I live in company housing at my current job, and the rice cooker (suihanki, 炊飯器）belongs to my employer. It was waiting for me when I moved in, and it will remain after my contract ends. It’s a humble 3-cup cooker with only a few settings: white rice (hakumai, 白米); quick-cook (haya-taki, 早炊); cake (kéki, ケーキ), which, as far as I know, just sets the cooker for 40 minutes; and clean (sôji, 掃除). The inside bowl has water marks for white rice and okayu (おかゆ), rice porridge. People with newer rice-cookers might have a separate brown-rice function (genmai, 玄米), but the truth is that you don’t really need a fancy rice cooker to enjoy your brown rice.
The trick to making good brown rice in this basic rice-cooker is to add more water than is recommended for white rice. If I wash 1 (Japanese) cup of brown rice, I fill the bowl to the water-level recommended for 1.5 cups of white rice (hakumai, 白米). It takes a little longer (I think my cooker takes about 40 minutes), and I usually let the rice sit on the hold (warm) setting (ho-on, 保温) about 10 minutes. The rice comes out lovely, moist and fluffy–none of that crunchy mess from using too little water!
In my town, there are several brands of white rice, but only one of brown, which comes in a 3-kilo bag. I eat rice maybe once or twice a week and brown rice doesn’t keep as long as white rice doe, so I don’t really need 3 kilos. The last time I bought that much, it took me 6 months to eat it all–and that was after I sold half of it to a friend. Luckily, though, I discovered that my local farmers’ co-op sells rice by the kilo and polishes it on site. I go in every now and then and ask for just a kilo of their Ishikawa-grown koshi-hikari (コシヒカリ), unpolished (genmai no mama, 玄米のまま). I get a manageable amount of brown rice while supporting local farmers, and everyone wins!
My new favorite bento side dish is about 1/4 cup of brown rice with a handful of almonds on top–the nuttiness of the rice and the almonds complement each other beautifully, and it’s a nice change from the sesame seeds I usually use.
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Locally grown organic brown rice is available Matsumoto-san’s in Mii. I’m afraid I’m a total snob when it comes to brown rice. If you want really good brown rice, invest in a good pressure cooker. If you’re a real foodie, it’s worth it, believe me. Soaking ahead does make a difference and it needn’t be in the fridge.
I actually saw pressure cookers at the store yesterday, but I’m not allowed to buy any more kitchen equipment until I move into my new place. I was surprised though–I remember when my mom’s pressure cooker finally broke and we couldn’t replace it because everyone in the US uses crockpots now!