Simple dishes to serve with new-season rice

The Yomiuri Shimbun

Unagi no sansho-ni, front, enokidake no amakara-ni, right in rear, and nasu no sokuseki-zuke

The Yomiuri ShimbunThe season for newly harvested rice has arrived. Plain, freshly cooked new-season rice is delicious on its own, and makes an especially appetizing meal when eaten together with dishes that complement it.

Cooking instructor Setsuko Sugimoto explains how to make three dishes that go perfectly with rice and are easy to cook.

The kind of dishes Sugimoto suggests, dubbed “gohan no tomo” in Japanese, are simple to prepare. “Seasoning the ingredients correctly is key,” she said.

Unagi no sansho-ni

This dish is cooked with shirayaki grilled eel, which is available at most Japanese supermarkets, and tare sauce, which is often included in packs of shirayaki.

Cut eel portions into 3-centimeter-wide pieces. Arrange the pieces in a pot so that they do not overlap. Add 1 tablespoon of salt-pickled mizansho pepper seeds, 1½ tablespoons of tare sauce, 2 tablespoons of sake, 1 tablespoon of mirin, 1½ tablespoons of shoyu and 1 teaspoon of light shoyu. Simmer the ingredients over low heat for about 20 minutes, using a spoon to cover the eel with the seasoning in the pot from time to time.

Simmering the eel helps it absorb flavor, while the surface becomes broiled like teriyaki. If shirayaki is not available, kabayaki (tare-marinated grilled eel) can be used, but less seasoning is needed.

If tare sauce was not included in your pack of shirayaki, you can make a simple version by mixing and simmering equal quantities of shoyu, sake, sugar and mirin. Using thin slices of ginger instead of sansho is another option.

Enokidake no amakara-ni

This popular dish, translated as simmered enoki mushrooms, is widely available in Japanese supermarkets. Because it is such an easy dish to cook, it is worth trying to prepare it at home.

Remove the base of the mushrooms close to the root and cut the remaining parts into 2-centimeter-long pieces. Put the mushrooms in a pot and add 2 tablespoons of sake, 3 tablespoons of mirin, 1 tablespoon of light shoyu, and just under 1 teaspoon of shoyu. Simmer the ingredients over low heat for about 10 minutes and stir constantly to ensure the seasoning spreads throughout the dish. The distinctive consistency of the dish is achieved during the simmering process.

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  • The Yomiuri Shimbun

    Nasu no sokuseki-zuke can be made in a plastic bag.

Nasu no sokuseki-zuke

This dish, translated as quick-pickled eggplant, has a light flavor that is completely different from the other two dishes. A minimum amount of kitchen utensils are needed because the dish can be made using only a plastic bag — which certainly helps to simplify washing up.

Put 1½ cups of water, 2 teaspoons of salt and 1 tablespoon of alum powder in a plastic bag. Lightly shake the bag until the salt and alum powder have dissolved. Cut the eggplant into disks 5 millimeters thick. Cut the larger disks from the bottom end of the eggplant into semicircles. Put the eggplant slices into the plastic bag and seal, ensuring you remove as much air as possible, before placing it in the refrigerator for an hour.

The alum helps the eggplant retain its vivid purple color. Put the eggplant slices into the bag soon after cutting them to prevent it from becoming astringent.

After the eggplant has been left to pickle for at least one hour, remove the liquid from the bag and squeeze the slices to remove excess liquid. Lightly wash the slices with water in the same bag, before once more pouring out the liquid and again squeezing the slices. Put 1½ tablespoons of rice vinegar, 2 teaspoons of sugar, and 1 teaspoon of salt into the bag with the slices and knead them by hand. Finally, add myoga ginger cut into small pieces, and mix the contents of the bag.

“All of the dishes can be kept refrigerated for a while. I hope people will enjoy them with freshly cooked new-season rice,” said Sugimoto.

Main ingredients

Unagi no sansho-ni

Shirayaki eel

1 tbsp salt-pickled mizansho (unground Japanese pepper)

Enokidake no amakara-ni

1 pack enoki mushrooms

Nasu no sokuseki-zuke

2 eggplants

1 piece myoga ginger

1 tsp alum powder

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