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Japanese chestnut rice (kuri gohan 栗ご飯) is seasoned to perfection and cooked with fresh chestnuts nestled into the grains. The flavour is rich and nutty – perfect for a unique winter side dish.
I first heard of this dish through a good friend of mine who used to live in Toronto, but returned to live in Japan again. Ai and I would plan the most amazing cooking nights in, trying out new recipes. Unfortunately, she isn’t around for us to cook together anymore. But I was reminiscing of our wonderful feasts together when I made this.
How to make Japanese chestnut rice
This version of Japanese chestnut rice (kuri gohan 栗ご飯) is made using a rice cooker, though you can find versions made by steaming in a pot. I love cooking with my Zojirushi rice cooker. It is such a reliable brand and the rice always comes out perfectly. It makes this dish a breeze because you can just do the prep, then set it and forget it until it’s done cooking.
You will, however, still need a pot to soften the chestnuts. This makes them waaay easier to peel and clean. Toss them into a pot of boiling water for three minutes then strain.
how to wash rice
While your chestnuts are boiling, prepare your rice by washing it. For this recipe we are using Japanese short-grain rice. Measure it into the bowl of your rice cooker. With the bowl in your sink, add some cold water and use your hand to gently rub the grains together. The water will become very milky looking.
Pour the cloudy water down the drain and repeat this washing process about four to five times until the water is almost completely transparent.
Fill the rice cooker bowl with the normal amount of water that should be used for cooking, dry the outside of the bowl, and set it the bowl back into the rice cooker.
how to peel chestnuts
Time to peel all those chestnuts. This is easiest to do while they’re still warm from boiling. Carefully insert a knife near the base (opposite the pointy end) and peel back the shell.
Clean out the inner skin and anything from the deep crevasses to leave you with just a beautiful, clean nut. Yes, it’s a bit of manual labour here – but believe me when I tell you the result will be well worth the effort.
Just look at these beautiful nuts. Quickly rinse them – not too much as you don’t want to lose any of the delicate aroma and flavour of the nuts, then strain them and set aside.
seasoning & cooking chestnut rice
Stir mirin, sake, and salt into the rice bowl. Place the cleaned chestnuts on top of the rice. It’s ok if they are sticking out of the water. Sprinkle the top with hondashi. Close the lid to your rice cooker and let it sit for thirty minutes.
Mirin is a rice wine, similar to sake but with a lower alcohol content and higher sugar content from the fermentation process. It has a sweet, tangy flavour.
I used cooking sake (ryōri shu 料理酒), but you could use drinking sake for this if that’s all you can find. The difference is that cooking sake is slightly pre-seasoned.
Hondashi is kind of like the Japanese equivalent to bouillon. It is made from smoked and dried bonito fish, and it is a very common ingredient in Japanese dishes.
Start your rice cooker on the regular setting for white rice. The rice will fluff itself up around the chestnuts and become infused with their flavour, while the chestnuts will become nice and crumbly. Once it is finished cooking, gently stir the rice.
Scoop the chestnut studded rice into individual serving bowls and sprinkle with roasted black sesame seeds. Time to enjoy.Print
Perfectly seasoned rice that is infused with the flavour and aroma of fresh chestnuts in this delicious winter side dish.
2 cups Japanese short-grain rice (180 ml standard rice cooker cups)
2 tbsp mirin
2 tbsp sake *
1 tsp salt
1 tsp hondashi **
roasted black sesame seeds, to taste
Bring water to a boil over medium heat in a large saucepan. Add chestnuts and boil for 3 minutes. This is to soften the peel and skin, making them easier to clean.
Meanwhile, add rice into rice cooker bowl. With the bowl in your sink, add cold water and gently rub the rice grains together to wash them. The water will become a milky white. Pour the cloudy water down the drain and repeat this washing process 4-5 times until the water becomes almost completely transparent.
Fill the rice cooker bowl with the normal amount of water recommended for cooking, dry off the outside of the bowl, and place it back into the rice cooker.
Strain the chestnuts once they have finished boiling. You have to completely remove the peel and inner skin. It will be easier to do this while they are still warm. Cut around the edge of the nut’s base and peel outwards (see reference image above). Lightly rinse and strain the completely cleaned nuts and set them aside.
Stir mirin, sake, and salt into the rice cooker with the rice. Place the chestnuts on top of the rice. It’s ok if they are poking out of the water. Sprinkle the hondashi on top, close the lid and let sit for 30 minutes.
Start the rice cooker and cook on normal mode.
Once it is finished, gently stir the rice. Serve in individual serving bowls topped with roasted black sesame seeds.
* Cooking sake (ryōrishu 料理酒) is used for this dish. However, if you can’t find it you could use drinking sake instead. The difference between them is that cooking sake has some added vinegar and salt for seasoning.
** Hondashi is a very common ingredient in Japanese cooking. It is a seasoning made from smoked and dried bonito fish, and is basically the Japanese equivalent to bouillon.
Keywords: Japanese Chestnut Rice