Wayne Hirabayashi


Wayne Hirabayashi
Executive Chef, Ka-hala Mandarin Oriental, Hawai‘i
Grilled Hamachi Kama with Roasted Eggplant O-chazuke

All Photos:Oliver Koning

"I love o-chazuke," says Wayne Hirabayashi. "I grew up on it. I can eat it for breakfast lunch and dinner. After a long day around food, it's my comfort food."

O-chazuke is simply tea-flavored rice. Hot tea poured over rice is eaten with a number of tidbits such as fish and pickles, soothing the stomach and satisfying the soul.

Of course, Hirabayashi's o-chazuke is more than simply tea and rice. The rice is cooked in fine quality sencha (green leaf) tea, rather than water. Steeped sencha is an ingredient in a flavored broth poured over the rice, adding depth and dimension to the o-chazuke. Roasted eggplant, homemade pickles and grilled hamachi kama (the collar of the oily yellow tail fish, prized for sushi and sashimi) accompany his version of classic tea and rice.

"It's healthy because of the tea," says Hirabayashi. "You could also do this dish with canned salmon and chopped green onions or sardines cooked with onions. That's what I do at home."

Roasted Eggplant O-chazuke

Serves four

1 1/2 cups sencha tea rice
2 cups sencha tea broth
1/2 pound roasted eggplant
4 tablespoons pickled cabbage
1 teaspoon wasabi paste
2 teaspoons minced green onion
2 teaspoons ume paste
2 teaspoons pickled chiso
4 teaspoons Boo Boo Arare
4 pinches bonito flakes

Divide rice among four rice bowls. Top each bowl with roasted eggplant. Garnish with pickled cabbage, wasabi, green onion, chiso, ume, arare and bonito flakes. Pour hot sencha tea broth over rice and serve.

Sencha Tea Rice and Broth

Sencha tea:

5 cups water
4 tablespoons sencha tea

Bring water to a boil and add tea. Let steep for five minutes; strain tea into a container.

Sencha Tea Rice:

2 cups sencha tea
2 cups sushi rice

Cook the rice on stove top or in rice cooker.

Sencha Tea Broth:

4 cups water
1 cup hon katsuo (bonito flakes)
2-inch piece kombu (kelp)
1 teaspoon hon dashi (powdered stock base)
2 cups sencha tea
4 teaspoons mirin (sweet cooking wine)
1 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon soy sauce

Bring water to a boil. Add the hon katsuo, kombu and hon dashi and let steep for five minutes. Add remaining items. Taste and adjust seasoning.

Pickled Cabbage (Tsukemono)

2 1/2 pounds Napa cabbage (won bok)
2 tablespoons salt
1 tablespoon hon dashi (powdered stock base)
6-inch piece kombu (kelp)

Wash and dry the cabbage. Slice the cabbage into thin shreds and place in a bowl. Add the salt and hon dashi, mixing well to distribute the salt. Rinse the kombu and add it to the cabbage mixture, tossing. Let the mixture sit for four to six hours at room temperature. Squeeze out the liquid, discard the kombu and serve.

Roasted Eggplant

2-3 Japanese eggplants (about half a pound)

Place eggplant on a hot grill and sear the skin for four to five minutes or until eggplant flesh is soft and skin is wrinkled. Remove from grill and cool.

Using a paring knife, remove the stem end and peel the skin off. Cut into pieces. Refrigerate until ready to serve. Eggplant should be served warm or at room temperature.

Grilled Hamachi Kama with Ponzu Sauce and Asian Slaw

1 piece hamachi kama (collar)
1 lemon, cut into wedges
1 lime, cut into wedges

Ponzu Sauce:

4 tablespoons ponzu (a Japanese citrus) concentrate
6 tablespoons soy sauce
3 tablespoons water
1 tablespoon sake
2 tablespoons sugar
1/4 teaspoon hon dashi (powdered stock base)
1/8 teaspoon grated fresh ginger

Asian Slaw:

4 tablespoons soy sauce
1 teaspoon finely grated fresh ginger
1/3 cup julienned cucumber
1/3 cup julienned carrot
1/3 cup julienned daikon (white radish)
1/3 cup julienned green onion
1/3 cup radish sprouts

Slice Napa cabbage thinly.

Cook the hamachi kama on a grill over medium-high heat, searing well and cooking until well done.

Blend ponzu sauce ingredients together.

For the Asian slaw, combine soy sauce and grated ginger in a bowl. Add the vegetables and toss. Place Asian slaw on a serving platter. Top with hamachi. Garnish with lemon and lime wedges. Divide ponzu sauce among individual dishes for dipping.

Chef Hirabayashi's tips:

If you're using new-crop rice, reduce the amount of cooking water or tea, since fresh rice has more moisture in it than older rice.

Prepare your rice for o-chazuke on the dry side, since you will be adding tea to it.

If you cook the rice in a regular saucepan instead of a rice cooker, burn the bottom a little for added roasted flavor.

For the tsukemono, use table salt. It is saltier than kosher salt and it melts faster.

For ume paste, remove the seed from the umeboshi and chop up the flesh to make a purée.

Fish, pickles and other ingredients for o-chazuke can be found at Daiei, Marukai or Shirokiya.

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