Prawn, Shiitake & Tofu Ankake Donburi

I made a very similar dish earlier on Monday. I had just gotten home from uni, starving, cold, and just a tiny bit cranky. In such a volatile state, it was very likely I would’ve succumbed to the lazy option of a bowl of cereal. Oddly enough, I prepared a prawn & tofu stew of sorts using mirin, sake, miso, smoked pancetta (yea, odd one out) and lots of negi. It worked and I think a part of me was shocked it had because honestly, cranky cooking isn’t always a very wise thing to do.

I wanted to recreate the flavours for a donburi. Why I was so motivated to have a donburi was also due to my newly purchased bowl. You can check it out in the pictures. It’s even got a cute little ceramic cover like those claypots you normally see at Chinese restaurants. Was unbelievably chuffed all of yesterday about my bowl. I even got it out and showed it to the flatmate and her boyrfriend too. I was all giggles and big grins. And you know what else I absolutely love about my new bowl? If I wanted to have pickles with my donburi, all I need to do is to flick over the cover which is helping to keep my just-cooked meal nicely warm, put the pickles on the underside of the cover which when flipped, acts as a little side-dish. How awesome is that! Most donburi bowls I find are a little too large so I end up filling it up to only halfway which looks a little silly. And if I fill it all the way, it’s too much food for me to consume at a go (actually I lie, sometimes I can eat a horse if you could bang it up into a soup and therefore downsize it into mouth-friendly portions- sorry if that was crude). This guy is just purrr-fact.

In my walk-in kitchen – and I call it that because it’s so ridiculously small and crappy I could cry – I own very little. 1 cereal bowl, 2 plates, 2 Cath Kidston mugs (1 given to me for my birthday), 1 milkpan and small frying pan (given to me by S’s mum for my birthday as well), 1 glass mixing bowl, 1 colander, some cooking utensils and cutlery. That is literally owning next to nothing. And I don’t complain because the kitchen has very little to offer as well: no oven, 2 ridiculously tempermental electric hobs, zero work space, 1 crapbag microwave/grill, next-to-zero pantry cupboard space – and that is something we can’t change since we’re all moved in and literally living in the coolest, trendiest bit of Central London. So gifting myself this humble bowl makes me very happy and even happier to use it. (I thought about an ice cream maker but that in comparison to my small kitchen would be a monster of gadget.)

But anyhow, another recent purchase was the Everyday Harumi cookbook, just one of the cookbooks I’ve had on my Amazon wishlist for a while now. The pictures in here are seriously good and the recipes so easy to follow (very similar to things my mum would cook at home – a very heartwarming cookbook). It’s too bad for the others that they didn’t get purchased but I thought was a longtime coming. After flipping through it, I was glad to see a recipe for something quite similar and incorporating an ankake sauce. This sauce is made by thickening seasoned dashi stock with a potato starch and water mix. It is very tasty and goes so wonderfully well with rice; therefore making donburi one of the best comfort foods for me. When the day is as grey as heck from morning til evening, surely a bowl of rice will bring a little sunshine into my cupboard-sized bedroom?

I haven’t followed Harumi’s recipe exactly. In fact, I’ve used some different ingredients but I’ve basically followed her ankake sauce recipe quite closely. I think this dish is spanking good and you can try it with loads of other types of ingredients. Smoked pancetta cubes was a bit of an odd one out. But I do love pairing it with prawns and seafood in general – as you can see from my past King Prawn Pancetta Fried Rice post. Very comforting, very easy to make. I have a feeling my mama would be proud.

A little word about potato starch – you can find this in Asian supermarkets. I got a packet which cost a little over a quid from my Japanese grocer – a really large packet actually so it’s good to invest in it and just keep it in the pantry for future use. Also, potato starch is a lot stronger than cornstarch as a thickening agent so you don’t need large quantities to get the required texture. It mixes a lot easier than cornstarch I find, so you don’t get those bitty pockets of starch like if you used cornstarch or worse, plain flour.

This recipe yields 2 servings.

Prawn, Shiitake & Tofu Ankake Donburi

      1 cup shelled prawns


      4 fresh shiitake mushrooms


      2 Japanese negi (or large spring onions), sliced into 1.5″ lengths


      1 small red onion, halved then wedged and sliced


      2 tbs smoked pancetta cubes


      1 packet firm silken tofu, cubed


      1 tbs soy sauce


      1 tbs cooking sake


      1 tbs mirin


      1/2 sugar


      150ml dashi stock (I’ve used a sardine one rather than a kelp stock)


      1 tbs potato starch


      1 tbs cold water


      1/2 tbs chopped fresh garlic


      light olive oil, for cooking


      ground black pepper, for seasoning


      black sesame seeds, for garnish


      reserve the greens of negi/spring onions, finely chopped for garnish


    2 servings hot steamed rice

Prepare vegetables. Clean mushrooms, trim the stalks and either finely slice them or leave them whole and star the top with a knife. This ensures that it gets cooked through (similar concept to brussel sprouts) and also looks pretty. My mum prepares it with the star for oden hotpots but I generally like to cook my shiitake mushrooms this way.

For the ankake sauce: In a small bowl, add the soy sauce, mirin, sake, sugar to prepared dashi stock. You may use any type you’ve got on hand but I prefer using a sardine or bonito one as it gives a bigger flavour than kelp stock I find. Mix together thoroughly and set aside. In another bowl, mix together the potato starch with a tbs of cold water. You’ll need to give it a quick mix again before using as this will settle whilst you let it stand.

In a large frying pan or wok, heat some oil. When hot, add the garlic, pancetta cube and red onions. Sauté. Then add the negi/spring onions, mushrooms and prawns.

Add the ankake sauce mixture. When it comes to a boil, add the potato starch mix to thicken the sauce, stirring so that it becomes thicker evenly without bits of jellified starch.

Separate hot cooked rice into two donburi bowls, serve the ankake over it. Garnish with chopped negi/spring onions and sesame seeds. Finally, take a deep breath, savour the gorgeous smell and tuck in!