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Do You Really Know What A Japanese Rice Cooker Can Do?

Having read a very interesting article about a rice cooker in my friend’s blog, JAPAN CAN(ADA) MIX, I realized the importance of rice cooking in Japanese everyday life.

As a matter of fact, I was taught many things on how to cook rice well by mother, grand mother, and many others. Each has their own secret but there is also a golden rule for rice cooking.

There is a saying in Japanese;

はじめちょろちょろ、なかぱっぱ。あかごないてもふたとるな。
Hajime chorochoro, naka pappa. Akago naitemo futa toruna.

First on a low flame, and then on a high flame. Don’t take off the lid even a baby starts to cry.

 

Recently, however, this method of controlling the flame is unnecessary because our very wise rice cookers do everything instead of us and all that we have to do is press the button, or just to select a good rice cooker to make delicious rice.

The most expensive rice cooker that I found in Yodobashi.com is:

 

HITACHI, RZ-VW3000M-V [圧力&スチームIH炊飯器 5.5合炊き 打込鉄釜 ふっくら御膳 マグノリア]

Don’t be astonished at how much it will cost you!!
The price is JPY 110,410 = USD 1,060 = EUR 795 = GBP 620 =
CAD 1,150 = AUD 1,130 = CNY 6,500 !!!!
Of course, this is a discounted price…

 

What makes this rice cooker so special?
In Japan there are seven major companies which produce rice cookers; Zojirushi Corporation, Tiger Corporation, Toshiba, Panasonic, Hitachi, Mitsubishi Electric, and Sharp, and each of them has characteristics.

We would like to look at the characteristics of each rice cooker brand for we could understand what is important for rice cooking.

  • Zojirushi: a pot with brim and a 7-level pressurization method
  • Tiger: an earthenware pot
  • Toshiba: a round-shape pot and a vacuum method
  • Panasonic: steam and changeable pressurization method
  • Hitachi: steam recycling method
  • Mitsubishi: a carbon pot and steamless cooking method
  • Sharp: automatic rice washing system and voice alarms

There seems not to be one golden rule, yet I guess the form and the material of the pot and the method of pressurization on rice during the cooking time are important to make good rice. Another important thing I found was that many companies were trying to realize the traditional method with their own high technology.

a traditional rice cooking pot
called “O-KAMA”

 

What the traditional method requires are;

  • 2 hours of time to let the rice absorb adequate amount of water
  • a large pot made with iron
  • a heavy wooden lid against steam pressure
  • heating by wood-burning
  • providing much air to stimulate a fire with bamboo blowpipe
hukitake

traditional way of blowing fire with bamboo blowpipe

 

When was an electric rice cooker born?

In 1886, the first electric power company was founded in Japan. The electric power was used only for lighting in the beginning but amazingly, only four years later, in 1890, the electric elevator was in use in Tokyo…

Below is the list of electrical appliances with the year of launching:

  • incandescent bulb: 1890
  • electric iron: 1915
  • electric fan: 1916
  • electric radio: 1924
  • electric rice cooker: 1924
  • electric washing machine: 1930
  • electric refrigerator: 1930
  • gramophone: 1931
  • air conditioner: 1935
  • tape recorder: 1950
  • black-and-white television: 1953
  • transistor radio: 1955
  • electric rice cooker: 1955

-information from wikipedia

 

It was in the period of the post-war economic growth from 1954 to 1973 when these electrical appliances were diffused among common households.

In the list above, you may find electric rice cooker twice. The first version was quite simple one; just to boil the water in a pot with electricity. This first type was mainly used in Imperial Army and was not diffused because there was a high risk of electrocution.

The unconventional function of the second version was to turn off a switch automatically which enabled people to stay away while cooking. It was a great success. After four years of launching it is said that the half of the Japanese households had this electric rice cooker. In 1965, another miracle was invented; a stay-warm function. With this invention, people did not have to remove all the cooked rice from the pot. It enabled people to keep the warm cooked rice in the pot, which was very useful when there was no microwave to warm it up again.

With a timer, another great invention, people were able to prepare rice for the breakfast the next day before going to bed at night.

Since then, an improvement after an improvement have been made and now the Japanese rice cookers have great many functions and miracles, which do all what men should do with their time, their physical strength, and their wisdom. I found one thing in common with robotics, which realizes with high-technology the movement of muscles of insects, animals, and human beings. Improvement of technology is, needless to say, something great. Thanks for the technology, everything has become convenient and we can have more time to spare. But I have a kind of fear with the continuous improvement of technology… What will it be after “convenience”? What will human beings do for their living??

 

To tell you the truth… I’ve never tasted the rice cooked with these expensive high-tech rice cookers. I’ve been using this cooker for about five years.

Mitsubishi Rice Cooker NJ-TE20-S

pot of NJ

The Pot of NJ which seems so normal

 

I think I paid 15,000-20,000 yen for it. But I have been very satisfied with the rice I make with this cooker. Maybe because I’ve been keeping the rules that I was taught…

  • The first water that I wash the rice with is very important because the rice absorb it.
  • Nobody told me how many times I had to swish the rice vigorously to wash but I know that it’s too much if the rinsing water becomes 100% transparent.
  • The quantity of water and the rice should be the same. So if I want to cook 2 cups (whichever cups to use) of rice the water needed for is 2 cups. But it depends on the conditions of rice. If the rice is new crop, I need less water because the rice itself has more water inside. So the older the rice, the more water I need.
  • If I want the rice “al-dente”, I need to reduce water a bit.
  • Put the washed rice in refrigerator for at least half an hour.
  • After the beep sound which tells that the rice is ready, open the lid and stir up the rice from the bottom of the pot so that the remained water escapes in vapor. After stirring up, close the lid and wait for another 10 minutes at least.

 

cooked rice

Photo by Toshihiro Gamo (CC BY-NC 2.0)

 

In 2000’s using rice cooker for other dishes became popular, such as soup, boiled food, and sponge cake.

Here is a rich dark chocolate cake recipe using a rice cooker. The ingredients are just for reference. Your own recipe would be fine. The key is baking by 2 times of Quick mode!

Ingredients: 50g dark chocolate, 20g sugar, 50g cacao powder, 130cc milk, 15cc extra virgin olive oil (mild type), 1 egg, 60g flour (all-purpose), 1/2 teaspoon baking powder, 10cc rum or brandy

Direction

  • Melt the chocolate.
  • Add sugar, cacao powder into the melted chocolate.
  • Add milk and olive oil into chocolate and mix well.
  • Beat the egg white well.
  • Beat the egg yolk.
  • Add the yolk into egg white.
  • Add the flour into the beaten egg and stir.
  • Add the cake batter into chocolate, then the rum and stir.
  • Apply some oil on the pot.
  • Pour the cake batter into the pot.
  • Quick mode cooking in rice cooker twice.
  • Take out the chocolate cake by putting the pot up side down on the cooling rack.
  • It’s good hot or cold and served with whipped cream.

 

Attention!!!
I knew that it’s better NOT to do anything but cooking rice with an expensive high-tech rice cooker. So, if you spent much for it don’t do any kinds of adventure with it!! For those who have a normal rice cooker like me, clean the rice cooker and the pot very well after having baked a cake. Otherwise your rice of the next day will smell chocolate!!!
** Please also note that I shall not be responsible for any loss, damages, troubles, and the quality of the chocolate cake!!!

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Comment

  1. Devika Rajan より:

    I tried this recipe and my spouse really loved it. Thanks a lot, keep posting amazing recipes.

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