If mountain climbing is your thing, a little ingenuity can transform the humble rice ball into more delicious fare.

That's the advice of Junji Kosuzume, who is a big fan of the great outdoors. He says there is nothing better than scaling a peak or canoeing with friends, and then taking pride in the shared accomplishment by tucking into a long-awaited meal that packs more punch.

“Meals are one of the joys of mountain climbing,” says Kosuzume, 48, who works as an outdoor-activity coordinator, reflecting on the pleasant sense of fatigue, coupled with the privilege of gazing at beautiful views, that will transform even the simplest meal into a feast.

Kosuzume became an outdoor-activity coordinator in his early 30s after a stint at a foreign-owned outdoor-gear manufacturer. His tasks range from gathering information on activities in wilderness areas to scouting locations for filming as well as gathering equipment and cooking meals for filming crews.

Kosuzume writes a serialized column on “mountain gourmet food” for Peaks, a magazine focusing on mountain climbing. He has also written books on outdoor cooking, such as “Yama-ryori” (Mountain cooking) from Yama-kei Publishers and “Yama-gurume” (Mountain gourmet food) from Ei-Publishing.

His interest in the outdoors and meals up high was ignited when he began riding a mountain bike around the age of 20. He felt he wanted more than on-the-go food such as bread, rice balls, nuts and dried fruits. He started boiling water on a small portable burner to make coffee and cook dried food.

Kosuzume began to salivate at the prospect of finding ways to prepare a tasty meal within the confines of what cooking utensils and foodstuffs can be packed in a rucksack.

There were times when he was told, “We don’t climb mountains to eat.”

“It depends on which mountain to climb and on what occasion, but if you are climbing for pleasure at a leisurely pace, I think you can expect to appreciate both the joy of eating and climbing,” Kosuzume said.

Interest in having a decent meal on the top has caught on, and books introducing mountain meal recipes line the shelves of many bookstores.

This week Kosuzume cooked “chicken mushroom risotto” with a portable frying pan and a single-burner stove.

He used a salt-flavored rice ball available at convenience stores and boil-in-the-bag chicken tender. Both come in handy for mountain meals.

It takes a few quick steps, and hey presto, something special is waiting to be served. The umami of the mushrooms matches the rich flavor of the cheese.

INGREDIENTS

(Serves one)

1 salt-flavored rice ball (“shio-musubi”)

1 retort-packed bag (40 grams) of chicken tender (“sasami”)

3 mushrooms

8 grams butter

1 Tbsp olive oil

5 grams Parmigiano-Reggiano (or powdered cheese)

Black pepper

100 cc water

METHOD

Quarter mushrooms. Place frying pan on stove, add butter, olive oil, mushrooms and chicken tender. Sautee over medium heat until mushrooms become tender.

Add water and bring to a boil. Simmer for about a minute, add rice ball, loosen and mix.

Turn off heat, remove pan from stove. Grate half of cheese on rice. Place on medium heat again, stir until it thickens. Adjust taste.

Serve risotto, grate remaining cheese on top. Sprinkle black pepper.

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From The Asahi Shimbun's Watashi no Ryori column