A rice cooker is convenient and surefire for making good rice every time. A donabe, or gohan-nabe is an earthenware pot for cooking rice. Getting the amount of heat and time right can be tricky, but once mastered, it produces tastier rice and rice dishes. In a donabe, I cooked my fresh, Kyoto takenoko (bamboo shoot) with rice to make takenoko-gohan.
Donabe Takenoko Gohan (Bamboo Shoot Rice Cooked in Donabe) 土鍋竹の子ご飯
The variations of takenoko-gohan are many, I made this with chicken thigh. Shiitake mushroom is another popular ingredient. Using just takenoko is also very common and perhaps the most ‘Kyoto’ way to make this dish as it is simple, straight forward and focuses just on the taste of the natural, seasonal ingredients.
See ‘How To’ below and this KyotoFoodie article on How to Cook Fresh Bamboo Shoots.
・How to Cook Rice in a Donabe
・Takenoko Gohan Recipe (Bamboo Shoot Rice)
Simmering in Dashi Broth
Note the dashi pack on the upper right.
Simmering with Chicken
The amount of dashi has cooked down to about half. Ideally this will be the amount of liquid needed to cook the rice in.
Before: In Donabe with Atsuage Tofu and Kombu Added
After: Done Cooking, Ready to Enjoy
Donabe and Takenoko Gohan Served
Takenoko Gohan – detail
How to Cook Rice in a Donabe
Water to Rice Ratio
For donabe, the main point is the ratio of liquid to rice. More water is needed than for a modern, electric rice cooker. The ratio is very simple though; use the same volume of water as rice. (If you add dashi, cooking sake etc to the rice, count that as part of the water.) Some say that you should calculate this after you have thoroughly washed the rice as it will absorb some water and swell a little bit.
Heat and Cooking Time
Cook for 7-8 minutes and allow to sit for 10 minutes after removing heat.
A donabe is very thick and heavy and can take 5 minutes or so to bring to a boil. After it begins to boil, reduce heat. Every donabe is different so you need to learn the unique characteristics of yours. If you cover the donabe immediately after turning down the heat it might boil over immediately. Not all do though, it depends of the shape, thickness of the walls and whether or not it contains a small hole in the cover to release steam.
So, bring to a boil, reduce heat, cover and simmer for another 7 or 8 minutes.
Then, remove heat and allow to sit for another 10 minutes. As the donabe is very thick, even once you remove the heat, it will just keep on cooking for several minutes as though the gas were still on.
DO NOT remove the lid during these 18 or so minutes.
One of the delightful things about cooking in a donabe is that the rice at the bottom of the pot will burn, or caramelize slightly. This is considered good, and is called koge in Japanese. However, if it smells burned, remove heat immediately. If it does burn, don’t worry, you will likely just have lost the bottom few millimeters of your dinner.
If the donabe has a steam release hole, this will make it much easier to understand what is happening inside the donabe. Once there is no more steam escaping, dinner is done. At this point if you remove the heat, dinner ought to be perfect. Just a slight koge at the bottom, but not burned.
In Japan, newer gas ranges have a sensor that magically senses when the rice is done and automatically turns off. That is really totally awesome. My current gas range doesn’t have the sensor and my dobabe doesn’t have the steam release hole.
＊Again, each donabe design is different, so cooking times cannot be standardized. You will have to find the ‘Zen of Rice Cooking’ for the particular donabe that you have. Even the season and the freshness of the rice influences how much water will be required. Shinmai, or ‘new rice’ has more water content.
Takenoko Gohan Recipe (Bamboo Shoot Rice)
- 3 cups or rice (I use a combination of lightly milled brown rice, white rice and oshi-mugi, or pressed oats)
- 5-6 cups of dashi
- 2-3 cups of sliced (precooked) bamboo shoot
- 1-2 cups of chicken thigh, with skin
- atsuage toru (deep fried tofu)
- cooking sake
- ki-no-me (sansho pepper plant leaves)
This is my recipe. I start with 5 or 6 cups of water and bring to boil and add ‘dashi pack’. See photo, it’s the tea bag looking thing. Of course dashi powder or concentrate is available, but if you use a dashi pack with natural ingredients, the taste will be completely superior.
Add the sliced bamboo shoot and bring to boil. If you are using canned or packaged bamboo shoot you can probably add the chicken right away, but I did my takenoko fresh today and it was still somewhat bitter after I ‘precooked’ it, so I boiled it alone in the dashi for about 20 minutes then added the chicken.
I simmered the takenoko and chicken in the dashi for about an hour total, until the amount of liquid had been reduced to about half.
I put about half cup of cooking sake (OK, probably a whole cup) in the donabe, added the rice after washing it and then measured out the required amount of dashi, which came to be all I had left. On top of this, I add the bamboo, chicken, sliced atsuage tofu and a few pieces of kombu. Finally one tablespoon each of mirin and shoyu. (If you can’t obtain mirin, you can skip it completely or add a tiny bit of sugar.)
Cover and cook as shown above.
After cooking (and sitting 10 minutes) turn over gently with a rice paddle or similar utensil, mixing the ingredients in the donabe. Re-cover for several minutes and then serve in a large bowl and garnish with ki-no-me (sansho pepper leaf) if you can obtain it.
Of course, this dish can be cooked in a conventional rice cooker or metal pot.