This recipe for “Japanese Risotto” or “Instant Pot Mushroom Dashi Risotto with Air-Fried Sesame Broccoli” is the delicious result of my choosing to following a trail wherever it may lead, soaking up the inspiration from an excellent teacher, and then trusting my epiphanies wherever and whenever they choose to present themselves.
When I get interested in something, I get REALLY interested in it. When there’s something that draws me in, or speaks to me, I have to investigate it to the furthest extent. And in order for me to move past it, or to move on from it, I need to go through it, to live it; to experience it.
I don’t normally do anything halfway, so when something peaks my interest, you better believe that it’s the only thing I’ll be talking about or thinking about until I’ve gotten whatever it is out of my system. In order to move on, I need to work through whatever it was that led me down that path in the first place.
Normally the things that I become obsessed with will enter my consciousness in a very organic way. Which, I think, is why I become some enthralled with them in the first place. It’s like the universe is continually telling me to explore something or investigate something, and no matter where I look, I see it. It’s like, there has to be a reason that these forces are incessantly placing things in front of face saying, “LOOK!”
And who am I to question, or not take an obvious hint!?
The most recent example of this is my obsession with Japanese cuisine. More specifically, the world of Japanese food as presented by Sonoko Sakai in her newest book, “Japanese Home Cooking: Simple Meals, Authentic Flavors”. (AFFILIATE LINK HERE)
My foray into Sonoko’s world was no different than what I just explained. One day I was listening to a podcast at the gym (I believe it was Cherry Bombe Radio), and there she was, the guest being interviewed on that particular episode.
I remember being struck by her personal narrative, her journey and her upbringing, and more specifically, the anecdote she told about her late dog, Ana, a lover of her onigiri, to whom Sonoko dedicated her book.
As a dog lover, and as someone who is living with a dog who is fighting an uphill battle with lymphoma, who feels like their beloved companion could slip away at any moment, I felt a connection to Sonoko. I wanted to learn more about her, and her story, and her style of cooking, and so I did what any 21st century fan would do, I found her on Instagram and followed her.
It wasn’t but a few days later, and I was back at the gym, listening to another food podcast. Guess who the guest was on that particular episode of Christopher Kimball’s Milk Street Radio? Yup. Sonoko Sakai. This time, though, she focused a bit more on her book and cooking techniques, and again I was left wanting to learn more.
It had been just a few months prior, that I had done a fairly shallow dive into the world of Shojin Ryori, or Japanese temple cuisine. Shojin Ryori is traditionally vegan, and follows a number of specific rules which assist the eater in their journey towards enlightenment. My particular interest was not in the spiritual aspect of the cuisine, but instead of the strict guidelines that I saw as opportunities for creativity.
I found a few YouTube videos online, but nothing that really fed my craving for information, and the few articles I found on Shojin cuisine in English just left me hungry. I ended up purchasing a used copy of “The Enlightened Kitchen” by Mari Fujii, and although there were a few concepts that fed my curiosity,, it didn’t’ give me enough fuel to keep going.
Without really knowing where else to turn, I put my search for Shojin Ryori on the back burner and awaited further guidance. Listening to Sonoko talk about Japanese cooking on that Milk Street podcast was just what I needed to hear. My interest was reignited, and I had to learn more.
Searching her name on Spotify, I found another podcast interview. Before that interview was over, I had already ordered a copy of her book on Amazon, and it was set to be delivered the following day.
The moment that her book arrived, I started reading it from the very beginning. Normally with cookbooks I start with the pictures, but this felt different. I wanted to know everything she could teach me. I wanted to know everything about the five flavors, the five senses, the five colors, the five cooking techniques, and the five elements of Japanese meal.
It might make sense here to mention that for as long as I can remember, five has been my favorite number. Here was a figure that had been showing up in my life, who I felt a connection to over our shared love of dogs, who was talking about a style of cuisine that I had been hungry for for months, who was talking about cooking in a way that revolved around my favorite number!
I had reached enlightenment.
As I kept reading, I got to the section of her book in which she talks about dashi, and the importance of dashi in Japanese cuisine. A simple “broth” made of kombu, dashi is the base for pretty much every Japanese meal that has any liquid component in it at all. Often times, however, dashi contains bonito flakes, which are the diaphanous shavings from a dried and preserved fish.
Trusting the “Quest Physics”, as I always do (Do I need to mention that I also saw Eat Pray Love for the first time during all of this?), I wasn’t surprised to see that Sonoko had a recipe for a completely vegan “Shojin Dashi”. Having barely scanned the list of ingredients required to make the dashi, I set my phone down in the crease of the book to keep it open, stood up from the kitchen table, and started pulling ingredients out of the cupboard to make my own.
- 1 piece kombu, about 3 x 6 inches (7.5 x 15 cm)
- 3 dried shiitake mushrooms
- 2 tablespoons dried soybeans, lightly toasted in a dry skillet
- 1 strip kampyo (dried gourd shavings), about 5 inches (12 cm) long, cut in half
- 5 cups (1.4 L) filtered water
In a medium saucepan, combine the kombu, mushrooms, toasted dried soybeans, and kampyo. Add filtered water, cover, and leave overnight at room temperature. The following day, put the pan over medium heat and bring to a boil. Boil for 1 minute, then lower the heat and simmer for 20 minutes. Strain the liquid to remove the solids. It’s now ready to be used. Use immediately, or cool completely and refrigerate for up to 1 week.
You can reuse the spent ingredients to make one more pot of dashi, or Dashigara-no-Tsukudani (Dashi Pickles; page 31).
Recipe from “Japanese Home Cooking: Simple Meals, Authentic Flavors” by Sonoko Sakai. Reprinted with permission from Sonoko Sakai.
I had everything on hand but the kampyu, so I kept on going without it. The “Shojin Dashi ” needed to steep overnight before it can be simmered and then eventually strained, so once I prepped the ingredients and set them in the pot to do their work, I started looking for ways I could use the dashi.
I didn’t get too much further into the book when I found her recipe for “shoyu tare”, a soy sauce-based seasoning. Combined with dashi in various ratios, it is can be used as a soup base, a dipping sauce, and a salad dressing. Scanning over the ingredients, I had everything I needed on hand (using Bragg’s Liquid Aminos in place of the light Japanese soy sauce), so again, the phone went in the crease of the book, and I got to cooking.
Shoyu tare is an incredibly versatile base for dipping sauces, stews, and noodle soups.
- 1/3 cup plus 1 tablespoon (80 ml) mirin (hon mirin, not mirin-type)
- 3 tablespoons cane sugar
- 2 cups (480 ml)soy sauce or usukuchi shoyu (light-colored soy sauce)
Combine the mirin and sugar in a small saucepan, place over medium heat, and start to dissolve the sugar completely. Lower the heat, add the soy sauce, and heat until it starts to simmer, about 3 minutes. Remove from heat and set aside to cool to room temperature. Store in a nonreactive container in a cool, dry place or in the refrigerator, where it will keep for up to 3 months.
Recipe from “Japanese Home Cooking: Simple Meals, Authentic Flavors” by Sonoko Sakai. Reprinted with permission from Sonoko Sakai.
While the “shoyu tare” cooled, and the “shojin dashi” steeped, I started to thumb through the pictures in the book. Every image was gorgeous and inviting and inspired me to take the bases that I was making and try to use some of the basic principles and tenets of what I had learned in make something of my very own.
It wasn’t until the next day at the gym, twenty minutes into my cardio, that it hit me: Japanese Risotto.
For a while now, I had been wanting to show people how to make risotto in an Instant Pot. It’s infinitely less labor-intensive than the traditional stove top method of making risotto, and it cooks in a fraction of the time with not dissimilar results. I hadn’t settled on a flavor profile, and so the IP risotto idea was pushed to the side.
Out of nowhere, it all just clicked. Two birds. I could use the dashi I had made as the broth in the risotto, season it with the “shoyu tare”, and then top it with ingredients that would give a variety of flavors, textures, colors, and temperature.
Ben and I were set to film an intensive vegan ranch dressing video when I returned home from the gym, but because I was so fired up about my “epiphany”, I insisted that we just film me, testing out this idea for the first time, using only the ingredients that I already had on hand.
Check out the video below to see how it my big idea out, and then scroll down for the full written recipe. I’m actually very pleased with this dish, and although rice porridges, such as congee or okayu, are staples in Japanese cuisine, the use of arborio rice and a risotto cooking technique is a nice play on the traditional porridge textures.
And I just want to personally thank Sonoko Sakai for generously letting me reprint the recipes for her “shojin dashi” and her “shoyu tare” here on my website. After having written the recipe for my “Instant Pot Mushroom Dashi Risotto with Air-Fried Sesame Broccoli”, I realized that two of the most important components of the dish came from her cookbook. I am beyond grateful for her inspiration and her generosity.
Inspired by the Shojin Dashi and Shoyu Tare recipes in Sonoko Sakai's "Japanese Home Cooking: Simple Meals, Authentic Flavors", I have created a quick and easy Instant Pot risotto recipe that features traditional Japanese flavors showcased in a traditionally Italian medium.
- Instant-Pot Mushroom Dashi Risotto (Instructions below)
- Air-fried Sesame Broccoli (Instructions below)
- Silken tofu, cut into ¼ to ½ inch cubes
- Black sesame seeds
- Shoyu Tare (Recipe above)
- 2 to 3 tablespoons toasted sesame oil, divided
- 5 ounces cremini or button mushrooms, sliced
- ½ cup chopped onion, or the white portions of green onions
- 3 to 3 ½ cups vegan “Shojin Dashi” (Recipe above)
- 1 ½ cups arborio rice
- 1 tablespoon miso
- ½ to ¾ cup soy milk
- 2 tablespoons rice vinegar or seasoned sushi vinegar
- 8 ounces broccoli, florets and trimmed stem
- 1 tablespoon toasted sesame oil
- salt to taste
Turn our Instant Pot onto “saute”, and add 1 tablespoon sesame oil along with sliced mushrooms. Cook mushrooms, stirring very seldomly for about 10 minutes, or until caramelized. Remove from Instant Pot and lightly salt to taste.
Add another tablespoon on sesame to the Instant Pot along with the onions, and saute for 3 to 4 minutes, or until just starting to get tender. Pour in rice and another tablespoon of sesame oil, and cook, stirring continuously for 3 minutes.
Pour in ¼ cup of dashi to deglaze the Instant Pot. When the dashi is almost fully absorbed or evaporated, add 3 more cups dashi along with the miso, and stir to combine.
Put the lid on your Instant Pot and seal, making sure that the pressure release valve is closed. Cancel the saute, and then set the IP to cook on high pressure for 6 minutes.
When the 6 minute cook time is up, carefully “quick release” the pressure. Open the lid, and stir. If your risotto is very thick, add a bit of water; if it’s too thin, turn the IP on to saute and continue to stir until it has reduced to the desired consistency.
Pour in ½ cup of soy milk and stir. If you would like your risotto to be a bit creamier, add another ¼ cup. Just before serving, add rice vinegar.
Taste for seasoning, but be aware that the final dish will be served with shoyu tare, wich will add quite a bit of saltiness to the overall dish.
Preheat your air-fryer to 400 degrees F. If you do not have an air-fryer, you can just use a conventional oven set to 425 F.
Trim your broccoli into bite-sized florets. Toss with sesame oil and a pinch of salt. Place your seasoned broccoli into the air fryer and cook for about 10 minutes, tossing regularly. Your broccoli is done when the tips of the florets are just charred and crispy, and the stalks are deliciously tender.
For each serving, add about 1 ½ to 2 cups of risotto to a bowl. Create piles around the bowl of sauteed mushrooms, silken tofu cubes, and air-fried broccoli. Add a few drops of sesame oil on top of the tofu, and sprinkles black sesame seeds over the entire dish. Spoon about 2 to 3 tablespoons of shoyu tare around the perimeter of each bowl. Serve immediately.