Kanako's Kitchen

Zousui: Watery Rice

Posted in Recipe, rice by Kanako Noda on October 20, 2009

zousuiThis is another mainstay of Japanese home cooking, but few foreigners know about it because it’s often considered too “humble” a food to serve to guests.

In fact, zousui isn’t even really “dish” so much as a clever way to use up leftover rice that’s gotten a little bit too dry to eat straight.

The basic idea couldn’t be more straight forward: 1-make a clear broth (like osuimono) 2-dump leftover rice in it. For really spectacular results, though, you want to use the left-over broth from making nabe: the richer the nabe was, the better the zousui is going to be.

Zousui is very easy to digest, so it’s the classic Japanese upset tummy food. And my husband swears it’s an excellent hangover cure. More than anything, though it’s real comfort food: a hearty winter dish to warm you from the inside out.

ingrediente zousuiBasic Ingredients


  • Leftover rice
  • 1.5 x the volume of water of leftover rice
  • Spring onions
  • An egg
  • Soy sauce
  • Cooking sake
  • Salt
  • Dashi

Those are the basics, and zousui is delicious even if you add nothing more. But, this being leftover soup, the rules about what you can put in it are pretty loose. Some suggestions include:

Basically, within reason, you can throw in anything you like. You’re probably better off avoiding bitter vegetables, though. Things like kale, chickory, broccoli and cauliflower really don’t belong here.


If you already have some osuimono or nabe broth laying around, great! Just bring it to a boil and add the leftover rice. If you don’t, then:

  1. Bring water to a boil
  2. Add dashi, salt, sake and a small amount of soy sauce. Remember to go easy on the soy sauce! You want the final dish to be pale-yellow, not brown. If you want it saltier, add more salt.
  3. Add vegetables and meat, cook thoroughly (time depends on what exactly you’re using)
  4. Add cooked rice, cook for as long as the rice needs to absorb much more water than usual, but don’t let it totally fall apart. How long this takes depends on how dry the left-over rice was in the first place, but usually it’s between 5 and 15 minutes.
  5. Once almost ready, lightly beat an egg, pour it in, and swirl the zousui around once
  6. Wait one minute, turn off the heat, let the egg cook as the pot cools

soup cook vegetables add rice

cook zousi rice add egg mix

Some people like their zousui quite wet: with a lot of unabsorbed broth in it, so it’s more like soup. Other people like their zousui drier than that, closer to the consistency of risotto. There’s no right or wrong answer here: make it the way you like it.

Zousui is really easy to make. So easy, I even let my husband Quico make it, and it usually comes out ok. This morning he made us zousui for breakfast alongside…well, our coffee!


20th breakfastItadakimasu!

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4 Responses

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  1. jfombona said, on October 22, 2009 at 10:28 am

    Funny! my café-con-leche was the only thing I could not do away with in the mornings while living in Japan…

    • kanako said, on October 22, 2009 at 4:06 pm

      That’s the same as me. I also need a cup of caffe latte in the morning!

  2. Sonia said, on February 1, 2013 at 5:57 am

    Thank you very much for this recipe! (I am writing this while I sip my breakfast café au lait!)

    While preparing zosui with some leftover nabe broth I found out some possibly useful guidelines for the proportions of the ingredients: at least for me, 1 – 2 dl of uncooked rice (about 1/4 – 3/8 Pt) to approximately 1 1/4or 1 1/2 liters of broth (2 1/2 Pt) sounds like a good ratio, if you’r aim is not a risotto-like consistency. Of course you have to double the quantity of rice in this ratio if you use leftover rice, but I didn’t have any, so I prepared it with uncooked rice…

    In my first attempt to try out this recipe last night, I used about 3 dl of uncoocked rice (1/2 Pt) to 1 1/4 or 1 1/2 liters of broth (2 1/2 to 3 Pt) and the result was a thick risotto 🙂 But luckily the taste was very nice!

    I’m going to try experimenting with the rice-broth ratio next time I make some nabe and I hope this comment might be useful to other home cooks who wonder about the quantities of the ingredients.

  3. TheGreat Zambini said, on March 20, 2015 at 2:49 pm

    I’ve been looking for this recipe since I visited Japan last year and fell in love with the food, so I will definitely be making this and some of your other recipes 🙂 And this will be fun to add when I’m sick and tired of endless tapioca pudding and chicken noodle soup the next time I have a cold!

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