One of my favourite Japanese restaurants in San Francisco is Maki. It's a little hole in the wall in Japan Center next to a bookstore and while it would be hard to go wrong with anything on the menu, their specialty is Wappa Meshi. It's a steamed rice dish that's a specialty of the Fukishima prefecture in central Japan.
Wappa Meshi is basically rice steamed in a cyprus container with some type of fish or mountain vegetable on top. Since moving out east I haven't been able to find a place that serves this regional specialty, so I decided to take matters into my own hands. Though I wasn't able to find the proper steaming vessel here, my improvisation using a rice cooker turned out pretty well.
This particular version gets its name from the combination of salted salmon and salmon roe on top. "Oyako" literally means "parent and child" in Japanese and is more commonly used to refer to oyako donburi, a rice bowl with chicken and chicken egg on top. In this case, it refers to the salmon and its roe.
Adding sake to the rice gives it a nice nutty aroma while steaming the salmon on top infuses the rice with some salmon flavor. You could of course omit the roe if that's not your thing and you can top it with everything from unagi to chicken to beef.
- Wash the rice then add the sake. Fill the cooker to the 2 cup line with water then allow the rice to sit for about 1 hour. After an hour, turn the rice cooker on.
- When the rice is done and is in the steaming phase (in older rice cookers, this is after the cooker clicks off, in new ones, it's when the rice has 10 minutes left) place the 2 pieces of salted salmon on top of the steaming rice. Quickly close the lid and allow the salmon to steam for 10 minutes.
- When the salmon is done, remove it from the rice, add the mitsuba and gently mix the rice using a folding motion. Break up the salmon into pieces and serve on top of the rice with a spoonful of ikura.