Cupboard and fridge ochazuke

It was cold this week and I didn’t want to get out to the shops, but I still managed to concoct this with bits and bobs that were in either the cupboard or the fridge, and it turned out to be very pleasant!

I’m going to detail how I applied my prodigious imagination to prepare the toppings, for future reference 😏

It starts with… placing rice on the bowl.

This is half a cup (I think we got bigger portions when we had it in Japan but it’s hard to say as it was hidden by the toppings!)

A bowl of cooked brown rice
A bowl of cooked brown rice

Then I prepared the toppings in separate bowls and cups.

Toppings for ochazuke
Toppings for ochazuke

From left to right and top to bottom:

  • Rehydrated seaweed: this one is very easy to prepare, just add some hot water to the bowl with the dried seaweed on it, and let it soak while you do the rest. Drain excess liquid before serving.
  • Lightly pickled carrot and red pepper: I sliced the carrots very thinly using the carrot peeler; the pepper was also sliced thinly. I then added some salt and some red rice vinegar (but I guess you could use any other gentle vinegar), stirred everything around from time to time and let it pickle away. To serve the toppings, I picked things up with a fork so as to not get all the vinegar with me.
  • Spring onion: I cut the top off, removed the outside drier leaves, trimmed off the other sad bits, and then just cut the rest into somewhat thin slices.
  • Lightly pickled red cabbage: cut thinly and using the same vinegar and salt treatment as with the carrots and red peppers.
  • Home made pickled ginger: I pickled this a while ago, using the same juice from pickling radishes (so it’s pink) and I think it’s starting to be a bit “pungent” so it packs quite a kick on its own, but it was nice combined with the rest.
  • And finally, the jewel of the crown: the shiitake mushrooms with sliced almonds! Special picture just so you can admire them in detail:
Shiitake mushrooms with sliced almonds
Shiitake mushrooms with sliced almonds

We have a stash of dried mushrooms in the cupboard, which is very convenient for cases like this where you want to cook something with mushrooms, but do not want to walk to the shops because it’s cold.

So I rehydrated them first; the process is very similar to rehydrating seaweed except that I did not discard the “soaking liquor” when done. Instead, I took them out of the pot I used to soak them, sliced them and then transferred to a hot pan to stir fry them; when they were half-way done I added some sliced almonds to get a bit of crunch.

And then, as if it were a risotto, I added spoonfuls of the liquour to the pan so it would evaporate and the mushrooms would finish cooking while getting its flavour back. Not sure if it did anything but it felt good not to waste the liquid.

I finally added a spoonful of rice wine, letting it evaporate while stirring, for a deeper flavour (maybe I should have added it before the liquour? not sure!).

Not shown in the list above: the poached eggs. I poached them using one of those silicon accessories which are a bit treacherous:

  • I put water in a pot and brought it to a boil,
  • then placed the silicon poacher in the bowl, added a few drops of oil and water
  • I carefully cracked and placed the eggs (2) on the poacher
  • Put the lid on the pot again.
  • Bring back to boiling, then reduce to a medium simmer for 5-6 minutes (until the whites have almost finished changing from transparent to white)
  • Turn the heat off, wait two minutes
  • Remove the poacher from the pot so it stops cooking the egg

Not mentioned above either: the tea. I used roasted tea (hōjicha). I just brewed it for 1 minute, so it’s gentle and warming, but not bitter.

When it came to assembling, I warmed up the rice first (I just added a spoonful of water to the bowl, and microwaved it for a couple of minutes on 360w, stirring halfway). Then I started placing the toppings… on top, obviously.

Once those were arranged pleasantly, I poured some tea until things looked “brothy”, some soy sauce and sesame oil. All that was left was to add a bunch of sesame seeds and furikake, to taste.

Yum!

A bowl of ochazuke
A bowl of ochazuke

Observations

  • The mushrooms with almonds were disgustingly tasty. I wonder if they’d be even better or the same with fresh mushrooms.
  • I really liked the way the vinegar tenderised the lightly pickled things. They were still fresh and tangy, but they weren’t SUPER crunchy. It wasn’t like eating a salad in the same bowl as a soup, which is sort of gross.
  • Overall it was such a comforting combination! You had raw things, cooked things, oily things, non oily things… and sesame seed based stuff, a lot of it!
  • We also “ate the rainbow” so I guess that’s very good healthwise.
  • Note to self: I really need to start putting labels with dates on home made ferments and pickles instead of relying on my memory only – that can only work when you have one or two fermented things in the fridge 🤪

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