How to Make Rice, in 7 Perfect Steps
I’ve probably made rice a thousand times, maybe more. But most were before I moved into a house with a bunch of Japanese roommates and got my ass handed to me. That’s a very humbling experience, let me tell you. Like, here’s your ass. Thanks, been looking for that.
Ah, dinnertime in the kitchen. Such a happy time. Everyone chopping vegetables, boiling noodles, and filling the room with the fragrance of burning fish. That acts as Japanese Fabreeze for your clothes and hair.
I measured out some rice and water, and put it in a pot on the stove.
“Just like a gaijin,” scoffed one of my housemates, busily stirring a non-stick pan with a metal fork.
“What?” I said. “A white man can’t make rice?”
“Apparently,” she said. “You’re doing it wrong.” Everyone else ran over and stared into the pot.
“It’s freaking rice,” I said. “There’s no right or wrong.”
“Oh, that’s not good,” said another housemate, while whittling a carrot down to a toothpick.
“Wrong,” everybody agreed, mumbling. “Just wrong.”
Now, maybe I’m the only one who didn’t know how to make proper rice, but in case there’s one other person in the whole universe who might read this and wishes to be spared the flames of Japanese Hell, here it is:
The Secret to Japanese Rice
Step 1: Select Good Rice
Picking a good rice is about as hard as picking a good wine, for the same reason. Namely, there’s a million brands and you have no clue what you’re doing. You go to a classy restaurant and the sommelier hands you an ancient leather-bound tome with the names of obscure Spanish and Chilean vineyards, then he and your date stare while you pretend like you’re not just going to pick the second to cheapest bottle.
Fortunately, there’s a shortcut when it comes to rice.
What you want to do is go to the grocery store at the busiest possible time, find the rice aisle, and select the most expensive bag of rice. Hold it gently in your hands and note every detail: where it’s from, the size of the grains, the color, all that stuff. If an old lady comes down the isle, don’t look up. Just keep staring at the rice. Guy in a suit? Same thing. Don’t take your eyes off the rice.
If you stand there long enough, and concentrate hard enough, then magically, like a genie, a hot Japanese girl will appear. I mean, it might take a few hours but eventually it’s bound to happen just by chance, right? At which point you’ll turn to her and ask casually, “Is this a good rice?” She of course will have no idea, because she’s a hot girl. If you really wanted to know, you should’ve asked the old lady. The lesson here is that there are things in life more important than rice. Anyway, if you play your cards right, maybe she’ll come over and cook it for you, in which case you don’t need the rest of these instructions. Problem solved. Otherwise, just get her number and buy whatever she recommends.
Step 2: Use a Rice Cooker
Next, you’ll need a rice cooker. Sorry, I kind of forgot to mention that earlier. You can probably find one used if you live in Japan, or get one off of Amazon if you live anywhere else in the world.
A rice cooker takes all the work out of making rice. You just put in a few cups of rice, add water up to the line, press a button and grab a beer. Then in a few minutes, Rice. While you’re sitting there watching TV and eating chips, the rice cooks itself. It’s like magic. You can even set a timer and leave it overnight, then have fresh, hot rice when you wake up. There’s nothing like waking up to the smell of rice. Well, possibly the smell of burnt fish in your hair, but rice is good too.
Now, I know what you’re thinking. You’re thinking, Hell with spending a hundred bucks on some fancy appliance. I’ll just do it in a pot on the stove. Oh sure, you could do that, but you’d probably screw up the water-to-rice ratio or forget to turn it down to simmer at the right time. Yeah, you could dispense with a toaster too, and just cook bread over a fire on a stick. Or make a smoothie in your mouth by chewing up ice and fruit, super fast. So just buy a damn rice cooker already, jeez.
Step 3: Wash the Rice
This is the step that makes the rice taste fantastic and it basically separates the Japanese people from everybody else in the house. Seriously, you can (and probably should) disregard every other piece of advice Ken Seeroi’s ever given you, but trust me on this. Unwashed rice? Das nasty.
So take whatever pot you’re using, from the rice cooker or otherwise, put in three cups of rice, and then add a bunch of cold tap water. Then holding the pot with one hand, gently caress the rice with the other hand. Think of the girl in the supermarket. Stir it around a bit with loving swirls, then pour out the water, which will be milky white, like her skin. If you’re worried about losing some sort of valuable nutrition, well, drink a V8 or something. Then rinse your rice a few more times. You don’t have to do it until the water runs clear, but it shouldn’t be the color of baby formula either.
Step 4: Add Water and Pray
Finally, add the appropriate amount of water. If you’re using a rice cooker, just fill it to the line. Otherwise, you’re in for some guesswork, especially if you live overseas. Japanese instructions assume you’re going to wash your rice like a civilized human being, but the directions for “foreigners” sometimes assume you haven’t washed your rice, so they tell you to add too much water. Try not to think of this as a racial issue. Anyway, you may need to experiment with different amounts of water if you go the stovetop route. Better keep notes.
Step 5: Cook the Rice
Finally, cook the rice. Japanese folks will tell you it tastes better if you let the rice sit for a few minutes first, but honestly I’ve waited hours and it tastes exactly the same. So now I just push the button on the rice cooker, watch Japanese TV, and wonder why Japanese people are always lying to me. If you’re using a pot on the stove, simply follow the directions on the package, bringing it to a boil and then reducing it to a simmer. That’s not quite as easy as sitting on the couch, but hey, you’re the one who wanted to use a pot.
Step 6: Eat the Rice
Once it’s done, you’re ready to enjoy the most delicious rice you’ve ever tasted. Unless of course you screwed up the water, in which case you better call Supermarket Girl and get her to hustle over and make some fried rice out of that mess. Remember, the Japanese phrase for “fried rice” is flied lice. Pronounce it right or she’ll be insulted.
Of course, you want to eat your rice from a bowl, not a plate. I don’t know why. Unless you’re eating it with curry, and then go back to the plate. And use chopsticks. Unless you’re eating curry, and then use a spoon. Boy, Japan’s sure a complicated country for tableware. Whatever. If you’re not great with chopsticks, now’s the time to practice. If you’re already an expert, then use your other hand. Now it feels like someone else is doing it. Or use two sets of chopsticks at the same time and eat twice as fast. Japanese people will give you mad respect if you do this in a restaurant, so get practicing.
Step 7: Wrap Leftovers in Plastic
Finally, take the remaining rice while it’s still warm and wrap individual portions in Saran Wrap and store them in the freezer. Then you can have microwaved rice whenever you want. Sure, you’re gonna worry about all the chemicals in the plastic leeching into your rice, but all Japanese people do this and look how long they live. So nut up and start wrapping.
The Joy of Rice
Lastly, let’s talk about why you’d want to eat rice in the first place. Guess I really should’ve put this at the top, but too late now. If only there were some technology to, like, cut and paste things the way you do with paper. Well, maybe someday, in the future. Anyway, One of the best things about rice is that it’s pretty cheap. You can eat all week for under ten bucks. If I ever become homeless, seriously the first thing I’m doing, after drinking a bottle of shochu and sleeping under a bridge, is buying a giant bag of rice. Then another bottle of shochu. Man, that actually sounds way better than teaching English.
And rice is easy; easy as pie. That is, if pie had only two ingredients and tasted like, I dunno, rice. I mean, five minutes of work and you’re set for days. Not like baking bread, with all that kneading and yeast and stuff. Yuck. Plus, rice feels more like a meal than bread. Put a slice of Wonder Bread in water and what’ve you got? Nothing. Like you wonder where all the bread went. With rice, hey, you just made soup. Who doesn’t like soup?
Finally, pretty much anything you put on rice is instantly good. Throw on some vegetables and a blast of mabo tofu sauce and Boom, Chinese food. Rice and cheese? That’s a casserole. Getting all French now. Rice and beans? Ole, amigo. Rice and fish? Hell, don’t even cook that and just call it sushi. So there you have it: Ken Seeroi’s guide to four days’ worth of international cuisine in less time than it takes to order a pizza. Or order a pizza anyway and put that on rice. Italian food, my paisano. Now get out there and get winning, you Iron Chef. A world of culinary adventure awaits.