Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Asari Gohan

This is a basic every day dish that is so amazing that you will be forever checking how you lived your life before it. It's nutritionally complete, visually appealing, complex enough to be served at a state dinner. (In short, the platonic ideal of a Japanese dish.)

It's neither complicated nor hard in the least but it requires a fairly elaborate explanation of how all the pieces actually work.


12-18 clams
1/3 cup sake
1 tbsp ginger (cut into fine matchsticks)

1 cup japonica rice

2 cups kombu dashi

1/4 cup carrots (cut into matchsticks)
1/4 cup shiitake mushrooms (cut into matchsticks)
1 tbsp ginger (cut into fine matchsticks)

2 tbsp tamari (soy sauce)
2 tbsp sake
2 tbsp mirin

1 scallion (white and green parts sliced thin at a steep diagonal)
nori (sliced really thin)


The first thing that you must do is wash the rice in cold water. The rice must be "polished" with your hands until all the surface starch is eliminated, and the water runs clear. Typically, this takes anywhere from 4-6 washings.

Drain the rice and let it sit wet for at least 30 minutes. (Yes, this matters.)

Add 1/3 cup of the sake to the ginger. Bring to a boil. Steam the clams. Remove as they open, and shuck them.

When all the clams are done, filter the liquid (= clam broth) through a cheesecloth/paper towel and reserve.

Combine the dashi, clam broth, 2 tbsp of sake, the tamari and the mirin. Add the rice, carrots, shiitake mushrooms and cook till the rice is well done.

The logic of this step is that the rice is cooked in an intensely umami-laden broth that makes it completely irresistible. Add to that the fact that esterification takes place means that it's almost impossible to resist.

Top with the clams, the scallion and the nori, and serve.

The clams add the protein, the scallion and the nori, the textural interest.


kiwicox said...

I love this recipe! One thing I notice is the second amount of ginger you don't mention when you add it in, I guess with the carrots etc?
Also do I just double up everything if I want to make 2-3 cups of rice?

ShockingSchadenfreude said...

The ginger is added when you steam the clams. (Read the recipe again!) Extra ginger works well too if you like the flavor.

You can increase the quantities proportionately. A quick side of miso soup and Japanese-style pickles (tsukemono) completes the meal.