Preparing Japanese Rice Properly (米の炊き方)

Rice is an essential food for the Japanese. Rice is not just a side dish, rice is as important as the rest of the meal. More than 300 varieties are grown in Japan, but those that are short-grained and high in starch are preferred. For this exercise we’re preparing four servings.

4 Servings
300 g (12¾ oz), or 2 gou, of Japanese white rice
430 ml (15 fl oz/1¾ cups) water

The gou is a Japanese unit of measurement: 1 gou equals 150 g (5½ oz) of rice or 180 ml (6 fl oz) of water. The amount needed for a bowl of rice for 1 person is 75 g (2¾ oz), or 90 ml (3 fl oz), so 1 gou is the ideal quantity for 2 people. To make this step easier, find a glass that holds 1 gou, you’ll need 11/5 glasses of water for each glass of rice. The weight of rice increases by 2.5 times when cooked, thus 75 g (2¾ oz) rice becomes about 190 g (6¾ oz).

Washing
Place the rice in a large bowl. Pour in some water and mix with your hands, then immediately discard the water. Sharpen the rice. This is the Japanese term for removing the excess starch by washing the grains. Cup your hand and plunge your cupped hand into the rice and turn it about 20 times, in small circles. Pour more water into the bowl; it will turn cloudy. Discard this water immediately and “sharpen” the rice again. Pour in some water and discard. Repeat this process 3 to 4 times until the water in the bowl is clear.

Draining
Drain the rice in a strainer and let it rest for 30 minutes.

Soaking in water
Place the rice in a heavy-based saucepan with a lid, so the rice doesn’t burn. Pour in the required amount of water. Let the rice soak briefly so it absorbs some water before cooking.

Cooking
Cover the saucepan and bring to a boil on medium heat. Lower the heat to low and cook for about 12–13 minutes (do not remove the lid after reducing the heat). Take the pan off the heat and let the rice rest for 10 minutes. This ensures that the rice swells up properly. Remove the lid and use a spatula to stir the rice, going right to the bottom of the pan without mashing the grains—if the grains stick, wet the spatula.

Rice Cooker
If you want to buy a rice cooker, choose a Japanese model, because Chinese rice cookers are generally designed to cook Chinese rice, which has lower levels of starch and water.

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