Takikomi gohan is a delicious and nutritious way to enjoy Japanese rice. Cooked with meat, seasonal vegetables and flavoured with Japanese condiments, this dish is commonly enjoyed in the cooler autumn months together with fish and miso soup.
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What is Takikomi gohan?
Takikomi gohan (炊き込みご飯) is a Japanese flavoured rice dish, often mixed with dashi, soy sauce, meat and vegetables. It is also known as "Gomoku gohan" (五目ご飯) which means "five ingredients" or "Kayaku gohan" (かやくご飯) depending on the region.
What is the difference between Takikomi gohan and Maze gohan?
There is another flavoured rice dish called "Maze Gohan" (混ぜご飯) which can be literally translated as "mixed rice".
While takikomi gohan and maze gohan are both flavoured rice dishes, for maze gohan, the ingredients are mixed in after the rice is cooked. On the other hand, in Takikomi gohan, the rice is cooked with the other ingredients.
Popular ingredients for Takikomi gohan
There are no rules for this dish, but some of the most well-loved ingredients are below:
- Bamboo shoots
- Sweet potatoes
- Aburaage (Fried tofu)
- Gobo... (Japanese Burdock root) etc
In this recipe, I use carrots, shiitake mushrooms, chicken, ginger and aburaage (fried tofu).
What to eat with Takikomi Gohan
Takikomi gohan is basically a more flavourful and nutritious way to enjoy rice. It also contains seasonal vegetables and is typically eaten during the autumn months.
The most common way to enjoy it is with fish, miso soup and possibly some kind of pickle. Here are some perfect dishes to serve with takikomi gohan!
- Miso soup
- Sakana no Nitsuke (Japanese simmered fish)
- Saba no Misoni (Miso simmered Mackerel)
- Teriyaki Salmon / Teriyaki Cod
- Kabocha Nimono (Simmered Pumpkin)
- Miso glazed salmon
Troubleshooting Takikomi Gohan (with solutions)
Takikomi gohan is actually a quite tricky dish to make, at least, it is a lot harder than cooking plain rice. It's not as simple as just throwing rice, meat and vegetables into a pot, the way the ingredients react together can result in a surprise failure. I failed a few times when I first started experimenting with this recipe too, so I want to share what I learned along the way.
Here is a list of the most common problems faced when making takikomi gohan and how to fix them.
The rice is undercooked / too hard
The most frequent failure is definitely the rice being undercooked. By saying undercooked, it means the core of rice remains hard and unpleasant to eat.
You might think it's to do with cooking time, but the problems are actually lie elsewhere.
- The rice didn't absorb enough water
- Ingredients were mixed
- Using too many oily ingredients/condiments
- Overfilling the rice cooker (If you use a rice cooker)
- Adding condiments too early
The rice didn't absorb enough water
When you cook rice (especially without a rice cooker), letting the rice absorb water is crucial.
Rice cannot absorb water when there are condiments mixed in with it. Water with soy sauce or salt in will increase the osmotic pressure and the water won't be able to enter the rice grains.
To avoid this problem, soak the rice in water to let it absorb for at least 30 minutes (1 hour in winter) before cooking. Once it's been soaking for 30 mins -1 hour, drain the water and allow the rice to dry for a little while. This releases the excess water. If you don't dry the rice after soaking, then the water content will be too high and might result in soggy rice so be careful!
- SOLUTION: Let the rice absorb the liquid by soaking it in fresh plain cold water for 30 minutes to 1 hour. (Do not put any condiments in the water during the soaking time.) Allow it to dry before cooking.
Ingredients were mixed
If you mix the ingredients into the rice before cooking, the vegetables will absorb the water and rice won't cook unevenly, resulting in hard rice. So rather than mix in the ingredients before cooking, place the ingredients on top of the rice unmixed.
It is crucial that you don't mix everything together until after the rice is cooked.
Essentially we want to simmer the rice in the water and steam the vegetables at the top.
- TIP: Add the chicken to the top first so that it cooks in the water with the rice. Next add the harder vegetables in layers with the softer ingredients on top, this will allow the ingredients to cook evenly.
Example from bottom to top: rice → chicken → carrot → mushroom → aburaage (fried tofu).
Using too many oily ingredients/condiments
This can only be applied when you use certain rice cookers.
Most rice cookers use a sensor to detect the temperature and adjust the heating temperature, but if there is too much oil in the ingredients, the temperature may become too high, and that leads to the temperature adjustment in the rice cooker not working properly.
If the rice is under-cooked when using certain ingredients, there may be a problem with the oil content of the ingredients.
To prevent from that happening, a lot of rice cookers in Japan have special "Takikomi gohan" setting.
Putting too much in the rice cooker
This only really happens when using rice cooker as well.
If you put too many ingredients in a rice cooker, there is a possibility that the ingredients will be over the capacity.
In this case, the sensor of the rice cooker may not work properly, causing the rice to be under-cooked.
- SOLUTION: Limit the amount of ingredients to 60-70% of the full capacity of your rice cooker. Don't overfill!
Adding condiments too early
Seasonings such as soy sauce contain salt, but water containing salt increases the osmotic pressure and makes it hard for the water to be absorbed into the rice.
If the condiments are added too early, the water may not reach the core of the rice. As a result, rice may not absorb enough water and remains hard in the middle.
To fix this, I add the condiments as the last step before cooking and don't mix them in.
Rice being soggy / too wet
Another common problem of Takikomi gohan is the rice becoming soggy. This is mainly down to too much liquid being added and there are two main causes for this problem in general.
- Adding too many condiments
- Adding a lot of watery ingredients
- Not drying the rice after soaking
Adding too many condiments
Condiments like soy sauce, mirin, and sake add to the water content. Therefore, it is important to reduce the water accordingly, otherwise you will end up with too much liquid.
Using the right amount of liquid to rice ratio is crucial for cooking rice in any occasion.
Adding a lot of watery ingredients
If you add a lot of watery vegetables like radishes or mushrooms, the water from the ingredients may come out and again, add to the water content making the rice soggy.
You may need to limit the amount of ingredients or use a little less water if you want to use a lot of these types of ingredients.
Uneven taste and colour
The final common problem when making takikomi gohan is the colour and flavour being uneven. Possible causes are:
- Mixing ingredients and rice together before cooking
- Rice was not cooked immediately after adding the condiments and ingredients
Both can cause uneven taste and color, as well causing the rice to be undercooked.
For example, if you prepare the rice the night before and use the timer function, the condiments would sink to the bottom over time. As a result, the rice at the bottom is soaked in the strong flavor overnight, causing uneven taste and colour.
The golden rule for Takikomi gohan is to cook the rice as soon as the condiments and ingredients are added! (Also, unmixed!)
How to revive under-cooked Takikomi gohan
Even if we try our best to take extra care, Takikomi gohan with hard rice can still happen to the best of us. But don't throw it away because of that! There's a way to revive the dish.
Spread the rice thinly onto a plate, sprinkle with about 1-2 tablespoons of water, cover with plastic wrap, and microwave at 500-600W for 2-3 minutes. Mix the takikomi gohan and heat again for 1-2 minute intervals, mixing each time, until you reach the desired softness.
If you have leftovers, I recommend freezing it. It can be frozen for about 1 month.
I often make it into a rice ball shape and wrap it in saran wrap so that it's in easy, single portions. You can also store it in a Tupperware container.
Simply reheat in the microwave when you want to eat it!
(I don't recommend refrigerating takikomi gohan.)Print