Starting Japanese cuisine cooking from the beginning can take a lot of initial work, but what I am quickly learning is that a lot of Japanese recipes and home-cooking staples are dishes that can easily be meal prepped. That is to say… you can cook a lot at once, store the leftovers, then serve the leftovers alongside another prepared dish (usually fresh rice) to make a new home-cooked meal.
Little pieces of several different dishes together create an aesthetically pleasing and balanced meal setting. Cook 1 dish today, another tomorrow, and bits here and there throughout the day, and you can keep that menu’s variety up over time.
Since we’re at the beginning of our Japanese cuisine month, we are also starting from scratch with our homemade dishes. On today’s menu, we made 3 plates: chicken soboro, simmered kabocha, and seasoned eggplant. The intention was to create a balance of protein and healthy vegetables that was easy to make and also have leftovers for another day, but as you’ll see… that didn’t exactly go to plan.
Chicken soboro and simmered kabocha squash were straightforward enough, though cutting the kabocha squash was very difficult (pro tip from Just One Cookbook: microwave the kabocha squash for 2 minutes to soften it up first before cutting (make sure to cut a slit first so steam can escape if you’re starting from a whole pumpkin though!)). Just make sure things don’t burn! I also tried my hands at poaching 2 eggs using these poaching devices we’ve had sitting in our utensils cupboards for awhile now. Those did not turn out well in my opinion and I think I need to just poach eggs without added tools.
My partner took on the more difficult task of cooking the eggplant. He followed a recipe from Just One Cookbook for Soy-Glazed Eggplant Donburi to create this incredibly savory and surprisingly decadent (we found out that eggplant soaks up oil like a sponge) dish. We used the leftovers the following day as a main for a rice bowl, following the intended serving option from Just One Cookbook’s recipe. It’s like a vegetarian unagi! Would make again, but maybe with my own recipe variation to match my personal tastes more (and make it lighter).
Today though, I’m going to focus on the chicken soboro part of the meal.
And by “chicken” I mean turkey. I had a lot of leftover turkey meat from that one time a month ago where I decided to buy a discount turkey and debone it like a chicken (and the result of that experiment was… turkey is not built like chicken. It has the same bone structure, but the skin is too tough and there’s a whole lot more tough tendon in the legs that make it impossible to fully remove the meat without hours of effort). A simple pass through my food processor of the deboned meat and I had ~2 lbs of ground dark turkey meat to work with.
Cooking this is a straightforward process and you end up with a sweet and savory rice topper that stores well.
I’ve seen several styles of Chicken Soboro Don (“don” = rice bowl), but the one I remembered eating (and what I was hoping to replicate) was from a small Japanese cafe in Seattle where they put a raw egg on top of a bowl of chicken soboro and rice. I’m too chicken (ha!) to serve eggs from my Costco pack raw, so I did a poached one. I… clearly need to work on my poaching skills.
Chicken (or Turkey) Soboro
- 1 large pot or pan
- 1 TBSP olive oil sub avocado oil or other neutral flavor oil
- 2 tsp minced ginger
- 2 lbs ground chicken or turkey
- 1/4 cup diced mushrooms (optional) I like adding vegetables where I can… in this case I added some leftover enoki mushrooms I had for a nutritional boost)
For the simmering sauce
- 2 TBSP sake
- 1 TBSP sugar
- 2 TBSP mirin
- 4 TBSP soy sauce
- beni shoga (red pickled ginger strips)
- diced scallions
- poached egg
- Add oil to a pan on medium heat, and then add ginger. Sauté until fragrant.1 TBSP olive oil, 2 tsp minced ginger
- Add ground meat and sauce until most of the pink is gone. Use the spatula to periodically break the large chunks of ground meat down so that you have a relatively uniform consistency at the end. Add the mushrooms if using and continue to sauté2 lbs ground chicken or turkey, 1/4 cup diced mushrooms (optional)
- Add the simmering sauce. Sauté. Keep using the spatula to break down the large chunks of ground meat as you continue to cook. Stir occasionally.2 TBSP sake, 1 TBSP sugar, 4 TBSP soy sauce, 2 TBSP mirin
- Continue to cook until most of the liquid has evaporated.
- Serve on top of rice and topped with red pickled ginger strips, diced scallion, and a poached egg (or as desired).beni shoga (red pickled ginger strips), diced scallions, poached egg