Oyako donburi (親子丼), which literally means “parent child bowl” is a popular chicken and egg rice bowl in Japan. It’s a simple one bowl meal with flavorful chunks of chicken wrapped in a custardy blanket of eggs, all seasoned with a mild dashi broth that tickles down onto the steamy bed of rice below.
At yakitori (grilled chicken) restaurants, the chicken is often skewered and grilled first. This allows the excess fat to render out the chicken while infusing a great charcoal grilled flavor into the oyakodon. Most home preparations however have you pan fry the chicken. It’s important to leave the skin-on because it keeps the chicken moist and adds flavor, but I’m not a huge fan of the fatty rubbery texture of the skin that gets left. That’s why I’ve developed a method to keep the chicken moistening benefits of the skin while making it all but disappear in the finished donburi.
The trick is to put the chicken into a cold, dry pan, skin side down with a weight on top. By giving the skin good contact with the pan and slowly raising the temperature, the fat in and around the skin has a chance to render out, leaving a crisp, paper-thin layer of chicken skin that’s brimming with flavor. Obviously, you’ll lose the crispness once you add the stock and eggs, but this is fine because the skin once crisped, turns into a sponge that absorbs all the wonderful flavors in the dashi, ensuring each juicy morsel of chicken is full of flavor.
I used a Japanese-style chicken thigh, which is basically the entire chicken leg (thigh and drumstick) deboned in one piece. You can buy a leg and debone it yourself, or just use skin-on boneless chicken thighs. I don’t recommend using chicken breast in this dish because it tends to dry out, but if you do decide to use it, make sure you get it skin-on and be careful not to overcook it.
In Japan, a country where eggs come with two expiration dates (an early date for eating them raw and a later one for eating them cooked), the eggs for oyakodon are served still runny on top. If that’s the way you like them (and you really trust that you’re eggs are salmonella-free), you can skip the step where you cover and steam the eggs. Personally, I wouldn’t take the risk with eggs outside Japan, which is why I cover them and cook them until the eggs are just barely set.
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