Ochazuke is the perfect comfort dish for when you need a pick-me-up, especially if you’re a tea lover. This is because your rice will be soaked in tea! It is undoubtedly an interesting way to enjoy tea besides going for your usual cup of Matcha milk latte.
Now, the idea of having tea as your rice broth might be a little odd and questionable. However, we can guarantee that this tea-infused dish will change your mind. Think of it as a porridge, but better!
What is it?
Ochazuke is a traditional Japanese rice dish consisting of rice and hot green tea. “Ocha” (お茶) means tea, and “zuke” (漬け) means submerged. Thus, the dish perfectly embodies the ochazuke meaning of ‘rice submerged in tea’.
Besides that, locals may also call the dish chazuke and cha-cha gohan. In Kyoto, people call it bubuzuke.
You can trust this dish to fill you up whenever you get those midnight hunger pangs. Plus, it doesn't require you to mess up the kitchen in the middle of the night. This is because it is really easy to make regardless of whether you want it plain or with toppings.
The dish has also earned the title of "comfort food" in Japan. It is very soothing and easy to digest, making it the perfect remedy when you're under the weather. Therefore, you can follow our ochazuke recipe when you’re sick!
This comfort dish has been eaten in Japan for more than 1000 years. It came about as a way to use leftover rice. People had been pouring hot water over cooked rice since the Heian period (794 – 1185). However, during the Edo period (1603 – 1867), many began to prepare the dish with green tea. Matsuo Basho, a famous haiku poet of that era, was a huge fan of the comforting food.
Nowadays, it is the nation’s beloved dish enjoyed by many people of all ages. There are even instant versions of it sold in supermarkets and convenience stores. Japanese people typically enjoy this dish at the end of meals or as a quick snack.
Since it is so easy to make, it is also a popular food among students. This has been shown in many manga and anime scenes where students eat it while studying. Moreover, cafes and restaurants in modern Japan have made it trendy with their stylish customisations of traditional Japanese comfort food.
What does ochazuke taste like?
Ochazuke has a light-seasoned taste. It is not too plain yet not too seasoned either. Thus, it's perfect for when you have little appetite or are just in the mood for a light-tasting meal.
Toppings play an essential role, especially if you want your dish to be more flavourful. Luckily, versatility is a charm of the ochazuke recipe, so you are free to include any toppings you like. Whatever you have in the kitchen will work, but here are some good ones:
- Salmon – you can make salmon ochazuke by topping the dish with Japanese salted salmon or salmon flakes. It is a delicious way to add fanciness to the chazuke.
- Grilled eel – this will add savouriness to the meal. Shizuoka is famous for chazuke with grilled eel topping.
- Nori – ochazuke nori is dried seaweed that you can sprinkle over the rice before pouring in the tea. It is a typical rice seasoning in Japan.
- Wakame – wakame has a salty, umami flavour with a hint of sweetness. It comes in a dried form, which is the most common and salted form.
- Umeboshi – ochazuke umeboshi are salty and sour pickled plums commonly used in Japanese cuisine. Umeboshi is one of the popular chazuke toppings in Japan.
- Eggs – eggs are great toppings for many dishes, and certainly, you can enjoy ochazuke with eggs.
- Arare – these are Japanese rice crackers that you can use as toppings by crushing and sprinkling over the rice.
- Shio Kombu – these are shredded salted kelp, which can add texture to the dish.
- Herbs – Japanese herbs like mitsuba (Japanese parsley) and shiso can enhance the flavour of the dish.
Types of Teas for broth
The broth is the dish's main star, and you can make it with a range of Japanese green teas. They do well with rice since they are well-suited to the flavours sought in Japanese cuisine. However, it is still important to choose the proper tea to suit your liking. Here are some of our recommendations.
Genmaicha is made of green tea leaves mixed with popped brown rice or barley. It is also known as "popcorn tea" due to its toasty flavour. You can use this tea if you’re planning to have bold and savoury toppings such as grilled eel, pickles, or flaked fish. It will also give your dish a golden-coloured broth, making it look even more appetising.
Houjicha is smoky, sweet, and somewhat tart in flavour. It is low in caffeine and very sweet. Moreover, it goes well with flavour-dense toppings like mushrooms and grilled meats. We recommend using houjicha when making ochazuke for dinner as it won’t keep you up all night!
Sencha is basically Japan’s standard green tea, but it is more delicate than the other two. Therefore, you will have to brew it carefully to avoid ending up with a bitter broth in your dish. There are many styles of sencha, and they can vary in taste as well. Savoury, deep-steamed sencha makes a strong-flavoured dish. On the other hand, delicate and light-steamed sencha creates a refreshing dish.
Kukicha is made of the stems of other green teas. The Japanese do not typically use it to make chazuke, but it can be an interesting broth with its citrusy flavour.
The gyokuro green tea is so rare, you can hardly find it even in Japanese households! Plus, it is too valuable and a little over the top to be used merely for ochazuke. But there's nothing wrong with using it if you want to make the meal super fancy. As long as you keep the toppings simple, the incredible flavours of gyokuro can make it a delightful experience.
This is a popular variation of chazuke, which includes salted salmon with crispy skin. It tastes best with genmaicha as the tea broth. However, you can also use other teas or dashi instead.
This is a vegetarian-friendly version of chazuke, which contains freeze-dried pickled plums as toppings. Since the plums are salty and sour, many cooks use sencha to balance the flavours.
Ochazuke requires three essential ingredients: cooked rice, green tea, and your preferred toppings. You can purchase these ingredients at any grocery store. However, some Japanese green teas and toppings might only be available in Asian supermarkets.
- Rice – Traditionally, people make the cha-cha gohan with leftover rice but feel free to use fresh rice. The best rice to make the dish is short grain rice, often used for sushi. Alternatively, you can also use medium-grain rice. However, long grain rice is not quite suitable to make this dish.
- Tea – Refer to the tea section for suitable choices in preparing the chazuke. You can also use any other hot liquid, depending on your tastes.
- Toppings – Refer to the toppings section for recommendations.
- Instant Packets – You can also find instant ochazuke packets and ochazuke seasoning. They usually contain nori, kelp powder, dashi stock, and green tea powder. Therefore, you don’t need to worry about finding the right toppings since the packet includes everything. All you have to do is prepare some rice and tea! These instant packets are readily available in most convenience stores and supermarkets in Japan.
Nagatanien instant ochazuke packet
Using Japanese green tea for broth adds to the authenticity of the dish. However, you can depart from the traditional way and use other ingredients like Korean or Chinese green teas. Just make sure they pair well with the rice and brew them like other Japanese teas.
Dashi also makes an excellent alternative. It is a soup stock made from kombu seaweed, bonito fish flakes, and shiitake mushrooms. You will need a cup of dashi, a teaspoon of mirin and soy sauce with some salt. To prepare the broth, combine the ingredients in a saucepan and bring it to a boil.
How to make Ochazuke
The process of making this comfort meal is relatively straightforward. First, prepare some cooked rice in a bowl. Then, add in your preferred toppings and pour in the tea. After doing all that, all that's left to do is serve and enjoy it!
- Use good quality Japanese rice and cook it properly without making it too soggy or dry.
- Pour in the tea once you've assembled the toppings. This ensures that the flavour from the toppings gets infused into the dish. However, you can pour the tea over the rice first to get an idea of the taste.
- Be sure to pour the tea around the edge of the bowl. This will keep your perfectly piled toppings in place.
- You can reheat the bowl of rice if you want a super-steamy ochazuke. Alternatively, you can enjoy it cold by letting it cool before serving. It is commonly done during summer.
- Increase the brewing strength of the tea if the dish is too bland. You can also add broth boosters such as mushroom powder or some salt.
- You can add more rice or some sweet sauce if the tea is too bitter.
What to serve with
This Japanese dish is perfect on its own, so there is no specific side dish for it. But of course, you can go a little extra and eat it with your favourite side dishes.
For example, some Japanese restaurants serve it with yaki onigiri, grilled rice balls glazed with soy sauce. The rice balls usually contain bits of salmon and flavoured seaweed. The crispiness and savouriness of the grilled rice balls will wonderfully complement the tea.
How to store
It is best to eat ochazuke immediately after preparing it. However, you can prepare the rice and toppings in advance and store them in an airtight container. Put it in the fridge, and it should last for up to a week. You can also freeze it in an airtight container, and it should last up to a month. Then, just reheat it in a microwave and pour in the tea once you’re ready to eat it.
Ochazuke Recipe (Tea over Rice) | Japanese Comfort Food
- 1 cup cooked Japanese short-grain rice
- 1 cup hot water
To make Salmon Ochazuke
- 2 teaspoon genmaicha leaves
- 1 Japanese salted salmon, or
- ½ salmon fillet with a pinch of salt
- Salmon roe optional
To make Nori Ochazuke
- 1 sheet nori seaweed (shredded)
- 2 teaspoon Japanese green tea leaves (any green tea)
- Start by preparing the tea. Put tea leaves in a pot and pour hot water into it. Set aside for 1-2 minutes or follow instructions from the tea packet.
- Add leftover or freshly cooked rice into a bowl. Then, assemble your preferred toppings.
- Pour the tea around the edges of the bowl until it covers half of the rice.
- Serve and enjoy your ochazuke!
- If you prefer, you can substitute green tea with dashi broth. Use 1 cup of dashi stock, 1 teaspoon of mirin, and ⅛ teaspoon of sea salt to make dashi broth.
- You can substitute Japanese short-grain rice with medium-grain rice.
Calories have been calculated using an online calculator. Nutritional information offered on Honest Food Talks is for general information purposes and are only rough estimations.
As mentioned, this Japanese dish is a versatile one! Audrey from Husband Cookbook prepared her version by combining dashi stock with green tea. In addition, she also made a simple tamagoyaki and grilled salmon as toppings for her Ochazuke dish.
How did your one turn out? Take a snapshot, post it on Instagram and tag us at @honestfoodtalks! We would love to see how your meals turned out!
Are you perhaps looking for another type of Japanese comfort food? Something sweeter perhaps? Then look no further and check out our recipe on how to make Japanese mochi at home!