My favourite place for breakfast in London is Koya in Soho. I like to sit at the wooden bar facing the chefs, who quietly but conscientiously and very precisely go about their business while the steam of rice and noodles rises behind them. It’s also where, a few months ago, I ate maze gohan, or mixed rice, for the first time: a mingling of sticky, sweet, short-grain rice studded with pickled ingredients seasoned with dashi and soy. It was a delight for the senses and the perfect mix of comfort and joy.
Soy-pickled pumpkin maze gohan
There are many excellent edible pumpkins and squashes around at this time of year but, for flavour, my favourites are acorn, crown prince, delica and kabocha. You’ll need two lidded pans: one with a tight-fitting lid for the rice and another larger one for the vegetables.
Prep 15 min
Cook 50 min
250g short-grain rice
¼ tsp fine sea salt
4 tbsp light soy sauce
3 tbsp rice vinegar
1 tbsp cooking sake
2 tbsp toasted sesame oil
5 garlic cloves, peeled and halved lengthways
5 spring onions, trimmed and finely sliced
150g fresh shiitake mushrooms, sliced
450g pumpkin or butternut squash, peeled and cut into 1cm cubes
100g cooked chestnuts, sliced
Put the rice in a medium saucepan and cover with warm water. Agitate with your hand until the water turns cloudy, then drain and repeat until the water runs clear. Cover with fresh warm water, leave to soak for five minutes, then drain well.
Return the rice to the pan, cover with 290ml cold water, add a quarter-teaspoon of salt, cover and bring to a boil. Turn down to a simmer, cook for 10 minutes, then take off the heat and leave to rest, still covered, for 10 minutes more.
To make the pickling liquid, mix the soy sauce, rice vinegar and cooking sake in a little bowl and put to one side.
Put the sesame oil in a large frying pan for which you have a lid and set it over a medium heat. When hot, add the garlic and cook, stirring, for two minutes. Next add the spring onions (reserve some of the greens to decorate the finished dish), stir to mix and cook for two minutes more. Add the mushrooms, cook for five minutes, until sweated down, then add the pickling liquid, pumpkin and chestnuts. Cover the pan, leave to cook for three minutes, stir, then pop the lid back on and leave to cook for another three minutes, or until the pumpkin is tender.
Using a fork (so as not to mash the rice), scrape the rice into the vegetable pan and gently mix everything together. Distribute between bowls, scatter over the reserved spring onion greens and serve.