As a designer, I used to travel to Japan for my job. I learned to love the simply cooked comforting rice dishes that the Japanese would eat at home. They were the only thing that helped my jet lag. When I later started to go on retreats at a Zen monastery in upstate New York, I was thrilled to find that many of these same dishes would turn up at lunch there. Among my favorites were the simple steamed rice dishes that incorporate beans, nuts or vegetables. I was always happy when this chestnut rice was served as a treat on special occasions.
- 2-pounds chestnuts, or 15-ounces jarred
- 1 tablespoon sugar, if using fresh chestnuts
- 3 cups short grain white sushi rice, washed and drained a few times
- 4 cups water
- 2 tablespoons sake or dry sherry
- 2 tablespoons mirin
- 2 tablespoons soy sauce
- 1 teaspoons salt
- 3-inch piece kombu
- 4 leaves kale, chopped
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1. If using fresh chestnuts place in a pot of water. Bring to a boil. Once the water has boiled, turn off the heat, cover, and let the chestnuts sit in the hot water for 30 minutes to soften the shells. Drain. When cool enough to handle, but while still warm, use a sharp knife to crack open the chestnuts. Peel and discard the shells. Put the chestnuts in a plastic sealable bag with the sugar. Massage the chestnuts and freeze for 4 hours. Rinse once ready to use. (See Ann’s Tip)
2. Combine the rice, water, sake, mirin, soy sauce, salt, and kombu in a rice cooker pot or heavy stockpot. Gently stir. Top with the chopped kale and chestnuts. Cook in a rice cooker or if cooking on the stovetop, bring the rice and water to a boil. Cover and turn the heat down to low, and continue to simmer for 20 minutes. Do not lift the lid. Turn off the heat and keep the rice covered to steam for 10-15 minutes. No peeking! Mix the rice and serve.
If you do not have the time to freeze the chestnuts, don’t worry. This is only done to preserve their bright yellow color.
You can also make this dish with brown rice. Using the same amounts of all ingredients, add the rice, water kombu, mirin, soy sauce and sake to a pot or rice cooker. Bring to a boil, cover and cook the rice over a low heat for 20 minutes. Add the kale and chestnuts. Cover again and continue cooking for 20 minutes and finish as per the recipe above.