i have been
feeling under the weather sicksicksick with a head and chest cold for the past three weeks. it's v. tiresome, and in my state of lumbering phlegmosity i find it rather funny that whilst my natural inclination is to take an axe to my chest to rip my lungs out, the only things that really seem to make me feel better (besides that lovely course of antibiotics), is plain rice and weak tea. i have also turned to the rather delicate combination of both, ochazuke, many a time in these past few weeks.
ochazuke is a light japanese dish that is a combination of hot rice with green tea or dashi (fish stock) poured over it (ocha-tea + tsuke-moisten), with a few toppings or garnishes. typically these include nori (roasted seaweed), wakame (seaweed), tiny rice pellets or crushed arare rice crackers, tsukemono, umeboshi (pickled vegetables, sour plums), dried bonito shavings, or tarako (cod roe), but aren't limited to these options in any way. also, you are not limited to what kind of tea you use--while brewed sencha or bancha (regular green tea) is the norm, hojicha (oven-roasted green tea) and genmaicha (green tea with roasted rice) are often used, and i have tried it with some black teas like oolong as well (however, matcha--the powdered green tea that is used in a lot of the desserts on this blog--isn't appropriate in this case).
i have to admit, that when i am at work (yes, i go to work sick; i work in a medical office and i have coughed on people. you call it rude, i call it repeat business. kidding. sort of. ), i tend to rely on the many packaged varieties of ochazuke available. however, it is simple enough to make it on your own with whatever ingredients you have on hand.
i have eaten some form of ochazuke for breakfast, lunch, dinner, or sometimes just as a snack. in the mornings, i tend to go quite simply with white rice, wakame and nori seaweeds, some crumbled rice crackers and brewed green tea. it is very mild, slightly salty, toasty, filling and happily provides me with enough caffeine to jump start my day.
if i need a little more of a wake-up call or a pick me up at work, i will add umeboshi (sour plums), for a little bit of a kick, switch out the white rice with some brown or red rice, and pour out half tea, half dashi or konbu seaweed stock. i do rather love that i can finally put my lovely totoro bento bowl to use at lunchtime; i go the local japanese deli and pick up a few yaki onigiri (grilled rice balls), which i use in place of the steamed rice altogether--this along with one of the little ochazuke packets and some tsukemono pickles, make me a happy little bento boxer.
since i am on the mend, i have been adding a little bit of fish to my tsukemono for an island-style poke (a hawaiian fish salad, pronounced 'poh-keh'). a little bit of raw ahi (yellowtail) and gochujang (kimchi paste) add some needed protein and a garlic and spicy pepper kick that is better than any over-the-counter prescription medication for clearing out the sinuses.
there's more on ochazuke on maki's, chika's, hanna's, mari's, and alice's respective blogs. read up, eat up!
wee update 03 october: pokemon ochazuke !
yaki onigiri (grilled rice balls)
1 cup cooked short-grain white rice, cooled
shape 1/3 to 1/2 cup of rice in an onigiri mold, cookie cutter, an appropriate measuring cup or freehand it; pack it firmly together so it doesn't fall apart. sprinkle a little salt on both surfaces, rub lightly. grill the patties on a preheated grill or griddle (a very hot pan will work, too), until golden brown. brush lightly with soy sauce at least once during cooking.
1 japanese cucumber, or any thin-type cucumber, diced
1 cup diced takuan radish
1 pound fresh ahi tuna, diced
toasted sesame oil (about 2 tablespoonfuls)
toasted sesame seeds (a few tablespoonfuls would be nice)
2 stalks green onions, chopped
1/3 to 1/2 cup gochujang (kimchi seasoning paste)
hawaiian rock salt, or kosher salt
salt the diced cucumbers lightly, then set aside for at least 10 minutes. place the cucumbers on a clean kitchen towel, then squeeze lightly or pat firmly to remove some of the excess moisture. combine them with the diced takuan and ahi in a bowl, drizzle with the toasted sesame oil, toasted sesame seeds and green onions, then toss. add gochujang to taste. add salt if necessary. keep refrigerated until ready to serve.