Cooking rice without a rice cooker
Rice is Japan’s staple food, full of nutritional and cultural importance. Just about everyone in Japan eats rice at least once a day, so that means just about everyone uses their rice cooker every day too, right? Nope! While many Japanese people do fire up their rice cooker on a daily basis, it’s becoming increasingly common to use a different appliance to make rice: the microwave.
2021 was the 12th straight year in a row in Japan that sales of “pack rice,” rice in individual-size plastic packs that you cook in the microwave in two minutes, increased. Food companies produced over 234,000 metric tons of pack rice, roughly a 40-percent rise since 2015, and Japanese consumers are buying about 85 billion yen a year of it. Japan is famously particular about food, though, and it’s particularly particular about rice. So why is pack rice rising in popularity?
Flavor, convenience and the single life
Quality pack rice comes out flavorful and fluffy, free of the mushy or scorched textures that often plague microwavable foods. It may not be a 100-percent match for rice cooker-made rice, but it’s close, and if you’re going to be sprinkling on some furikake powder or, even better, pouring on curry roux, any difference becomes even harder to notice.
Then there’s the time it takes: two minutes in the microwave versus an hour in the rice cooker, which is huge when you get home from a busy day and want to eat ASAP. Uncooked pack rice doesn’t need to be refrigerated and will last for months, so you can stock up and cut down on shopping trips. It’s especially popular among young adults who live alone, since making a big pot of rice cooker rice and storing the leftovers is tough because Japanese apartments are small, which means Japanese freezers are small too (refrigerated rice dries out when reheated).
Welcome to the wide world of pack rice
The most popular brand of pack rice is Sato no Gohan, whose offerings include pack rice made with Koshihikari rice grown in Niigata Prefecture, among the highest-prized rice type/region combinations. Echigo Seika is another company producing Niigata Koshihikari pack rice, under its Nihon no Gohan brand, which it boasts takes only one minute to cook.
Koshihikari isn’t the only kind of pack rice out there, though. Other popular rice varieties like Akita Prefeture’s Akitakomachi and Hokkaido’s Nanatsuboshi are also available. Pack rice isn’t limited to plain white rice, either. You can also find pack genmai (brown rice) and sticky mochi rice too. For special occasions, there’s even pack rice sekihan, mochi rice with azuki sweet red beans. Sekihan is said to grant good fortune to those who eat it, and you’re sure to feel a little lucky enjoying some with next to no time or effort spent cooking it.
The Japan Food Journal-Yahoo! News
The Japan Food Journal