Serve together egg and hen in a bowl of rice with a divinely seasoned broth and you will have a version of one of the most traditional Japanese called donburi (丼): oyakodon (親子丼), also called oyakodonburi.
The pun in oyakodon
The Japanese, like many other peoples of the world, love puns, double meanings, and hidden messages.
All this is helped or complicated by a language composed of thousands of ideograms of Chinese origin, two syllabic alphabets, one for Japanese words and the other for foreign words, the use of Western characters and the constant appearance of many foreign and immediately “Japanized” words. With that, there’s enough material for puns!
Thus, this Japanese dish, oyakodon, is written 親子丼. The word itself means “a bowl of rice with chicken and eggs”.
Why did the Japanese choose such a name for this dish?
This name is taken from the kanji: the first hieroglyph, oya (親) means “parents”, the second, ko (子), means “child” and the third, don or donburi (丼) means “bowl”.
The word oyako therefore means “parent and child”.
If everything is clear with the third part of the word, the use of the first two parts is not entirely clear. The Japanese explain this very simply: the parent is the hen and the egg is the child. The name simply refers to the ingredients of this donburi.
Similarly, there is a dish made up of salmon (sake) and salmon eggs (ikura). This one is called kaisen oyakodon (海鮮親子丼) and literally means “oyakodon of the sea”.
What is a donburi?
Like pizza, whose name often depends on its topping, donburi (丼) means “bowl” and, by extension, “rice bowl”, frequently abbreviated as a don, is a traditional dish of Japanese cuisine consisting of a large bowl of rice on which all kinds of toppings are placed.
What are the different types of donburi?
- Oyakodon made from chicken and eggs.
- Unagidon, made from roasted eels.
- Katsudon, based on tonkatsu (breaded pork).
- Gyūdon, based on beef strips.
- Kimuchidon, based on Korean kimchi.
- Tekkadon, based on tuna sashimi
- Sakedon, based on salmon sashimi.
- Tendon, based on tempura.
Because it is so easy to make, everyone can create their own personalized donburi by placing their favorite garnish on a bowl of rice, and the Japanese call it pāsonaru-don.
What is the origin of oyakodon?
There are two theories on the origin of oyakodon: the Tokyo theory and the Osaka theory, and both theories are from the Meiji period (1868-1912).
The origin of Tokyo’s theory, which dates back to 1887, is Tamahide Restaurant in Ningyocho (Tokyo), the first restaurant to have created and marketed oyakodon.
The third owner’s wife saw a customer once pouring leftover sukiyaki soup (Japanese beef fondue) on rice after eating the ingredients.
So she had the idea of boiling chicken and eggs in soup and placing them on rice so they could be eaten easily.
Today, about 200 people a day go to Tamahide and line up for a delicious oyakodon at lunchtime.
According to Osaka’s theory, the chef of the Japanese restaurant Torikikiku served an oyakodon-like dish to customers from the National Industrial Exhibition held in Osaka in 1903. This dish consisted of boiled chicken, shallots and Chinese cabbage, egg, all on rice. This restaurant has closed its doors since.
In Japan, rice has several names, one of which is Gohan (ごご), which also means “meal”. From this, it is already easy to understand the importance that the Japanese people pay to rice.
It is a tradition that at the table when a Japanese family has finished their meal, the head of the family pours water into each other’s rice bowls and everyone drinks it so as not to lose a single molecule of rice. Rice is in the Japanese DNA.
This white or gohan rice is used alone or as an accompaniment to many recipes, such as donburi or kare raisu, or to prepare onigiri (omusubi / rice balls).
In Japan, all families have a rice cooker called a suihanki, which makes it easier to prepare; it is the basis of the daily diet of all Japanese people. But of course rice can also be prepared without the help of this equipment.
That’s why I’m now offering a classic version, to be cooked in a thick-bottomed pan, which helps to distribute the heat inside.
In Japan, the quantity of rice to cook is generally not weighed, but special measuring cups are used.
It is possible to use a glass, no matter the size. What is important is to use the same amount of rice and water. To obtain a softer rice, it is recommended to add a little more water, about 20% more.
For the preparation of this rice, there are some essential rules:
First of all, the rice must be rinsed thoroughly with cold water. The best technique is to pour the rice into a strainer and plunge the strainer into a large bowl filled with water, then with the palms of both hands, rub the rice to remove the starch and change the water several times.
Usually, the first rinse should not last too long, otherwise a strong starch smell will remain. At first, the water will be very cloudy, the operation must be repeated several times, until the water becomes clear, about 5 to 7 changes of water.
Once the water has become clear, it should be drained well and left to rest in the colander for 30 minutes to an hour. It can be cooked immediately, but letting it rest will give a better result.
Once cooked, the rice should rest for 15 minutes before it is consumed.
It is imperative that, during the entire cooking and resting period, the lid is never lifted!
What is oyako nabe?
For the perfect oyakodon and all donburi in general, it is good to prepare it in a pan called oyako nabe, or donburi nabe or donabe nabe.
The oyako nabe is a very original Japanese frying pan with a vertical handle and very practical. This pan, which measures about 6 inches in diameter, is specifically designed for a single portion of donburi. It is said that in Japanese kitchens, there are several of them and the donburi is prepared as many times as the number of guests.
The vertical handle allows you to gently and easily place the topping prepared in the pan on top of the rice.
It is mistakenly thought that Japanese cuisine is made up only of sushi and sashimi, nothing could be further from the truth!
It is a very rich cuisine, with many recipes of poultry, meat and fish cooked, stewed, fried or steamed.
It is also a very light and easy to digest cuisine, but also very easy to prepare, when all the ingredients can be found.
Try this oyakodon, so easy to prepare and absolutely delicious!
- 1 cup rice
- 2 chicken legs rinsed and dried
- 3 tablespoons mirin
- 1 tablespoon sake
- 1 cup dashi broth
- 3 tablespoons soy sauce
- 1 tablespoon sugar
- 1 spring onion finely chopped
- 2 large eggs beaten
- 2 tablespoons mitsuba Japanese wild parsley, chopped
- 1 chive minced (including green part)
- Add the rice into a fine sieve and place the sieve in a large bowl filled with cold water in the sink.
- Rub it very quickly, lift the sieve and change the water in the bowl.
- Immerse the strainer again in the bowl and rub the rice between the palms of both hands by mixing it.
- While rubbing the rice, change the water 6 or 7 times until the water is completely clear.
- Drain the rice and let it dry in the sieve for 30 minutes to an hour.
- Place the rice in a large thick-bottomed pot and add the same amount of cold water.
- Soak the rice in the liquid for 45 minutes.
- Cover the pan with a tight fitting lid and bring to a boil over high heat.
- Reduce heat very gently, so that the liquid barely simmers and cook for 15 minutes or until all the liquid is absorbed. The lid should never be lifted.
- Remove the pot from the heat without uncovering it and continue to steam for 15 to 20 minutes.
- Cut the chicken legs diagonally and cut them into pieces about 1 inch long.
- In a saucepan, add the mirin and sake and boil over medium heat.
- Add the dashi, soy sauce and sugar, and boil again.
- Add a layer of onions and place the chicken on top. Cover and boil.
- Skim off the foam and fat, and cook over medium heat for 10 minutes.
- Gently and evenly add the beaten egg over the chicken and onion. Cover and simmer until the egg is cooked to your liking.
- Shake the pan from time to time so that the egg and chicken do not stick to the pan.
- Add half of the mitsuba just before removing from the heat.
- Divide the rice into two bowls.
- Place the chicken and egg on top of the rice and pour the sauce over it, to taste.
- Garnish with chives and the other half of the mitsuba.
- Serve immediately.