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January 18, 2011


Ever since I had this at Sunshine Cafe, I haven’t been able to stop thinking about it.

Whether you stop and think about the morbidity of this “mother-and-child” rice bowl (My Jewish side can’t help but think of the whole goat-in-its-mother’s-milk-thing) or not, it’s pretty damn delicious. Eggs are naturally sweet, and simmering them in a light soy sauce broth with onions and pieces of chicken over freshly steamed white rice (yes, better white than brown for this) seems to me the essence of Japanese home cooking.

I’m no expert, but this over-rice dish (donburi, which in Chinese would be gai fan) reminds me of stir-fried eggs and tomatoes: a classic standby that everyone knows how to make, but with their own variations. Because of this, I was pretty liberal with my proportions and ingredients. For instance, I was really hungry and ended up using more chicken and eggs than usual, but also less rice. Some recipes call for scallions, others onions, and I used both. My own additions: Sunshine Cafe serves their oyakodon with a few spinach leaves; I tossed in an entire bag. Rather than simply simmering the onions in the broth, I caramelized them beforehand, because really, onions just taste better that way. Finally, I sprinkled some red pepper flakes and drizzled a little sesame oil on top, just for more flavor. As for the dashi, I happened to be out of kombu and decided to improvise with other umami-filled ingredients, including dried shiitakes.

After a windy Chicago day, it felt nice to settle down to a meal of oyakodon, miso soup, and a romaine and carrot salad with ginger dressing.

Oyakodon (aka “Mother-and-Child Rice Bowl”)

*Note: I’m not a huge meat eater, and the chicken was definitely not my favorite part of this dish. It added substance and texture, but every time I’ve eaten oyakodon the chicken seems to play a supporting role to the egg and rice. Could you even replace it with firm tofu? Does anybody else feel this way? I also need to work on this recipe in order to perfect the texture of my eggs; in Japan they like them runny bordering on raw, and mine ended up clumping rather than silkily surrounding the rice. Advice?


For the dashi (makes enough for miso soup on the side):

  • 4 cups water
  • 1 piece kombu, if you have it
  • I didn’t, so I subbed one handful dried shiitake mushrooms and a bunch of wakame
  • 2 packets dried bonito flakes (Maybe 3 TBSP)

For the oyakodon (serves 2-3):

  • 2-4 chicken thighs
  • 4 eggs
  • 3 scallions
  • 1 large onion
  • 1 TBSP sugar
  • 2 TBSP mirin
  • 4 TBSP soy sauce
  • 1 cup dashi
  • (used shiitakes, seaweed, bonito flakes)
  • 1 bag baby spinach
  • Sesame oil
  • 2 cups rice


  • To make the dashi, heat water with stock ingredients. When it boils, immediately turn down the heat and let simmer for 3- minutes of so. Strain out the liquid and set aside.
  • Mix the dashi with soy sauce, mirin, and sugar.
  • Next, heat the peanut oil in a wok/wide skillet until almost smoking, then add the onions. Stir-fry until translucent, adding cooking wine as needed, then turn down the heat and simmer until  very sauce– maybe as long as 10 minutes.
  • When onions are caramelized, add the chicken pieces and dashi mixture. Bring to a boil and then simmer again.
  • When the chicken is almost done cooking, add the spinach and cook until it wilts.
  • Add the beaten egg mixture and scallions, letting it cook slowly on low heat.
  • Meanwhile, put a serving of rice in each bowl.
  • When the eggs have set to your liking, top the rice with the chicken-egg mixture.
  • If you like, garnish with red pepper flakes and add a little sesame oil ( lots of recipes call for mitsuba, which I didn’t have. Cilantro would probably be too strong).
  • Serve!

2 Comments leave one →
  1. fiz permalink
    January 18, 2011 5:54 am

    now you must try some of the Russian specialities: after Chinese, Japanese, and all the other cuisines.

    • January 18, 2011 6:00 am

      I will for sure, but you have to admit it’s a little stodgy. I’d be more into Central Asian.

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