Japanese Cuisine Basics

Rice Cooker

Rice is the staple food of the Japanese people and the centerpiece of Japanese cuisine. In the past rice was cooked in metal pots, but these days almost all households have special electric rice cookers in their kitchens for this purpose. Rice cookers, which spread rapidly from the 1960s, make it easy to cook delicious rice.

The Japanese rice cooker optimizes heating patterns and other functions so as to produce the highly sticky rice preferred in Japan, and it is intricately designed so that anyone can prepare tasty rice. What’s more, the texture of the cooked rice can be set to your liking (hard, soft, etc.). Rice cookers for business use are also appearing that not only make ordinary rice but also adjust the heating so as to cook delicious takikomi gohan (with ingredients mixed before cooking), okowa (glutinous rice steamed with other ingredients), okayu (rice porridge), and other dishes.


What Is Cooked Rice?

The main ingredient of rice is starch.
The starch in uncooked rice consists of a large number of glucose units. If eaten in this state, which is called beta-starch, it cannot be digested and does not have any flavor. When water is added and the rice is heated, however, the grains of starch absorb the water and swell, turning into a pasty substance.

This process is called the gelatinization of starch (creating alpha-starch). In other words, cooked rice refers to the process whereby beta-starch, which cannot be eaten, is changed into delicious and digestible alpha-starch. In order to achieve gelatinization, it is necessary to heat the rice at a temperature of over 98 degrees Celsius for more than 20 minutes.

The task of cooking rice involves the process of measuring the rice -> washing the rice -> adding water -> soaking -> cooking (heating) -> steaming -> and loosening. The taste of the rice changes a lot depending on such factors as the method of washing, the length of time in which the rice is immersed in the water, and different ways of cooking.


Types of Cooked Rice and Features

Takikomi gohan
Various ingredients and seasoning are added beforehand and cooked together with the rice.
Various ingredients and seasoning are mixed with the rice after cooking.
Glutinous rice is steamed together with various ingredients. Popular dishes include sansei okowa (mountain vegetables + seasoning + glutinous rice) and sekihan (adzuki beans + glutinous rice).
The rice is cooked in plentiful water to make a soft porridge. Rice cooked in this way is called shirakayu. The rice-to-water ratio is typically about 1:6 (known as zen-gayu), but there are also softer versions of about 1:8 (shichibu-gayu), 1:10 (gobu-gayu), and 1:18 (sanbu-gayu). The top layer of clear soup formed when cooking the porridge is called omoyu.

Source: Fujmak Corporation