Hayashi Rice (ハヤシライス)
Savory, tangy, and sweet, Hayashi Rice is a Japanese stew made by stewing beef with onions and mushrooms and serving it with a side of Japanese short-grain rice. It's a classic Japanese yoshoku comfort food that's become a favorite among kids and grownups alike.
I make my Hayashi rice recipe from scratch, building layers of flavors by browning the meat, mushrooms, and vegetables and balancing their savory umami with the tartness of red wine and tomatoes, along with a hint of sweetness from some honey.
Table of contents
Why This Recipe Works?
- By browning the mushrooms, beef, and onions in the same pot, you build up layers of caramelized fond. This gives the Hayashi Rice roux the umami-packed flavor of demi-glace sauce without actually having to make a demi-glace.
- To properly brown ingredients such as onions and mushrooms, you first have to evaporate most of their water content so they can reach temperatures higher than the boiling point of water. This usually requires a combination of high heat and constant stirring. I split the browning process into two steps to make this a little easier. In the first step, you steam the ingredients covered over low heat. This cooks them through, causing them to release excess water. Then the pot is uncovered, and the heat is turned up to burn off the liquid and get right into browning. This not only speeds things up a little but also reduces the time you'll need to spend stirring the ingredients.
- Hayashi Rice is often made with paper-thin slices of beef, but I like using big chunks of stew meat and simmering them until spoon tender. It takes longer to cook, but most of the time is hands-off, and the results are worth the extra effort.
- Adding a butter and flour roux at the end adds body to this Japanese beef stew while giving it a gloriously glossy sheen.
Ingredients for Hayashi Rice
- Beef - Hayashi Rice is usually made with very thin cuts of cheap beef, but this doesn't allow for proper browning and lacks flavor. Also, since the meat is already so thin, it tends to disintegrate when cooked long enough to dissolve the collagen in the meat. That's why I like using more significant pieces of stew meat such as shank, chuck, or short ribs. I used shanks this time, which tend to have the most connective tissue, a.k.a. collagen. This breaks down into gelatin when cooked for a long time and is responsible for making the meat fall-apart tender without becoming dry. Short ribs don't have much connective tissue, but they make up for it with fat, which also helps keep the meat lubricated. Chuck falls somewhere in between the two and is also a good option.
- Mushrooms - Beef and mushrooms are a classic combination in dishes like Beef Stroganoff and Beef Bourguignon. It's also a core ingredient in Hayashi Rice. Button mushrooms are the most common addition, but people use a mix of mushrooms these days. I personally like using Crimini, Shimeji, and Enoki mushrooms. Crimini mushrooms add a ton of flavor with a meaty texture. Shimeji mushrooms don't have a ton of flavor, but they look fantastic in the stew. Enoki mushrooms have a marvelous, almost crunchy texture, providing a nice contrast to the other ingredients. You can substitute any flavorful mushroom such as porcini and shiitake along with mushrooms that will add a nice texture.
- Butter - Butter adds richness and umami to Hayashi rice, so I like to use it to saute the mushrooms and as an ingredient in the roux. If you can find it, I highly recommend using cultured butter for this because the fermentation process it undergoes before being churned gives it a higher concentration of umami-producing amino acids as well as buttery tasting diacetyl.
- Aromatics - Onions and garlic lend another layer of flavor to Hayashi Rice. I usually cut the onions into relatively thick slices as I don't want them to completely dissolve, and it's not necessary to fully caramelize them for this recipe.
- Beef stock - I like to use beef broth as the liquid for this stew for the beefiest flavor, but chicken stock or vegetable stock will work just as well.
- Red wine - Aside from the dark color it lends to the dish, red wine also contributes a fruity flavor and tartness to this Japanese beef stew.
- Tomato - Tomatoes give Hayashi Rice its reddish-brown color and lend umami, tartness, and a bit of sweetness. I like using a combination of tomato paste and ketchup. These are both concentrated tomato products, which quickly give you a lot of tomato flavor. The ketchup also contains vinegar, sugar, and spices which helps season the stew.
- Chunou Sauce - You may have noticed that there are no herbs or spices in this recipe aside from the black pepper. These flavors come from the chunou sauce, a Japanese condiment made from fruits, vegetables, and spices. Tonkatsu sauce and Okonomiyaki sauce both make suitable substitutes, and if you can't find any of these, you can also use a 50:50 mixture of Worcestershire sauce and ketchup.
- Honey - Most instant Hayashi Rice roux blocks contain a ton of sugar and can be quite sweet. I don't like mine quite as sweet, but it is a trademark part of the dish and helps balance out the tartness of the tomatoes and wine, so I add a bit of honey. You can adjust the amount you add to taste.
- Porcini powder - Dried porcini mushrooms have a high concentration of guanosine monophosphate. This nucleic acid synergizes with the naturally occurring glutamate from the vegetables and meat to boost the taste of umami in this stew. You can buy it as a powder, but you can also grate dried porcini mushrooms with a Microplane. Dried shiitake mushrooms make an excellent alternative to dried porcinis in boosting umami, but they will change the dish's flavor profile.
- Roux - A bit of roux added at the very end thickens the braising liquid just enough to turn it into a rich gravy that's perfect for eating with rice. I use a simple 50:50 butter and flour roux, and by browning it, you get a wonderful nutty flavor.
How to Make Hayashi Rice
The first thing you want to do is season the beef with salt and pepper.
Then you can start heating a big heavy pot such as a Dutch oven over medium-low heat. Add the butter, mushrooms, and salt to the pot and cover it with a lid. Let the mushrooms steam for ten minutes. When the timer goes off, remove the lid and turn up the heat to boil off the liquid.
Once the excess liquid is gone, you can saute the mushrooms until they're nice and browned. This should take another ten to fifteen minutes. When the mushrooms have browned, transfer them to a bowl and set them aside.
To brown the beef, add the olive oil to the pot and place the meat in a single layer. Be careful not to overcrowd the pot, or they will not brown properly. Let these fry undisturbed for about three minutes until you have a nice brown crust on one side. Then, flip them over and brown the opposite side. Once both sides have browned, remove the beef from the pot.
There should be enough oil in the pot at this point, but if there isn't, you can add a bit more olive oil. Next, add the onions, garlic, and water to the pot and cover it with a lid. Reduce the heat to low and let the aromatics steam for ten minutes. When the timer goes off, remove the lid and increase the heat to boil off the excess liquid. Saute the onions for another ten minutes or so, or until they start to brown around the edges.
Deglaze the pot with the red wine and beef stock, and then add the tomato paste, ketchup, chunou sauce, honey, and porcini powder. Return the browned beef to the pot and bring it to a boil. You will probably start to see some greyish foam start to float to the surface. These coagulated proteins from the meat can make the Hayashi Rice taste muddy, so I recommend skimming it off until you don't see anymore.
Reduce the heat as low as it will go, cover the pot, and let the stew simmer for about two hours, or until the meat falls apart when prodded. Make sure you check on it every half hour or so and give it a stir to keep anything that's settled to the bottom from burning to the pot. You want to the amount of liquid to reduce as the stew cooks, but if it starts looking too low, you can add a bit of water.
Once the beef can be easily flaked, add the sauteed mushrooms back into the pot. While you wait for the flavors to mingle, prepare the roux by adding the butter and flour to a small frying pan. Fry the mixture until it is golden brown.
Turn off the heat, add a few ladles of braising liquid from the pot into the roux, and quickly mix this together until it's smooth and free of lumps. Add the roux mixture to the pot and stir it until the Hayashi Rice is nice and thick.
Other Ways to Eat Hayashi Rice
The sauce for Hayashi Rice is loaded with so much flavor it naturally makes a delicious sauce for other dishes. This has led to several mashups such as Omuhayashi (オムハヤシ), which is Omurice topped with Hayashi Rice roux, and Hayashiburg (ハヤシバーグ) which is Hamburg Steak draped in this stew.
One of my favorite ways to use up leftover Hayashi Rice stew is to shred the beef into the sauce to make a meaty ragout. Then I boil some pasta and toss it with the Hayashi Rice sauce and some grated cheese to make an easy delicious pasta.
Other Japanese Stew Recipes
Hayashi Rice is a Japanese stew made with beef, onions, and mushrooms cooked in a rich brown sauce flavored with tomatoes. Together with a side of rice, it's become a staple of Japanese home cooking that's enjoyed by people of all ages. These days, most people make it using instant roux blocks, but I make my homemade Hayashi Rice from scratch.
Under the Tokugawa Shogunate, Japan maintained a strictly isolationist foreign policy from 1633 until 1853, when it reopened its borders to the world. When Japan ushered in the Meiji Era in 1868, Japan's port cities were bustling with trade. The influx of foreigners brought with them the introduction of Western-style foods, including the practice of eating beef. These Western-influenced foods, collectively called yōshoku (洋食), form an entire sub-genre of Japanese cuisine, including favorites such as Tonkatsu, Napolitan, and Chaliapin Steak.
Although several people have claimed to be the inventor of Hayashi Rice, it is not clear who created it first.
Since it's unclear who created Hayashi Rice, the name's origins are equally ambiguous. There are a few theories as to the origins of the name. The most common explanation is that it's a mistransliteration of "hashed beef," a historical dish introduced by the British to Japan. As a result, some people still call this dish Ha'shyudo Beef (ハッシュドビーフ). Other theories posit that it was named after someone named Hayashi. In some versions of this theory, Hayashi is the chef or book publisher who created the dish; in others, he's the customer who requested the dish.
Hayashi Rice is a 6-syllable name pronounced as follows (read the italicized parts).
ha like honk
ya like yacht
shi like sheet
ra the “ra” sound does not exist in the English language, and the best way to make it is to say the word "romp" with the tip of your tongue at the front of your mouth.
i like even
su like soup
Because of the similar name and appearance, the difference between Hayashi Rice and Japanese-style can be confusing if you've never tried them before. Both dishes are stews created in Japan, inspired by dishes from other cultures. Both dishes include a roux to thicken them and are served with rice. But that's where the similarities end. Flavorwise, curry is spicy and fragrant with a savory and sweet taste. Hayashi rice does not include many spices or herbs, but it gets its complexity from layers of browned ingredients such as mushrooms, beef, and onions, along with fruity tomatoes and red wine. Hayashi Rice also has a tangy taste that is not common in curry.
Because Hayashi Rice doesn't contain large pieces of root vegetables such as potatoes or carrots, it lends itself well to freezing. Once it cools, you can put it in a freezer-safe container with a lid or into plastic freezer bags and freeze it for up to 2 months. To heat it up, you can put it into a pot still frozen, along with some water, and then cover the pot up with a lid before reheating over low heat.
- 550 grams beef chuck (cut into 1 ½-inch cubes)
- 1 teaspoon salt
- ½ teaspoon ground black pepper
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 3 tablespoons cultured unsalted butter
- 200 grams crimini mushrooms (cleaned, trimmed, and cut in half if large)
- 300 grams shimeji mushrooms (trimmed and separated)
- 200 grams enoki mushrooms (trimmed and separated)
- ½ teaspoon salt
- 700 grams onion (3 large onions, halved and then sliced ½-inch thick)
- 25 grams garlic (4 large cloves, minced)
- ¼ cup water
- 2 cups beef stock
- 1 cup red wine
- 3 tablespoons tomato paste
- 2 tablespoons ketchup
- 2 tablespoons chunou sauce
- 1 tablespoon mild honey
- 2 teaspoons porcini powder
- 1 tablespoon cultured unsalted butter
- 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
- Sprinkle the beef on all sides with salt and pepper.
- Heat a large heavy-bottomed pot over medium-low heat and add the butter for the mushrooms, along with the crimini, shimeji, and enoki mushrooms and then sprinkle on the salt. Cover the pot with a lid and let the mushrooms steam for 10 minutes.
- Remove the lid and turn up the heat to boil off the liquid. Continue sauteing the mushrooms until they're golden brown (another 10-15 minutes). Transfer the mushrooms to a bowl and set them aside.
- Add the olive oil for the beef, and then spread the cubes of meat in a single layer around the pot. Be sure to leave a gap between each piece of meat, so it browns evenly, and let the beef brown undisturbed (this will take about 3 minutes).
- Once the beef has browned on one side, flip it over and brown the opposite side (another 3 minutes). Transfer the meat to a bowl and set it aside.
- Add the onions, garlic, and water to the pot and cover it with a lid. Turn down the heat and allow this to steam for 10 minutes.
- When the timer is up, remove the lid and turn up the heat to boil off any excess liquid, and saute the onions until they start to brown around the edges (about 10 minutes).
- Add the red wine, beef stock, tomato paste, ketchup, chunou sauce, honey, and porcini powder, and return the beef to the pot. Bring the mixture to a boil. Use a skimmer to skim off any foam that rises to the surface until there isn't much scum appearing.
- Turn down the heat to low, cover the pot with a lid, and allow this to simmer for 2 hours until the beef can be easily flaked with a fork. Be sure to stir the Hayashi Rice every 20-30 minutes to keep it from burning and if the water level looks too low, add a little more. Skim off any excess fat that's floating on the surface.
- When the beef is tender, return the sauteed mushrooms to the pot.
- To make the roux, add the butter and flour to a small pan and cook over medium heat until the mixture turns golden brown.
- Remove the roux from the heat and scoop some of the liquid from the Hayashi Rice into the pan. Mix this together quickly until it is smooth.
- Pour the roux into the Hayashi Rice and stir it until the sauce thickens.
- Serve the Hayashi Rice with Japanese short-grain rice.