Before moving to Japan, I rarely ate rice. Bread, some pasta, and fresh, low quality udon noodles rounded out my starches. I never imagined that I would eat rice daily and get a rice cooker education!
The previous rice cooker post covered my top five rules for using cookers. This post covers water and rice, brown rice, and handy features.
This is the way we wash our grains
The dependence of rice on water from growth to table fascinates me. The first step I learned in cooking rice was washing. I simply washed without thinking why and learned more after meeting Hitoshi and talking with friends about their habits.
The purpose of washing is to rinse away dust stuck to grains, especially on white rice. Hitoshi told me that some people think that rice smells bad if it isn’t washed really well. Rice does smell differently when it’s cooking based on how “clean” it is, but it smells stronger rather than noxious.
Hitoshi’s initial preference was to wash rice by swishing it vigorously with one hand in the rice cooker bowl. After each swish, he would change the water, repeating until the water was clear. My preference was to rinse rice three times by swirling it in the cooker bowl without sticking my hands in the water. Three is a great number. Other than that, I followed no logic. My friend from Singapore lightly rinsed her rice, saying that anything more would get rid of healthy nutrients. A Japanese friend didn’t rinse her rice at all! I decided that there was not a rinsing rule but more personal preference.
After years of making white rice, I still swirl it in the cooker bowl but only twice. After each rinse, gently tipping the bowl into the sink drains the water. The water is still cloudy but it doesn’t bother me.
Brown rice is swirled once in the cooker bowl with my hand. There is no cloudiness but dust and bits float to the surface. Tipping water out without losing brown rice is trickier. It is slippery with the hard outer shell, whereas white rice grains stick to each other.
The community information dropped at my homes in Japan said to water plants with the rinse water and not to put it down the drain. I didn’t meet anyone who did this and owned no plants. Was this to reuse water or avoid clogging the pipes?
We started using brown rice about six months ago. I didn’t know there were two types of brown rice and it took some experimenting until the cooked version felt like it wouldn’t crack our teeth.
The first brown rice we bought was germinated, although this was not intentional. Our cooker has a separate setting for this version. Other than a shorter cycle, we didn’t notice a difference in taste from regular brown rice.
Two cups of regular brown rice takes about 80 minutes to cook versus about 40 minutes for white on the regular settings. This took me a while to get used to!
We have used brown rice in lazy sushi, kitty rice and rice balls with no problem. Recipes will follow if you aren’t sure what these are!
Are you in a hurry? Try the salaryman setting!
This setting is also known as quick cook. On our cooker, white rice is done in about 30 minutes and I don’t notice much difference in texture. Hitoshi does and this continues to be a debate in our house.
I tried quick cook for regular brown rice and the result was hard, chewy rice that was not enjoyable. We didn’t try the quick cook setting with germinated rice. Perhaps you have?
I want some flavour!
In Japan, grocery stores sell mixes for rice or you can make your own. These mixes add different flavors. They come in dehydrated blocks that you throw into the cooker at the beginning of a cycle. There are also liquid and paste versions.
Flavorings with white rice have worked well but not with brown. We tried a liquid Kyushu Style seasoning from Muji. The flavor was nice but the brown rice was still hard. Perhaps the liquid needed to be adjusted. The next day, I tried miso and ginger brown rice from a cookbook and it turned out fine.
What else can I use the cooker for?
My rice cooker cookbook is packed with ideas that I never imagined a cooker could do. I’ve tried pearl barley, millet, couscous, quinoa, and cracked wheat. I have yet to try upside down cheesecake! What have you tried?
What rice cooker secrets can you let me in on? Feel free to share your questions, fails and successes!