Growing up, this is one of the things we often made for parties with other Japanese-Australian families and it was always a hit with everyone, especially with the children – we nicknamed this dish ‘yummy chicken’, which says it all really.
The key here is marinating the chicken in the sauce. Don’t be tempted to keep all the delicious marinade in the tray because it will just burn. Instead, drain off the marinade, cook it separately to reduce it, then use it as a glaze towards the end of cooking. You could use fish fillets here instead of the chicken, too. Sake is used for flavour and is a tenderiser, but if you don’t have it, you can use a splash of white wine instead. If you don’t have mirin handy, try a delicate honey instead, which is what my mother would have used.
1 kg (2 lb 4 oz) chicken wings
2 garlic cloves, minced
3 cm (1¼ in) piece of fresh root ginger, peeled and finely grated
2 tablespoons mirin
80 ml (⅓ cup) soy sauce
1 tablespoon sake
1 tablespoon sesame oil
vegetable oil, for greasing
Steamed rice (see below) and your favourite salads, to serve
toasted sesame seeds or the green part of spring onions (scallions), thinly sliced (optional)
Separate the drumettes from the rest of the wing to have two pieces from each wing. You can trim the tips too, if you like, but I am all for the rather crunchy, almost burnt tip of the wing – no sense in wasting that.
Combine the rest of the ingredients in a ceramic baking dish and add the chicken, turning to coat well. Marinate in a cool place for at least 30 minutes (you can also do this well ahead of time, say in the morning before dinner or even the night before).
When you are ready to cook, preheat the oven to 200ºC (400°F/gas 6).
Drain the marinade from the dish into a small saucepan and bring to a fast simmer for about 3–5 minutes, or until reduced slightly. Set aside.
Place the drained chicken wings in a greased baking dish large enough
to fit them in one layer.
Bake for 30 minutes (or up to 15 minutes longer if you are using larger
or meatier chicken wings), turning them over halfway through. They should be golden brown, bubbling and glistening. Brush the marinade-glaze over the wings and serve. If your family don’t have problems with ‘bits’, this is lovely with some sesame seeds or green spring onion slices scattered over the top.
I don’t believe there is any other way to eat chicken wings than with fingers. Serve with rice, any favourite sides (I like the Japanese Potato salad on page 203 and a cucumber salad or even a simple crunchy green salad), finger bowls with water for cleaning sticky fingers, and a separate bowl for collecting the bones.
SERVES 3– 4
Although my grandmother and mother have used an electric rice cooker for as long as I can remember, I have had to cook rice on the stove top ever since moving away for university – and I still do. This is, I find, the best way to replicate the soft, moist, sticky rice that comes out perfectly in an electric rice cooker. It is important to have a small, heavy-based saucepan or earthenware pot with a properly fitting lid, because the second part of the cooking process involves steaming and allowing the rice to finish cooking off the heat, covered.
Soaking the rice before cooking also helps to make it that perfectly soft and slightly sticky consistency, but I for one am often guilty of forgetting or running out of time to do it and I can confirm you can make a decent pot of rice even when skipping the soaking part, but if you get in the habit of remembering to soak the rice, it’ll only be better. One thing you shouldn’t forget to do, though, is wash the rice two or three times before cooking. It should always be part of the ritual of cooking rice. You don’t even have to throw out all the water – save that starchy ‘first wash’ from the rice to cook daikon in; it is said to remove the bitterness from the radish and keep it a brilliant white colour.
For perfect rice, just follow a simple ratio: for each portion of rice, use one and a half times the same volume in water. I generally use a ¼-cup measure per person, so a 1-cup measure of rice for the family needs 1½ cups of water. But you could use anything – a yoghurt pot, a smaller cup measure, an espresso cup – whatever it is, just keep that ratio in mind. The traditional Japanese measure is called a gou and is a volume of 180 ml (about ¾ cup), enough for two to three Japanese rice bowls.
Rice does not keep well in the fridge – the grains go unpleasantly hard and any leftover rice kept this way is only good for making Fried rice (page 102), omuraisu (rice omelette) or Tamago no gohan (page 101) the next day, so unless I know I will be making any of those dishes, I usually make only as much as I need to serve it warm. If you do have leftovers, freeze them in portions. With this method of cooking on the stove top, you can cook even the smallest amount, for one, if you like, but do keep in mind that you will get a better result with a fuller pot, so use a small one for a small amount.
This quantity is just right for three or four small Japanese rice bowls. If you are making a donburi bowl, or are simply a rice lover, you may want to double the amount.
200 g (1 cup) Japanese short-grain rice
375 ml (1½ cups) cool water
Place the rice in a small, deep, heavy-based pan with a tight-fitting lid. Fill with cool water and wash the rice, swirling it with your hand several times. Drain (keep the water for boiling vegetables), then repeat the washing 2–3 more times. Ideally, let it soak for 30 minutes at this point, if you can.
Drain the rice and re-fill the saucepan with the measured cool, fresh water. Set over a low–medium heat on your smallest hob, bring to a simmer, then turn the heat down to the lowest setting, cover with the lid and cook for about 10–12 minutes, or up to 15 minutes. Lifting the lid for a peek will let out much of the desired steam so it is best to avoid this (a well-trained ear can hear when the water has been almost completely absorbed). That said, do keep an eye on it if it is your first time trying this method, as individual stove heats and pan materials do indeed make a difference to cooking rice – at the slightest hint of the rice burning or the water evaporating too quickly, take it off the heat and let it finish cooking by steaming. If you taste the rice at this point it should be just very slightly al dente, still quite moist but not mushy. Turn off the heat, keep the lid on and leave to steam for 10 minutes.
Fluff the warm rice with a rice paddle and serve immediately.
Gohan: Everyday Japanese Cooking by Emiko Davies, published by Smith Street Books, US $35.00 / CAN $47.00, available 12 September 2023.
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