Rice is the second most cultivated plant on earth, after corn, and is by FAR the dominant source of carbohydrates in Asia, where I currently live. But growing up in America, I learned how to make rice in a pot, on the stove. Throw in some butter, a pinch a salt and pepper, and you've got yourself a delicious side dish to those meat n' potatoes. Or so I thought.
Well, not so in Japan! My coworkers were amazed (appalled really) that I didn't know how to use a rice cooker. And it took 5 months of terrible, gooey rice before a nice old lady finally showed me the secret of making rice the Japanese way. It turns out that like me, many Westerners have no idea how to make rice properly in a rice cooker. (Conversely however, most Japanese have no idea how to make rice on the stove-top, so at least I have that :-) Several well done Instructables already exist on how to make pizza and bread and hamburgers in a rice cooker, and even alcohol, but none (that I could find) on how to make plain 'ol rice. This instructable hopes to remedy that.
This is delicious, fluffy white rice that the Japanese use as a base for almost every meal. (Though it is not sushi rice, which uses other ingredients.)
So without further ado, let's get started.
Step 1: Ingredients (ie. Rice) and Other Stuff
Pretty basic stuff here. Basically, you'll need:
a rice cooker
a measuring cup
short grain white rice
Pictures 1, 2 & 3 show the rice cooker I'm using. It's Japanese, which will become important in later steps, but basically it is a metal bowl that fits inside of a squat bread-maker-looking device, with a few buttons on the front.
Picture 4 shows a close up of the rice I'm using. This is a short grain white rice, typical of Japan. It is more starchy than its long and medium grain cousins, and that translates into a stickier rice, good for chopsticks (and risotto, but that might be another 'ible). It's a very common rice in Asia, but can be purchased in most grocery stores everywhere.
EDIT: It has been asked what brand or variety of rice I'm using in particular, which is a good question. I buy Koshihikari rice (Wikipedia), as I believe most people in Japan do as well. I am not sure if this exact variety is available in every country, but undoubtedly some form of short grain rice will be.
Step 2: Polishing - the Most Important Step
Step 3: Water - the Other Most Important Step
Now we are ready for water. Most (probably all) rice cookers come with internal gradation lines to show you how much water you need.
For one cup of rice, fill to the "1" line. For two or three cups, fill to the "2" or "3" lines. It's that easy. [Pic. 1]
Then just close the lid, and walk away for 20 minutes to an hour. Don't press the start button, don't do anything, just wait. [Pic. 2] The Japanese consider this step important, and I believe it is to soften the rice. I'm usually really hungry, so I only wait for 20 minutes.
After waiting hungrily, you can then go press the "Start" button on your cooker. [Pic. 3] Each cooker is different, mine takes about 25 minutes to cook a cup of rice to perfection.
**Side note on measurements** It happens that Japanese 'cups' and American 'cups' are different sizes. US cups are about 240ml, while Japanese cups are 200ml. If you cook one US cup of rice in a Japanese rice cooker, or vice versa, the internal gradations will be off. Keep this in mind if you bought your rice cooker (or measuring cups) in a foreign country.
Step 4: Time to Eat!
In Japan this plain, unsalted rice is used as the base for many dishes including Tonkatsu (pork cutlet) and pretty much any fish.
However, if you are unorthodox (or lazy like me) here are some easy ways to spice up your rice:
- You can just pour instant beef curry mix on top and eat up. [Pic. 5]
- You can add a little cumin, turmeric, and garam masala to the water before cooking. [Pic. 6]
- You can throw in a few tablespoons of diced tomatoes to the water before cooking. [Pic. 7]