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Bacon & Corn Fonabe "Faux-Nabe"



Socarrat. The rice that’s been caramelized at the bottom of your pan/pot till it’s toasty, crispy and chewy, spans across cultures. From sunshine tinted paella flecked with seafood to Chinese Claypot rice adorned with various cured, waxed meats, to this Japanese “Donabe” dish I bastardized in a Singapore kitchen. And there’s tahdig, a Persian dish that places the crispy rice front and centre.


Far flung places. Same same but Different. A testament to a universal thread binding us all together in our shared humanity. In light of the mess that is 2020 (covid, cancel culture, shootings..), let’s remember that.... 💓🌍💞



I've actually bookmarked this Bacon and Corn Donabe recipe from Mrs Donabe since April, well, some procrastination and 5 months later, here we all are. Better late than never, right? Since I don't own a double-lidded donabe (sadly), I'll be guiding you through the steps here using my trusty Dutch Oven, which works beautifully as well.


Whatever your cooking vessel of choice is, you really can't go wrong with bacon, corn and butter. Juicy sweet corn, smokey bacon, an umami-packed seasoning and taking the bottom layer of rice so far to the edge of caramelization that the charred bits taste almost... cheese-y . Definitely a crowd pleaser AND a cinch to put together!



Notes:

- I added white miso paste to the mixture as well as a chunk of kombu when cooking the rice

- The cook time using my Le Creuset and over really low heat was significantly longer than what the original recipe called for (13 to 15 mins). Mine took around 45 minutes.

- I had to use more liquid than the recipe called for. A 1:1 ratio of Japanese rice to liquid doesn't quite work for me. There's other ingredients in the donabe too that absorb the liquid, resulting in a rice texture that's too hard for my liking. Depending on the vessel you use and your fire level, you may need to adjust the liquid volume and cook time.

- When seasoning, bear in mind that your bacon is already salty + your dashi (depending on the brand) might have some sodium as well. So taste and adjust accordingly.

- Socarrat. While testing recipes for Book Two, I found that using a good Dutch Oven yields a pretty good end product for claypot rice, with a burnt, crisp crust. In order to get the coveted Socarrat that lends tons of flavour and textural contrast to your dish, just crank up the heat to medium-high towards the end for a few minutes. This will result in a beautiful, crusty bottom! ;)

- Got some queries about using a rice cooker. I have not treid this using a rice cooker but am guessing the bottom crusty layer wouldn't be so pronounces (if at all) and the liquid ratio may differ as there tends to be less evaporation versus stovetop. If you do try it out, let me know!



Ingredients:

300g Japanese Rice

40ml sake

400ml dashi stock (See notes regarding amount of stock)

3 to 4 rashers of bacon, sliced into chunks

2 corn cobs, shucked

spring onions, to taste

cracked black pepper

1 and a half teaspoons white miso paste

1 Tablespoon smoked fish sauce (or regular fish sauce)

1 teaspoon light soy sauce

45g unsalted butter

kombu (optional)



  1. First, fry up the bacon chunks in your dutch oven over medium-low heat, until its fat renders out and the meat becomes lightly golden. Tip 2 to 3 stalks of spring onion whites into the pan, along with your corn. Crank your heat up to high and continue to fry up this corn and bacon mixture for about 1 to 2 minutes. Add in your miso paste and sake, which will deglaze your pan.

  2. Switch off your heat and tip in your rice. Give it all a good mix around and add in your seasoning (fish sauce & light soy) and dashi stock. Check for seasoning. If using the kombu, add a square into your pot at this point. Allow the rice to soak in this mixture for 20 to 30 minutes.

  3. After 20 to 30 minutes, clamp your lid on tight and let the whole thing cook over the merest blip of fire, until you seem some smoke billowing out of the lid. This took me around 40 to 45 minutes. After it's done cooking, turn the heat up to medium high for a few minutes to allow the bottom of the rice to crisp up.

  4. Switch off the heat and let the mixture sit for 10 to 15 minutes. Finally, decant the lid and add a wad of butter to your steaming hot pot of rice. To serve, some freshly cracked black pepper, spring onion slices and make sure to get all up, around and under to scrape off the burnt, crusty bits!



© 2020 by Lace Zhang