Day 1: Oyakodon
Japanese is a poetic language, there’s a story behind their words, and often hidden meanings in names or characters. This dish, oyakodon, is a great example.
The two main ingredients are chicken and egg and the ‘oyako’ in the name reflects that – it means ‘parent and child’. It’s a beautifully-artistic name for a dish that is pretty simple and crude.
The meal consists of a big bowl of white rice with a particular mix of ingredients put on top. The typical ingredients are chicken, onion and egg which are all simmered in a broth. Sometimes other foods are included – but those three things are the basics.
One of the interesting things about oyakodon is that the mix of simmering ingredients is poured over the rice before the egg has completely cooked. It’s the heat from the freshly-cooked white rice that finishes the job and helps the egg mixture to solidify.
This is an easy and quick dish to make so it’s often eaten in situations where speed is important. So at lunch, by busy office workers, or from street vendors, for instance.
There is a trick to eating oyakodon that you’ll need to know before you try it. The Japanese will eat it from the bottom up, so that there’s always a bit of topping covering the rice.
If you find you’ve eaten all the egg and chicken mix and there’s still rice in the bottom of your bowl, then you’ve done it wrong!
This oyakodon I found in a small restaurant in the Nakano area of Japan’s capital, Tokyo. As with many things about this city, ordering was a bit quirky.
Rather than looking at a normal menu or telling a waiter what you would like, you need to choose your food from a vending machine at the entrance and exchange your good money for a little voucher. The waiter will then come to your table, take your voucher, and return five minutes later with your meal.
The oyakadon came with hot green tea and a bowl of miso soup and cost 490 yen (US$5.20).