Japan Eats

Recipe: Hayashi rice

Hayashi rice, or hashed beef in demi-glace sauce, is classic yoshoku. But what is the origin of the recipe?

Based on European dishes introduced by visitors to Japan during the late Edo and early Meiji eras, yoshoku is Japanese-style western food. At that time authentic ingredients were hard to come by. As a result, Japanese chefs replaced certain ingredients or rethought the recipes, resulting in dishes know today as Japanese curry, hayashi rice, pork cutlets, omrice, Hamberg steak, etc.

As Japanese comfort food goes, hayashi rice is up there with indigenous dishes such as niku jaga. Typically, recipes call for strips of beef and sliced onion cooked in a thick sauce of red wine and demi-glace. Here, I’ve added shimeji mushrooms for added flavor.

The recipe’s exact origins are unclear. Some say that hashed beef was introduced by visitors to Japan, and the name evolved first into haishi, and then into hayashi. An alternative history has Yuteki Hayashi, founder of the Maruzen chain of bookstores, inventing the dish. According to this version, the dish is named after him.

No matter where the recipe originates, it is today a staple of Japanese home cooking.

Hayashi rice

Hayashi rice

Ingredients (serves 8 – 10)

  • 500 g of onion
  • 300 g of thinly sliced beef
  • 180 g of shimeji mushrooms
  • 2 pinches of salt
  • 2 pinches of black pepper
  • 2 tablespoons of vegetable oil
  • 50 ml of red wine
  • 580 g of demi-glace sauce
  • 2 tablespoons of tomato paste
  • 1 tablespoon of soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoons of sugar
  • 1 tablespoon tonkatsu sauce

Method

First, cut the beef into bite size pieces and season with 2 pinches of salt and black pepper. Slice the onion (with the grain) into pieces 1.5 cm wide and remove the roots of the shimeji. Tear the mushrooms into small pieces.

Warm 1 tablespoon of vegetable oil in a frying pan on medium-high and sauté the beef until browned. Next, move the beef to a casserole dish and pour in 50 ml red wine.

Add the demi-glace sauce and 1 and 1/2 cups of cold water to the casserole dish. Warm on a medium heat. Once it has come to the boil, stew for 20 minutes on a low heat with the lid on.

While you’re waiting for the beef, prepare the onion and the mushrooms. Add 1 table spoon of vegetable oil to the frying pan, warm on high heat, then sauté the onion. When the onions start to soften, add the mushrooms and a pinch of salt and pepper.

Add the sautéd onions and mushrooms to the casserole and stew it for another 20 minutes.

Mix the 2 tablespoons of tomato paste, tablespoon of soy sauce, tablespoon of sugar and tablespoon of tonkatsu sauce in a small bowl, then pour the mixture into the casserole dish.

Stew for another 10 minutes. Check the taste and adjust the flavor with the salt and pepper.

Serve with rice and pickles.

Recipe: Satsumaimo no nimono (sweet potato with pork belly and ginger sauce)

‘Tis harvest season, and what better way to welcome autumn than with satsumaimo?

Satsumaimo (sweet potatoes) have a pink skin and a creamy texture similar to yams. They’re a popular ingredient in Japanese cooking, particularly during the autumn months.

Here, the sweet potato is cooked with pork and ginger. I recommend you serve this together with other dishes and share it out at the dining table.

Sweet potato with pork belly and ginger sauce

Sweet potato with pork belly and ginger sauce

Ingredients (serves 2)

  • 300 – 350 g sweet potato
  • 70 g thinly sliced pork belly
  • 10 – 15 g (or 1 clove) ginger
  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 1 tablespoon sake
  • 2 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 150 ml water

Method

Wash the sweet potato and slice into 1.5 cm thick pieces. Place in a bowl of water for 20 – 30 minutes to remove any astringency.

Potato

Soak the potato in a bowl for 20 - 30 minutes.

Peel the ginger and slice thinly.

Pour 1 tablespoon of vegetable oil into a large pot on a low heat and and sauté the ginger. Once it begins to smell, add the thinly sliced pork belly and turn the heat up to medium. Braise the pork so that the fat begins to coat the base of the pot.

Now strain the sweet potato and use a paper towel to take off any excess water. Add the potato to the pot.

Mix with the pork so that the potato is fully coated by the oil. Sauté for approximately 5 minutes. Don’T worry if at this stage the potatoes look oily – that will change when the next set of ingredients are added.

Next, add the sugar, sake, soy sauce and water (in that order). The sauce should now almost cover the ingredients.

Cut the end of the paper.

1. Cut to match the shape of the bowl.

Cut off the the end of the wedge.

2. Cut off the the end of the wedge.

A finished otoshibuta

3. A finished otoshibuta.

Finished otoshibuta

4. Cover the potato with the otoshibuta.

Place an otoshibuta (a drop lid made from paper – see the photos to the left) over the ingredients and simmer on a low to medium heat for 15 – 20 minutes.

If the sweet potato is soft (use a skewer) the dish is ready. At this point, sauce should be left at the bottom of the pot. When serving, be sure to pour some of the sauce over the ingredients.