Tai gohan (sea-bream rice) is a classic of Japanese home cooking, and a dish I have always loved. It can be made in a rice cooker or in a clay pot or elegant pan to be served at the table for a wow factor. The fish fillets are cooked over the rice, imparting a delicious flavour to the whole dish. In this version I give a Nikkei interpretation, by adding a dressing of olive oil, yuzu juice and jalapeño green chillies, mixed into the rice just before serving. This is like traditional Japan embracing the spice of South America.
Ingredients (serves 8-10):
- 4 sea bream fillets, scaled and pin-boned
- 600g uncooked short-grain rice
- 550ml dashi (1 tsp instant dashi dissolved in 550ml hot water) or water
- 100ml cup light soy sauce (usukuchi)
- 100ml cup mirin
- 2.5cm piece ginger, peeled and cut in fine julienne strips
- Sansho pepper, a sprinkle
For the Yuzu & Green Jalapeño dressing:
- 1 green jalapeño chilli, de-seeded and finely chopped
- 4 tbsp spring onions, finely chopped
- 4 tbsp yuzu juice
- 4 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
- Wash the rice in a bowl with plenty of fresh water using a circular motion with your hand. Drain the water and repeat this rinsing three or four times until the water runs clear. Let it drain for 15 minutes in a sieve.
- In the meantime, prepare the soaking and cooking broth – combine the dashi or water, mirin and usukuchi soy sauce and set aside. Soak the drained rice between 30min (less sticky) and 4 hours (more sticky) in the cooking broth in the clay pot or rice cooker (see different methods below).
- Rice Cooker Method: After the soaking and before cooking, scatter half of the ginger strips over the rice, lay the sea bream fillets on top and turn the rice cooker on. It should take approximately 15-20 minutes to cook. Once the rice cooker’s alarm beeps indicating that the rice is cooked, let the rice rest for at least 15 minutes before opening the rice cooker.
- Clay Pot Method: tightly wrap a tea towel over the lid of a Japanese clay pot (known as donabe) or if you do not have one you can use a heavy casserole pan. After soaking time and before cooking the rice, scatter half of the ginger strips over the rice, lay the sea bream fillets on the top, I like arranging the fillets so that they look like an open flower, place the lid on top and bring to a boil. Once boiling, bring the temperature down to the minimum setting and cook for 15 minutes. Turn off the heat, and without opening the lid (the lid should not be opened at any stage of the cooking process), let the rice rest for a further 15 minutes.
- Up to this stage, this rice is a traditional Japanese ‘Tao Gohan’ or Japanese sea bream rice and can be served as it is, it will taste delicious. But for added va-va-vroom, I like serving this with a yuzu and green jalapeño dressing which I pour over the fish and rice at the table just before serving. To make the dressing just add all the ingredients together in a bowl and mix well.
- Take the unopened clay pot to the table, open it in front of your guests, and if desired, carefully remove the skin of the fish, sadly some people are squeamish about fish skin. Pour the yuzu and green jalapeño dressing over the fish and rice then using a wide wooden spoon, fluff the rice well breaking the fish into tiny pieces and mixing it together with the dressing into the rice. Mix thoroughly.
- If you are using a rice cooker, follow all the above steps although do not take the rice cooker to the table! Make all the necessary preparation and serve the rice in individual bowls at the table.
- To serve, place the rice in individual rice bowls, top with the remaining 1/2 julienned ginger in the centre of each bowl followed by a sprinkle of sansho pepper and serve immediately.