Rice in Japan/Asia is as popular and as ubiquitous as bread is in to America. Odds are if you’re going to be living in Japan, you’re going to be eating more rice than you were accustomed to in the United States or your respective country. Rice is great because it’s incredibly easy to make, and I really think Asia has the best rice there is. I know that sounds weird, because rice is essentially tasteless. Once you’ve eaten enough of it, you start to notice subtle differences in the rice you eat. Rice goes great with A LOT of things. Miso soup, shabu shabu (which is like a Japanese stew), unagi, or just about any fish you can think of, all go great with a nice, steaming bowl of rice. Oishii!!
When I first arrived in Japan, the company I was teaching for actually provided me with this industrial-sized, gargantuan, rice cooker (Suihanki or すいはんき(炊飯器)). Okay, maybe I won’t say industrial-sized, but it looked like it was big enough to feed between ten an fifteen people. Truthfully, I didn’t know the first thing about how to use my rice cooker because I had never done it before. Thank goodness for good friends/coworkers. My friend Robby was gracious enough to show me how to use my rice cooker, and now I think it’s only right to pay it forward. So let me show you how to use a Japanese rice cooker.
Albeit this rice cooker is much much smaller than my original, but it’s a more high-tech style rice cooker. It also has many of the same functions that the old one did. If you know the basics, you’ll be able to make rice without breaking a sweat.
This is the main panel for my rice cooker. Let’s go through each of the different settings and buttons so you can get a little more familiar with the kanji:
1. メニュー, Menu- Pressing this button displays a small, black arrow that cycles through each of the different cook settings (numbers two through seven in the picture).
2. 白米 (はくまい), Hakumai- White rice.
3. 早炊き (はやだき), Hayadaki- Fast Cooking
4. 無洗米 (むせんまい), Musenmai- Pre-washed Rice
5. 炊込み (たきこみ), Takikomi- Mixed rice (or something mixed with rice)
6. おかゆ, Okayu- Rice porridge. This porridge is used as a remedy when a person is feeling sick. I don’t know exactly why, but it is.
7. 玄米 (げんまい), Genmai- Brown Rice
8. 予約 (よやく), Yoyaku- Reservation. This mode allow you to start cooking rice at a later, specified time.
9. 炊飯 (すいはん), Suihan- Cook rice.
10.保温/取り消 (ほおん/しとりけし), Hoon/Torikeshii- Keep Your Rice Warm/Cancel
Step 1: Add the desired amount of rice.
Step 2: Add water. A wise man (Robb Johnston) once told me that a good rule of thumb is for the rice to be submerged to just below the first digit of your index finger.
Step 3: Close the lid and turn it on by pressing the “Cook Rice” or 炊飯 button.
Step 4: When you hear the signal (my rice cooker beeps several times), the rice is done. Open the lid and serve away!
That’s really all there is to it. I promise. We don’t really need to overcomplicate things. Now there are other features that you can use if you like. For example the “yoyaku” button allows you to do scheduled cooking. So let’s say you want a nice piping bowl of rice as soon as you get home. Touching the yoyaku button will allow to set a timer where you can chose the number of hours when the rice will start cooking. So if I set the timer to 8 hours, the cooking will start in eight hours. I don’t know if every machine is the same though. Please do a test first, because burned rice is no fun at all…it doesn’t taste good either.
Here’s to heaping helpings of steamy, delicious rice!
Donald Ash is an Atlanta, Georgia-born, American expat who has been living in a Japanese time warp for the last eleven years. While in that time warp, he discovered that he absolutely loves writing, blogging, and sharing. Donald is the creator of thejapanguy.com blog. Wanna know more about this guy? Check out his "What's Your Story" page.