Kurama Mixed Rice

Kurama Mixed Rice

Learn how to make an incredible rice dish mixed with soy sauce-infused chirimen jako and sansho, a relative of Sichuan peppercorn. This traditional Japanese recipe uses chirimen jako, dashi, sake, mirin, sugar, soy sauce, tamari, and sansho to create a sweet/savory flavor with balanced aromatics. Discover how to rehydrate chirimen jako, simmer it with the flavorings, and mix it with hot rice for a fantastic meal.

The amazing chestnut rice I cooked in the last post must have put me in a serious rice kind of mood, because here's another incredible rice dish, this one mixed with soy sauce-infused chirimen jako (dried, salted, tiny fish, a fantastic ingredient we'll get to in a minute) and sansho (intensely aromatic, seductive accent, ditto about getting into in a minute).

Okay, first, chirimen jako are tiny young sardines or anchovies that have been boiled then salted and dried, thus naturally preserved. They're a versatile ingredient that stores perfectly in the freezer -- I always keep couple of packs handy. Reconstitute them with boiling water (see below) and add to an omelet or quickly deep fry and sprinkle over salad or, well, rice. Another way to eat with rice is this traditional kurama preparation, which I found in the handy dandy "Traditional Japanese Recipe Book" (see this post). Here chirimen jako is simmered with sake, dashi, mirin, soy sauce and sugar, flavorings that impart an irresistible sweet/savory flavor and diminish the sense fishiness, one of the roles of sake and soy sauce. Ah, a two-fer-one deal. Note how everything balances nicely, too -- the savory and sweet, the flavor of the fish -- yep, another hallmark of Japanese cooking, that balance. The final touch is sprinkling with sansho, a relative of the Sichuan peppercorn. Sansho gives off an intense citrusy fragrance, and is more aromatic than hot.

Now, before we get to the method, question for y'all: Anyone can tell me what kurama means in this context? I can't find it in my dictionary, just curious. Here now the recipe...

  • 5 1/4 ounces chirimen jacko (150 grams)
  • 5 fluid ounces dashi
  • 2 1/2 fluid ounces sake (use real sake, never "cooking sake")
  • 3 fluid ounces mirin
  • 3 tablespoons sugar
  • 2 1/2 fluid ounces soy sauce
  • 2 fluid ounces tamari
  • 1 teaspoon sansho
  • 2 cups cooked Japanese short grain rice

First, a few notes:

  • You can find chirimen jako in the frozen section of Japanese markets.
  • For dashi, follow this method, or buy dashi packs at Japanese markets, which is all-natural freeze dried dashi ingredients inside what look like big teabags. Pop them in water, bring to a boil and you got yourself some dashi (use leftover for miso soup).
  • Why sugar in Japanese cooking? Interesting article that explains it here.
  • Soy sauce vs. tamari, what's the difference? They're not the same, and one isn't "better" than the other (I've heard that). Soy sauce is brewed from soybeans, wheat and salt, the all-purpose fermented seasoning. Tamari was originally the runoff liquid from fermenting miso, but now produced on its own, it's darker and richer than soy sauce. It adds wonderful flavor, color and intensity to certain dishes, like here. If you don't have tamari, though, substitute with soy sauce (so 4 1/2 ounces soy sauce).
  • Regarding rice, I prefer either white rice or haigamai, which is rice with the germ intact but the hull removed (brown rice has both the germ and hull), so it keeps its nutritious core but loses the outer bran. Cook it like white rice. I love this rice.

Now, the method:

  1. Place chirimen jako in a colander and pour boiling water over it to rehydrate.
  2. Add the chirimen jako, dashi and sake to a skillet or small saucepan and place over medium heat. When the liquid boils add the mirin and sugar
  3. Cover with a piece of aluminum foil with a couple of holes poked into it, or an otoshibuta (see this post). When the liquid has reduced by half, about 3 minutes, add the soy sauce and tamari.
  4. Simmer until the liquid has completely evaporated and been absorbed by the chirimen jako, about 5 minutes. Stir occasionally and be careful the chirimen jako doesn't burn when there's little liquid left (guess who almost did that)
  5. Spread the chirimen jako on a sheet pan to cool. When it's cooled sprinkle the shansho over it.
  6. Mix the chirimen jako with fresh, hot, steaming rice and serve!