When I first learnt how to make traditional Japanese home dishes many years ago, I didn’t understand the purpose of using an Otoshibuta (おとしぶた). Whenever the recipe called for it, I would just conveniently grab any lid I could find. Though I found it strange sometimes, I didn’t really bother why my Nimono (煮物) – stew dishes always turned out wet and watery. It was only until one day my husband commented on my nikujaga （肉じゃが）, one of Japanese’s famous home dish – beef and potato stew. He said he had never eat nikujaga in soup before! Oh heck! Be it only a causal remark, it struck me to prove him wrong. I decided to take my home cooking more seriously, even it means I’ve to read all recipe instructions in Japanese, something of course not my forte.
Now, what is an Otoshibuta and how do we use it?
Otoshibuta, literally means Otoshi （おとし) = Drop ; buta (ぶた) = Lid , is traditionally made of wood and looks just like any other pot lids. However, its real purpose isn’t used to cover a pot or pan. Slightly smaller than the size of the pot or pan, Japanese use an Otoshibuta to cover directly on top of the food when making Nimono. The reason? It’s to allow water vapour from the food to evaporate and sugars from the seasoning to caramelise, forming a thick flavourful gravy which eventually coats around the food. A very typical cooking style for Japanese’s Nimono. Hence, having an Otoshibuta in your kitchen is almost a necessity if you’re keen to perfect your Japanese dishes.
You can find some other examples of Otoshibuta under this link. However, if you do not own any currently, you can always make one yourself. It’s easy and disposable, hence more hygenic. See below for ideas :)-
#1 – Using parchment paper
Fold paper into quarters. Cut the edges to form a round shape so that it can fit nicely into the pot. Make some holes on the paper. This will help to release the hot steam from the food. Finally, place your paper Otoshibuta onto the food in the pot just as shown.
#2 – Using aluminium foil
Prepare a long sheet of aluminium foil and double layered it. Gently crumple the edges of the foil to form a round shape. Adjust accordingly to the size of the pot you’re going to use. It should be slightly smaller than the pot, so as to create outlet for the hot steam. Place your foil Otoshibuta on top of the food in the pot as shown in picture.