Hokkaido Sushi: Dreaming of Gyu Don featuring Hokkaido Rice!
If I had to pick something as my last meal, it would have to be a few slices of wonderfully marbled Wagyu over a bowl of steaming hot, pearly drops of Japanese rice. I just love the way the juices ooze out of the meat to mix with the sweet toothy rice. It really is something I can eat everyday!
When I visited Tatsuya’s last month, I heard from Chef Sasaki that they have recently been using Hokkaido rice for their sushi. Apparently, there is a new company in town which is importing and polishing Hokkaido rice. I didn’t know much about Hokkaido rice. What I knew was that many regard Koshihikari from the Niigata prefecture as the best rice in Japan. Many high end sushi restaurants would use this for their Sushi. The fact that Tatsuya has switched to Hokkaido rice was a surprise because I know that Chef Ronnie doesn’t compromise on quality. I have to say that the sushi rice I was served that day was excellent. Each grain of rice was distinct and it had a wonderful toothy bite!
That really piqued my interest in Hokkaido rice and so to investigate further, I found myself in a little rice polishing plant in Jurong a few weeks later where I met up with Sato-san from Tawaraya rice to learn more about rice from Hokkaido.
Sato-san tells me that Japan has only one rice growing season in a year whereas rice grown in the tropics might be harvested twice in a year. That gives the land ample time to rest which means the soil is richer for the next growing season. I also found out that Japanese rice fields are irrigated with cool running water, unlike the padi fields of South East Asia where the water is still. And because of the mountainous terrain in Japan, the water coming from the mountains is always pristine which makes for good rice. Then of course there is the usual Japanese attention to detail in the harvesting and polishing of the rice. All these factors put together is why it costs so much more than local rice! However, as you know, the quality and taste of the rice is amazing and Japanese foodiphiles would not have anything less than the best Japanese rice when they are out for Japanese food.
Tawaraya imports two different types of rice from Hokkaido. Nanatsuboshi and Yumepirika. The Nanatsuboshi rice is suitable for sushi and onigiri while the Yumepirika is more sticky and sweet and is excellent when eaten with dishes. What makes the rice from Tawaraya special is that they are only polished when you order so that it stays fresh. The company also makes special efforts to ensure that the rice is kept at a cool 18 degrees C from the time they leave Hokkaido until they get polished and packed. That keeps the rice in optimal condition.
It is interesting to note that although rice has been grown in Japan since the Yayoi period (300BC-300AD), the Japanese only started to grow rice in Hokkaido during the Meiji period (1868-1912). It is a challenge to grow rice so far up north because they need a rice which is resistent to the cold conditions. The Yumepirika rice only made its debut in Hokkaido in 2009 after many years of cultivation. This new brand of rice was the winner amongst many cultivars and was judged to be very similar in quality to the famous Koshihikari rice.
I tasted the rice plain at the factory and it was excellent. All I could think of was having it with some grilled Wagyu Beef! So I immediately called my friend Thomas from Hokkaido Sushi to set up a date to make an ultimate Gyu Don using the Ohmi Beef paired with Yumepirika rice.
Seared Teriyaki Beef on rice, it may sound like a simple pairing but when you combine the best beef with the best rice, the flavour and texture is simply out of this world!
Chef Thomas has agreed to serve the Ohmi Beef Gyudon set which comes with sashimi, appetizer, soup and fruits for $68++ for a limited time. Ask for the ieatishootipost Gyudon set. (Alternative Otoro set available at same price)
The Yumepirika and Nanatsuboshi rice is available online! I have negotiated a very special price for our readers. 2kg of each rice delivered to your home for $32 (Normally 2kg of each rice would cost $59) Just go to the Tawaraya website and put in your order online (Click item 3, First time ONLY [Nanatsuboshi&Yumepirika] 2KG Set priced at $39 ). In the remarks state “ieatishootipost reader”. (Valid only once per new customer and you need to register as a new member. Delivery charge of $5 applies)
Place your order here: Tawaraya (90616524)