Because the waters around Japan become warm in summer, oysters are typically only eaten in months that include an "r" (Septembe_r_ through ap_r_il). With the end of oyster season rapidly approaching, I found a half pound bag of shucked oysters at my local supermarket on sale for about $7 and couldn't resist.
While pre-shucked oysters are convenient, bivalves tend to lose their freshness much faster than other seafood, which is why I'd never eat a pre-shucked oyster raw. Still, oysters can be just as tasty when lightly cooked, and can make an incredibly flavorful broth, which is why I decided to make this Kaki Meshi (牡蠣飯)
With crunchy bamboo shoots, savory abura-age, and creamy morsels of oyster hidden amongst mouth-wateringly savory grains of rice, this Japanese classic is a one-bowl meal that tastes even better than it looks, bursting with umami in every bite. Abura-age (pronounced ah-boo-rah-ah-geh), which literally means "fried in oil" is a tofu product that's been thinly sliced and deep fried. It has a meat-like texture that absorbs flavors like a sponge, making it a bit like oyster-flavored ham, when mixed in with the rice.
Although some people like to cook the oysters together with the rice, I prefer cooking them separately and mixing them together at the end. To get oyster flavor into the rice, I quickly blanch the oysters in boiling water to make a stock. Then I cook them with soy sauce sake and sugar. The rice gets cooked with the stock and extra liquid from the seasoned oysters, ensuring the rice is full-flavored, while preventing the oysters from becoming overcooked.
- 325 grams Japanese short-grain rice (2 cooker cups)
- 2 cups water
- 6 centimeters dashi konbu
- 270 grams oysters shucked
- 1 teaspoon vegetable oil
- 8 grams ginger julienned
- 100 grams prepared bamboo shoots (cut into bite-size pieces)
- 50 grams aburaage (thin fried tofu)
- 1 tablespoon evaporated cane sugar
- 1 tablespoon sake
- 2 tablespoons soy sauce
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- Wash the rice and add to a rice cooker or heavy bottomed pot.
- Prepare a strainer and bowl so you don't overcook the oysters. Put two cups of water and the dashi konbu in a small sauce pan and bring to a boil over high heat.
- Add the oysters and cook for exactly 1 minute and drain the oyster stock into a bowl and set both aside.
- Heat the oil in a frying pan over medium high heat and sauté the ginger until fragrant (but not browned). Add the bamboo, fried tofu, and sugar and sauté until the sugar just starts to caramelize.
- Add the sake, soy sauce, salt, and drained oysters, and stir-fry until the oysters are cooked through.
- If you are cooking the rice in a rice cooker, strain the remaining liquid from the stir-fry into the rice cooker bowl with the rice.
- Add the oyster stock until you reach the bottom of the 2 cup mark on the rice cooker bowl, and then add the dashi konbu you used to make the oyster stock.
- Cook the rice in the rice cooker.
- If you are cooking the rice on the stovetop, strain the liquid into a 2 cup (US) liquid measuring cup.
- Add the oyster stock to the measuring cup until you have a total of 1 ¾ cup (415 milliliters) of liquid. Pour this over the rice and add the konbu you used to make the oyster stock. B
- Bring the pot to a boil over high heat. Cover and reduce the heat to low and cook for 15 minutes.
- Turn off the heat and let the rice steam for 10 more minutes.
- When the rice is done, add the oysters and bamboo and mix everything together. Garnish with chopped mitsuba or scallions and serve.