Thursday, August 27, 2009

Plain white rice

Hey look, I got a cool new rice cooker! It's a birthday present from my mother, (thanks Mom!) although I had to tell her exactly the make and model I wanted and where to get it from. I was kind of interested in the super-fancy models that have humidity and temperature sensors and use fuzzy logic to adjust the temperature and cooking time for perfect results every time, but I couldn't find one that did anything other than cook rice. I really wanted one that doubled as a slow cooker. One that tripled as a deep fryer would have been nice too, but, as far as I can tell, that remains a dream.

On the other hand, this one can also steam and make tofu. But that's for later, for now, let's talk rice.

My old rice cooker was fine if your expectations weren't too high. The rice tasted fine, but it was always kind of mushy and had a crunchy crust on the bottom which is a good thing in Chinese and Korean cooking, but it's a no-no in Japanese. The new cooker has settings for both styles along with the standard white, brown and congee settings.

Here's the first batch with the new cooker. I'm not sure I've zoomed in far enough for you to see, but each individual grain is distinct and has expanded until it looks like a little length of rice noodle. They're slightly sticky, but come apart easily; soft but not mushy; aromatic and flavorful (as rice goes, anyway). It's a far superior rice experience all the way around.

Since then, I've made a batch on quinoa (on the brown rice setting), which did turn into a bowl of mush, but I think that's just the nature of quinoa. It was a
fluffier mush than the old cooker ever managed and tastier too. Beyond the aesthetic improvements, I'm just pleased that it didn't burn as it did half the time in the old cooker.

Next up is slow cooking some short ribs, but that deserves a post to itself. And there's also the issue of what to top a big bowl of fine quality rice with which I'll be covering soon, too.


Karen said...

This is out of sync, but I had to tell you the fried garbanzos are amazing! Thanks for posting that.

billjac said...

I stumbled across the technique myself and discovered afterward that they're a classic Spanish bar snack. Deep fried is even better than pan fried because the outer layer separates into a thin crispy shell that traps a bit of whatever spices you add inside so you get layers of texture and flavor.

LaDivaCucina said...

Hey Bill, does your rice cooker cook brown rice ok too? I find that with my very basic (but still expensive japanese) rice cooker cooks it ok but still gets very messy on top. How much was this one, looks very fancy.

billjac said...

Yeah, it does brown rice. Also rinse-free rice and haiga, whatever those are. Actually, I've got some brown rice I made right here. It's not as fully expanded as the white rice, but the texture's pretty fluffy as brown rice goes and the flavor's good. The difference isn't as pronounced as it is with white rice.

As for mess, my old cooker was covered with muck, but with this new one you can't even see the steam plume. The removable, cleanable plates that snap into the top seem to strain out the starchy muck.

It's a Sanyo ECJ-HC100S and it goes for around $130. That's about as cheap as the high end cookers get.

LaDivaCucina said...

It seems like a good idea to have the plates that snap out, hard to clean the top of my cooker. I paid $85 for it in Chinatown in LA and that was over four years ago now. It's a Tiger and very basic.

billjac said...

My old cooker's a Tiger and it just has the one switch to turn it on. Anything with controls that simple has got to be really smart to do a good job and it certainly isn't. I was more or less content with it, but I think I just got used to the rice equivalent to slightly stale bread or slightly undercooked noodles. The upgrade is worth it to me since I make rice a couple times a week and I'm a picky eater. And even then I wasn't willing to pay that much myself. You'll have to decide for yourself it it's worth it to you.

LaDivaCucina said...

I'm actually pretty happy with the Tiger for my needs, my rice always comes out fluffy. But, I always unplug the cooker once the button "clicks" off as it will continue to cook unless you unplug it. Maybe that's why you're rice is a bit crunchy on the bottom? I would have thought for $85 (and coming from Japan) it would click off by itself!!!

billjac said...

The high Keep Warm setting certainly doesn't help. But I think the bigger problem is that my old cooker would just crank up the heat and violently cook the rice as fast as possible. The scratches in the non-stick coating were a problem too.

The new one gives the rice a soak, eases up the temperature and then eases it back down as it nears the finish. That cooks the rice gently and keeps it warm without over-cooking or creating a crust (even if you want one).

LaDivaCucina said...

Ah yes, very nice. And rightly so for the extra $50! Enjoy!

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