September 2, 2010

Japanify: How to Wash Rice

by yoko

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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).

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Succulent, plump rice.

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11 Comments

  • Posted September 2, 2010 at 7:38 pm

    Nice writeup. Since they’ve become widely available in the US, maybe the audience here would benefit from an exploration of musen-mai, keisen-mai, and whatever the heck process the tradename “kapika” maps to.

  • emi
    Posted September 4, 2010 at 8:34 pm

    I wash the rice at work too (for family meal– obviously our Italian/American menu doesn’t feature Japanese rice). The hard part is tipping the huge bowl and draining the water out after every washing without getting the rice out with it. And yes, totally agree about water wasting here– the tap is just running for no reason in the kitchen (sometimes with nothing else in the sink!) and I try to discreetly go around turning them all off, but I wonder if the thought even occurs to any of the other cooks?

  • kayoko
    Posted September 7, 2010 at 2:42 pm

    as lazy as i am, i am now a proud adapter of Yoko’s Rice-Washing-Drying-Soaking Method, and i make sure to start it 2 hours in advance. whoa. worth it though! the rice is more plump and shiny. thanks for the tips! awesome post.

  • yoko
    Posted September 7, 2010 at 4:09 pm

    Rich – Yes, I have never used musen-mai but I have read that they market it as being better for the environment because 1) you use less water and 2) you are not throwing rice-washed water down the drain which tends to kill certain things in ground soil.

    I definitely need to learn more about the differences with musen-mai and keisen-mai.

    As far as kapika, I’ll copy and paste what I wrote on the Facebook comments area

    The Kapika process creates highly polished rice, which increases …water absorption and promotes an excellent taste and texture. It is a proven and dependable approach to reaching musen mai.

    Kapika is a musen mai process that allows rice grains to polish each other without the use of any foreign material or medium.

    http://www.sunvalleyrice.com/?section=product

    Emi – so glad you noticed this “habit” of the Japanese to keep faucets running. It is baffling and made me really uncomfortable knowing how many running faucets there are at any given moment in Japan.

    Kayoko – I am really amazed that you have adopted. I mean, I guess it hard not to after trying it once though.

  • Posted January 27, 2011 at 4:17 pm

    I was recently at a restaurant in Hiroshima where they left the rice soaking overnight. Comments on this ? What about exceeding that 30 minutes for the drained rice ?

  • FlacoSalsero
    Posted May 2, 2012 at 10:36 pm

    Thanks Yoko for taking the time to share your rice cooking tips. I never used to like rice until I lived in Japan. Great instructions to yield some yummy Japanese rice. :)

  • Louise
    Posted July 17, 2012 at 12:42 pm

    I have to thank you. After reading this I followed the instructions and was happily rewarded with a fantastic dinner. All the rice was separate, fluffy and perfect. From now on I will make sure I prepare rice this way!

    Kind regards from the UK!

  • Alice
    Posted December 19, 2012 at 10:10 pm

    Great tips. I make my rice in a steamer, but it still came out better than ever. Thank you for posting.

  • Posted August 6, 2013 at 1:21 pm

    Sounds good “How to wash rice?” though, it is easy task but sometimes little tricky. We often losing food value due to inadequate knowledge on it. Thank you author.

  • michelle
    Posted September 4, 2013 at 9:54 pm

    My rice cooker doesn’t have a presoak option, but it has a delay timer option. Is that the same thing?

  • yoko
    Posted September 5, 2013 at 8:13 pm

    Michelle
    Yes, that’s the same thing! Pre soak, basically means that the rice just sits there in the water for a while before it starts cooking. Good luck!

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