Friday, September 13, 2013

Japanese-style Risotto with Roasted Eel

Risotto. It's not a dish that I would usually order at a restaurant, probably because the ones I've had in the past weren't all that great. I've had some which were delicious at the first few mouthfuls, and after a while they just got a little boring. After all, it's just spoonful after spoonful of the same thing. Up until recently, I've never attempted cooking risotto either. Everytime I hear the word "risotto", it conjures up images of Masterchef Australia, where George or Matt would give the "eyebrow" and the cynical look that says "Death dish. Don't even think about it". For that reason, risotto never had a place in my kitchen. Well, not until a few months ago when we brought the family to a fusion Japanese restaurant in Malaysia where the kids ordered this Unagi Risotto with soft boiled egg. It looked good, but before I could even have a whiff of it, the kids had polished off the whole dish within minutes. Without a doubt, it got four thumbs up from the hungry little monsters.
I was so inspired to replicate this at home that I decided it was time to stand up to the challenge and prove that this was no "death dish". Ahem! I tried two different methods of cooking - one by continuously stirring the risotto while slowly adding hot broth to the pan. The second was by simmering it gently in the pan, covered, until most of the stock has been absorbed before stirring it through at the end to release the starch from the rice. Both methods yielded pretty much the same results. I wasn't too fussed although I will probably stick to the former traditional method. I found that stirring butter through the risotto at the end helps to enhance the creaminess of the risotto. Either way, the risotto turned out great and I was quite pleased. I'm also a fan of Japanese grilled eel (unagi) and that with the sweet unagi glaze complemented the rice really well, along with the soft boiled egg (it was meant to be a 63 degree egg, but next time perhaps). Read on to get the recipe.

So tell me dear readers, do you have a "death dish" that you've never dared to attempt before, and why?

Japanese-style Risotto Recipe


3 cups dashi stock*
1-2 shiitake mushrooms, sliced
2 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp butter (+ 1 tbsp extra)
1/2 onion, finely chopped
1 clove garlic, chopped
1 cup Arborio rice
2 tbsp cooking sake (Japanese rice wine)
1 tbsp Kikkoman soy sauce (or to taste)
1/4 cup green peas
Salt and black pepper, to taste

1 piece Japanese roasted eel, sliced into portions
2 tsp Tobiko  (flying fish roe)
Seaweed or wakame
Chopped spring onions
2 soft boiled eggs

* I used instant dashi granules to prepare the stock for convenience


  1. Bring the stock and mushroom just to the boil in a saucepan. Reduce heat and gently simmer.
  2. Heat olive oil and 1 tbsp butter in a heavy-based pan over medium heat. Add the onion. Cook, stirring, for 5 minutes or until soft and translucent but not coloured. Add garlic, followed by the rice. Cook, stirring, for 1 minute or until the grains appear slightly translucent.
  3. Add the sake to the rice mixture and stir until absorbed. Add a ladleful (about 125ml/1/2 cup) of the simmering stock to the rice and stir constantly with a wooden spoon until the liquid is absorbed. Continue adding the stock mixture, a ladleful at a time, stirring constantly and allowing the liquid to be absorbed before adding the next ladleful, for 15-20 minutes or until the rice is tender yet firm to the bite. Halfway through, add soy sauce and peas. When finished cooking, the risotto will be slightly creamy, with a bit of liquid left, but not overly-watery. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
  4. Quickly mix through the remaining 1 tbsp butter, as this make it even more creamy (and delicious!). Cover with a lid and stand for 1-2 minutes. Lift the lid and stir through the risotto one more time. If it's too dry, add a bit of hot water/stock. Ladle the risotto onto serving plates. Garnish with roasted eel, tobiko, seaweed, spring onions and soft boiled eggs. Serve immediately and enjoy!