No matter how sophisticated one’s tastes are, the simplest foods—hot buttered toast, a fresh juicy peach--can be the most satisfying. O-chazuke (or chazuke: the “o” is a prefix that shows respect) is a comfort food to many Japanese. Foreigners may not understand its appeal. What’s the big deal with hot tea poured over a bowl of rice?
O-chazuke is different from chagayu. In the latter, a small amount of rice grains is simmered in water with tea leaves (and perhaps some grated yam) until it becomes a porridge. But in o-chazuke, the rice grains are whole. The tea is clear. And by golly, there is something about the combination of the two most beloved ingredients in Japanese cuisine (rice and tea) that is soothing and delicious! It is a staple in the typical Japanese home.
At home, it was a good way to use up cold rice and have a handy breakfast, lunch or dinner. We ate happily chazuke with any leftovers—a fish fillet, chicken leg, ham slices --as side dishes. Of course, there was always some type of tsukemono (pickled vegetables) to go with it, which helped to offset the blandness of the chazuke itself. My favorite way to eat chazuke is with an umeboshi, pickled red plum, in the center of it and a sprinkling of chazuke furikake, which has some tiny balls of rice cracker and seasoned nori flakes. Some takuan (sweet pickled daikon radish) on the side and I’m good to go.
My daughter loves it when the boys (my husband and sons) were out and we fill Japanese trays with o-chazuke and all sorts of okazu (side dishes) to eat in front of a good movie. It’s our Japanese version of macaroni-and-cheese, I suppose. Comforting and oishii.
A very nice o-chazuke meal might include:
*bowl of hot or cold white rice
*a teapot of hot green or brown rice tea
*umeboshi (small red pickled plum)
*cold tofu cubes with katsuobushi flakes or shouga (pickled ginger slices)
*tsukemono or any sort of pickles (my daughter loves mustard eggplant pickles)
*tamago (egg omelet, flavored or plain)
*miso-broiled seafood such as a fish fillet or tako octopus
*cooked vegetables such as soy-simmered kabocha
To make it is as easy as it sounds. Simply, pour hot tea over a small chawan bowl of rice. Add toppings, if you desire. Serve with accompaniments. Eat with chopsticks, not a spoon even though it is liquidy. Pour in more tea as needed. (Seems silly to have to write down a “recipe” for this, but this is entirely new to some foreigners.)