Donabe Yaki-kuri Gohan (Roasted Chestnut Rice)

Miwa’s Kyoto Kitchen Recipe An autumn favorite in Japan is kuri-gohan, or rice cooked with chestnuts. Chestnuts are in season now and Miwa got a bag full from Tamba. While roasting and peeling chestnuts takes some time, this is an extremely delicious dish, especially when cooked in a donabe earthenware pot. The flavors are simple and straightforward: rice, chestnut and salt.

Donabe Yakiguri Gohan (Roasted Chestnut Rice) 焼き栗ご飯

Kuri-gohan and O-koge
Kuri-gohan is an autumn favorite, as are yaki-kuri (yakiguri), or roasted chestnuts. This dish is slightly novel in that combines the two. Kuri-gohan is wonderful but it lacks the smokey aroma of well roasted chestnuts. Peeling chestnuts is a bit of a pain, but it is worth the effort and cannot be beat. Roasting and peeling chestnuts can be done with family or friends and makes for a nice time. This dish goes well with seasonal tsukemono pickles and grilled fish.

This dish has a good deal of sugar content from the chestnuts, sake and mirin, so if cooked in a donabe earthenware pot you can be sure that you will get a nice crust of o-koge (お焦げ), slightly burned rice, at the bottom of the donabe pot.

Yakiguri Gohan – Roasting Chestnuts Over Open Flame
Donabe Yakiguri Gohan (Roasted Chestnut Rice)  焼き栗ご飯
The same effect can be accomplished with charcoal, an electric broiler, or even a torch.

Yakiguri Gohan – Roasted Chestnuts, Still Smoldering
Donabe Yakiguri Gohan (Roasted Chestnut Rice)  焼き栗ご飯
These are a bit underdone.

Yaki-kuri Gohan Recipe
Using roasted chestnuts makes this recipe different from the usual kuri gohan.

Ingredients

  • 20-30 medium size fresh chestnuts
  • 1 1/2 – 2 cups short grain white rice
  • fresh water, equal to amount of rice after washing (if using donabe)
  • 2 tablespoons sake (ryorishu cooking sake or sake)
  • 1 tablespoon mirin
  • 1/2 – 1 teaspoon salt
  • dashi kombu (kelp for dashi broth)

Preparation
Peeling the chestnuts: There are numerous ways to peel chestnuts in Japan; boiling, roasting and just peeling raw with a sharp paring knife. Yakiguri (roasted chestnuts) gives a more kobashii (smokey and aromatic) flavor so we flamed the chestnuts to peel them. A charcoal grill could be used as well, the point is the infrared heat.

Chestnuts can be peeled easiest when they are hot, the hotter the better. Try roasting them in small batches to keep them hot while peeling. I burned away most of the outer shell over the gas range and then peeled away the inner skin with my fingers and sometimes favorite ceramic paring knife.

I returned the peeled chestnuts to the flame for just a few seconds to give them some additional ‘yaki’ roast flavor and aroma.

Donabe: Rinse the rice with water several times and place in colander while preparing the donabe and other ingredients. Remeasure rice and add to donabe. Add the same amount of water as rice. Then add sake, mirin and salt. Mix chestnuts into the rice and liquid and place small sheet of dried dashi kombu on top. You could use up to 1 cup of sake in place of water if you want to be very luxurious. Don’t skimp on salt, chestnuts need a good deal of salt to bring out their sweetness.

Heat until near boil and cover donabe. Reduce heat and set timer for 10 minutes. After 10 minutes, remove heat (if you are using an electric range, move the donabe from heat source) and set timer for another 10 minutes.

Uncover and mix gently with shamoji rice paddle and break chestnuts into pieces. You could leave them whole if you like, but that creates a presentation conundrum, or at least in Kyoto it might.

Yakiguri Gohan – Roasted Chestnuts, Ready to Peel
Donabe Yakiguri Gohan (Roasted Chestnut Rice)  焼き栗ご飯
These are well done, the shell has almost been burned away completely. The trick is to peel the inner skin while the chestnut is still hot.

Yakiguri Gohan – Peeled and Roasted Chestnuts
Donabe Yakiguri Gohan (Roasted Chestnut Rice)  焼き栗ご飯
I put these to the flame again for a few seconds after peeling.

Cooking Yakiguri Gohan in Donabe
Donabe Yakiguri Gohan (Roasted Chestnut Rice)  焼き栗ご飯

Cooking Yakiguri Gohan in Donabe
Donabe Yakiguri Gohan (Roasted Chestnut Rice)  焼き栗ご飯

Cooking Yakiguri Gohan in Donabe – Boiling and Ready to Cover
Donabe Yakiguri Gohan (Roasted Chestnut Rice)  焼き栗ご飯

Cooking Yakiguri Gohan in Donabe – 20 Minutes Later, Dekita! (Done)
Donabe Yakiguri Gohan (Roasted Chestnut Rice)  焼き栗ご飯
Generally the kombu is discarded, but I (Peko) like to bite off a chunk and chew it while I am serving the meal.

Yakiguri Gohan – Two Ways to Serve
Donabe Yakiguri Gohan (Roasted Chestnut Rice)  焼き栗ご飯

The Presentation Conundrum
The presentation conundrum is with the whole chestnuts, on the right. Some will probably have been broken in the peeling process and the rice sticks to the tops and sides of the chestnuts in an unnatural and icky way. While the whole chestnuts look much more sexy, gently breaking them with the shamoji rice paddle solves the presentation conundrum and creates a uniform taste. This dish has only three main flavors: rice, chestnut and salt. If you don’t have whole chestnut in every bite, you might be disappointed.

Yakiguri Gohan – Whole Chestnuts
Donabe Yakiguri Gohan (Roasted Chestnut Rice)  焼き栗ご飯
Nice o-koge charring on rice from the bottom of the donabe, this maybe a little too much. The o-koge should never make the rice become hard nor black, golden brown is what you are after. A tiny bit less heat would have made the o-koge come out perfect.

Yakiguri Gohan – Rice and Chestnuts Mix
Donabe Yakiguri Gohan (Roasted Chestnut Rice)  焼き栗ご飯
The bit of rice at the top right of the bowl sticking out is very bad form, you can tell a foreigner served this! Everything inside the bowl, no stray rice sticking grains to the mouth of the bowl!

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9 Responses to “Donabe Yaki-kuri Gohan (Roasted Chestnut Rice)”

  1. Meg says:

    Looks delicious! I adore chestnuts. I roasted some last week, and accidentally let them cool too much before peeling, so it took forever. They were still yummy, though!

  2. CatherineSF says:

    This sounds (and looks) delicious. Can’t wait to try it!

  3. Mora says:

    Nothing says autumn/fall like kuri gohan. Thank you for the recipe. I can think of no better way to spend a crisp afternoon than prepping the chestnuts for this recipe. With your description of the okoge, I’ll have to search the farmers market this weekend for some chestnuts. Thanks as always for your recipes and spot-on descriptions.

  4. Peko Peko says:

    Hello Meg, Yes, temperature is the key, isn’t it? I have been going to chestnut shops in Kyoto since we did this article trying to understand the Zen of Peeling Chestnuts. They have them cold but they are easy to peel. They have some fancy contraptions for roasting and steaming them.

    Hello CatherineSF, Please let us know how it goes!

    Hello Mora, I really wish that you would have a foodie blog! I think that you would be an excellent foodie blogger! Yes, prepping the chestnuts could be a pain or fun with friends and family, depending how you approach it. I always think that my descriptions are lacking, I am glad you like them!

  5. M says:

    This looks so good. So so good. Perfect autumn food.

  6. Risa says:

    Good timing! I bought some kuri the other day to make kuri gohan, but your technique of extra roasting sounds extra delicious. I’m also going to experiment with simmering a few in sugar syrup for kurikinton. I’m already looking ahead to oshogatsu, where I’ll be responsible for feeding my extended family and friends, and candying my own chestnuts will save alot of money.

  7. CatherineSF says:

    Well, I was all set to make chestnut rice this weekend, and then I got an email from Eatpekopeko.com saying they were going to set up a one-off stand at a warehouse sale in the city serving kurimueshi and chicken tsukune! Oishikatta desu ne. . . I’ll get around to doing it myself one of these days!

    On another note, my friends David and Dominique just returned from Kyoto and couldn’t stop raving about how helpful and generous you were with your time and suggestions. Said you absolutely MADE their trip. . .

  8. Kathryn Hill says:

    Hi Peko,

    I cooked this and posted about it on The Kitchn today: http://www.thekitchn.com/thekitchn/recipe-recommendation-kyoto-foodies-chestnut-rice–100192

    おいしい!!!

  9. Scott says:

    This was a great recipe. Nothing says fall more than kuri gohan. We roasted them on our Japanese grill outdoors back in the US. We love the crunchy rise. Thank you for the great website.

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