Make a nice, delicious bowl of tea and rice on this week's installment!
Hello. It’s me. I’m back! I just got back from a three-week trip to Japan and South Korea. Did I mention I’d be gone? I bet I tricked ya, huh, since I was still posting weekly and all. [Editor's Note: We skipped last week due to Anime Expo cooldown.] If you don’t follow my personal blog Penguin Snacks, then I’ll fill you in on the most important details: the food.
This wasn’t my first trip to Japan, but it was my first time in South Korea, and I LOVED it. Food culture there is everything a girl like me could ask for: delicious, fun, and abundant. I tried anything and everything I could lay my hands on, and I’ve been building up my spicy tolerance for a while, so I was eager to try as much as I could. I am happy to declare that I am in love with tteokbokki, and am developing a recipe to eat at home as we speak (er… read?). Japanese food was amazing, as expected. I got to try Kobe beef! A personal win for me, and I can cross that off the old bucket list now. Do I even have to say it? It was phenomenal. I’m ready to die happy and go vegan now (just kidding. But maybe not? Maybe I can have an anime-food only exemption if I go vegan, so that I can keep doing the blog faithfully.)
Anyway, homecoming is always a little bitter sweet. It’s always nice to come back into the States- there’s really no place like America, and I mean that in both good and bad ways- but it’s always sad to leave something amazing behind and makes you a bit nostalgic. The dish I’m making today really ties into this idea. It’s good, old-fashioned Japanese comfort food, designed to make you feel safe, warm, and contented.
At first I thought it weird that Nakajima would want to eat a plain old bowl of rice and tea after being rescued from near-drowning. But the more I researched the dish he mentioned, ochazuke, the more I started to get it. This dish is a two-pronged, meaningful bowl of tea and rice. On the one prong, it is a really simple dish to make and in that regard can be considered a very comforting, easy meal to make, kind of like box mac and cheese in America. Very nostalgic, very pleasant to eat.
On the other prong, if you’ve been a guest at someone’s house too long, they might make you a bowl of rice and tea as a signal that they don’t want to cook for you anymore, and you should definitely go home. Frankly, I find this concept amazing, and wish we had a similar way to send people packing in America.
You see, since this dish is so simple to make, it can often be put together with leftover ingredients, and actually is, quite often. Recipes for the dish are pretty varied, because it’s meant to be a meal that’s thrown together with whatever you have on hand. Since Nakajima ate like 500 bowls of the stuff, I thought that his wouldn’t be created with a complex spread of toppings in mind, so I stuck to the traditional toppings. However, since I don’t actually have evidence of what was in his bowl, you can feel free to riff on this basic recipe as you see fit.
The meal we’re trying to recreate:
Basically something so good you feel like you can eat way too much of it.
-1 cup medium grain rice
-Strips of nori
Make the Ochazuke!
First, since rice is the base of this meal, make sure to wash it carefully. Measure out your rice, and place it in the bowl of your rice cooker. Fill with water, and swish vigorously around the pot with your hand. The water should look something like this.
Pour water out, and repeat until the water is clear. This takes me around 5-8 rinses. It’s tedious, but important! It helps to create fluffier, tastier rice. Then, pop the bowl into the rice cooker and start it.
While that’s cooking, pop the rice crackers into a plastic bag. You really only need one or two crackers. Smash into bite sized pieces.
Rinse and finely chop the green onion.
And, if you couldn’t find strips of nori, like me, take some nori sheets and slice into thinner pieces.
Boil some water, and pour about a cup of water into a jar or cup. Place a tea bag in to steep.
When the rice is done, fluff with a rice paddle, season with a bit of salt, and portion rice out into bowls.
Then, place toppings on! Rice crackers, nori strips, then pour the tea over the top, until it comes up about halfway. Garnish with the green onion.
This dish is perfect for 1) A cheap meal 2) A cold evening 3) A nice base for other toppings, such as grilled fish or tempura. It’s really nice, easy to make, and adds a little complexity to something as simple as white rice.
Honestly, it’s a bit tasteless, so I’d definitely encourage you to dress it up or at least salt it well. However, it is very heartwarming, and takes the edge off your hunger quite nicely. Whether you’re returning home from very far away, recovering from a near-drowning experience, or just looking to try a Japanese cooking cornerstone, this meal is a great option to try out at home.
I hope you enjoyed this post! To check out more anime food recipes, visit my blog, Penguin Snacks! If you have any questions or comments, leave them below! Everyone, have a great day ☺
In case you missed it, check out our last dish: mushroom and cheese gyoza from Food Wars! What other famous anime dishes would you like to see Emily make on COOKING WITH ANIME?