Harnessing togi-jiru, the secret weapon of Japanese cuisine

The first fundamental step in any recipe involving Japanese rice is washing it. What most people don’t realize is that the starchy water left over after washing is a surprisingly useful ingredient in the kitchen.

The primary use of togi-jiru (starchy water) involves parboiling dense vegetables such as togan (winter melon), gobo (burdock root) and daikon. Where parboiling in plain water tends to rob vegetables of their flavor and nutrients, the natural rice oils in togi-jiru trap them while they tenderize. Vegetables that are parboiled in togi-jiru are also ready to absorb the flavors of subsequent simmering in seasoned broth – the secret to the super tender, deeply flavored daikon wheels found in Oden (simmered foods commonly eaten in winter).

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