Donabe Takenoko Gohan (Bamboo Shoot Rice Cooked in Donabe)

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)

Precooked Takenoko
Takenoko Gohan (Japanese Bamboo Shoot Rice)  竹の子ご飯

Simmering in Dashi BrothTakenoko Gohan (Japanese Bamboo Shoot Rice)  竹の子ご飯
Note the dashi pack on the upper right.

Simmering with ChickenTakenoko Gohan (Japanese Bamboo Shoot Rice)  竹の子ご飯
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
Takenoko Gohan (Japanese Bamboo Shoot Rice)  竹の子ご飯

After: Done Cooking, Ready to Enjoy
Takenoko Gohan (Japanese Bamboo Shoot Rice)  竹の子ご飯

Donabe and Takenoko Gohan Served
Takenoko Gohan (Japanese Bamboo Shoot Rice)  竹の子ご飯

Takenoko Gohan – detail
Takenoko Gohan (Japanese Bamboo Shoot Rice)  竹の子ご飯

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
  • mirin
  • shoyu
  • kombu
  • 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.

12 Responses to “Donabe Takenoko Gohan (Bamboo Shoot Rice Cooked in Donabe)”

  1. [...] « Sea Bream Japanese Feast: Tai Sashimi, Tai Meshi, Tai Nitsuke Donabe Takenoko Gohan (Bamboo Shoot Rice Cooked in Donabe) [...]

  2. Lori says:

    This looks and sounds so tasty. I love takenoko! :)

  3. Peko Peko says:

    Hello Lori, Tasty indeed. Oh, you are back in Japan now it seems!

  4. Mora says:

    Loved the article and recipe, but I was even more thrilled to see the gohan nabe. It’s gorgeous. Would you mind sharing where you purchased it? It looks a bit like Hagi-ware or maybe Shino-ware.

  5. Saitoko says:

    TRIED IT AND LOVED IT! :) …I ended up preparing the fresh takenoko the way you instructed, and went ahead and made the Takenoko Gohan after that, and was just amazed. I never knew bamboo could BE like this! After having only experienced its flavor before by way of plastic, vacuum-sealed store bought containers, I was floored by how wonderfully the komenuka affected its flavor! While I was simmering it, the nuka started browning on the bottom of the pot, which ended up giving the takenoko something I can only describe as being similar to a rich, smoky flavor of roasted chestnut! Why doesn’t the packaged version taste anything like that??? *sigh* Heavenly!

    I used our humbly vintage donabe that was passed down from my husband’s side of the family, which luckily has a little steam hole so I could eyeball the dish as it was in its final stages. I started off with 5 cups of dashi (alas, powdered to save time), but could only find one large takenoko to work with. I ended up getting a bit more chicken to try to balance out the portions of meat and veggies to rice, which ended up being just fine! I added about a Tbsp. of sugar, since we like things a bit more sweet in our house. The only things I left out were the kombu and the garnish at the end. This was the first time I used the donabe for cooking rice in, so I admit I was nervous, but I followed your instructions and never lifted the lid once it was covered. I kept an eye on the steam pouring out, set the timer, and made sure to lower the heat when it felt right to.

    As it turned out, once I uncovered it, it was PERFECT! As you predicted, there was even a delightful little crust of koge on the bottom, which my husband scraped right off and gobbled up. I was so pleased with how well this turned out – Thank you for such a wonderful recipe – It’s so nice to have been able to unlock the full potential of takenoko! :)

  6. Alex I says:

    What restaurant can I find this dish in Kyoto? Your site is very informative.

  7. [...] Mame Gohan Recipe Please see our How to Cook Rice in a Donabe article here for lots of details and explanation. Also, we have an article and video on How to [...]

  8. Just asking a question says:

    hi, how do you make the same recipe but with pre-packaged shoots??? (sorry about the somment before, cousins…)

    thanks, the recipe looks great.

  9. MK says:

    Yikes! I burnt the bottom of my donabe :( Unfortunately instead of okoge, I left it on a bit too long and I got some scorchmarks on the bottom instead.

    Are there any special cleaning methods for donabe stains? I’ve scoured the web but haven’t found any information at all.

  10. Peko Peko says:

    Hello Just asking a question, Your parents gave you a weird name! I think you can use pre-packaged shoots as is, the same as the recipe above. They are essentially the same as what I made in How to Cook Fresh Bamboo Shoots, they are just packaged or canned to keep.

    Hello MK, You mean the inside, right? That has happened to my gohan nabe many times. I just soak it over night, maybe boil some water in it and scrub it out the best I can. A real nabe is like a cast iron pan I think. Some of dinner just becomes a part of the nabe. I wouldn’t do anything like try to scrape it clean with a spoon or other metallic instrument. I just checked the inside of my favorite gohan nabe and it is charred and stained at the bottom.

  11. MK says:

    Thanks for the tip! Yeah, it was on the inside.
    I managed to find something at the Daiso that worked great on this. Baking soda! Sodium bicarbonate. First tried some light scrubbing with it as a paste to remove the surface gunk, and then boiled it in water/baking soda to release the rest of it. The engrish on the package said something about the carbon dioxide releasing the burnt on bits, but it seemed to do a pretty decent job; also it just mentioned nabe and not specifically donabe. The color on the bottom is still darker in some of the pores, but the heavy scorching has mostly washed away. Will probably need to reseason it though.

  12. Peko Peko says:

    You nabe is earthenware, right?

    I wouldn’t be too concerned about the bottom inside of a nabe getting stained and even a bit burnt. From my experience, if you just soak and wash away what comes off easily, you should be fine.

    By the way if you look at the inside of a nabe at a nabe restaurant in Japan, a nabe that has been used for some years or even decades, they are not at all spotless and it is hard to ascertain what the original color of the glaze actually was!

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