I’ve always had a thing for Japanese cooking. It’s (usually) pretty simple, focusing on fresh ingredients and is packed with flavor. My favorite Japanese dishes are ones that wrap everything up in a neat, little package.
Don bowls are a fantastic example of this – tasty, filling and conveniently located in a bowl. My favorite don bowl recipe is Oyakodon, which means chicken and egg (which came first?!).
Traditionally Oyakodon includes sliced chicken, egg, scallions, a sauce or stock and, of course, rice. While I love the traditional, I’ve made some tweaks that I think really kick the textures and flavors up a nawtch.
- 1 large chicken breast, cut into chunks
- 1 medium onion, thinly sliced
- 1 cup dashi (see note below)
- 3 tablespoons soy sauce
- 2 tablespoons dry sake
- 1 tablespoon sugar
- 3 eggs, beaten
- 2 scallions (just the dark green parts), sliced
- 1 cup panko breadcrumbs
- 2 cups cooked, white rice
- 1 broccoli crown, cut into florets
- pickled ginger, thinly sliced (optional)
- Cook time: 25 minutes
The single biggest change in my version of Oyakodon versus the traditional is breading and frying the chicken. This may come off as painfully American, but it actually has a legit culinary reason. If you just sautee your chicken in the stock, you’ll end up with a perfectly tasty dish with just one texture throughout the whole thing. I’m a big fan of contrasts, and so I think breaded chicken really adds to the dish.
Depending on how long your rice takes to cook, you’ll probably need to start this first. Follow the relevant instructions, and add a bit of salt so it doesn’t make the dish bland. When that’s done, fluff with a spoon and set aside to keep warm.
Next, start cutting your chicken breast into chunks, about the size of two dice stacked together. Spread your panko out on a shallow dish. The beauty of panko is you really won’t need to do the whole flour and egg dredge. The crumbs are much larger than Italian breadcumbs and sharp enough that they’ll adhere by just smushing the chicken into them.
Once all your chicken pieces have been smushed and breaded, heat 4 tablespoons of vegetable oil over medium-high heat. Make sure you get this pretty screaming hot, then place your chicken pieces into your pan. A trick to help you remember the order in which you put them in is to lay them down like a clock. Start at 12 and go clockwise until you’ve lined the outer edge of the pan, and then work inwards with one more layer if there’s room.
Make sure you’re giving your little chickens their space, breaded and fried things crave space, so don’t be afraid to do this in batches. For chicken this small, 2-3 minutes per side should be fine to cook thoroughly. Once done, remove chicken with a slotted spoon and place on a paper towel-lined plate to dry. If you’re a worrier, open up one chicken piece to ensure it’s cooked through.
In the same pan, re-heat your oil to medium heat and toss in your sliced onions. Keep an eye on them since we don’t want them browning too much, so stir every minute or two for 5 minutes in total. While that’s happening combine your dashi stock, soy sauce, sake and sugar. After your onions have softened, pour in the sauce mixture and lower heat to medium-low. Simmer for another five minutes.
If you’d like to add more veggies to the dish (just do it fatty), now is a good time to start that process. I like to steam broccoli florets for 3-4 minutes, and then toss them in an ice bath to stop them from over-cooking.
Turn the heat off, and beat your eggs in a separate bowl. Pour in your beaten eggs starting around the outer edge in a circle and then working inwards. At this point, your mixture will look gross and not at all appetizing, but don’t worry that will change! Turn the heat back on and get the mixture up to a light simmer. Cover and simmer for 2-3 minutes.
A note on egg done-ness – I normally LOVE runny eggs, and you can keep your eggs pretty runny by cooking them for less time. This is probably the only dish where I don’t think that’s a good thing. I’d recommend going firmer with your eggs, just trust me on this one.
After simmering, remove the lid from your pan and stir the eggs to break them up in to medium-sized curds. If the mixture is still VERY liquid-y, feel free to simmer for another minute or two. It should be close to the consistency of gravy, but with lumpy, egg curds. Looks much better now, yeah? Now it’s time to plate!
Let’s build some layers. Mix your broccoli, most of your sliced scallions and rice together, then spoon into a bowl. Next spoon egg-onion-stock mixture over the rice and mix together. Lastly, add your breaded chicken and top with additional scallions and sliced ginger if you fancy.
A note on dashi – if you feel so inclined you can make your own dashi broth from scratch. It’s not super difficult, but it isn’t easy either. You can find a recipe for it here. I’ve found that most grocery stores with any sort of international or Asian section have dashi tea bags that make it waaaaaay easier. If you have access to those, I’d strongly recommend going that route. Either way, dashi is a killer stock as the base for tons of dishes, pure umami!
For such a simple dish, it’s got some incredible complexity. My favorite parts are all the little contrasts – the richness of the sauce with the lightness of chicken and steamed vegetables, the smoothness of the eggs and rice with the crunch of breaded chicken and the savory flavors cut by the pickled ginger. There’s a ton going on, all combined easily into a bowl.