In Asako Yuzuki’s novel Butter, the imprisoned female serial killer Manako Kajii demands of the journalist Rika to try out one simple dish: A bowl of rice with a spoonful of butter and a shot of soy sauce. The experience is the starting point of a life-changing journey.
The very same dish, in Japanese it’s called Bata Shoyu Gohan, is the topic of Episode 5 in Season 1 of the wonderful japanese TV series Midnight Diner. Here the frugal little meal and, of course, an associated story bring a renowned food critic to join the ranks of the Master’s nightly regulars in his humble Tokyo diner.
I’ve immediately adopted the recipe and made it part of my breakfast routine. It’s so quickly done and incredibly delicious. In a popular variation you can use a raw egg instead of the butter (Tamago Kake Gohan), or, as I also like to do, combine the two ingredients. Depending on your degree of purism you might or might not want to garnish the result with chives, sesame seed, Furikake or Shichimi.
I’m a big fan of these miraculous, very easily prepared and simple dishes. The first one that I got to celebrate – thanks to my Italian high school classmate Daniele – was Spaghetti Olio, Aglio e Peperoncino, in his version garnished with a generous amount of parsley. Or take Tudousi, the Chinese way to transform potatoes from a starchy staple into an interesting, full-blown vegetable dish.
In a recent addition after our trip to Crete some weeks ago, I’m now experimenting with Fava, the Greek mash made out of yellow peas, normally served with a topping of chopped red onions, chives, capers and some olive oil. My first attempt found no mercy with my discerning wife, I had added too many herbs and other spices to the mash. Now I’ve reduced it to more purity, just adding some salt and a pinch of sugar to the peas, leaving it to the eater to add additional spices according to taste, and we are both satisfied.
PS: With a slightly different garnish you step some degrees of latitude northward to a very different cooking tradition and produce what I had already mentioned in a different post, my beloved “gelbes Erbsenpüree mit Speckstippe” (pease pudding with fried onions and bacon):