Mame Gohan (Brown Rice with Green Peas)
Mame gohan, or Japanese rice with green peas, is a very simple dish that requires few ingredients and it’s often served during the springtime.
This dish made a frequent appearance during my childhood because it is one of my Dad’s favorite rice dishes. Not surprisingly, mame gohan is a dish that his mom, or my obaachan (grandma, pronounced “oh-bah-ah-chan”), used to make for him and their family.
This dish brings back many good memories of trips I’ve taken to Japan over my lifetime. When I was younger, I often visited Japan with my Mom or with our entire family, but as I got older, I often took trips there on my own. Many of our trips were mixed with time spent with family at their homes, or taking short sight-seeing trips. During times that we spent at my paternal grandparent’s home, my obaachan often made mame gohan.
My obaachan’s mame gohan was often made using fresh green peas that were sourced from my grandparents vast garden. I remember how large their organic homegrown peas were. Their home was not typical in the suburbs of Japan, as they had quite a large garden in front of their house. In these modern times, it was unusual for a family to use such valuable land for simple gardening, but I’m so glad that they did.
I have such fond memories of the bounty of vegetables, fruits, and flowers that my ojiichan (grandpa, pronounced “oh-jii-ii-chan”) tended to daily. While she was healthy, my obaachan was often seen in their garden helping my ojiichan tend to their bounty as well. They grew everything from edamame, snow peas, spinach, lettuce, tomatoes, broccoli, cauliflower, onions, potatoes, corn, grapes, strawberries, watermelon, and just about anything else that you can find today at your local farmer’s market, including beautiful roses, sunflowers, and tulips.
Walking out into my grandparent’s garden was like a farmer’s market, literarily, at your fingertips.
While my obaachan used fresh green peas for making mame gohan, my Mom made mame gohan using frozen green peas as these were quicker, easier, and more fitting for for her busy schedule. While nothing beats that of fresh homegrown peas, frozen peas can be awesome too (and I’m not just saying that).
While mame gohan, in our home, often refers to rice with green peas, the Japanese term for mame gohan can refer to steamed rice with any type of bean or legume, for instance lima beans, lava beans, or edamame.
This dish can be cooked two ways: 1) peas steamed with the rice; or 2) peas cooked separately from the rice and mixed together afterwards. If the peas are steam cooked with the rice, they will become slightly discolored and not as bright green as you see in the photos here. If the peas are cooked separately from the rice, and then mixed together afterwards, the peas will maintain more of their bright green color.
The benefit of steam cooking the peas along with the rice, however, is that the peas impart a wonderful spring vegetable aroma, and accordingly flavor the rice.
You can also find my recipe and article for this dish on the Japanese Food Channel of About.com
- 2 cups brown rice, uncooked
- 1 cup green peas (fresh or frozen)
- 1 teaspoon coarse sea salt
- Wash brown rice and soak for 30 minutes. Drain once more and then add water according to your rice cooker instructions. Add salt and then cook.
- Shuck fresh green peas (if using), or place frozen green peas in small pot.
- Boil water in a small pot and add fresh or frozen peas. Cook for three to five minutes until tender. Drain and immediately rinse with fresh water to preserve its fresh green color.
- Once the rice is cooked, add in the cooked peas and gently mix the rice together.