The Yomiuri ShimbunThis series introduces basic information and tips for making washoku dishes. In this first installment, we talk about rice.
“Rinse your rice before washing it, and leave it in the water for a set amount of time before cooking. These two steps are important,” said Kiyoyuki Ichimaida, who teaches Japanese cuisine at Tokyo-based Hattori Nutrition College.
The quality of rice and milling technology have both improved, and sophisticated rice cookers are now available in stores. “Rely on a rice cooker, and you won’t mess up. But it’s important to know the basic steps before putting rice in a cooker,” Ichimaida said.
He said rinsing the rice before washing it gets rid of the bran around the rice, which prevents the rice from absorbing the bran with the water when it’s washed.
1. Place a strainer on top of a bowl, then put the rice in the strainer. Run water over the rice and stir it with your fingers to rinse the rice quickly.
2. Drain the water whenever it fills the bowl. Repeat step 1 until the rice stops being slimy.
3. Place the rinsed rice into a bowl to wash it, because “washing it in the strainer can damage it,” Ichimaida said. Pour in a small amount of water, enough to pool at the bottom of the bowl, to keep the rice from floating in the water.
4. Turn the bowl with one hand while using a kneading action to wash the rice quickly until the water turns white.
5. Place the rice back into the strainer, and then put the strainer on top of the bowl. Rinse the rice again until the water runs clear.
6. Pour plenty of water into the bowl and leave it for a while to allow the residue to pass through the strainer. Leave the rice in the water for 40 minutes to one hour in spring or autumn, for 30 to 40 minutes in humid summer weather and for one hour in dry winter weather.
“Let the rice absorb plenty of water so that it will cook soft all the way through,” Ichimaida said.
He recommends lightly washing even pre-washed rice and leaving it to soak in water for about the same time as in the recipe so that it tastes better.
To heat, place just the rice into a rice cooker first, and then add an adequate amount of fresh water up to the recommended mark in the cooker. When it is cooked, use the paddle to turn the rice from the sides and bottom of the cooker and roughly mix it. This step will help the steam to spread evenly and stop the rice from getting soggy.
Served in a rice bowl, the grains of Ichimaida’s rice, which have absorbed a sufficient amount of water, stand up and shine. Tasty rice makes mealtimes fun.
Ichimaida recommends not keeping rice in the cooker for a long time. He said it’s better to push the rice into the center of the pot, trying not to let rice touch the edges of the pan, in order to avoid it becoming dry and hard.
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