What Is An Otoshi-Buta And What Is It For?

Japanese home cooking features a lot of simmered dishes (nimono). Naturally, every properly equipped Japanese kitchen must have this simple device to enhance the simmering process: the otoshi-buta.

Otoshi-buta are circular "lids" that are placed inside a pot of simmering foods and rest directly upon the ingredients. Using a lid in this way does three things. First of all, it holds down fragile ingredients like potatoes and prevents from breaking apart due to the shaking caused by the boiling broth. Secondly, it facilitates even heating by keeping heat from escaping the pot. Last but not least, it prevents flavor from diffusing out of the ingredients and into the broth by requiring less liquid to fully submerge everything.

Traditional otoshi-buta are made of wood. They must be soaked in water before use to prevent the nimono broth from seeping into the wood and contaminating other dishes. After use, they must be thoroughly scrubbed and left to dry before reuse. Modern otoshi-buta now also come in a variety of materials such as stainless steel and silicone, each with their own unique characteristics.

You can also make an otoshi-buta out of aluminum foil or cooking paper and some clever folding. In certain situations, such as when making pumpkin nimono, a disposable otoshi-buta is actually more useful than a reusable one because it will not crush fragile ingredients. Disposable otoshi-buta can also be formed to fit any oddly shaped pots that you might have.

You'll notice the a difference that this simple drop lid makes if you make any nimono (Japanese simmered dishes). The penetration of flavor into the ingredients is much improved, and since you can make one using a simple sheet of cooking paper, you really have no reason not to try it out for yourself!

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