Sporadic Happiness (in Japan!)

(formerly) updated every Wednesday

#14 Takikomi Gohan – cooking rice with other things!

So, for some people the title of my post might seem lame.

I am one of those people that LIVE to eat.  I LOVE food.  I love Asian food.  A lot of my coworkers and students seem super surprised when I tell them I sometimes make Japanese food at home (what, am I supposed to have a burger every night like a true American?).

People are also surprised I can use chopsticks – a question that NEVER ENDS in Japan.  It’s one we must all smile politely at and nod and let it go.  Or explain that many people in the US can use chopsticks because you tend to use them at asian food restaurants (if you’re making the effort).  And then of course, when foreigners in Japan get fed up with this question, they can always retort with “Yeah – can you use a fork?” or even getting them back at a later date when you SEE the person eat with a fork, and exclaim in a loud voice “Wow you’re so good at using that fork!”

Anyway, my posts lately have not been about Japan, and since perhaps some of my readers found my blog and read it because they’re interested in Japan, I thought I should do something more Japanese.

Recently I became a vegetarian – not for “oh those poor animals” reasons (though that’s a valid one too), but for health reasons.  I can, and should, write a post on this topic, but some other time.

Because I recently became a vegetarian, I recently opted out of eating the lunches provided at school to all the students and teachers.  These lunches are very nutritious and generally very delicious.  For months I picked out the meat and took it home to throw out.  I got tired of that.  Not to mention that I couldn’t choose my portions – or rather, I did a taboo thing and often took some of my meal home in tupperware when the culture is to finish everything on your plate (even if you get full partway).  I got sick of always having lunch left overs to finish off at dinner.

So because I no longer eat lunches provided to all the teachers and students, I now bring my lunch to school.  I’m not much of a cook; neither am I someone who never touches a frying pan.  I cook occasionally, but by not having lunch provided anymore (or half of dinner provided anymore thanks to the left overs) I’m suddenly finding I need to prepare my meals a lot more often.

So I have decided to go with takikomi gohan for many of my meal needs, supplemented by fruit or the occasional other side dish.

Takikomi gohan means adding vegetables or other mixes directly into your rice cooker and cooking them along with your rice.

In the stores you can buy special mixes that have special flavors and maybe a smattering of vegetables like seaweed (hijiki), mushrooms, carrots, burdock (gobou), etc.

Alternatively you can just cut up vegetables yourself and throw them in the rice cooker along with any salt or flavorings (or add those later).

I did this for the first time, using spinach, diced carrots, and some sort of thick leek sort of thing.  I set it to cook and went out on a walk.

When I got back to my apartment complex, I smelled something delicious, as is fairly common around dinner time walking past houses/apartments.  I unlocked my front door and stepped into my apartment to be greeted with the lovely reality that that smell was coming from MY apartment.

I excitedly rushed over to my rice cooker and opened it up and declared my first attempt at it a success!!!

I’ve now learned I can add a greater amount of vegetables than I did.  That spinach falls apart in the rice cooker which is fine because it adds some color and texture to the rice mixture.  And that seasonings like salt at least should be added before you cook it, and that it still needs further seasonings afterwards (I used garlic powder, black pepper, and parsely, just because I don’t know much about spices and those are the ones I had on hand that seemed like a good idea).  And it was in fact pretty tasty!  And easy.  It will be my lunch for the next 2 days, and I made enough to have 2 more dinners of it as well (meaning a small-ish bowl supplemented by other veggies or fish-based items, as I’m a pesco-vegetarian.)

Now I am quite full and satisfied.

Thanks for reading.

Today’s clip art provided by http://www.clker.com/