One key value of traditional Japanese culture is being attuned to the seasons and celebrating their unique qualities. Compared to the typical “four seasons” known in the West, the ancient Japanese calendar observes 24 major seasons (sekki) which are subdivided into 72 micro-seasons (kō), each known by poetic descriptors (like “frogs start singing”, or “peonies bloom”) and celebrated through different traditions. This can happen through art, home décor, and community activities, but perhaps the most direct (and delicious!) way is in preparing seasonal dishes.
In celebration of springtime, JAPAN HOUSE Los Angeles is bringing its popular Japanese Food Lab program online with a series of video tutorials on home cooking. Led by culinary curator Tomoko Imade Dyen, this episode guides viewers in creating a special springtime meal in your very own kitchen: a sakura (cherry blossom) inspired version of takikomi gohan.
Takikomi gohan refers to rice steamed with vegetables and meat or fish, and is a beloved comfort food easily prepared at home. It can be enjoyed fresh off the stove, or also cold after being refrigerated on a hot day (it often appears in bento lunch boxes). In this simple tutorial, viewers will be guided in cooking along at home to create takikomi gohan with a new springtime twist – sakura-shaped carrots as garnish.
It’s a fun kitchen adventure for the whole family – or whoever is lucky enough to share your takikomi gohan. Even in quarantine, we’re able to celebrate the changing of the seasons and the ancient beauty of cherry blossoms through nourishing food.
Sakura Carrot Takikomi Gohan
Cooking Time 1 hr | Serves 6 – 8
* This recipe uses soy products and chicken, so it is not suitable for those with soy allergies or vegetarians.
- 3 cups medium- or short-grain white rice
- 1/3 cup soy sauce
- ¼ cup sake
- ¼ cup mirin (sweet rice cooking wine)
- ¼ pound boneless, skinless chicken thighs, cut into bite-sized pieces
- 2 ½ cups water
- 2 ounces fresh shimeji mushrooms, pulled apart into individual mushrooms
- 1 medium carrot, peeled and thinly sliced (in sakura shapes if desired)
- Shiso leaves (if available) chiffonade (thinly sliced) for garnish
- Roasted sesame seeds for garnish
In a strainer under cold running water, rinse the rice well until the water begins to run clear, about 6-8 times. Let the rice sit in the strainer to drain for 30 minutes. Or soak in cold water for 30 minutes or more and drain before cooking.
Meanwhile, combine the soy sauce, sake and mirin in a small saucepan over medium heat. Bring to a boil and add the chicken. Reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer for 2-3 minutes until the chicken is cooked through. Remove from the heat.
To a donabe or heavy-bottomed pot with a lid, add the rice, 2 ½ cups of water, shimeji mushrooms, cooked chicken and its cooking liquid, and carrots. Place over medium-high heat, cover and bring to a boil, about 5-7 minutes. Reduce the heat to low, and simmer the rice mixture for 10 minutes, without removing the lid. Remove the pot from the heat and let sit, covered, for an additional 10 minutes to finish steaming.
Fluff the rice mixture gently and serve in bowls, topped with shiso and sesame seeds.