Japanese Rice – Sort of –

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Rice is one of the major sources of food for the world. It originated somewhere in the area of China and spread throughout the world. We have been cultivating it for about 5,000 years or so. Americans don’t really know about rice. We look for instant rice that has little character and flavor. I don’t know why, since the real deal is so easy and so versatile. Real rice is going to be a little bit sticky and can be eaten with chopsticks quite easily. (Chopstick and rice manners vary by region).

Chopsticks appear to have originated around 5,000 years ago in China, and spread all over the Orient. One of the reasons that they work so well is that the food has already been cut into bite size before preparation, which means that cooking requires less fuel and time. The Chinese chopsticks are usually rectangular, about 10 inches or so, and blunt ended. Japanese chopsticks are generally rounded, about 8 inches, and pointed. The snazzy lacquered wooden chopsticks were developed about the 17th century in Japan and are somewhat slicker and harder to use than plain wooden chopsticks. Hereself likes to takes our own very fancy chopsticks in their snazzy carrying case to Oriental restaurants. Ours are Japanese. I don’t generally care one way or the other. The disposable type in restaurants (wari-bashi) are easier to hold and to pick up food than the lacquered type, but the finer lacquered finish has better mouth feel. Life is a bunch of trade-offs.

Incidentally, there is nothing in the Oriental gene pool that makes them instinctive chopstick users. It is a skill that has to be learned like any other. If you want to see something hysterical, look at a video of any Oriental mother teaching her baby the proper use of chopsticks. It is delightfully funny – and quite messy.

Now to business. Get a good grade of some kind of Oriental rice. If nothing else the Mahatma Jasmine rice is better than most grocery store rice. If you can find some real Oriental rice at a specialty store try it – you will be amazed at the flavor difference. Anyway, for the most part follow the directions on the package, if any. If no directions then use this general way to cook the stuff. 2 parts water liquid measure to 1 part rice dry measure. That is 2 cups water to 1 cup rice for 4 people. 1 cup water to ½ cup rice for 2 people. (It doesn’t hurt to have rice left over). Stir the rice and put on the heat. Bring to a boil. Cover and simmer for 20 minutes. You may have to reduce the cooking time if your stovetop doesn’t get low enough heat. I have to use the smallest burner on the lowest setting. Turn off the heat and let it sit for at least 10 minutes. Do not lift the lid at any time! That’s it. Most people goof by lifting the lid to look and that will ruin it. Experiment a time or two. If you burn it then reduce the heat or time the next time – but DON’T lift the lid to see. If you’ve got a good lid you can use a wok for the rice, or any proportionally sized pot with a good lid.

We like rice with butter, soy sauce, or in other dishes. A nice, easy dish is a Japanese sort of thing. Oh yeah, this works very well with leftover rice. If you have a wok and know how to use it this is a good wok recipe.

2 cups cooked Japanese rice (Leftover is even better)
1/4 cup chopped onion
1/4 cup chopped carrot
1/2 cup broccoli flowers
1/2 cup diced meat of some kind – we like shrimp. Pork, ham, and chicken also work well.
2 eggs
2 tsp chopped garlic
1 cube chicken bouillon dissolved in a little hot water
2 Tbs Japanese soy sauce (We like Kikkoman)
vegetable oil
sesame oil

Whip up the eggs and scramble them quickly in hot oil. Set aside in a dish. High heat, add more oil and a bit of sesame oil for flavor. Sauté the vegetables until they are tender. Ham or pork goes in at the same time. If shrimp, add just before vegetables are done. Add the garlic just before the vegetables are done. Add chicken bouillon and rice and mix together. Lower heat and add soy sauce and mix it all up quickly. Add the scrambled egg, mix quickly. Get it off the heat, serve and eat immediately.

As a variation you can add a small bit of honey to the soy sauce over heat and stir it well. There is nothing sacred about the ingredients. You can use any veggies or meat that you have on hand, just add them in the order that they need to all come done together.

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