How to cook Japanese rice

How to cook Japanese rice

By
Tim Anderson
Contains
0 recipes
Published by
Hardie Grant Books
ISBN
9781784881146
Photographer
Laura Edwards

There is a wide range of Japanese dishes that are not eaten with rice, but there’s an even wider range of dishes that are. Rice in Japanese cooking is kind of like bread or potatoes in European cooking, mainly there to soak up sauces and provide bulk, but also beautiful in its own right when it’s perfectly made – all warm and plump and sticky and steamy… wait, what were we talking about? Oh yeah. Rice.

Japanese rice cooks by absorption rather than by simple boiling, which requires slightly more precise measuring, but the cooking itself is still dead easy. First of all: know your measurements! I like to use scales to measure rice – I find it makes things a little bit more accurate, and also easier, because I can just measure everything out into the pan I’m using to cook it instead of dealing with cups and jugs.

If you’re cooking rice as a side dish, you’ll need about 75 g (2 1/2 oz) uncooked rice per portion, or a little bit less for kids. For a main dish, you’ll need more like 100 g (3 1/2 oz) per portion. Weigh out at least 150 g (5 oz) rice to start with, and place it in a small saucepan with a snug-fitting lid.

Next: wash the rice! What you’re doing here is removing excess starch, which can make the rice overly sticky and leave a pasty flavour. Using plenty of water, rub the rice between your fingers, rough it up a bit and swish the water around. Have fun with it – I often find this step therapeutic. Drain off the water, refill it, and repeat three times or so – you’re looking for the water to clarify as more and more starch is washed away. It will never be pristinely clear – just get it down to a light haze rather than a thick fog.

Now you add your water – the ratio that works for me is 1.3 times the amount of rice, by weight – so for 150 g (5 oz) rice, you’d add 195 g/ml (scant 7 oz) water (this is roughly equivalent to 1.1 times the amount of rice in volume, by the way). Swirl the pan to distribute the rice grains in an even layer at the bottom of the pan. Place the pan on a small burner on a high heat and bring it to the boil. Now reduce the heat to as low as possible and put the lid on the pan. Set a timer for 15 minutes, and now forget about the rice – opening the lid once won’t ruin it, but if you do it too often, too much moisture will escape and you’ll end up with rice that’s either undercooked or burnt – or both! Not ideal. So resist the urge to check on your rice until the timer’s up.

Kill the heat, take the lid off, take a moment to enjoy the nutty aroma billowing from the pan (ahhhhh) and then fluff the rice with a fork or chopsticks to aerate and redistribute the grains. Put the lid back on the pan and let it sit for about 5 minutes for the rice to soak up any remaining moisture (the condensation that occurs as the steam cools will also help dissolve rice starch that may be stuck to the bottom of the pan, so the rice releases more easily and the pan is easier to clean).

That’s it! You now have a steaming hot pan of delicious and aromatic Japanese rice on which to build a multitude of Japanese meals.

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