September 2, 2010
One of my tasks as a wee lass in the early 90s was to wash the rice for dinner while my single mom did the rest of the preparation and cooking. She told me that the ultimate goal in rice-washing is to get the water clear.
With my tiny hands, I would grind the rice together to get all the milky dirt off. My ultimate goal was to be done with my rice-washing task and go straight back to my room and do whatever I had to do as a 12 year old.
My method was very crude, I would basically swish the rice around, then take a handful and grind them together so that a bunch of white stuff would be released. I would also press as I swished the grains around – succeeding in probably breaking 50% of the rice in the mixing bowl. My mother was too tired to correct my juvenile method.
Not until I worked at a Japanese restaurant in Tokyo, did I learn how to properly clean my rice. My job included cleaning rice every morning at 10:30am, so it would be ready for the lunch rush at 12pm. But this time I wasn’t dealing with a quantity of rice for two little Japanese kids and a thin single mom – I was preparing rice for a restaurant full of about 40 people on lunch break. This meant I was handling about 2 gallons of rice (dry). The first thing that my mentor at the restaurant taught me was that you really want to avoid any kind of rice breakage. You must treat the rice very gently. There is no grinding or pressing motion necessary. Instead, he told me to just rake a bunch toward me and fold it over. Repeat.
Because I was literally dealing with a vat of rice at the restaurant, we just kept a steady stream of water running while I did this raking and folding process. It was a waste of water – and boy do those Japanese know how to waste water. The idea of overflowing liquid in Japan is a sign of luxury and celebration.
Anyway, my experience at Konohana really changed my rice-washing habits at home. I apply the same methods to my 4 cups of rice I make at home every few days.
In a bowl, add your rice and enough water to submerge all the rice. Wash the rice as if you are taking handfuls and piling it onto one side. Repeat. Here’s a video to clarify.
Drain the water the first time into the sink (you don’t reuse it because there is a lot of dirt released during this first wash). Add water to the rice again and wash the rice.
Eco points: This time drain the water in to a bowl. Save this water to rinse your face with for later. Rinsing your face with rice-washed water is said to make your skin softer. I don’t know if it’s because of the starch, but I will second that rumor. Plus, it’s a nice way to reuse the water that would otherwise go to waste. You can also water houseplants with this water.
I usually repeat the “add water, wash and drain” course about three times. The water is clear enough and I am not so crazy about wasting so much water on washing rice.
The next step is very important. Drain the rice by placing it into a colander. Store the colander full of rice in the fridge or on the kitchen counter for 30 minutes. I am not really sure what kind of chemistry happens here, but doing this step makes my rice much more plump and succulent.
After leaving the rice in a colander, put it back in the bowl and add water for cooking. Most people say one part rice to one part water. Depending on your cooking method and personal preference these measurements can change.
If you have a rice cooker, it will most likely have the measurement lines on there as a guide.
If you have a “Pre-Soak” option on your cooker, set the timer at 30 minutes, so the rice will start cooking in half an hour.
If you are cooking the rice in a pot, add the rice and water into the pot. Leave for 30 minutes. Then put it over high heat, covered. When the pot starts to blow steam, bring the heat down to low. Leave for 15 to 20 minutes and your rice will be done.
When it’s done cooking, leave the rice in the cooker or pot for 10 minutes so the rice can settle. After 10 minutes, open the lid and gently mix with your shamoji (paddle).
Succulent, plump rice.