I know. What kind of food writer can't cook?
Well, I can cook. I'm not comically bad at it (none of my dishes have caused party-wide food poisoning or a roomful of people discreetly spitting into their napkins), but nor am I impressively good at it (I doubt my recipes have ever been passed around anyone's social circle).
My cooking forté, if I have to choose one, is odd combinations: taking whatever random ingredients are available and mixing them to make something good, or at least interesting. When I was a kid, I used to 'artistically' splash ice cream sundaes with unorthodox toppings from the cupboards, and set them down with a flourish in front of my TV-watching parents. But when my mom tried to get me to follow simple cake-baking recipes, or to do something as simple as scramble an egg, I'd get tearful and frustrated. I just wanted to arrange the end product, and the less it involved cooking, the better.
This is a little strange, because as an adult, the presentation of food - its superfluous swirls, exaggerated colors, and artful placement on plates - rarely interests me. The only thing I care less about is how polite the waitstaff is and what's hanging on the walls, or, for that matter, whether there ARE walls. I hyperfocus on flavor and texture, and flavor and texture alone. If I could, I'd eat blindfolded, or in total darkness. (Like at El Castillo de la Noche in the Secret Series, though in that case it did result in a kidnapping.) I recognize the artistry of food and can admire it if I force myself, but my tongue drives my food obsession.
What I'm getting at, in a circuitous way, is that it's weird for me to post a recipe at all, and even weirder for me to post a recipe whose result is so colorful and beautiful, whose allure comes largely from the yellow yolk of a sunny-side-up egg soaking line by line into the spaces between fish eggs. But I'm doing it anyway, because it's the one recipe I use over and over, that I look forward to eating (rather than resorting to it), that gathers influences from my own personal comfort foods. It involves very little cooking, and much arranging of weird ingredients, and thus indelibly bears my mark.
I'd call it al bap, but it's not al bap, not really. I've nixed the gochujang and the kimchi. I'd call it chirashi, but it's not chirashi, not really. There aren't poached eggs in chirashi, and I don't think chirashi can exist without raw fish. It's not donburi, because nothing's simmered. It's not stirfry, because nothing's cooked (except the egg). It's just... the perfect rice bowl.
Here's the recipe (serves 3; adjust portions at will):
4 oz ikura (salmon roe)
4 oz capelin or flying fish roe (tobiko or masago) or a combination
6 sesame leaves, chopped
8oz danmuji (Korean pickled daikon), sliced thinly
Roughly 2 handfuls of shredded nori
1 cup uncooked rice
Mix nori, danmuji, and sesame leaves together in a bowl. Cook the rice; after it's done, stir in a teaspoon of sesame oil. Divide the rice into 3 bowls. Top each bowl with ikura, tobiko/masago, and the vegetable mixture. Fry the eggs (keep the yolks runny) and top each bowl with one egg.
Break the yolk and mix the bowl well before eating!