Each season has its own culinary pleasures and treasures, but most in Japan would agree that autumn offers the greatest variety of foodstuffs. The phrase aki no mikaku (“autumnal delicacies”) encompasses a wide range of dishes made from fall foods. I especially enjoy earthy mushrooms and fall salmon combined in takikomi gohan.
Takikomi is a style of rice preparation in which ingredients (such as mushrooms and salmon) are first lightly blanched to create a flavorful broth. The broth is then used in lieu of water to cook the rice. The ingredients that contributed their flavors to the broth are returned to the pot briefly before being folded into the rice just before serving.
Takikomi dishes typically create a delicious crust called okoge at the bottom of the cooking pot. This crust is coveted; be sure to include some in every portion when serving. Garnish with minced mitsuba trefoil, scallions and/or parsley. This mushroom-salmon version, in particular, combines the scent of the forest with the bracing aroma of the sea. If you want to make this dish exclusively plant-based, use twice as many mushrooms and no fish. For greater complexity and depth of flavor include additional varieties of mushrooms such as ruffled maitake, plump eringi or slender enoki. Garnish with briny aonori to include a taste of the sea.