Ask Boichi about Food 6 – Kamameshi and Japanese rice dishes

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Kamameshi and various Japanese rice dishes you can enjoy in Japan

I received an email from a friend living oversea. He plans to visit Japan and told me about the Japanese food he’d like to eat once there.
He had collected infos about foods from some Japanese gourmet manga books and they had interesting stories about Ekiben (railway boxed meals). One of those was ‘Kamameshi’.
He was wondering what’s Kamameshi and so, asked me about it.

Well, ‘Kamameshi’ style Ekiben combine the concept of Ekiben and the Kamameshi rice dish, but I’ve never tried it.
Its name comes from ‘Kama’, so its boxes are Kama (or similar).

First, I have to tell you about ‘kama’.
Kama is a kind of metal pot and is mainly used to ballow rice.
There is a Korean pot with almost identical shape and use as the Japanese one called ‘Sot(솥)’ in Korean. They’re usually made of steel but copper and aluminium are also sometime used.
Some of the more luxurious ones are made in pottery.

The Korean traditional metal pot, we, Koreans use is called ‘Gamasot(가마솥)’ while the Japanese metal pot is called ‘Kama(釜,かま)’. Their name and pronounciation are almost the same.

So, ‘Kamameshi’ means a bowl of rice made in a Kama. ‘Kama’ for ‘pot’ and ‘meshi’ for ‘rice’.

But the style of Kamameshi I saw in Japanese’s restaurants tells me that it’s not a simple rice bowl prepared in a Kama. I think there’s a different meaning.
It seems to refer to some kind of cooking style.
I remember that a costumer had ordered this meal in a restaurant that served the rice in a small kama.
Maybe those are all ‘Kamameshi’.

However, I’ve yet to eat ‘Kamameshi’ from a specialized restaurant, so I decided to ask someone familiar with Japanese food.
I once booked a dinner at Toyota, the Kaiseki restaurant in Ginza which received two Michelin stars.
I went there and directly asked to a chief. “What’s Kamameshi? And how is different from ‘Takikomigohan (炊き込みご飯: Rice cooked with various ingredients and seasoning)’?”

His answer was very simple and clear.
« ‘Kamameshi’ and ‘Takikomigohan’ are basically the same dishes. It’s just the different ways to serve it. Both cook the rice in a Kama (an iron pot) but if you serve the resulting kama directly to the guest, it’s ‘Kamameshi’. If you put the rice from the kama in a single bowl and hand it to the guest, that’s Takikomigoha.”

Aha, So to put it simply they are both same dish but with sole difference the way they’re served.

The elegant lady sitting next to me listened to our conversation about Takikomigohan, she became excited about it and added adding some precision. »We, Osakan (Osaka resident) call Takikonigohan ‘Komogugohan(五目飯)’.« 

I finally understand what’s the connection between Takkikomigohan(Komokugohan) and Kamameshi.
Before writing this article, I searched on wiki and there it said that Kamameshi was created in Japan in the 1920’s.
The friend from earlier who was wondering about kamameshi, had asked me about its railway boxed meals version.

This Ask Boichi is shaping up to be about interesting stories about Japanese rice dishes so I’d like to use this transition and introduce you to ‘Takikomigohan’ and other various rice dishes you can enjoy in Japan.

I was very lucky to get the authorization from Toyota’s master chief to bring the dishes, pictures and stories from his restaurant to Boichi.com. It’s such an honor, many thanks to him.

I’d like to tell you some more stories when I’ll have the chance.


TakikomigohanTakikomigohan in Totota

Takikomigohan in Toyota. It had Nagano’s autumn special for theme.

He cooked the rice with chestnut and ginko-nut produced in Nagano.

It's not Kamameshi, so he served the rice in a bowl for the costumers.

It’s not Kamameshi, so he served the rice in a bowl for the costumers.

Toyota’s metal pot, kama

Toyota’s metal pot, kama

Matsutake mushroom gohan Kamameshi

Matsutake mushroom gohan

There are many types of Takikomigohan in Japan, but I think the ultimate of Takikomigohan is ‘Matsutake mushroom gohan’. Especially since it’s a limited time dish that we only be tasted in autumn.

This Takikomigohan, made with plenty of Japanese matsutake mushrooms, is a crazy fantasy dish that was created by Toyota last autumn.

The aroma’s symphony touches men’s soul.

Man, I really want to try Toyota’s matsutake mushroom takikomigohan again.

I was so crazy busy this fall that I missed it this season.

Chirashisushi

Chirashisushi

If you love sushi, I recommend you to try ‘Chirashisushi(ちらし寿司)’.

‘Chirashi’ means ‘scattered sushi’. It’s a kind of sushi, with rice mixed with vinegar, sugar and salt where you scatter various ingredients (mostly seafood) on the rice.

This sushi dish is cheaper than ‘Nigirisushi’, the hand-pressed sushi that we usually eat in any sushi restaurant.

There are two reasons why.

The first reason is, it doesn’t require as much cooking skills as Nigirisushi. As for the second reason, the ingredients are simply not as expensive.

This Chirashisushi was my ekiben set that I ate while traveling to Hokkaido for <Origin>’s background research last winter. It was delicious.


Donburi

There is another cool rice dish in Japan called ‘Donburi’!!

In Japanese, it means ‘rice bowl dish’. You put many kind of ingredients in it, such as seafood, meat, vegetables and the you serve it over rice.

The rice could be vinegar rice or simply white rice.

Unidon: Echinoida donburi

Unidon: Echinoida donburi

I took this picture at a restaurant called Kigane in Hakodake city here in Hokkaido.
Kigane received a Micheline star before.

This donburi is ‘Unidon’, which means ‘Echinoida donburi’.

Hokkaido is very famous for echinoida, thus I was able to taste this very delicious unidon as lunch menu.
It was a memorable experience.

Unagidon: Eel donburi

Unagidon: Eel donburi

But my personal favorite donburi is called ‘Unagidon’.
It’s the rice dish that puts grilled eel over warm rice.

This picture of ‘Unagidon’ is a dish of Chikuyo-Tei, a traditional eel restaurant in Ginza.


Ochazuke

‘Ochazuke’ is also a good rice dish in Japan! It’s a very simple dish, just pour hot green tea or water over cooked rice.

Ochazuke

Ochazuke

This picture of ‘Ochazuke’ was served in Tanchazuke restaurant.
It’s made with the restaurant’s speciality of Tempura which is rewarded by two Michelin stars every year.

I believe this place is the best Tempura restaurant in the world.


Ishiyaki bibinba

As a korean myself I’d like to finish by recomending you very delicious Korean rice dish that you can find in Japan.

Ishiyaki bibinba

Ishiyaki bibinba

It is called Dr. St… no… Stone bowl ‘Bibimbap’. In Japan, it’s called ‘Ishiyaki bibinba’.
‘Ishiyaki’ means ‘Stone tools’ or ‘Pottery’.

We, Korean, don’t cook rice in the stone pot itself.
But we put the rice on the stone pot once hot and add the bibimbap ingredients such as ‘namul (나물, vegetables and herbs)’ in it.

The rice is baked as it gets heated by the stone pot.
That baked rice part we, Koreans, call it ‘Nurungji’ while Japanese call it ‘Okoke’.

Also, the materials of Bibimbap are heated by the heat of the stone pot when we mix them.

I took this picture in 2014 when my staffs and me went to a Korean Yakiniku restaurant called Doragi near my studio.

Personally, I can cook bibimbap at home so I rarely order for bibimbap in Korean restaurants.

Thus I don’t have many pictures of bibimbap.

Mixing bibimbap

Mixing bibimbap

Here’s how to mix bibimbap. ‘Bibim’ means ‘mix’ (or mixed) and ‘bap’ means rice. Hence ‘mixed rice’.

It’s a delicious Korean rice dish, so if you’d like to try Japanese rice dish then I’d recommend this one as well.

– Boichi

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