Sweet potatoes and chestnuts are a classic autumn combination. The natural sweetness makes this dish almost a dessert. Edible chestnut trees grow throughout Japan, and are historically believed to be the work of cultivation dating back over 5,000 years. In ancient days, chestnuts were used in religious or ritual ceremonies, and during the Warring States Period (1467-1603 C.E.), they were particularly important as a nutritious preserved food. Large varieties were given the name Kachian (Kachi Chestnut). The word kachi, or katsu, is a homonym for victory, so the nut then took on significance for the warrior class as a representation of strength and a morale booster. (Serves 3-4)
1 cup uncooked short-grain white rice
1 ½ cups water
½ cup cooked and peeled chestnuts
½ small Japanese sweet potato, peeled and chopped small
1 tablespoon sesame seeds (black or white; optional)
A dash of salt
1. In a saucepan, rinse the rice a few times through with water to remove surface starches and prevent clumping, yielding a clean, fresh taste. Drain. Add 1 ½ cups water, chestnuts, and sweet potato, and cover with lid.
2. Bring the rice mixture to a boil, and then reduce heat to a simmer. Cook 30 minutes or until rice is tender and the surface is matte. Flush and serve, topped with sesame seeds (if desired).