For a long time, Japanese cookbooks were limited to presenting the work of sushi, as difficult to achieve as it is exceptional in Japanese daily life. Two books stand out by offering family recipes that are accessible and contemporary.
The art of Donburi
The first is signed by Julien Lemarié, recently starred chef for his IMA restaurant in Rennes (1). He opened a second address, a Japanese bistro where he highlights the donburi. This name describes both the container and the content: a large bowl of white rice with various toppings, meat products, shellfish and vegetables. In his book, Julien Lemarié guides the reader towards the realization of creative, seasonal, original donburis. Provided you follow an essential step: cooking the rice.
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First step, choose 450 g of quality Japanese round rice (can be found in Asian grocery stores or via certain specialized sites such as workshop-isse.fr), pour it into a 20 cm cast iron casserole dish, rub it to rinse, empty the water and repeat the operation at least three times, until the water runs clear. Drain the rice, put it back in a bowl with 580 g of water. Let the rice soak for 30 minutes then pour everything, rice and water, into a casserole dish. Leave to cook for 10 minutes from boiling, without lifting the lid. It is important to let the rice stand covered for about ten minutes. Seed the rice using a spatula while adding 4 tablespoons of rice vinegar, 3 tablespoons of mirin and 1 teaspoon of salt.
Last important detail before moving on to the garnishes to discover in Julien Lemarié’s book and through the recipe below: when the rice is at room temperature, check the seasoning and cover it with a damp cloth, in any case, do not store it in the fridge.
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A delicious glossary
Another book that invites us to lift the veil on modern Japanese family culinary daily life, also focused on interbreeding with foreign gastronomy, Homemade Japanese cuisine by Maori Murota (2) is above all a delicious glossary of Japanese dishes. Out of a hundred recipes, the udon noodles with their very particular texture, the gyozas (dumplings seared in a frying pan and cooked with broth), the okonomiyaki (a cabbage omelet-cake), the oyakis (dumplings stuffed and pan-fried brioches) or oden, a stew with sardine dumplings. No complicated techniques but precise, almost ritualized steps, which invite you to cook new flavors.
► Whelks, beans, mayo
Recipe by Julien Lemarié, taken from the book “Donburi” (1)
For 4 people
450g Japanese round rice
4 tbsp. tablespoon rice vinegar
3 tbsp. mirin
1 C. salt
1 kg of raw whelks
1 carrot 1 onion 1 egg yolk
For the mayonnaise
1 C. mustard
250g grapeseed or peanut oil
1 C. tablespoon rice vinegar
1 pinch of salt
1 pinch of pepper
100g green beans
Steam the rice (see steps above) and season it chirashi style (also explained above). Store it at room temperature.
Soak the whelks in cold water for 24 hours. Cut the carrot, the onion in peasant style. When they are disgorged, mix the whelks with the aromatic garnish. Add plenty of water, bring to the boil then cook for 1h30. Let them cool in the cooking water.
Once cooled, peel them and set aside in the fridge. Prepare a mayonnaise, place the egg yolk and mustard in a bowl. Emulsify the mixture with the oil little by little. Add the rice vinegar and salt, pepper to adjust the seasoning. Stalk the beans and cook them for one minute. Cool them down.
In a bowl, arrange the rice, shelled whelks, a few dots of mayonnaise, and create volume with the beans.
Recipe by Maori Murota, taken from the book “Japanese home cooking”
For 8 rooms/4 people
For the dough
190 g wheat flour 10 g potato starch
140ml boiling water
For the pumpkin stuffing (for 4 pieces)
200 g or pumpkin or kabocha (a Japanese variety of pumpkin, sweeter and which contains less water than pumpkin)
1 C. potato starch (for the pumpkin only)
½ tsp. soy sauce
1.5 tbsp. unrefined sugar
1 pinch of salt
15 g coarsely chopped walnuts
For the eggplant and miso stuffing (for 4 pieces)
2 fresh shiitakes
1 C. brown miso
1 C. sake
2 tbsp. soy sauce
1 C. mirin
1 C. unrefined sugar
1.5 tbsp. tablespoon neutral vegetable oil
Potato starch for shaping
Prepare the dough: In a bowl, mix the flour and cornstarch. Pour boiling water and mix with a spatula. Once the dough is less hot, knead it by hand, first in the bowl then on the work surface sprinkled with a little potato starch if the dough sticks too much. Once the dough is smooth, form a ball, wrap it in a damp kitchen towel and leave to rest for 1 hour at room temperature.
Prepare the pumpkin stuffing: peel the pumpkin and cut it into large pieces. Steam it until tender. Drain and mash using a potato masher with the potato starch. Add the soy sauce, sugar and salt, mix. Stir in the nuts. Form 4 balls of stuffing and reserve them in the refrigerator.
Prepare the eggplant stuffing: in a bowl, make the seasoning by mixing the miso, sake, soy sauce, mirin and sugar. Wash the eggplant. Cut the aubergine and shiitake mushrooms into 1cm dice. In a skillet, heat the oil to sauté the eggplant and shiitake mushrooms over medium heat. When eggplant is tender, add seasoning and sauté 4-5 minutes, until liquid has evaporated. Let cool.
Make the oyaki. Lightly flour the work surface with cornstarch. Form a sausage with the dough and cut 8 equal sections. Roll out each ball into 10cm diameter discs using a rolling pin, making sure the edges are thinner than the centre.
Put 1 tablespoon of eggplant stuffing or 1 ball of pumpkin stuffing in the center of each disk and close by pinching the dough on top to form a ball. Turn each oyaki closed side down and flatten slightly.
In a skillet, heat the oil over medium heat. Brown the oyakis on both sides. Pour 100 ml of water and cover. Cook for 8 minutes over medium-low heat. If the water evaporates before the end of cooking, add a little. Taste immediately.
Grilled oyakis freeze very well. When ready to eat, reheat them, without defrosting them first, for 5 to 6 minutes in a steamer basket or 5 to 6 minutes covered with 50 ml of water in a lightly oiled frying pan.