It seems like only yesterday that I was writing about food specialized for hot summer days. Well now the weather is getting cooler and the other day it was actually quite chilly. What was needed was a hardy hot stew and I found the perfect recipe on Japanese Cooking 101. Hayashi rice is a popular yoshoku (western style) dish in Japan, similar to Japanese curry. The "sauce" is a demi-glase base made with a roux, beef broth, tomato, soy sauce, and red wine. This gives it a flavor that is reminiscent of both European and Japanese cuisine.
The birthplace of hayashi rice is Ikuno, a town in Hyogo Prefecture, with a long history of silver mining. The mines were opened in the early 800s and during the Tokugawa Period they were the main financial asset of the Shogunate's fortune. When Japan's isolation ended, a French engineer came to the Ikuno mines in order to make them run better. It is believed that he was the influencing factor in the development hayashi rice, which quickly became a favorite among the miners.
There is some debate about where the name came from, since Hayashi is a surname in Japan. It may be that it was named of someone involved with its creation. The most cited origin that I could find was that it's a Japanization of the english "hashed beef", which I guess I can kind of see.
The silver mines closed in the 1970s but the town is still there and is a popular tourist attraction where many restaurants are serving up this tasty dish. But Ikuno is not the only place you can eat hayashi rice, lots of yoshoku eateries have it on their menu, and it is embraced by plenty of home cooks as well.
Though the dish is often made with a boxed roux like curry, the wonderful ladies of Japanese Cooking 101 have provided a recipe to make hayashi rice totally from scratch. They even have instructions for your own beef broth. I didn't go quite that far since I didn't feel that industrious. One very frustrating thing I keep running into is that the cuts of meat that are popular in Japan don't seem to be popular at my local grocery store. I was unable to locate super thin cut beef, so I had to go a little bit thicker. It was still pretty darn delicious though.
Like most Japanese recipes it was super easy to follow and pretty quick too. Best of all it was just what I was hoping for, a nice hardy thick stew, perfect for shaking off a chill. It's the sort of meal that you just have to have a second bowl of. I'm really looking forward to expanding my stew and soup horizons this coming fall and winter. If they're as good as hayashi rice, I'm in for a treat!
Until next time, stay warm by working over a hot stove!