I’ve had a lot of conversations lately about cooking rice and so I thought I would give this deceptively complex topic a go on The Spice!
As a kid, we ate instant Minute Rice and it was my favorite thing, with lots of butter. When I got older I lived in Japan for a year and experienced the cultural and culinary institution that is Japanese rice. I still remember my host family having a conversation for over an hour about different types of rice and how they differed based on their origins. This was not an exciting conversation, particularly since I could only half follow it.
I like rice, but I’m certainly not an expert. And this post isn’t your end all be all about how to make perfect Japanese rice. For that, I suggest you consult a Japanese cookbook (or any cookbook from the many other cooking traditions with delicious rice dishes!). But since I make rice about every other night, here’s what my rice is like.
Do you wash your rice? You probably should! Depending on your rice cooker, it may or may not be suited to washing rice in the cooking bowl. If not, or if you’re being careful, wash it in a separate bowl or in a fine mesh sieve.
Swish it around, pouring off the water until it runs as clear as you can get it. There is also a kind of rice called 無洗米 (musenmai) which means “no-wash rice.” It’s regular rice which has been processed a little differently and it was developed in Japan to decrease water usage. My usual brand of rice is a short-grain musenmai and sometimes I wash it, sometimes I don’t, but I really don’t need to.
As you can see from the photos, the way I make rice is using a dedicated rice maker. I recently got a fancy new rice cooker, which I’m really excited about! It holds 3 cups of rice and is smaller than my old one, which held 5 cups of rice. But for two people, a 3 cup cooker is just right. It has “fuzzy logic” which means that it automatically adjusts when cooking. My old one kept overheating and mysteriously shutting off in the middle of the cooking cycle, so its time had come. But after three years of cooking rice for us every other night, it held up! Farewell, old rice cooker.
Update: After six months of use, I love my new rice cooker. It’s a Zojirushi NS-LAC05XT 3-cup rice cooker and I can’t recommend it highly enough!