It has recently come to my attention that Chinese people do not eat meat on Chinese New Year.
As someone who is accustomed to having a smorgasbord of meat on Chinese New Year, this was a startling revelation to me (I almost didn’t believe my husband when he told me this). A lightbulb went off in my head as I reached an epiphany – “That’s why we eat jai for Chinese New Year!”
Like cleaning the house, the Chinese eat vegetables to clean out their systems and start fresh for the new year. Ah, it was all starting to come together. In any case, I decided to switch gears and have fish for dinner tonight to cleanse my system of all that meat. Okay, that’s still meat. Oh well, I tried.
Salmon ochazuke is nothing new. It has been eaten by the Japanese since the beginning of time, and as a child I have many fond memories of eating ochazuke on a cold evening. Something about its simplicity and warmth make it the ultimate Japanese comfort food. A few years ago, while eating at one of our favorite restaurants, The Pineapple Room, I saw salmon ochazuke on the menu. My first thought was, “why on earth would anyone pay thirty dollars for ochazuke?” But then I saw that it wasn’t just plain old ochazuke, it was salmon risotto ochazuke. Well, that changed everything. It’s like chef Alan Wong took the most basic Japanese comfort food and turned it into gourmet comfort food. I ordered it, and it was amazing.
I couldn’t get salmon risotto ochazuke off my mind for several weeks. I ordered it several more times before I finally decided to make this gourmet comfort food myself. I would have never thought to pair two such simple dishes together for such an amazing effect. And the best thing is, it’s so simple to make. Of course, for the original version of Salmon Risotto Ochazuke, you must visit the Pineapple Room in Honolulu for lunch.
Salmon Risotto Ochazuke Recipe
Yield: 4 servings
- 1 c. arborio rice
- 1/2 c. chopped onion
- 1/4 c. white wine
- 2 Tbsp. butter
- 2 Tbsp. oil
- 1-2 cans of chicken stock
- 4 fillets of salmon
- 8-10 shitake (black) mushrooms – soaked and sliced
- green onions
- Japanese pickled radish (fukujin zuke)
- ochazuke mix
- Tobiko (optional)
- a pot of your favorite green tea
- The Risotto – Heat the oil and butter and brown the onions until translucent. Pour in the rice and stir to coat. Cook for about 1 minute, then add the wine. Bring the heat down to medium low to low. Be sure to keep the heat low otherwise the liquid will just evaporate and your risotto will end up hard and salty. When all the wine is soaked into the rice start adding the chicken broth one half cup at a time. Stir constantly and simmer until all the soup is soaked up before adding the next half cup. You can also heat the chicken broth in a separate pot to keep the temperature constant when you add it to the risotto. Continue until the risotto is soft all the way through (about 20-30 minutes).
- The Salmon – Heat 2 tablespoons of oil in a skillet on medium to medium-high heat. A cast iron skillet will give you the best crust on your salmon, but if you don’t have one, a regular pan works just as well. Season the salmon with salt and pepper on both sides, then add to the hot skillet. Sear the salmon for about 4-5 minutes each side or until you get a nice dark brown crust on the salmon. Let the salmon rest for a few minutes before serving.
- Scoop some risotto into a shallow bowl. Place 1 fillet of salmon on the risotto. Sprinkle the ochazuke mix, pickled radish, tobiko (optional), shitake mushrooms and green onions on top of the salmon. Pour the tea into the bowl or serve on the side.