Food, Home & Lifestyle

Donabe: Japanese Rice Traditions

Niki Nakayama

Lesson time 09:13 min

Niki introduces the donabe, a traditional clay pot, and demonstrates how to use it as she shares the significance of rice to Japanese culture.

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Topics include: Seasoning the Donabe · The Significance of Rice in Japanese Culture


[MUSIC PLAYING] - In this demo, we're going to teach you about race. But before we start cooking rice, we want to tell you about the different types of rice cookers that are available to you. Generally, people at home have this electric rice cooker, which is a great way to cook rice. It's reliable and there's not much to it. You just basically follow the instructions from the manual and you are able to produce some really delicious rice. Another method that we have is the stovetop version in this traditional nabe-style cooking pot. The thing about cooking rice on a stovetop is that it can get tricky. There's some things that you have to get accustomed and learn how to do and recognize. But once you get the hang of it, it's a lot easier than you think, and the rice that is made in a pot like this, which is similar to what a Dutch oven is, actually produces an incredible kind of rice that is a little different from a standard rice cooker. [MUSIC PLAYING] - So before you can actually cook rice in the donabe, you have to season it, like you would have to season a cast iron pan. We've never used this to cook rice in before, so we're going to go ahead and show you the seasoning process for it. This particular model has two lids, but not all donabes will have the inner lid and the outer lid. It's a really simple process. We basically are going to combine some water and some old rice. It could be several days old. Any kind of cheap grain of rice will do, because the goal is to turn this rice and water mixture into a really loose porridge. When you combine the rice with the water, you'll have some clumps, so just slightly loosen that up. If you want to speed up the process, you can put the lid back on until it starts to simmer a little bit more. And basically, you just want to turn it into a thick porridge. And what that does is this entire pot, this one is made out of a special clay, and that's what creates such amazing heat retention, which is what cooks the rice so beautifully. But because it's a porous clay material, you need the seasoning process to seal up all the little, tiny pores in the clay so that the heat retention can be even stronger, and also to prevent any of the moisture from seeping out. And that's essentially it. There's really not much more to it. It's simply the porridge that's going to seep into those pores. [MUSIC PLAYING] - I always remember, when I was growing up, there was a time when I was spending with my grandmother. And she would always ask me what I wanted to eat or what I wanted to enjoy for lunch or dinner, and I always just told her, I just want a bowl of rice and an egg. I could have it boiled. I could have it pan-fried. Any kind of egg, as long as I get to have egg and rice and soy sauce. And that is, perhaps to this day, one of my favorite things to eat. How about you, Carol? - Yeah, I love tamago gohan. That's what we call it. I used to love it just straight fresh...

About the Instructor

The chef and owner of two-Michelin-starred restaurant n/naka in Los Angeles, Niki Nakayama is celebrated for her modern interpretation of kaiseki, a traditional Japanese cuisine. With her partner and sous chef, Carole, Niki will teach you techniques for preparing sashimi, tempura, perfect rice, and more. Learn how to make dishes that honor fresh ingredients as Niki shows you how to cook with care and gratitude.

Featured MasterClass Instructor

Niki Nakayama

Niki Nakayama of two-Michelin-starred n/naka teaches you how to honor fresh ingredients with her innovative take on Japanese home cooking techniques.

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