How To Cook Japanese Rice

In Japanese cuisine white rice, known as Gohan, is more than just a side dish. From sushi to curry to gyudon (beef bowl), the quality of the rice says a lot about the quality of the cook. Cooking Japanese Rice, however, is hardly rocket science, and if your family has a craving for the sticky short grain rice, here's some information that can help you cook Japanese rice in your own home.

How to cook Japanese rice:

  1. Washing the rice: Japanese short grain rice is sticky and can be too starchy unless you rinse it before cooking. Washing it is necessary but you needn't over do it. You don't want to strip the grain, leaving a dull, flavorless bowl of rice - plus many rice companies today produce polished rice that require less rinsing. Take the measured amount of rice and soak it in cold water. Gently whisk the submerged rice with your hand or a wire whisk, and drain. Repeat the process no more than three times.
  2. Soak the rice: For cooking rice in a pot, as opposed to a cooker, you'll have better results if you allow the rice to soak for at least twenty minutes. Be sure you drain the water and add fresh water for cooking.
  3. In a heavy pot, add the measured amount of water and bring to a boil. Stir the rice, reduce the heat and cover with a tight lid. Cook for 22 - 25 minutes.
  4. When the rice is done, whether you are using a rice cooker or a pot, open the lid, stir it lightly and place the cover back on. Let stand for two minutes.

Sushi: Rice cookers are the surest way to cook rice perfectly, especially if you plan to make sushi. Sushi translates to vinegar-rice, and because you are adding vinegar to cooked rice, you want to make sure the rice isn't overly sticky to begin with. Many rice cookers offer a "sushi" water level marker. It cooks using less water, producing drier rice. If your cooker doesn't have a water level marker for sushi, fill water to just below the normal marker for the same effect.

Mixed Rice: Japanese cuisine is commonly marinated with salty flavorings like soy sauce, that's why white rice is the perfect compliment. For Western culture, however, plain white rice can be, well - plain. Try adding some clams, shiitake mushrooms and a tablespoon of soy sauce before adding the water. The result is a delicious Japanese version of Paella.

Health/Nutrition: Japanese rice is delicious, but it's hardly slimming. A ¼ cup of white rice is approximately 160 calories, and the fiber is substantially less than brown rice. But brown rice doesn't go well on it's own when it comes to Japanese dishes. A better alternative is to mix the two. Here's how.

When measuring a cup of uncooked white rice, leave about a quarter inch from the top and fill it with brown rice. Wash and soak as usual and add the same amount of water as cooking white rice (if you are mixing more than a quarter cup of brown rice, you will need to add more water). Be sure you are mixing "short grain" brown rice with the white. Genmai is another alternative to brown rice. It looks like white rice, but it's actually the grain before the polishing process. 

Leftovers: Though most rice cookers offer a warming feature that keeps the cooked rice heated, it's as appetizing as a pot of coffee that's been sitting on a hot plate for a day. If you have leftover rice, wrap it in plastic and refrigerate. Microwave it for a few seconds before adding it to miso soup or cooking it into fried rice.

Because of its dense texture, Japanese white rice holds up to rich sauces and bold meats. But it's also versatile enough to compliment a lighter fare while satisfying hunger. Whether you are creating an all out Japanese meal or as a side dish with meatloaf, go ahead and explore. There's no wrong way to serve gohan.


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