Recipe courtesy of Kathleen Brennan for Food Network Kitchen

Ochazuke

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  • Level: Easy
  • Total: 5 min
  • Active: 5 min
  • Yield: 1 serving
In its simplest form, ochazuke is literally green tea over rice. Eaten hot (or cold, usually during the summer) at the end of a meal or as a snack, it is the essence of Japanese comfort food. But the light and subtly flavored dish is also wonderful, and more filling, when topped with other savory ingredients. Perhaps the most common choices are salted salmon or pickled plums, crunchy puffed rice balls, toasted sesame seeds and shredded nori seaweed. But there are lots of other popular options, too, such as grilled chicken, salmon roe, hard- or soft-boiled eggs, wakame, tsukemono (pickled vegetables), furikake, pickled ginger, chopped scallions, mitsuba (similar to parsley) or shiso leaves. Mix and match them as you like—you really can’t go wrong. The same goes for the tea. Some people think the toasty notes of genmaicha pair best with salted salmon, while the more delicate sencha is a better match with pickled plums, but there are no rules. You can also substitute dashi for the tea or use instant ochazuke packets (just place the mixture in the bowl with rice and add hot water); both lend more flavor, but I prefer the classic green tea version. One more thing. In Japan, ochazuke is generally made with leftovers: the last scoop of rice, a piece of salmon from dinner earlier in the week, etc., so don’t feel like you need to cook in order to pull this off. First, look in your fridge and try to use what you have. Here, we include a recipe for shiozake (salted salmon), which is a staple of the traditional Japanese breakfast and is commonly used in bento boxes, onigiri (rice balls) and ochazuke, so you can save your leftovers for another meal.

Ingredients

Shiozake:

Directions

  1. Put the hot rice in a small deep bowl. Pour in the tea around the edge of the bowl to keep the rice (and any toppings) in place, then add the soy sauce the same way, if using. If using toppings, add them to the rice before pouring in the tea and soy sauce. Serve immediately.

Shiozake:

  1. Gently toss the salmon fillets in a small dish with the sake, if using, and set aside for about 10 minutes. Drain and pat dry, then evenly coat with 2 tablespoons salt. Arrange the fillets in a glass dish in a single layer between 2 pieces of paper towel, then cover and refrigerate for at least 12 hours and up to 48 hours. (The longer the salmon cures, the more intense the flavor gets. You can also control the saltiness by using more or less salt. Experiment and see what you prefer.)
  2. Position an oven rack in the top third of the oven (so the salmon fillets will be about 4 inches from the broiler) and preheat the broiler to high.
  3. Pat the fillets dry and place skin-side up on a baking pan lined with foil or a broiling pan and lightly coat with high-temperature neutral oil or spray to avoid sticking. Broil until the flesh is well done and the skin is golden brown and crispy, 6 to 8 minutes.

Cook’s Note

Salting the salmon before cooking gives it a more intense, deep flavor, a “drier” texture and a darker color. The sake is optional, but it removes some of the “fishiness” and adds another layer of umami. If you wish to have the salted salmon as a Japanese-style main course, serve it with grated and squeezed daikon radish, a lemon wedge and soy sauce and round out the meal with steamed rice, miso soup and Japanese pickles. You can also make ochazuke with regular salmon instead of salted salmon, cooked whatever way you prefer. Be sure to season the fish generously with salt, though, and/or use the soy sauce to help flavor the rice and tea. For the wasabi, you can place a dab on top of the rice or toppings, or on the side of the bowl to be gradually mixed into the ochazuke as you eat it.