When I was a kid I had a book of bad jokes. One of the few that I can remember went something like this: Q. What did the chicken say to the plate of scrambled eggs? A. What a bunch of messed up kids.
Oyakodon is a Japanese dish of chicken, eggs and rice that makes a similar joke, playing off the fact that there is both chicken and egg in the dish. Oya means parent, ko means child, and don means rice bowl.
Oyakodon is a delicious, unpretentious dish that my friend Satoko says is very commonly eaten in Tokyo. The main components may be pretty basic, but it’s the ingredients in the broth that make this dish taste Japanese.
The broth is made up of soy sauce, sake, a sweet rice wine called mirin, and dashi, a stock made from dried bonito flakes, dried kelp and sometimes dried shitake mushrooms. We used instant dashi, which Satoko uses a lot. The chicken is poached briefly in water and then cooked in this special broth, before scrambled eggs are gently cooked on top of the chicken. When the eggs are just set, it’s served over rice. It’s what I’d call Japanese comfort food.
Satoko told me there are variations on this dish that translate to "strangers rice bowl" that include pork and eggs or beef and eggs. She says Japanese people like this kind of word play. She and her family have lived all over the world, but this is a dish that always tastes like home to her.
2 chicken thighs, deboned and cut into 1-inch pieces
½ of a medium-sized onion, sliced thinly
50 ml sake
100 ml mirin
150 ml dashi (add ¼ teaspoon dashi powder to 150 ml hot water and stir)
60 ml soy sauce
3 eggs beaten
steamed rice for 2
2 scallions, chopped
Fill a medium-sized saucepan halfway with water. Bring to a boil. Poach chicken in water briefly, just until the outside of the chicken turns white. Rinse the chicken in cold water and then pat dry with a paper towel.
Meanwhile, add the sake and the mirin to another saucepan and bring to a boil. Add the dashi and the soy sauce and then the chicken. When the chicken is cooked through, turn off the heat.
Put a frying pan on medium heat. Take 180 ml of the liquid and the chicken and add them to the frying pan. Add the onion slices. When the onions are cooked, add the beaten eggs on top of the chicken, onions and liquid. Let the eggs cook until fully set, then serve on top of rice in bowls. Garnish with the chopped scallions.