi gohan will tease you by filling your kitchen with delicious smells. You’ll think it’s torture as you wait for the rice to finish cooking. But no matter how good it smells, keep my mom’s word of caution: do NOT inhale the wonderful aroma after opening your rice cooker. The steam will burn the edges of your nostrils, which will later turn into scabs. My mom got really excited one time and learned the hard way.
Takikomi Gohan with Chicken
Adapted from 和食の基本
Makes 4 servings
1 3/4 cups white short-grain rice
1 3/4 cups dashi
4.25 oz. chicken thighs
1 Tbsp. sake
2 Tbsp. shoyu
2 dried shiitake mushrooms
1.5 oz. gobo (burdock root)
1 small carrot
1/4 piece konnyaku
Wash the rice and let drain in a collander. Add the rice and dashi to the rice cooker and let sit for at least 30 minutes.
Rehydrate the shiitake mushrooms in warm water. Remove the stems and slice as thin as possible—for large mushrooms, cut in half then slice.
Dice chicken into half inch cubes and let it marinate in a small bowl with the sake and shoyu.
Peel the skin of the gobo (burdock root). I use the back of a kitchen knife and scrape off the skin under running water. Then, have a medium bowl of water standing by and shave the gobo into a sharp point (like sharpening a pencil with a knife), letting the shavings fly off into the water.
Julienne the carrots into 1 1/4 inch matchsticks. Next, slice the konnyaku in half lengthwise and horizontally through the center so it isn’t as thick. Slice the konnyaku thinly. Boil the konnyaku in a small pot for 1 minute and drain.
Add the chicken and marinade into the rice cooker and stir well to incorporate. Add all the remaining vegetables evenly on top of the rice and chicken. Do not stir the vegetables into the rice.
Turn on the cooker and once the rice has finished, let it steam for 10 minutes then fold to incorporate.