Instead of plain cooked rice, how about shimeji gohan (“rice with shimeji mushrooms”) – rice seasoned with dashi and soy sauce, cooked with mushrooms and chicken? It is surprisingly simple to make and so tasty that it can be eaten by itself with nothing else!
If you replace chicken with other vegetables such as julienned carrots and use vegetarian dashi stock, you can make vegetarian shimeji gohan.
Shimeji gohan (しめじご飯) is one of the popular takikomi gohan (炊き込みご飯 ) recipes in Japan. The word “takikomi” (炊き込み) comes from the verb “takikomu” (炊き込む) which means to cook rice with meat and/or vegetables. Gohan (ご飯) is cooked rice.
So, Takikomi gohan is a generic name for rice cooked with vegetables with/without meat. It is not stir fried rice, it is more like a pilaf but no oil is used.
There are so many different takikomi gohan and you can even invent a new combination of ingredients. I will post a couple of different takikomi gohan in future. Today I am sharing shimeji gohan.
About Shimeji Mushrooms
Japanese believe that shimeji mushrooms have the best taste of all the mushroom varieties, even the most expensive mushrooms in Japan called matsutake mushrooms which cost aroud A$1,250 per kilo.
On the other hand, shimeji mushrooms are not so expensive and you can buy them in Australia, sometimes at even super markets. At Harris Farm Markets in Sydney, 150g / 5.3 oz of shimeji mushrooms cost A$4.49 (it is cheaper at Asian stores – around A$3.00).
Shimeji mushrooms I can find in Sydney do not look the same as those in Japan. Japanese shimeji mushrooms have brownish caps while shimeji I found for this dish have greyish caps (see the photo of shimeji with greyish caps below).
I feel the flavor is not as strong as those in Japan either. But they are still pretty good when cooked, producing distinct aroma and flavor. I really like the flavor of shimeji mushrooms, it actually has mushroom flavor unlike the common white button mushrooms.
There are different species of shimeji mushrooms and sometimes you find a bunch of mushrooms with much whiter caps labelled as shimeji mushrooms. I tried different kinds of shimeji musrooms sold in Sydney. I felt that the mushrooms with whiter caps don’t have as much aroma and flavor as greyish ones. But this is just my opinion and different region and counties might be selling different species of shimeji mushrooms.
When I cook shimeji gohan, I usually add a small amount of chicken and aburaage (油揚げ, deep fried thin tofu) to the rice, giving a bit of volume to it. I once made shimeji gohan without chicken and my kids were extremely disappointed. They say shimeji gohan must have chicken. You can make shimeji gohan without meat, or often julienned carrots can be added to make it more colourful.
You can buy aburaage from Asian/Japanese grocery stores. They are sold frozen and usually come in a pack of 3 (see the left most photo below). Unless you are in Japan, you will probably have to buy frozen aburaage. Before using it, you would normally pour boiling water over the aburaage to get rid of excess oil, squeeze water out, then cut it to required sizes.
Aburaage is one of the ingredients used quite regularly in Japanese dishes, particularly in miso soups, takikomi gohan and simmered dishes. You can find a couple of miso soup examples which use aburaage in Miso Soup Basics and Miso Soup Ingredient Combinations.
At Asian grocery stores, you might find different kinds of deep fried tofu which are not frozen. They are called “fried tofu puffs” and mostly small cubes or triangles. They are much thicker than aburage and you can sometimes see fresh tofu inside.
Nagi had a photo of fried tofu puffs in her recent post, Laksa Noodle Soup so I decided to just borrow her photo which is shown below. You can now see the difference between abraage and fried tofu puffs.
These fried tofu puffs are not best suited for this dish because tofu would crumble when you mix rice and ingredients.
About Sticky Rice
Shimeji gohan is traditionally made with short grain rice but I use a mixture of short grain rice and sticky rice/sweet rice (glutinous rice). The Japanese version of sticky rice is called “mochigome” (もち米).
I used to make takikomi gohan with only short grain rice. But then one day, I bought a bento box to eat on the bullet train from Tokyo to Osaka which had takikomi gohan in it made with sticky rice. I could not believe how much tastier the takikomi gohan was compared to the one made with just normal short grain rice. I liked the texture of the slightly sticky grain as well as its flavour.
Since then, I just became fond of sticky rice takikomi gohan. Takikomi gohan made with sticky rice gives a different texture to the rice and the rice tastes sweeter. I also think that sticky rice tastes better than short grain rice when eaten cold, like the bento box I had in the bullet train.
In this recipe, I used ¼ short grain rice and ¾ sticky rice. The commonly used ratio of short grain and sticky rice is 2:1 respectively. But I add more sticky rice because I just like the texture of sticky rice. You can change the ratio of rice if you wish. Some people may not like the stickiness of rice, in that case you could make takikomi gohan with 100% short grain rice. Or contrary to that, you could even make it with 100% sticky rice if you like it.
Depending on the ratio of short grain rice and sticky rice, you need to adjust the quantity of liquid to cook the rice. This is because sticky rice does not require as much water to cook as other rice, ie. while 100ml of short grain rice needs about 120ml of water to cook, 100ml of sticky rice only needs 80ml of water. So using the formula below, you can calculate the total amount of water/liquid required to cook any ratio of short grain rice and sticky rice. Please note that it is volume (ml, oz, cc or cups), not weight.
Total water/liquid required = Volume of short grain rice x 1.2 + Volume of sticky rice x 0.8
- 150g / 5 oz shimeji mushrooms
- 1 aburaage (fried thin tofu, Note 1)
- 2 cups hot water
- 150g / 5 oz chicken thigh fillets, skin off, diced into about 2cm / ⅘" cubes
- 1 tsp soy sauce (normal soy sauce, not dark soy sauce)
- 1 tsp sake
- 360ml / 12.2 oz rice (¼ short grain rice + ¾ sticky rice) (Note 2)
- 295ml / 10 oz dashi stock (Note 3)
- 1 tbsp sake
- 1 tbsp light soy sauce
- ½ tsp salt
- Mitsuba or snow pea shoots (Note 4)
- Wash rice until water runs clear. Soak the rice in water and leave it for 30 minutes (Note 5).
- Add the Chicken ingredients into a ziplock bag or a bowl, mix well and leave for 10-15 minutes.
- Remove cluster of shimeji mushrooms and separate each stem (Note 6).
- Pour 2 cups of hot water over abraage to remove excess oil, then squeeze water out. Cut aburaage lengthwise into half, then cut into 3-5mm / ⅛-⅕" wide strips crosswise.
- Drain rice using a sieve and place the rice in a heavy based pot, add remaining Rice ingredients. Shake the pot gently and make sure that surface of the rice is evenly flat. Spread the chicken over rice, then spread Shimeji and Aburaage on top. No need to mix.
- Place the lid on and cook as per the steps 5 & 6 of the instruction in How to Cook Rice in Japanese Way. When mixing the rice, try not to damage mushrooms.
- Serve in a rice bowl with mitsuba or snow pea shoots as garnish if using.
2. Shimeji gohan is traditionally made with short grain rice in Japan but I add sticky rice because I like the texture and flavour of sticky rice. Amount of sticky rice to mix with short grain rice is up to you. But if you are using less or more of sticky rice, you’d have to adjust the amount of dashi to use. Please see Note 3 below.
3. For how to make dashi stock, please refer to Home Style Japanese Dashi Stock or if you are vegetarian, Varieties of Dashi Stocks.
Sticky rice requires much less water to cook than short grain rice. So if you increase or decrease amount of sticky rice, the amount of liquid to cook rice would have to be adjusted. You can work out the required liquid using the formula below.
Volume of Sticky Rice x 0.8 + Volume of Short Grain Rice x 1.2 = Volume of Liquid Required
In this recipe, Volume of Liquid Required is 324ml (= 270ml x 0.8 + 90ml x 1.2) / 10.9 oz (= 3 oz x 1.2 + 9.1 oz x 0.8). Since the rice is to be cooked with 1 tablespoon each (15ml / 0.5 oz) of soy sauce and sake, the amount of dashi required is 324ml less 30ml = 295ml (rounded up to multiply of 5) / 10.9 oz less 1 oz = 10 oz (rounded up).
4. Traditional garnish for takikomi gohan is mitsuba (三つ葉) which is a Japanese herb that looks like large flat leaf parsley and has a distinct flavor unlike any other herb.It is not easy to find mitsuba here in Sydney but I was lucky to be able to buy it at the Japanese Grocery store. If you don’t have mitsuba, you can use snow pea shoots. Alternatively, use julienned cooked snow peas, green beans or other vegetables which can add extra colour to the dish instead. But garnish is optional, not critical.
5. By soaking sticky rice in water, each grain will get cooked fluffier.
6. If each shimeji mushroom is large, cut vertically. Tiny mushrooms can be bunched into a small group to make it a similar size to other mushrooms.
7. Nutrition information assumes the recipe is for 4 servings.