Along with the more ubiquitous Karei Raisu (curry rice), Hayashi Rice, is a family staple in the Japanese home. Much like mac & cheese in the US, Hayashi Rice is a meal that kids love, and one that evokes childhood memories for grown-ups.
Since most households use “instant” roux blocks (as is the case with Japanese curry), Hayashi Rice is a simple comfort food that doesn’t require a lot of fuss. But as good as the roux blocks are, my from-scratch method doesn’t take all that much longer, and the results are definitely worth the few extra minutes to add spices and make the roux. Plus, it’s all natural without MSG or other weird ingredients.
Although this dish has been around for less than 100 years, no one really seems to know where the name comes from. A common story is that it comes from the western term “hashed beef”. While I know that Japanese people have a tendency of mashing together English words, I just don’t buy it. Hashed beef would have more likely turned into something along the lines of “Hashibeefu”. But there’s another theory that the name comes from someone named Hayashi, which seems a more plausible explanation since Hayashi is a pretty common Japanese name.
Regardless of it’s origins, it’s a spiritual cousin to karei raisu that’s somewhere between beef bourguignon and beef stew. With a dark luscious sauce made with caramelized onions, red wine, tomatoes and demi glace, it’s rich and full of flavor. The roux thickens it giving the sauce a gravy like consistency that envelopes the tender beef, onions and mushrooms.
If you happen to end up with leftovers, the sauce is fantastic served over omurice (an omelet with fried rice in the middle). What I usually do is brown some garlic in butter then fry the rice, then make an omelet with an egg or two that I stuff with the garlic rice. Heat up some of the Hayashi and pour it on top and it’s pure heaven.
Hayashi Rice (ハヤシライス)
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 pound well marbled beef chuck cut into 3/4″ pieces
3 onions, trimmed and thinly sliced
3 small cloves garlic minced
1/4 teaspoon baking soda (optional)
2 cups red wine
2 cups water
1 bay leaf
3 tablespoons tomato paste
1 tablespoon tonkatsu sauce (or Worcestershire sauce)
1 tablespoon concentrated demi-glace (not the canned japanese kind)
2 teaspoon soy sauce
1 teaspoon sweet paprika
8 ounces small button or crimini mushrooms, cleaned, trimmed and halved if large
8 ounces cippolini onions, peeled and trimmed
3 tablespoons butter
1/3 cup all purpose flour
Heat a large pot or dutch oven over medium high heat until hot, then add the oil. Generously salt and pepper the beef, then add it to the hot oil. Fry undisturbed for a few minutes or until the beef has a golden brown crust on one side, then flip the beef and fry until browned on the second side. The browned crust is were the flavor is at, so the more crust the better.
Transfer the beef to a plate and set aside. Add some more oil if needed, then add the onions and garlic. Cover with a lid and cook over medium low heat for 10 minutes. Remove the lid, then add the baking soda if you want to speed up the caramelization process. Fry the onions, stirring frequently until it’s about 1/6 of the original volume, and is dark brown and glossy. If you add baking soda, this should take about 20 minutes, if you don’t, it will take about an hour.
Return the beef to the pot along with the wine, water, bay leaf, cloves, tomato past, tonkatsu sauce, demi-glace, soy sauce, and paprika, along with the mushrooms and cippolini onions. Partially cover with a lid and cook for 1-2 hours or until the beef is very tender. While the beef is cooking, heat the butter and flour in a small saucepan over medium high heat. Stir continuously until the butter is melted, then stop stirring until the mixture starts taking on a color. Continue cooking and stirring at regular intervals until the roux has reached a caramel brown color. Remove from the heat.
When the beef is tender, turn the heat down to low, add the roux a spoonful at a time and stir vigorously to keep it from clumping. The hayashi rice should start getting thick pretty quickly (you might not need all the roux). Stop when you’re happy with the thickness. Serve with hot white rice.