Never mind the chicken or the egg. How about the chicken and the egg?
“Oyako” means “parent and child” in Japanese, and so this dish is open to many interpretations. The most commonly found version here in the U.S., however, is the chicken and the egg over rice. Whoever invented this dish had a pretty decent grasp of the concept of irony — I wonder how the chicken would have felt if it had known that it would end up cooked next to its progeny. Or did the egg come first? (In this case, I’m not sure that’s possible.)
Alas, I’m anthropomorphizing, and none of this really matters because unless you live on a farm, those eggs probably didn’t hatch from the same chickens. Either way, it’s a delicious and simple comforting dish.
*Note: For a truly authentic Japanese flavor, there is no substitute for dashi. It’s a soup stock made with dried bonito flakes, dried mackerel, and sometimes seaweed. MSG-free versions do exist, and they taste just fine.
I wish I could say chicken stock would work, but unfortunately it just won’t taste right and you’ll wonder what all the fuss is about. Dashi is really the heart of this dish. You can find powdered dashi at Japanese grocery stores, online, or if you’re lucky, the international foods aisle in the supermarket. If you really love food, look high and low; it’s worth it.
In a medium-sized saucepan, bring the water to a boil over high heat. Add the powdered dashi and boil for 5 minutes. Remove the packet from the pot and discard. (Or make 4 cups dashi broth according to package directions.) Add the rice and 1 ½ cups of the dashi broth to another medium-sized saucepan. Bring to a gentle boil over medium-high heat, reduce heat to low, and stir to make sure no grains are stuck to the bottom.
Cover the pot with a lid and simmer for 15 minutes. Once the rice is done, remove from heat and let stand, covered, for 10 minutes. Meanwhile, return the remaining dashi broth in the other pot to a simmer over medium heat. Add the soy sauce and stir to combine. Add the chicken and cook for 5 minutes. Then, add the onion and cook for 3 minutes. Reduce heat to low and stir in the eggs. Let cook for 2 minutes.
Remove the chicken, onion, and egg to a bowl using a slotted spoon, leaving only the broth in the pot. Return the broth to a boil over high heat and reduce to a glaze, about 15 minutes. Mix the glaze in with the accumulated juices in the bowl, and toss together well. Serve immediately over rice.