Yakiguri Gohan and our mid-December barbecue

Where I come from, people don’t usually cook chestnuts, let alone eat them – you just throw them at each other when you’re a kid. That’s all. The other day, however, I bought some chestnuts and luckily stumbled upon an interesting recipe from a cool blogger Kyoto foodie (recipe at the end).

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It was the 14 of December and the weather was perfect for a barbecue. NOT! As it was a bit chilly, we packed our picnic basket with tea and biscuits.

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Even though we were wearing scarves and gloves, the barbecue was a definite success. The chestnuts came out very charred and full of smoky flavour.

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Theoretically it is easier to peel the chestnuts while they’re hot, so I peeled them straight off the barbecue to find out for myself.
Yes, it is easier. And yes, it does hurt.

 

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I have well over roasted the chestnuts but it didn’t over complicate the dish. And it was a nice way to enjoy a chilly afternoon with ‘chestnuts roasting on an open fire…’  song in my head.

 

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With a few alterations, here was the end result. I have slightly altered the recipe to suit the basic “westerner’s” cupboard items, however the original ingredients are included.

 

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Before you cook, you’re most likely to need a jargon buster:
DASHI KOMBU IS DRIED KELP
KELP IS A TYPE OF SEAWEED
DONABE IS A RICE COOKER/DISH/PAN
SAKE IS JAPANESE HIGH ALCOHOL WINE
MIRIN IS SWEET RICE WINE
YAKIGURI IS ROASTED CHESTNUTS
GOHAN IS RICE

 

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Ingredients:

 

20 medium size chestnuts
1 cup short grain white rice
1 cup of water
2 tablespoons sake*
1 tablespoon mirin**
1 teaspoon salt
dashi kombu***

 

*Sake is a high alcohol Japanese white wine (something over 14% would have a similar effect). I have used 13% dry white wine which was a bit bitter.
**Mirin is a sweet rice wine used in Japanese cooking. Instead of mirin you can just use dry sherry or sweet marsala. I have dissolved a small amount of sugar in a little dry white wine (1/4 teaspoon of sugar to 1/4 cup white wine).
***Dashi Kombu: Dashi kombu is dried kelp (seaweed). It has a very distinct taste and I am not sure of a substitute ingredient. I bought a bag (photo above) for £1.90 from a local Asian store and there are like 7 of them in the bag!

 

Directions:

 

1)      Roast the chestnuts in an oven (180 C) for 10-20 minutes, or on an open fire until charred. Optionally, you can cut crosses in chestnuts so they are exposed to flame and get a smoky flavour.
2)      Add the water and rice to a pot (donabe). Then add sake, mirin and salt. Mix in the chestnuts and place sheet of dried dashi kombu on top.
3)      Heat until near boil and cover the pot. Reduce heat and cook for 10 minutes.
4)      After 10 minutes, remove from heat and leave for 10 minutes.
5)      Uncover and mix gently to break chestnuts into pieces.
6)      Generally the kombu is discarded, but I really enjoyed the chewy little sponge with the meal.

 

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Apparently in certain places in Japan it is considered poor presentation if you leave the chestnuts whole. The reason is if you don’t have a chestnut in every bite, you can’t taste its full flavours. Everything has to be inside the bowl, no rice sticking out. Also, the Japanese are well known for their distinct personalities, attention to detail and aesthetics. So let’s have a nice meal with respect for our food and the ones enjoying it.

 

And Iiiii’m offering the simple phrase… for kids from 1… till 92… Merry Christmas…. tooooooo youuuuu! Tan tan tan, tan tan tan, tan tan tan.. tan tan!

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