You too can cook washoku / Simmered chicken with light flavor

Courtesy of Mari Nameshida

Chicken drumsticks simmered in black vinegar

By Mari Nameshida / Special to The Japan NewsNimono is a style of Japanese cooking that involves various ingredients, and literally means “a simmered dish.” Most nimono dishes are based on dashi stock, soy sauce, sugar and mirin so that they taste sweet, salty and have umami.

But the simmered chicken dish I will introduce today is another kind of nimono — it tastes more sour, salty and sweet because of the addition of vinegar, and is often called sapparini. Sappari is an adjective that basically means “feeling refreshed.” We use this word particularly after taking a bath, and it can also be used to describe a light or sour flavor.

Vinegar is an essential seasoning for Japanese cooking, and is used for various dishes such as sushi or pickles. I often receive questions about vinegar from my cooking students since there are various kinds in the world, but we mainly use two types: rice vinegar and grain vinegar.

Rice vinegar is mild and has a sweet aroma, so it’s best to use it uncooked, such as for dressings and sushi rice. You can also find black vinegar made from brown rice. This kind of rice vinegar is aged for a few years, so it has a deeper flavor and is more sour.

Vinegar has many benefits for your health, but a big advantage to using this seasoning for today’s dish is tenderizing the meat. Even with a short cooking time, the chicken drumsticks become tender and delicious.

The following recipe uses a regular pot to simmer the ingredients for about 30 minutes, but if you have a pressure cooker, all you need is to prepare the seasonings (you can reduce the amount of sake) and chicken before cooking them for five minutes under high pressure. You can add boiled eggs after you release the pressure and then simmer for a few more minutes to thicken the sauce.

This dish is best served at room temperature, preferably after resting for a day in the fridge, with a cup of rice (or even bread). It’s a good main dish and can be a great topping for a donburi rice bowl as well.

Mari’s recipe for chicken drumsticks simmered in black vinegar

Ingredients (serves 4):

1 tbsp vegetable oil

8 chicken drumsticks (about 800 grams), at room temperature

4 eggs

1 head broccoli, cut into bite-size pieces

1 cup sake

4 tbsp black rice vinegar (or any other vinegar)

2 tbsp soy sauce

2 tbsp black sugar (or regular sugar)

30 grams ginger, sliced

4 tbsp mirin


1. Boil the eggs for six minutes then peel. Blot the chicken well with paper towels. Boil broccoli to your preferred firmness. Set aside.

2. Place oil in a pan then saute the chicken on all sides for a minute. You don’t need to cook it through at this point.

3. Add all seasonings other than mirin to the pan and simmer the chicken over low heat for about 20-30 minutes or until it’s cooked through. While simmering, you can add some water to cover the chicken if needed.

4. Add the boiled eggs and mirin and simmer for another five minutes. The sauce should become a bit thicker when you finish cooking. If the liquid almost disappears during simmering, add water little by little to prevent burning.

5. Plate the chicken, boiled egg, broccoli and sauce to serve.

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