Flavor of the Week: Chazuke

I have this tendency, when I find something I like, to eat it every single chance I get. The last few weeks, for example, have been all about Chazuke, and it has gotten so bad I've had to force myself to stay away so I don't get tired of it (I kinda miss it already *sniff*).

It's from this restaurant called こめらく (Komeraku), which I stumbled upon one night because it was right beside my regular Korean place which happened to be full and I was in no mood to wait (read: hangry). It's a charming little shop, with only maybe a dozen or so seats, and for some reason, all of the patrons were women - the only men I ever saw there over the course of my many, many visits were always with their significant others - so it almost felt like a secret club of sorts (it's really not but I have this need to belong).

Chazuke, simply put, is hot tea or broth poured over rice. The first time I ever saw it was on television, and I thought it was vile - it reminds me too much of when you collect all leftovers in one giant bowl before doing the dishes. But then I realized it was just like sinigang or nilaga, except with infinitely more broth. I also realized how much I loathed doing the dishes(enough to make me not want to eat things, and that's saying something).

Komeraku's menu is composed almost entirely of rice bowls, including a bibimbap-style offering (in the Landmark Tower branch) and a couple of options served in Staub cast iron pans (in the Yokohama Porta branch). All of them come with a tiny thermos of dashi, which is a Japanese broth made of dried kelp and bonito flakes.

As you can probably tell, I kinda went through as much of the menu as I could, and my favorite out of all of them is a bit of a surprise, even to me: the maguro (raw tuna) bowl! After seven hundred days in Japan I can finally eat (and enjoy!) raw tuna. It's served with what I assume is lightly pickled daikon (the yellow bits), some wonderfully bitter greens, and a perfectly poached egg.

There is, apparently, a process to eating Chazuke, which I like because it feels like my own little ceremony. First, you eat it like you would any other rice bowl.

But not too quickly though! When you're about halfway through, transfer some of the rice into the empty bowl provided. And then load it up with toppings, which come in the most charming little canisters.

They have nori (seaweed), bonito flakes, little tiny crunchy things whose name I do not know, and a spicy green paste called wasabi-something-or-other (the wasabi part is all you need to know because it is very indicative of the taste). Personally I avoid the nori, because I still have not developed a taste for it. In seven hundred more days, maybe. Everything else I just pile onto the rice like there's no tomorrow.

And then you pour in the dashi from the mini thermos and voila! It's a brand new meal!

The heat from the broth cooks the tuna and the egg ever so slightly, so you really get a totally different flavor profile. And it's really warm and comforting without being heavy (read: not ramen).

I've always known there's more to Japanese food than sushi and noodles and deep-fried-breaded-somethings (although let's face it, they're awesome), but unfortunately I am not as adventurous as I would like to be, so it sure is nice to discover something new once in a while.

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