3.22.2014

Hayashi Rice

After our recent travel to Asia, my resolve to cook more Asian food is renewed with gusto. Alas, I think I've traveled to the wrong countries where the standard of a good dish is kicked up to exponential notches. Fear not, friends, I am in the process of re-creating dishes I enjoyed in Taiwan & Singapore so I hope to share with you more of that in the future.

Right now, I'll stick to a more familiar territory of Japanese food. When I was staying in Japan, a long time ago, my host family used to cook me western-style Japanese dish (youshoku, 洋食) which was a bit ironic since I always have had deep curiosity and appreciation of traditional Japanese culture and cuisine. When asked why, my host mother said that many of them were considered comfort food, especially for children, and since her children loved these dishes, she thought of making some for me.

Years later, I appreciate what she said. The Toddler loves the flavor of ketchup, butter, cheese in his food. Similarly, although youshoku are eaten with chopsticks and rice, these western-style Japanese dishes, which often are not found in Western countries, are laced with familiar western flavors: ketchup/tomato for that sweet/sour combination, Worcestershire sauce for that western-version of umami (as opposed to using soy sauce, although soy sauce is also used to some degree), and butter for that rich, roundedness on the tongue.

Perhaps the most popular youshoku is Omuraisu (Omu-rice), thanks to the unforgettable Tanpopo movie. Hayashi Rice (the word hayashi supposedly came from hashed beef) comes a close second in my mind due to the same flavor combo: tomato & demi-glace sauce. Even the parsley that usually plays an afterthought role is front and center here: it enhances the western-ness of the dish as without it, it would be just another "beef in tomato sauce."


A bit about demi-glace sauce: it is apparently not the same as the regular, gourmet-kind demi-glace that you can find at your épicerie fine. In essence, the real demi-glace is 1:1 mixture of broth reduction and sauce espagnole (another sauce made from meat + veggie reduction + tomato product of some kind). Straight up, it tastes very rich in beefy (if it is beef demi-glace), meaty flavor with a background of aromatics. The Japanese demi-glace sauce is more of a "sauce," to me, it tastes like a very much like tomato sauce with a kind of beefy flavor added in the background. For the most authentic taste, see if you can find Japanese demi-glace sauce -- the dish should taste rather tomato-ey. If you can't find Japanese demi-glace sauce, don't waste your $30/oz gourmet demi-glace; my adaptation below requires nothing but common ingredients that can be found in regular grocery store.

Hayashi Rice

Makes 6 servings
(loosely adapted from Cooking with Dog and other recipes. See the video here.)

Dark roux:
4 Tbs butter
6 Tbs flour
1/2 cup beef broth (or a touch more)

1 lb thinly-sliced lean cut beef (like round steak)
a bit cooking oil, if needed

1 medium onion, sliced
2 medium carrots, match-stick sliced
4 oz button mushrooms, sliced
1 clove garlic, minced
1 large ripe tomato, peeled and seeded, diced into cubes. If not available, you can use approx 1 cup of diced canned tomato.
1/2 c red wine
3 Tbs ketchup or tomato paste
2 cups beef broth (more or less)
1 Tbs honey
1 Bay leaf
1 Tbs Worcestershire sauce (the regular kind or Japanese kind)
1 Tbs soy sauce
salt, pepper to taste

A handful of chopped parsley

First, make the roux as follows (also watch Cooking with Dog video above):
Melt butter over low heat. Once all melted, add flour and stir constantly for 8-10 minutes or until butter-flour mixture turns deep brown -- not as deep as the color of dark chocolate but maybe as deep as caramel. Watch carefully as once browned, it gets brown even quicker!
Take the pan out of heat. Pour the broth all at once and mix vigorously, being careful that the mixture can bubble over. If you've done this right, you'll end up with a mass of dough and nothing sticks on your pan (even if you use a regular, not-non-stick pan like mine). Set the roux aside.

Season beef lightly with salt and pepper. Brown them in batches with a little bit of oil. Set the cooked beef aside.

Pour off pan drippings, if any, then add onion and carrots. Saute until onion is soft and slightly caramelized. Add garlic and mushrooms, saute about 3-5 more minutes until fragrant. Mix in the cooked beef, ketchup/tomato paste, and red wine. Turn heat down to medium, reduce the wine until almost all is evaporated, about 2-3 minutes.

Next, pour in broth, honey, bay leaf and diced tomato. Simmer for another 10 minutes or so or until the sauce reduced somewhat. Add the roux in the middle of the mixture, whisk until the roux is all melted and combined. At this point, add your seasonings: Worcestershire sauce, soy sauce, salt and pepper to taste.

Finish with the freshly-chopped parsley and serve with steaming hot Japanese rice.


Although using quite a bit of butter, my version is less oily-tasting on the tongue. The fresh tomato plus tomato paste helps brightened up the dish. If you prefer a sweeter version, substitute the tomato paste with ketchup and up the honey a bit more. 

I hope you've enjoyed this post and happy cooking!

5 comments:

  1. I do agree that youshouku makes the best kind of comfort junk, even though I didn't grow up eating it :) Have bookmarked your tweaked version of this to try out next time I need something cosy to scoop up in front of a J-dorama. Speaking of which, 'Lunch Queen' is a very silly piece of fluff which nonetheless features a legendary demi-glace recipe as a key plot point :) And there are many scenes of omurice and hayashi rice made and eaten through the course of the show.

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    1. (ears perk up) oh, is that on DramaFever as well? Sounds like Chef Sakai himself starred in it if demi-glace making is involved :-)

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    2. Let me know if you decide to make the hayashi rice!

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  2. I wrote such an epic comment but blogger eated it. I think when I try to comment through bloglovin the comments never go through. WHY IS THAT BLOGLOVIN? BLOGHATINCOMMENTS.
    I've never tried Hayashi rice even though I'm such a fan of all the other youshoku foods (omurice ranks super high as does spaghetti with spicy cod roe sauce). Reminds me a bit of Japanese curry, minus the curry! Looks like something to try soon.

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    1. I know, that's why I rarely use Bloglovin nowadays.. There's a restaurant here in Seattle that just sell youshoku food. The name is not even Japanese (it's "Fort St. George,") and it says "Restaurant & Bar" so you would go there and expecting your garden variety bar. But they make MEAN spicy roe spaghetti, that goes well with a tall glass of Asahi.

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