After two decades or so of living in Japan, and about half of that spent cooking for a family of four, this chicken and lotus root recipe has become my ultimate favorite. It’s quick, tasty, and foolproof. Satisfying and simple—this is Japanese comfort food.
This dish is an excellent introduction to cooking with renkon (lotus root), which is in season from August through the fall.
It has a crunchy texture and a delicate flavor, and the way it blends with the chicken broth is what makes this recipe so good. Add some sake and salt to taste, and that’s it.
But since it’s your first time making this, let me give you a little more guidance on this seasonal classic.
- Lotus root about 300 grams (3 pieces)
- Chicken thighs about 400 grams
- Cooking sake or regular sake 1/4 of a cup (50 ml)
- Salt about 1/3 of a teaspoon
Make sure to choose renkon that looks fresh and firm with smooth, unblemished skin. Old renkon will have rust-colored discoloration.
You can use either cooking sake, as I have, or regular drinking sake. Try to use good salt with a richer flavor as opposed to cheap table salt. I used Namahage Hanto sea salt (男鹿半島の塩) from Akita Prefecture—it really makes a difference.
This recipe is for four people, but you can change the amounts as you like. Just be sure to use enough sake to line the bottom of your pot.
1. Wash any dirt off the renkon, trim the ends, and peel the skin. Cut it into bite-sized pieces.
2. Cut the chicken (if it’s not already cut) into roughly the same size as the renkon pieces.
3. Pour the sake into a large pot. Add the chicken and renkon.
4. Put a lid on the pot and cook on low heat until the meat is cooked through. It should take about 15 minutes.
5. Season with salt, stir, and serve.
That’s literally it. I told you it was foolproof!
So, how did it come out?
The chicken is soft and juicy, and the renkon is crunchy. The sauce is delicious and goes well with rice. I hadn’t made this recipe in a while, and the in-season renkon is particularly good, so I have to hold myself back from eating it all.
If you want to add a side dish, you might like to balance the delicate flavor with something a bit stronger, or even a salad with a tart dressing to counter the slight greasiness of the chicken.
You can adapt this dish by serving it with mustard, or the garlic-rich “looks spicy, isn’t spicy, is a little spicy, chili oil,” which is the product’s actual name (karasoude karakunai sukoshi karai ra-yu).
Perhaps even add a handful of garlic cloves along with the chicken and renkon, or throw in other fall veggies like carrots and mushrooms. Or make it exactly as above. Sometimes simple really is best.
For more meals gone right, check out our Japanese Recipe Adventures.