Chestnut Rice

Chestnut Rice


A friend in Japan just sent me this recipe for chestnut rice (kuri gohan) and I cooked it tonight. Wow! So simple, but with such a play of delicate flavors. You have to try it. Chestnuts are a perfect expression of the season right now; steaming them with rice, Japanese-style, brings out their natural sweetness in a much more subtle and, to me, more satisfying way than caramelizing by roasting ("...on an open fire"). Also, the recipe calls for a mixture of Japanese short grain rice and sticky (glutinous or sweet) rice, which creates a delightful texture and infuses even more of that natural sweetness. Finally, the sake and the salt here nicely pop all these tastes. The complexity of flavor you find in this simple dish is just amazing. Ah, Japanese cooking... The only caveat is that peeling uncooked chestnuts is laborious. Cut open the shells, then peel the skin as best you can with a small knife. Take your time, be careful not to cut yourself, and you'll be fine. Here's the recipe:

  • 12 chestnuts
  • 2 1/2 cups Japanese short grain rice
  • 1/2 cup sticky rice (also called glutinous or sweet rice or mochi gohan)
  • 3 cups water
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon sake (use real sake! - my ongoing crusade against cruddy "cooking sake")

  1. Peel the chestnuts and soak in a bowl of water.
  2. Mix the rice and wash. I like to wash rice in a colander inside a mixing bowl. Add water, swirl the rice, dump the cloudy water. Repeat until the water becomes clear, about 3 or 4 washings. Place the washed rice in a rice cooker.
  3. Drain the chestnuts and sprinkle over the uncooked rice in the rice cooker. Do not mix at this point. You want moisture to penetrate the rice grains evenly, and thereby cook evenly; mixing in the chestnuts will prevent that from happening. This, by the way, goes for any kind of Japanese mixed rice recipe.
  4. Add the water, salt and sake. Don't worry if the salt and sake aren't evenly dispersed, you'll be mixing once it's cooked.
  5. Close the rice cooker, turn it on and cook this puppy. (Of course you can use a traditional earthenware rice cooker, or a good ole' pot.)
  6. When it's done, fluff up and mix the rice. Here's how: First, wet a rice spatula. Now slice through the rice with the spatula, positioning it like a knife blade. Finally, go around the sides and fold over the rice.
  7. Serve and enjoy!

By the way, my wife (my favorite taster) commented that she thought this recipe would also work well with kabocha pumpkin or sweet potatoes, instead of the chestnuts. I'm going to give that a try, too.

Posted by Harris Salat in Rice | Permalink | Comments (11) | Email | Print

Comments (11)

i loooove kuri gohan. and yes, your wife is absolutely right - the same recipe works well with sweet potatoes (satsumaimo) and pumpkin (kabocha), though when i use either of the two, i add in a few strips of konbu for more of that umami ^ ^

with satsumaimo, you can cut out the salt too and add a splash of mirin.

Hi all, a couple more thoughts about this rice: You can enjoy it at room temperature or form it into onigiri (rice balls) and carry with you -- old school power bar! Also, if you eat it at room temperature, sprinkle sesame seeds and salt over the rice for another layer of flavor. Enjoy! -- Harris
Hey Harris! I to love Kuri gohan! It just one of those dishes that feels very seasonal, the smell and the yellow color of the chestnuts reminds me of a cold clear autumn morning. Once in a while its worth to torture yourself with the peeling of the damned things to make this delicious dish. If you first make a small cut in the shell and then blanch them in boiling water for a couple of minutes, and peel directly they become much easier to peel, the key is to peel while they are still quite hot, that brown layer of skin will come right off. Thanks!
Johan, thanks for this great advice about peeling chestnuts! I'm going to give it a try -- Harris
That beautiful photo and your description of this dish... wow. I can almost taste it. Very nice piece of writing. Thanks for turning me on to a recipe I've never heard of before, too. If I was to make this in a pot, rather than a rice-cooker, is the timing the same as it would be for regular rice?
Hi Dawn, thanks for your comment. If you're cooking rice on the stovetop, use a Le Creuset-style pot or cast iron dutch oven, if you have one. Otherwise, a good ole' stainless steel pot works, too (enameled cast iron or cast iron do such a great job of evenly distributing and retaining heat, which is why I recommend them for cooking rice). Add all the ingredients to the pot, cover, leaving the cover a crack open, and bring to a boil over high heat. As soon as it boils, cover the pot completely and cook over medium heat for about 10 minutes. You'll start smelling the heavenly rice and chestnut aroma at that point. Remove from heat and let the fully covered pot rest for 10 more minutes, and serve! Let me know how your rice comes out. -- Harris
That photo nearly made me weep with Japanese autumnal homesickness (always worse in the fall, for some reason). Looks so good! I think we used to boil the chestnuts first. Made them easier to peel... Thanks for my moment of natsukashii.
Yum! Looks so good. I actually just found a recipe that called for kabocha squash and chestnuts. We shall see ;)
I am a rabid rice eater. It is comfort food from my childhood. Thanks for the recipe. It looks perfect for winter.
It looks soo delicious! I've never had sake... so when you say "use real sake", do you have any recommendations?
Thanks, Kathryn, It's really tasty -- just made it again last night with a bunch of chestnuts I still had in the kitchen! For sake, look for a sake labeled "junmai," which is a basic type. (Sake is categorized, at the most basic level, by the kind of rice used to brew it, which is what junmai is referring to.) Here in good ole' New York, I buy a 1.8 liter bottle of Onigoroshi junmai for about 20 bucks at Astor Wines on Lafayette St. (that's a around a half gallon, very reasonable). I cook with it, and it's wonderful to drink, too. -- Harris

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