Chestnuts and Rice

Kuri Gohan

In Japan, this is an elegant dish, in season during October and November when chestnuts are large and flavorful. The traditional manner of preparation requires shelling raw nuts, which is a difficult and time-consuming task. The nutmeats are soaked in an alum solution to prevent discoloration, then rinsed and drained before being cooked with sweetened rice.

The version I’ve given here makes use of cooked chestnuts in syrup, which simplifies the preparation tremendously yet results in a dish very similar to the original.

Chestnuts and Rice is meant to replace plain white rice on a predominantly fish or seafood menu. It is lovely, too, served with roasted poultry in a Western meal, in lieu of stuffing.

Ingredients

  • 2 seven-ounce bottles of yellow chestnuts in heavy syrup (sold as kuri no kanro ni at Oriental groceries)
  • cups raw rice
  • cups water
  • 1 teaspoon mirin (syrupy rice wine)
  • 1–2 tablespoons goma shio (mixture of black sesame seeds and coarse salt)

Method

Drain the chestnuts, reserving 2 teaspoons of the syrup. Cut the nuts in half, blanch them for 30–40 seconds in boiling salted water, then drain them thoroughly.

Wash the rice several times, draining very well after the final rinse. Combine the rice, water, reserved chestnut syrup and syrupy rice wine in a sturdy medium-sized pot, and stir lightly for even distribution. Cook the rice according to the master recipe, and just before drying off the rice, add the chestnut pieces, quickly replacing the lid. Cook over high heat for 20–30 seconds, remove the pot from the heat and let the chestnuts and rice self-steam for about 15 minutes.

Before serving, dampen a wooden paddle in cold water and gently toss the chestnuts and rice. Scoop out individual portions and sprinkle some of the sesame- and-salt mixture over them.

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