Japanese rice bowls

After some vigorous New Year’s Eve celebrations that involved tasteless costumes and dancing we were all feeling a bit ropey. So N and I made some Japanese-style rice bowls to restore everyone to humanity on 1st Jan. They aren’t strictly Japanese, it’s just our messy interpretation. They are delicious, satisfying and good for you without being boring – you never feel deprived of anything when eating one. Dreamy TV dinner fare, a savoury hug in a bowl!

In essence it’s all about the short grain brown rice – nutty, chubby and wonderful! You could use white short grain, sushi or basmati rice, but it’s less satisfying. Basically you top a bowl of cooked short grain brown rice with a variety of toppings – soft boiled egg, pickles, steamed/roasted veg, tofu, fish – whatever you fancy. But the trick is also in the marinades and dressings.

My secret trick with the rice, to make it really special once cooked, is that you mix through a paste of butter and miso paste, which you make by softening a bit of butter and mashing through the same amount of miso into it with a fork. It gives the rice a subtly rich umami note. I also dress the steamed veg in a vinaigrette, it’s a game-changer.

Recipe serves 2. You will need:

1 Mug of short grain brown rice
1 pack of firm tofu
Corn flour, salt, pepper (even better if you have ground Szechuan pepper)
2 eggs
Pickles eg sauerkraut, sliced gherkins, or pickles you make yourself – carrots and radishes make great easy ones (see method below)
Miso paste
Crispy chilli paste – we are HUGE fans of Laoganma crispy chilli in oil, available in all good Asian groceries
Dressing for broccoli: 3 tbsp sunflower oil, 1 tbsp rice wine / cider vinegar, 1 heaped tsp miso, juice 1/2 lime, dash of soy sauce, tiny dash of sesame oil, pinch of chilli sauce/flakes (optional)

First of all, drain the tofu, then wrap in kitchen roll and squish underneath some heavy weights eg cans of beans. Leave for as long as you can – several hours is ideal – to draw the moisture out. This will make the tofu super crunchy when you fry it. But if you can’t do this in advance, it’s no biggy, just blot the tofu well on paper before you cut it up.

Another advance bit if you have time, if you want to quickly make your own pickles (very easy). Finely slice a carrot and some radishes and put in a bowl, cover with rice wine / cider vinegar and chuck in a good tablespoon of sugar and salt apiece – leave for at least half an hour to pickle.

Get your rice on – brown short grain usually takes 45 minutes to cook. Chop the tofu into bite-sized chunks, and make a mix with some corn flour, ground pepper and salt. Dip each bit of tofu into the salt/pepper/flour mix and then fry in sunflower oil until crisp on all sides. Drain on kitchen paper and keep warm in the oven (alternatively marinate tofu in some soy, ginger, garlic for 20 mins and fry until crisp).

Soft boil your eggs (lower 2 eggs into rapidly boiling water, boil vigorously for 6 mins, then chill down immediately in iced water before peeling. For an easier peel, dent the shells as soon as you lower them into the chilled water).

Steam your broccoli for approx 8 mins until tender and then mix in the dressing.

When the rice is done, stir the miso butter through it, then layer your other items on top whichever way you fancy. Give everything a good drizzle with some Laoganma crispy chilli in oil, or any other chilli oil you have.

Topping variations: Rice with roasted squash, egg, mushrooms fried in soy and ginger, fresh coriander garnish.
Smoked mackerel, egg, greens.
Steamed salmon marinated in soy/ginger/lime, broccoli, egg, toasted sesame seeds sprinkled over.



  1. I’m lucky to have tasted these! They were sensational – salty and rich, while also feeling healthy. Thanks a lot for the recipes! Does the rice work fine the following day if you microwave it? And is there a miso paste or tofu brand you recommend? And what were you doing when you were squashing the tofu? X


    1. See Pip, I added a bit at the top just to explain better – hope that helps! You can defo microwave rice the next day, make sure you do it to nuclear hotness, as rice can breed bacteria. Any miso that is a Japanese brand is great – go for as dark or as pale as you like, the darker ones have a more intense, strong flavour. xxx


  2. Charlotte · · Reply

    YUM. Am jealous of both the rice bowls and the dancing! Look at those perfect eggs, fudgy yolks and firm whites…. xx


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