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: Buta no shogayaki (pork ginger)

A simple pork sauté that’s full of flavor

Pork ginger is Japanese comfort food, pure and simple. It’s often featured in bento lunches, as it can be prepared in advance and tastes equally good served hot or at room temperature. Best of all, its dead easy to prepare. Serve with a handful of shredded cabbage (kyabetsu no sen-giri).

Pork Ginger

Pork Ginger

Ingredients (serves 2 people)

  • 200 – 250 g pork (sliced between 1 and 1.5 mm)
  • 150 g cabbage
  • 2 tablespoons of flour
  • 20 g (1 clove) of ginger
  • 2 tablespoons of soy sauce
  • 2 tablespoons of sake
  • 1 tablespoon of sugar
  • 2 tablespoons of vegetable oil
  • 100 g chopped onion

Method

Wash the cabbage leaves and remove the core. Pile the leaves together and then roll and cut into 1 mm slices. Place them in cold water for 10 minutes, and drain.

Place a frying pan on the gas table and add one tablespoon of oil. Warm on a low heat.

While heating the pan, take the slices of pork and coat them in a thin layer of flour. Now increase the heat to medium and sauté the pork until brown. Be sure that the pork strips are cooked evenly. When they are ready, take them from the pan and on a plate.

Add 1 tablespoon of vegetable oil to the pan and warm it on a low heat. Slice the onion into pieces 5 mm thick – cut against the grain. Sauté the onion until it softens and becomes translucent.

Now pour the sake, sugar, and soy into the pan. Turn up the heat to medium. Put the pork back into the pan and add the ginger. Mix and cover the pork and ginger with the sauce. Serve with sliced cabbage and a generous helping of the sauce.

Niku jaga

Niku jaga is a dish made with beef or pork, potato, onion and carrots cooked in soy sauce, sake and mirin. In addition to being a winter staple in Japanese homes, niku jaga can sometimes be found on menus in izakaya or tachinomiya.

This recipe uses beef, however the pork version is just as tasty – simply replace the beef in the following recipe with roughly the same amount of thinly sliced pork belly (butabara).

Ingredients (serves 4)

  • 3 potatoes (equivalent to 400g).
  • 250g of thinly sliced beef
  • 1 onion
  • 100 to 150g carrot
  • Shirataki (stringy ‘devil’s tongue’)
  • Haricot beans
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 2 tablespoons sake
  • 2 tablespoons mirin
  • 5 tablespoons soy sauce

Boil a saucepan of water. Drop the shirataki in and boil for one minute. Strain the water and cut the shirataki into bite-sized lengths.

Peel the potatoes and cut them into pieces slightly larger than bite-sized. Bevel the edges and then place them into the bowl of cold water for 5 minutes.

Next, cut the onion into crescents and the beef into strips 3cm wide.

Pour 1 tablespoon of oil into a pan and heat it. Once it’s hot, put the beef into the pan. Take the pan off the gas table. And put it onto a wet towel. This is so the beef will not stick to the pan.

Put the pan back onto the gas table and cook the beef. Once the color of the beef changes, put shirataki, carrot, onion and potato then cook with the beef.

Pour the water so that it doesn’t quite cover the vegetables. Once they are cooked, turn the gas down and remove any scum from the top of the mixture.

Put the sugar, sake and soy sauce, into the pan and heat them for about 20 minutes with the middle flame and place a drop lid (otoshibuta) on the ingredients.

Add the haricot beans, turn the gas up and cook the ingredients as you evaporate the soup.

Serve the stew in a reasonably deep dish.

Tips

  • While you’re cooking niku jaga, don’t mix the ingredients too much.
  • Japanese supermarkets usually offer two kinds of potatoes: Danshaku are a round shape and break apart easily when cooked. Mayqueen potatoes are an oval shape and don’t fall apart when cooked. I prefer danshaku potatoes, but its really up to you which you use.