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Over the years, I had attempted to make the perfect pad Thai at home, but to no avail. The rice noodles came out soggy or way too chewy. And while I found that ideal balance of sweet (from palm sugar) and sour (from tamarind), the noodles were never the toothsome texture I sought.
Then, several years ago, I wanted to develop a pad Thai recipe for my upcoming cookbook, Instant Pot Asian Pressure Cooker Meals. The goal? Noodles with just the right texture — and to not trigger the multicooker’s dreaded “burn” notice. Then I had an aha moment: Why not try using an otoshibuta?
I was introduced to the otoshibuta (meaning “drop” lid) when my Japanese friend gave me her recipe for nikujaga, a beef and potato stew. An otoshibuta is commonly used in Japanese kitchens for making nimono — where meat, vegetables, and/or fish are simmered in broth (like nikujaga). Ideally, the otoshibuta is about an inch smaller than the diameter of the pot being used, so that the lid can sit directly on the food as it simmers. This setup forces liquid to circulate around the ingredients, coating them evenly without stirring, and concentrates heat for faster cooking. The otoshibuta also has holes or vents that let out steam, ensuring it doesn’t build up underneath the lid (which would lead to less-desired cooking results!). And because the ingredients are held in place by the lid, this stops them from disintegrating (so they hold their shape in the final dish).
So I thought I’d try using the otoshibuta to make Instant Pot pad Thai. And, oh, did it work well! Because the liquid circulates under the otoshibuta as the dish pressure-cooks, the noodles cook quickly in just enough liquid, preventing them from getting soggy. Once I determined the optimum amount of liquid, I got the same results every time with just the addition of an otoshibuta and the touch of a button — no guesswork, luck, or stirring required. (If you’re wondering, yes, the otoshibuta goes on and then the machine’s lid. Because the machine won’t work unless you lock the lid into place!) Besides pad Thai, I’ve had success using the otoshibuta to make other pasta dishes and stews in my Instant Pot.
If you don’t want to invest in yet another kitchen tool, you can easily fashion a makeshift otoshibuta out of aluminum foil or parchment. Simply cut out a circle an inch smaller in diameter than your pot, and make a small hole in the middle.
But seriously, considering how little space an otoshibuta takes in your kitchen (it stores flat in a drawer), I consider it a no-brainer buy.
Do you have a favorite Instant Pot accessory? Tell us about it in the comments!