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Recipe Mon Jul 09 2007

Bacon and Burdock Seasoned Rice

One of my favorite food categories in Japanese cuisine is takikomi gohan--seasoned rice. Takikomi gohan is usually seasoned with soy sauce, fish or kelp stock, sugar, and various ingredients like chicken, carrots, shiitake mushrooms and bamboo shoots are cut into tiny bits and added. There are wide range of condiments and ingredients that can be used in takikomi gohan, and it seems as though a new one is invented every day. Despite experimentations, however, takikomi gohan remains deeply seated in a Japanese mind as a comfort food that evokes the image of home and the rhythmic tapping sounds of the mother's knife against her cutting board.

Recently, on a Japanese food blog, I came across a takikomi gohan recipe that used bacon (of all things!) in place of fish stock. It does make sense that the rich, meaty flavor of bacon can replace the animal-based stock, but it still was a surprise to see this recipe. Fascinated, I tried it, with a few twists of my own.

The largest change I made to the recipe was the addition of gobo (or burdock). A thin, long root vegetable widely eaten in Korea and Japan, burdock has a pungent, earthy flavor and slightly woody texture. It might take a few trials to take to its strong flavor, but once you get used to it, its unique, earthy taste is quite addictive. Burdocks are a common ingredient for takikomi gohan, and I figured the two powerful flavors (bacon and burdock) should balance with each other. (Burdock is available in many East-Asian markets, as well as in some Whole Foods. Look for dark-brown, flexible, long and thin sticks.)

Bacon & Burdock Rice

Bacon and Burdock Takikomi Gohan (Seasoned Rice) for two

  • 1 cup sticky rice, preferably Korean or Japanese
  • 1.2 cup water
  • 2 bacon strips, cut into 1/3 inch pieces
  • 1/2 tablespoon soy sauce
  • 10 inch burdock, thinly sliced (if thick, use less)
  • 1 scallion, chopped
  • ground black pepper to taste

  1. Heat a small skillet and fry the bacon till the excess fat seeps out but before the bacon becomes too crispy.
  2. Rinse the rice gently in cold water and place it in a small pot with 1.2 cup of cold water.
  3. Add soy sauce, fried bacon and burdock in the pot.
  4. Cook over medium to low heat until the pot starts to bubble. (The lid should start to "dance" due to the vapor pressure.) Turn the heat down to low, and cook for about 15 minutes until all the water is spent.
  5. Let the rice rest for five minutes before opening the lid. (This lets the rice absorb any excess moisture and prevents sogginess.)
  6. Mix in (or sprinkle with) the chopped scallion and ground black pepper.

The rich, greasy-spoon kind of flavor in the bacon and the earthiness in burdock collaborated pretty well, and occasional slightly burnt soy sauce parts imparted nice, nutty flavor. This takikomi gohan tastes so meaty and bacony that it can be the center piece of the meal; serve it with a summer salad and a bowl of miso soup, and the dinner is done in half an hour.

 
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By Brandy Gonsoulin

In 2009, food blogging, social media and Yelp were gaining popularity, and America's revered gastronomic magazine Gourmet shuttered after 68 years in business. Former Cook's Illustrated editor-in-chief Chris Kimball followed with an editorial, stating that "The shuttering of Gourmet reminds...
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