I had always been in awe of risotto, the slow-cooked rice of Northern Italy, never daring to cook it myself. This was until one morning, apropos of nothing, the old man whipped together what he called ojiya, a thick porridge of Japanese rice cooked in broth. In it he added miso, sliced scallions and, at the last minute, a raw egg. It was rich, flavorful and, as they say, perfectly mantecato. Truly something to wake up for.
And all this was accomplished in ten minutes, with room-temperature, leftover rice. As it turns out, risotto is not the arcane Italian ritual that I had treated it as–their sacred arborio is after all nothing but a transplant of oryza japonica, Japanese short grain rice. Once I realized they were using our ingredients, I couldn’t help but laugh. What do they know about gohan?
I suppose I should applaud their good taste, but if we’re going to talk about devotion to rice, we can discuss the countless cooks in Japan who only use paddy grown, polished grains and cook them by infrared heat in a fired clay pot, in a country which taxes imports of their national staple and prohibits exports, and whose citizens eat it at virtually all hours of the day. Arborio and carnaroli are certainly worthy of praise, but don’t deserve the untouchable status they’re sometimes given. No one should be intimidated by rice, or its cooking methods, for there are as many ways to explore its beauty as there are cooks. Ojiya is one of those ways.
1 cup cooked rice (uncooked measurement)
2 cups dashi or stock
2 tablespoons white miso
2 scallions, thinly sliced
Bring to a boil and add the rice. Simmer for about 10 minutes or until the liquid has almost completely reduced and turn off the heat. Quickly stir in the miso, without allowing the mixture to boil as it dulls the flavor. A whipped raw egg added at this point increases the richness, but isn’t necessary. Garnish with thinly sliced scallions.