Easy and Healthy Ochazuke

When my husband first introduced me to ochazuke, I was skeptical. It sounded like something a child accidentally created, like orange juice spilled over cereal. But after trying it for the first time, I was hooked! It’s warm, savory, and creamy; it’s the perfect dish for a cold morning. It’s the very definition of comfort food.

Plus, it’s a healthy low FODMAP dish that has become a staple to my health. I’ll talk more about FODMAPs later for those who are interested in learning more.

So, what is ochazuke, you ask? 

Ochazuke (お茶漬け) comes from the Japanese words Ocha, meaning tea, and Zukeru, meaning to soak. The dish’s base is a bowl of rice steeped in green tea. That’s right, rice with green tea poured over the top. You’re skeptical, right?

But there’s some magic to the way the green tea pulls out the creaminess from the rice. It almost becomes like a risotto.

And that’s not all! Toppings for ochazuke can include savory chunks of salmon, chopped seaweed, rice cracker balls, and more. If you like things a bit more on the sour side, you can also use toppings such as pickled vegetables or umeboshi, pickled plums.

Ochazuke is perfect because nearly anything can be a delicious topping!

If you have leftover fish in the refrigerator that needs to be eaten or leftover vegetables you don’t know what to do with, you can sprinkle them on top of ochazuke for a quick and easy breakfast.

If green tea doesn’t sound all that appealing or you’ve tried it and the taste is too weak, there are other options. You can add a splash of soy sauce to give it a bit of saltiness. Or you can change out the green tea with dashi, a Japanese soup stock made from seaweed and bonito flakes.

Ochazuke

This recipe will make one serving.

Base:

  • 1 cup of steamed rice (preferably short-grain rice)
  • 6 g (2 tsp) of green tea
  • 200 mil of hot water (I recommend stopping the water before it reaches a boil)

My Favorite Toppings:

  • 1 fillet of salmon (salted)
  • Shredded nori (dried seaweed)
  • A handful of mitsuba (you can replace this with parsley)
  • 1 tsp of arare (rice cracker balls). If you can’t find these you can crush some regular rice crackers into small pieces. These mostly add a fun bit of crunch!

Directions:

  1. Place steamed rice into individual bowls.
  2. Pour hot or cold green tea into the bowl until half of the rice is covered.
  3. Place your favorite toppings on the mountain of rice.

If you’re lucky enough to live in Japan you can find instant packets of ochazuke in the store. It makes mornings a lot easier and side dishes for meals a lot quicker. It’s a staple to add to your cabinets for the ever busy and stressful work load in Japan’s daily life.

Tips and Tricks:

Rice Cooker:

I highly recommend getting a rice cooker! It takes out all the trouble of cooking perfectly fluffy rice. It also makes it easier to measure the rice to water ratio.

Even better, you can make a large batch and freeze the leftovers for later use. We wrap individual balls of rice with plastic wrap and store them in the freezer. Then, when we need them for a meal, we toss them in the microwave for a few minutes.

It tastes just as fresh and delicious as the day we cooked it!

Green Tea:

Living in Japan, I’m bound to learn a thing or two about green tea. Living in Shizuoka Prefecture, it’s my civic duty to learn the proper way of making green tea. I’ve been taught many, many times how to make it by the locals. It is a proud tradition in Shizuoka area. They boast that their prefecture is the healthiest because of their locally grown green tea.

So, let me share what I know!

Water temperature is important. It should be between 70°C to 90°C (158°F-194°F). Water should never reach boiling point. You’ll burn the tea leaves and lose a lot of its flavor. It can also make the tea overly bitter.

Steeping time is usually 60 seconds but some teas require a longer steep time of 90 seconds. I usually stick to 60 if the package doesn’t state the time.

Tea Bags:

Pour hot water into the teapot and gently submerge the teabag. After steeping, dunk the teabag in the water around 20 times to help release some of its flavors. Then you’re finished!

Loose-leaf:

Place the tea leaves into the infuser or basket. Take the hot water and pour it into your mug and not the teapot. Then carefully pour the hot water from the mug over the tea leaves. Let it steep for the right amount of time and remove the infuser or basket from the teapot.


FODMAPs:

Recently, I was diagnosed with endometriosis. I’ve been struggling to manage it for at least ten years, but it wasn’t until I had a diagnosis, a name, that I could finally research how to manage it. That’s when I came across FODMAPs and how they can affect the body.

FODMAP stands for fermentable oligosaccharides, disaccharides, monosaccharides, and polyols (short-chain carbohydrates) that the small intestine absorbs poorly. Not only that but this can help reduce some of the discomforts that come with endometriosis and the menstrual cycle’s rollercoaster of hormones.

The good news!

Rice has zero FODMAPs. Green tea is considered very low in FODMAPs. 200 mil of green tea contains around 35 mg of caffeine making it low impact on the body.

Salmon also has zero FODMAPs so you can eat this dish regularly without adding strain to your system. Nori and mitsuba are also considered low FODMAP and safe to eat. Rice crackers are considered low FODMAP in normal serving sizes.

So, overall, ochazuke is incredibly safe and can be eaten multiple times a week! You don’t have to sit around thinking if you’ve consumed too many FODMAPs for the day which is one less thing to stress about.

Overall

So, what do you think? Still skeptical?

I hope you give it a try when you have the chance. You might find yourself making it on a lazy evening after work or on a cold winter morning.

What’s your favorite comfort food for those days when you need to recover from the stress of everyday life?

Hello! I’m Aspen Kumagai, an American living in Japan. Over four years ago, I made the craziest and best decision of my life. I hopped on a plane to chase my dreams and met the love of my life. Now I spend my days traveling across Japan, searching for my next favorite dish, and desperately trying to read the Japanese directions on the back of my face cleanser. Thank god for google translate.

Whether in the kitchen or on a mountaintop, I’m here to inspire you with home-cooked recipes, travel tips, and lifestyle hacks. I share my adventures (and my many mistakes) about living in a foreign country.

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