Photo/Illutration Corn rice (left) and tomato rice (Photo by Atsuko Shimamura)

Editor’s note: In the Taste of Life series, cooking experts, chefs and others involved in the field of food introduce their special recipes intertwined with their paths in life.

* * *

Nahomi Edamoto says rice cooked in pots gave her the confidence to work as a culinary professional.

Soon after she began working in the cooking field, she was asked to write a series of articles on rice dishes from around the world.

As she cooked rice in the pot every day, she realized the rice tasted good some days but not so on other days. This got her thinking.

She hit upon the answer in the middle of the night.

“It happens because the rice dries up.”

She used to buy rice in bags of 5 or 10 kilograms from a rice seller. The freshly polished rice contains more water right after it is bought. Over time, however, it dries up, and toward the end, the cooked rice has a harder consistency.

It occurred to her that the rice’s flavor varied because she had cooked it in the same amount of water without realizing this.

Thinking about rice every day and coming up with an answer on her own gave Edamoto confidence.

“After that happened, I started thinking about agriculture. I asked some farmers to show me their fields, and my attention turned to the link between the dinner table and farming,” she said. 

After contemplating what she can do as someone working between the producers and the consumers, she formed Team Mukago.

Mukago is a stem tuber, or the ball-shaped buds that form on the vines of “yamaimo” yam and others. They taste good but are less likely to enter the current agricultural distribution channel.

She hopes to shed light on agricultural produce that are secondary products, such as mukago, or neglected for being nonstandard, and create opportunities that will generate more interest in agriculture.

The Great East Japan Earthquake struck right after the group became a general incorporated association, in 2011.

Edamoto immersed herself in a project where those affected by the disaster baked and sold cookies. The group also created dressings using nonstandard carrots and onions, and sold scrubbers made by knitting strips of hinoki cypress.

“What we do is not always about support for farming, but we will do what seems right. It may not be on a large scale, but that is good enough,” she said.

Corn rice is Edamoto’s favorite among the many “takikomi-gohan” dishes, where rice is cooked with various seasonings and ingredients. A whole tomato is added to the pot when making the tomato rice.

“When the rice is cooked and you open the lid, there’s a whole tomato right there to catch your eye and it looks quite nice,” she says.

* * *

Nahomi Edamoto: Born in Yokohama in 1955, she is a cooking expert. Her books include “Edamoto Nahomi no riaru asa gohan” (Nahomi Edamoto’s real breakfast). She is a joint representative of the authorized NPO, The Big Issue Japan Foundation.

Nahomi Edamoto (Photo by Atsuko Shimamura)


Ingredients for corn rice (Serves 4 to 5)

2 and 1/2 cups (total of 500 ml) rice, 1 cob of corn, 1/2 tsp salt

1. Rinse rice like usual and place in thick pot. Add 550 ml water.

2. Shave off corn from cob with kitchen knife and add to pot with water. Place shaved core on top and put on a lid. If possible, leave for 10 to 15 minutes.

Shave corn from cob with a kitchen knife. (Photo by Atsuko Shimamura)

3. Place on higher medium heat and bring to a boil. Reduce to low heat and cook for 10 more minutes. Turn off heat and let content steam for 8 to 10 minutes. Remove core, add salt and mix thoroughly.

Assuming the ingredients for the corn rice serves five, about 330 kcal and 0.6 gram salt per portion

(Nutrient calculation by the Nutrition Clinic of Kagawa Nutrition University)

Tomato rice (Serves 4 to 5)

1. Rinse 500 ml rice and place in thick pot with 500 ml water.

2. Remove calyx from 1 tomato, make a deep cross-shaped incision and place on rice. Add 4 to 5 sausages cut in width of 1 cm and 1 tsp granulated chicken stock to pot, place lid and cook in similar way. Turn off heat and let content steam for 10 minutes.

When the rice is cooked, mix while breaking up the tomato. (Photo by Atsuko Shimamura)

3. Add 2/3 tsp salt, 1 Tbsp olive oil as well as oregano and coarsely grated black pepper to taste and mix while breaking up tomato.

(This article was written by Mika Omura and Miki Kobayashi.)

* * *

From The Asahi Shimbun’s Jinsei Reshipi (Life Recipe) column