Green tea rice, known in Japan as ochazuke, is the comfort food of your dreams. It is carbs, it is soothing broth, and it is ludicrously easy to assemble. I say assemble for a reason – whether this constitutes actual cooking at all is not clear. You take some cooked short-grain rice (and yes, you can use leftover cooked rice but I would advise one of those pouches you can buy from the supermarket), cover it with hot green tea, after which you adorn it with any toppings that take your fancy. Rice bowl meets ramen in the most delicious way.
And why is this dish seemingly not so prominent in the Western world? It’s hard to understand given the dish’s rich heritage. Ochazuke has been enjoyed in Japan for well over 1,000 years, with initial recipes dating back to the Heian period (794-1185). During this time, water was mostly used to submerge the rice in. Later, during the Edo period (1603-1867), green tea became more and more popular, and this led to the transition to the use of tea over water.
The dish became a national staple, popular throughout the country with people of all different ages. Indeed, convenience versions of the rice dish became available during the mid-20th century in Japanese supermarkets, a testament to its widespread appeal. That’s not to say that the love for this dish is confined to busy supermarket-goers; ochazuke is to be found in casual Japanese pubs (izakayas) and as part of upscale kaiseki meals at swanky restaurants.
For the time-pressed and hard-done-by student, however, it is the perfect solo bowl that bolsters. What makes it so perfect for those essay-induced moments of crisis is its simplicity and adaptability. A proper recipe is not really needed. Firstly, get hold of some cooked rice and put it in a homey bowl, the sort you want to slurp from. Next, arrange your toppings over the rice in the bowl (whilst you are doing this, it is a good idea to put the kettle on for the green tea). The toppings for the rice bowl are up to you – if you can get hold of authentic Japanese ingredients like umeboshi sour plums and wakame seaweed, by all means, use them. If, however, these kinds of foodstuffs elude you, stick to something a bit more East Coast than Tokyo, with some grilled chicken or smoked salmon. Make some green tea from one teabag, and then pour, pour, pour.
Serve steaming with a large spoon, a smiling face and a warm heart.