Japanese Comfort Food: Harumi’s Three Topping Rice

Have you seen the book “Everyday Harumi“? I’m kind of obsessed with it right now. In a nutshell: simple, comforting Japanese recipes that are great for a beginner like me who’s still figuring out one miso from the next. Her book has a nice primer on Japanese pantry basics (how to make dashi and ponzu for instance) and the recipes are pretty simple once you’ve stocked your pantry. With Harumi’s guiding hand, we’ve started exploring new aisles at the Asian supermarket and I’ve found willing eaters to experiment on because my husband and the boys love any meal that has the possibility of soy sauce and/or rice.

My whole family gives two enthusiastic thumbs up for her Three Topping Rice recipe. It’s a bowl full of comfort food yum and a great place to start a Japanese home cooking adventure. The recipe has the bonus of being fab dinner-lunch “one two punch”. Our leftover rice and toppings turned into a fun school lunch (and Stacie lunch) of rice balls which was a welcome departure from the usual fixins. The baby enjoyed his Three Topping Rice (minus the eggs) mashed up with a little chicken broth.

Do check out the book when you have the chance. I’m eager to cook my way through it this summer so f you’ve given any of her recipes a try, let us know which ones are your favorites.

Harumi’s Three Topping Rice

(adapted from Everyday Harumi)

Ingredients:

  • Pantry items: Dashi (or your favorite stock), Mirin, Sake, Soy Sauce, Sugar, Sushi Rice, Sesame Seeds (for your leftover rice balls)
  • Fresh ingredients: Minced Chicken Thigh (1/2 pound will do), Eggs (one per person is a good place to start), Green Beans (as many as you like)
  1. Bring the following ingredients to a simmer 1 1/2 cups of dashi stock (you could use chicken or vegetable stock. I used a miso-dashi paste mixed with water), 2 TBL soy sauce, 1 TBL sake, and 1 TBL mirin. I forgot to buy sake and mirin, so I used 2 TBL of rice wine vinegar. Add 1/2 pound of minced chicken thigh and let it poach for several minutes. Strain off the chicken, keeping the poaching liquid to cook the rice. You can do this step ahead.
  2. Blanch green beans until tender crisp and then plunge them into cold water to stop their cooking. When cool, drain them well, slice on the diagonal into bite-sized pieces and set aside. You can do this step ahead. The cooked beans store well in the refrigerator in a plastic container lined with a damp paper towel.
  3. Top off the poaching liquid with dashi (stock or water) until you have 1 2/3 cup. Add this to a rice cooker and add 11 oz of washed and drained sushi rice. If you don’t have a rice cooker boil the rice for 10 minutes in a covered pot, then take it off the heat and let it sit covered for 10 minutes to finish cooking.
  4. To a saucepan add 1/4 cup soy sauce, 2 TBL mirin (again I used rice wine vinegar), 2 TBL of sugar and 1 TBL sake (I omitted it). Simmer the poached chicken in the sauce, stirring often until the liquid is gone, approximately 5-10 minutes.
  5. In a separate pan scramble several eggs. Harumi suggests adding a pinch of salt and sugar and a dash of sake. I used salt and sesame oil.
  6. Arrange the rice on the platter and top with each of the three ingredients. It makes a prettier presentation to keep the toppings separate rather than mixing them. This also works better for kids like my son who don’t like mixed up food.
To make rice balls from your leftovers, pick out the green beans and chop them up finely and add them back in with everything else. Mix well. Find a tiny bowl or a small cookie cutter to use as a mold. Place a piece of plastic wrap loosely over the top of the mold. Spoon the rice into the mold and  give it a good press, compacting it. Use the plastic wrap to ease the rice out of the mold. Flip it over so the better looking side is face up and sprinkle a few sesame seeds on top.

The Dream Lunch Box

Sometimes you just have to let your kids do what they want to do.  I often find that when I do that, I am sometimes surprised by Ria’s choices but mostly I am amused.  The kiddo is often delighted and feels like she has some “control” over her existence.  I learned this from my mother, probably from when I was little and how she sometimes changed things around.  I cherish the times I was allowed to “break the rules” – stay up till midnight, eat in bed, have juice (out of a juice box), skip my morning glass of milk (I hated milk), go to bed without brushing my teeth, etc.

With that spirit of “let’s break the rules”, I let Ria pack her own lunch and this is what she came up with.  Banana bread (at least it was home-made) with chocolate chips, a baked hash brown, string cheese (yuck!) and baked cheese crunchies (33% less fat than regular cheese crunchies but just as bad for you).  The last time she had cheese crunchies was months ago when her grandparents were watching her and took her to Trader Joe’s and let her buy this junky treat which has been hanging out in our pantry since.  It is amazing that she remembered these crunchies were in the pantry.  Ria seems to have what is in the pantry, and where it is, memorized and cataloged (and it is a messy pantry overflowing with food and appliances).  Sometimes I will say, “Oh we are running out of X, I need to buy some” and she will quickly retort back, “But Mummy, we have X, it is on the top shelf in the pantry – let me show you!”  And lo and behold, X will be sitting behind the rice-cooker in the pantry.  If she only applied her brainpower to learning her letters and numbers. 🙂

This is what the dream lunch box looks like for my child.  Do this experiment with your little one and let us know what they packed in their lunch…..