How To Cook Japanese Rice (In A Pot)


Most Japanese people use a rice cooker. I have one, but honestly, it’s a pain in the bum. It’s an ancient thing that came with the apartment. It demands that you actually have to programme the timer for how long you want the rice to cook. WTF?


It also came without instructions, or a scoop for measuring the rice and water, so figuring it out how to use it has been a process of trial and error. 15 minutes? Raw. 20? Raw with a slight coat of mush. 25? Still crunchy in the middle. Rage sets in. 40! Total mush. 


You’re not supposed to open the cooker at any point during the cooking process. Something about steam… I don’t know. So checking on the rice is a definite don’t. What you have to do is cook 117 batches of rice, increasing the time by 30 second increments, recording the results on an excel spreadsheet with formulae and pivot tables and multi-coloured charts. 


Screw that. 


So, I fecked my rice cooker onto a shelf in the bedroom (god knows you can’t throw anything out in this country) and now I cook my rice in a pot on the stove. Like it’s 1921. It seems like more hassle, but really, it’s just easier. Some day I’ll suck it up and go buy a new rice cooker, but for now, I use a pot.


So – how to cook Japanese rice in a pot.


Ingredients – 

Japanese rice – either thoroughly washed normal rice, or no-wash rice

A pot with a lid – ideally a heavy-bottomed pot with a tight-fitting lid




Rice spatula/spoon



1. Wash or rinse rice. If you’re not using no-wash rice then you’ll have to wash the rice. Washing rice correctly is essential if you are looking for perfect rice like you get at a good Japanese restaurant. Even though white rice has had the outer germ/bran removed (so it’s not brown rice any more) it still has a bit of a coating on it that will make the rice taste funny and stick together in big clumps if you cook it straight from the bag.

So, measure out your rice and stick it in a bowl (or into your cooing pot)  in the sink. Run cold water into the bowl til it almost fills up, swirl the rice around with your hand and then quickly dump it out. The water will probably be white. Add fresh water and do this a couple more times.

The next time, only add a little water. Then, get your hands into the rice and rough it up a little. Put the rice between your hands like it’s soap and you’re washing your hands with it. Smush it down with the heel of your hand. Really put your back into it. Let the rice settle, pour the water off, repeat.

You’re supposed to keep doing this til the water runs clear, but man, it takes forever. Ever wonder why Japanese women live to be 110? They’ve been busting a gut washing rice at 5am every day for 95 years. Great exercise I tell you. 

Some people say that you should be gentle with the rice and use the word “polish”. Others say you should “togu”, which kind of means scrub. I start out polishing, then I get impatient and start scrubbing. I’m not kidding when I say that this takes forever.
2. Drain the rice. Pour out your crystal clear (ha!) water and let the rice sit for about half an hour. It’ll absorb some of the surface water and plump up a bit. 

3. Put rice and cold water into a pot. The ratio should be 2 cups rice (pre-washing) to 2.5 cups water. If you’re just one lonely person eating alone, halve this. Do not add salt!

4. Make a little well in the rice. I have no idea why you do this. I was just told to do it. The best explanation anyone has given me is a “Eeeeeeeeeeeh…. delicious”. 

5. Let the rice soak. The amount of time this takes depends on how old your rice is. No less than 30 minutes, no more than 4 hours in summer, 8 hours in winter. I just do 30 minutes (if even).

6. Turn on fire. Let the water come to the boil without the lid on. Watch it like a hawk. If it’s boiling away for minutes on end your rice will turn out badly and tiny Japanese grannies will swoop ninja-style into your kitchen to scold you thoroughly.

7. Put the lid on, turn down the heat. Turn it down almost as low as it’ll go. Set your timer/phone/computer for 15 minutes. Don’t take the lid off to peek inside. Don’t stir. Just let it do it’s thing. 

8. Let it sit. When your timer goes off turn off the heat. Don’t take the lid off. Leave it to continue cooking under it’s own heat for 10 whole minutes

9. Break it up. Use a rice spatula (or in my case, a spoon) to break up the brick of rice. The grains will separate out (slightly) and stop it coagulating into a big starchy mess. It should be kind of sticky and fluffy.

10. Eat. Even though I like rice, I can’t eat it plain. I buy packets of sprinkly stuff in the supermarket/kombini and mix it through the rice. Current favourite is sour Japanese plum with black sesame seeds.


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