A Hangiri (or sushi oke) is a traditional Japanese wooden tub that is used in the final steps of preparing sushi rice. Its wide flat bottom aids in spreading out the hot rice to help it cool quickly after pouring in the sushi seasoning while simultaneously fanning and mixing the rice with a rice paddle. This helps to give the sushi rice a slightly shiny appearance and speeds up evaporation and absorption so the rice doesn’t get mushy.
A quality one is normally made of uncoated cypress wood or cedar and is bound by two copper bands. They can come in sizes ranging from 1 foot to 3 feet, but for general home use 16 inches in diameter and 4 inches high is ideal. This size is good for 10 to 12 cups of rice.
A good Hangiri can be moderately expensive. One that is around 1 foot should cost about $75.00. The best ones are made out of cypress or cedar, are bound by real copper bands and are made in Japan. If the one you are looking at is less than $50.00 then it is probably a cheap knock-off that is made out of pine with the copper the bands that are actually made of plastic. You will be replacing this one in a year or two at most if you make sushi rice of any kind on a regular basis. The cost of an authentic hangiri is definitely worth the price if you are more than an occasional sushi rice maker.
Seasoning your Hangiri:
Think of seasoning your Hangiri as being similar to seasoning your cast iron skillet; except you use water and rice vinegar instead of bacon grease or lard. It is also necessary if you want to do everything properly and treat it right from the very beginning.
To season, fill it with water and 1/4 cup of rice vinegar and let it sit overnight. The next day pour the water out and dry it well before putting it away.
Before each use:
Fill the hangiri with water and let it sit while your rice cooks or for at least 30 minutes before you plan to use it. Pour out all of the water before putting any hot rice in it. It is probably a good idea to turn it over to drain for a few minutes so there won’t be so much water in it that the rice can soak it up and get mushy.
Since most quality ones are made of untreated cypress, if rice were put in it without first soaking it in water the rice would stick to the wood. The water has a non-stick affect on the wood and also keeps the tub from soaking up too much of the rice vinegar, sugar, and salt mixture. While you’re soaking the tub, do like the pros do and soak your wooden rice paddle and at least one scent free kitchen towel to cover the prepared sushi rice.
After each use, wash and dry your Hangiri thoroughly:
If there is rice stuck to it when you get done, then put warm water in it and let it sit. It is ok to use a sponge or brush to remove stubborn spots, but don’t use any kind of steel or wire brush; it will damage the wood.
After washing, dry thoroughly with a towel and then turn it upside down in a dish drainer or prop it on the side of a bowl to get air flow underneath. If stored while still wet the hangiri may develop mold spots. Don’t dry the tub in the sun, it may warp. If seasoned and cleaned thoroughly after each use, a good quality hangiri will give you many, many years of service.