Guide to Rice Cookers in Japan
Rice is the staple of the Japanese diet and there’s no shortage of rice cookers (炊飯器 | すいはんき | suihanki) on the market that aim to make modern-day cooking as efficient as possible. This guide will walk you through the basic functions of a Japanese rice cooker, how to choose a rice cooker, and recommended rice cookers.
Japanese Rice Cooker Features
The average Japanese rice cooker comes with features that take it beyond beings simply a vessel to prepare rice. Some rice cookers even let you make dough for baking! Here’s a brief look at the standard features that are common with Japanese rice cookers.
- 炊飯 | すいはん | suihan | cook
If there’s any button you need to remember, it’s this one. Press once and simply wait for your rice to be done.
- 早炊き | はやたき | hayataki | speedy mode
A lifesaver when you forgot to set the timer
- エコ炊き | えこたき eko taki | water saving mode
Cook rice with less water (be sure to use the エコ炊き mark on the rice pot!)
- 玄米 | げんまい | Genmai | mode for cooking brown rice
Brown rice is the healthier alternative to white rice, but it takes a long time to prepare. Genmai mode is the fuss-free way to prepare brown rice.
- 予約 | よやく | yoyaku | set a time for when you would like to rice to be ready to serve
Reserve a cooking time by using the 時 and 分 buttons
- おかゆ | okayu | rice porridge
Easily make okayu, a popular dish for babies and sick kids
- 炊き込みご飯 | たきこみごはん | takikikomi gohan
Easily make takikikomi gohan, rice mixed with various ingredients
- 取消 | とりけし | torikeshi | cancel.
Some rice cookers have a キャンセル | きゃんせる | cancel button
- メニュー | めにゅー | menyu- | menu
Push to toggle between modes or change the rice cooker’s clock
- 時 | じ | ji | use to set the hour (e.g. :15, :45) when setting the cooking time
- 分 | ふん | fun| use to set minutes (e.g. :15, :45) when setting the cooking time
- 保温 | ほおん | ho on | warmer
After rice is cooked, keep it warm with a touch of this button 保温. Some models automatically go into 保温 mode after the rice is cooked.
Meal Time With Your Rice Cooker
Mastering a few rice cooker dishes is a great way to expand your cooking repertoire and cut down prep and cooking time.
If there’s one rice cooker dish you must learn, it’s how to make takikomi gohan (炊き込みご飯 |たきこみごはん). Takikomi gohan is rice prepared alongside other ingredients in a rice cooker. After you’ve rinsed your rice, simply add your desired ingredients, which can be anything from mushrooms, meat, and veggies.
If you’re worried about the nutritional value of eating white rice everyday, opt for mixing zakkokumai (雑穀米 | ざっこくまい) with your white rice. Zakkokumai is a mixture of grains and rice that turns a boring bowl of rice into a healthy meal. To prepare, add one package of zakkokumai to two cups of washed rice.
One final rice cooker meal is not exactly a meal, but kids will surely love it. Your rice cooker can be used to make steamed cakes, or mushi pan (蒸しパン | むしぱん). Simply prepare a package of pancake batter ( ホットケーキミックス | ほっとけーきみっくす) and hit the 炊飯 button. For extra flair, add matcha powder, raisins, nuts, or chocolate chips to the batter.
How To Choose The Right Rice Cooker
There are three major points to look for when shopping for a rice cooker: functionality, compactness, and perhaps most important of all, serving size.
合 (ごう/gou) is used to denote the measurement of a cup of rice. Household rice cookers are commonly sold in the following sizes:
3合 — prepares up to 3 cups of rice; suitable for those living alone and for couples
5 合 — prepares up to 5 cups of rice; suitable for a family of 4-5
8 合 — prepares up to 8 cups of rice; suitable for larger families
1升 (isshou/いっしょう) — prepares up to the equivalent to 10 cups of rice; suitable for larger families
Recommended Rice Cookers
If you want to buy a Japanese rice cooker but don’t need all the extra functions, try this simple rice cooker from Tiger. It prepares up to 3 cups of rice and comes with the basic functions of cook, warm, and timer, as well as takikomi and okayu modes.
Stylish and practical, this affordable option from Iris Ohyama is a functional model that holds its own. This particular model is available exclusively to Amazon Japan and is suitable for a family of 4 to 5 people.
This best-seller on Amazon is from Zojirushi, the king of rice cookers in Japan. Recreate the taste of rice cooked in an earthenware kama that evenly distributes heat. This model is suitable for families of 4 to 5 people and even comes with advanced features for baking a cake and making dough.
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Guide to Rice Cookers in Japan
Written By: Teni Wada – A work-at-home-mom determined to find the perfect work-life balance in the bustling city of Tokyo. Find out more about her life as a new mom in Tokyo over at her blog, babykaiju.com.