November 2, 2016
I’ve had many a bowl of ochazuke in my life but never expected to be blown away by a rendition from a random little izakaya called Aburiya in Kushiro. Ochazuke, or “tea rice,” is usually as humble as its name sounds, but here it was taken to the next level.
First, the rice ball was grilled over charcoal, perhaps brushed with a little soy sauce. After it was placed into a small iron bowl, a rich, well-seasoned dashi was poured over it. Finally, it was garnished with freshly chopped mitsuba (Japanese wild parsley), sesame seeds, and flaked salmon. Deceptively simple, but the devil’s in the details.
Freshly-made dashi is incomparably better than the powdered stuff, but the real secret here is in the slow grilling of the rice ball, which infuses the broth with an unparalleled smokiness, elevating this humble dish to ultra-delicious heights. It’s one of those things that makes you metaphorically slap your forehead and go, “Why didn’t I think of that?”
It’s a bit of effort for ochazuke, but it’s the stuff of dreams for a rainy, misty night in Kushiro…