There is a certain smell to Japanese cooking. Anyone who's been in a Japanese restaurant knows it -- a sort of briny, savory, almost woody odor that is inescapable. It is the smell of dashi, a stock made from dried fish flakes and kombu seaweed, and its scent is so predominant because it forms the base for a great deal of Japanese cookery. Indeed, the whole concept of umami, the so-called fifth taste (after bitter, salty, sour, and sweet), derived from dashi and the particular flavor lent to it by the kombu seaweed.
There are two ways to go about getting your hands on some dashi. The first is to make it yourself, which involves finding and purchasing flakes of dried bonito and kombu, and simmering it at just the right temperature (you can't let it boil) for a precise amount of time (the seaweed goes irredeemably bitter if cooked too long). Or you can buy a giant box of dried pre-made dashi powder at an Asian market. I heartily recommend option number two. Hana Japanese Market at 17th and U St. NW is my preferred destination for dashi and other Japanese essentials.
Oyakodon is one of those many Japanese dishes that incorporates dashi. It belongs to the donburi family of rice bowl dishes -- the "don" in the name is short for donburi, and oyako means "parent-and-child," a pleasantly macabre joke about the fact that oyakodon is made with both chicken and eggs. This is street food, and comfort food, simply prepared using ingredients you probably already have on hand (assuming you bought that box of dashi powder).
The trick to a good oyakodon is to simmer everything together and add the eggs at the very end, allowing them to cook only until just set, and then pour it all over a steaming pile of hot rice. The heat from the rice finishes cooking the eggs. It's rich, filling, easy, and different.
Recipe after the jump.