Ochazuke is a quick-to-prepare traditional Japanese dish made by pouring green tea over cooked rice and topping it with a sprinkle of savories. It has been around in one form or another since at least the 8th-century Heian era.
The toppings and green tea instantly transform a humble bowl of rice into a culinary delight.
Traditional toppings include savories such as nori (dried seasoned seaweed), arare (crushed rice crackers), umeboshi (pickled plums), katsuo-bushi (bonito flakes) and iri-goma (toasted sesame seeds).
Below is a typical recipe with nori, arare, and umeboshi.
- One bowl of cooked rice. White rice is fine, though I prefer brown.
- One cup of green tea
- One sheet of nori (about 5×5 cm). Cut into strips
- Japanese rice crackers (any kind). The small, bite-sized ones are called arare
- One or two umeboshi pickled plums
Hint: You can choose any green tea you like. I like konacha because it is fast to prepare and economical (it’s what most sushi bars serve). Sencha is excellent, but it’s such a high-end tea that I prefer to have it by itself. Teas like hojicha will add a distinct raosty flavor to your dish.
- Brew your green tea (you can read about how-to-brew how-to-brew)
- Put the rice crackers in a small plastic bag and crush (a rollpin will help)
- Cut the nori in thin strips and dice the umeboshi plums
- Sprinkle the crushed rice crackers, nori strips and umeboshi (whole or minced) on top of the rice
- Pour green tea over the rice.
There are no hard-and-fast rules for how to make Ochazuke. All you need is cooked rice (even leftovers from takeouts), some green tea and toppings you like. Be bold and experiment! If you are in a hurry, you don’t even need to warm the rice up.
You can buy Ochazuke pre-made topping mixes from a Japanese grocer. They come in small sealed packs and are relatively inexpensive. Just make sure the product label does not include ingredients you don’t like (such as excessive salt or MSG). You can also make your own topping with western ingredients you like. Smoked salmon, bacon bits, chopped green onions, dried tomatoes, diced pickles, anchovies or similar savories will work just fine.