Rice and Technology in Japan
Rice has been cultivated in Japan for over 2000 years and is their most important crop. It is the primary food in their diet and so important that it was used for currency at one time. The word for cooked rice is “gohan” which means the same thing as meal. The rice grain is also used for things like vinegar, flour, bran, and rice wine also known as sake. It is common to see rice fields across Japan. At first the fields are flooded patties around early summer. As the rice grows throughout the season, the fields turn green and gold. The rice crop is usually ready to be harvested in the fall.
Types of Rice
Common types of rice in Japan include, white rice, brown rice, glutinous rice, and multigrain rice. White rice (hakumai) is used with most meals in Japan. Brown rice (genmai) was not sold as much because it was not thought to be as tasty as white rice. Recently it has become more popular because of its nutritional value and health benefits. All rice begins as brown rice. Glutinous rice (mochigome) is second to white rice in popularity in Japan. It is a sticky rice used to make rice cakes, rice with red beans, sweets and other rice dishes. It becomes even more sticky when it is cooked. Multigrain rice is when grains and seeds are added to white rice for nutrients and flavor.
Rice Meets Technology
The planting and harvesting of rice is a backbreaking job, and over the years the National Agricultural Research Center (NARC) has found ways using robotic technology to mechanize these tasks. There are now machines for the milling and polishing process as well as machines for packaging rice and rice products. Since rice is a foundation staple in Japan, it is only logical that technology would be used for cooking it as well as planting, harvesting and processing.
Around 1937, the Japanese developed electric rice cookers. The first cooker was a rectangular wooden box that had two electrodes on each end. The rice was washed first and then put into the box along with water. A current was turned on causing the water to boil. When the water was absorbed into the rice, the heat was reduced because the lack of water caused resistance. Of course this method had to be refined because electrocution was definitely a possibility!
Mitsubishi produced the first electric rice cooker in 1945 and made it available commercially. It was very simple, consisting of an aluminum pot with a heating coil inside. There was no automatic turn off, no extended warmer and no fancy gadgets. Since then the Japanese have continued to improve on their technology and are known for some of the best, most innovative cookers on the market today. Let’s look at four of the best Japanese rice cooker manufacturers and their highest rated rice cookers.
Zojirushi has been in business for over 90 yfears. They started with a glass-lined vacuum, and today develop cooking products, living products and commercial products. Their goal is to improve the customers’ quality of life through the development of innovative products. Zojirushi develops some of the most advanced rice cookers in the industry.
Best Zojirushi Rice Cooker Review: NS-LAC05XT Micom
This product uses MICOM (microcomputer technology) and fuzzy logic to produce a perfect light and fluffy rice every time. Rather than just heating from the bottom, the heat is distributed evenly throughout this cooker resulting in balanced cooking. Fuzzy logic enables you to put the rice on, select a setting, and leave the rest to the rice cooker. It thinks for itself once you select the type of rice you want; it will adjust the time and temperature accordingly. You can cook brown rice, white rice, mixed rice, porridge, quick cooking rice, and sweet rice. It has a keep warm feature which automatically switches on when the rice is finished cooking, and there is an extended warmer for those times when you cannot eat right away. There is also a delay timer with two settings and a reheating cycle. When your rice is finished cooking an interchangeable beep signal and melody will alert you. The black and silver stainless steel exterior is pleasing to look at and matches most kitchen decors. It takes up minimal counter space and you can detach the inner lid which makes it easy to clean. The retractable power is a plus because you don’t have to worry about extra cord being out. Accessories included with this rice cooker are a rice measuring cup, spatula and spatula holder.
2) Tiger Electronics
Tiger Corporation was founded in 1923 and is based in Osaka, Japan. Like Zojirushi, Tiger also started out with glass vacuum bottles. They expanded to electric water heaters, stainless steel beverage containers, cooking appliances, and rice cookers. Their mission statement is “to continue to create new every day essentials for the dining experience with ideas that produce warmth.” As the company grows and globalizes, they now have sales bases in Shanghai, Taiwan, Hong Kong, Vietnam, and the United States. Let’s have a look at a flagship Tiger rice cooker reviewed below.
Best Tiger Rice Cooker Review: 4-Cup Electric Rice Cooker
This cooker is part of the JNP series “Made in Japan” and has been a household standard for years. You can make up to four cups of rice and with the keep warm function, it will stay warm for up to 12 hours. The retractable power cord keeps your counter free of clutter and makes storage easy. The stainless steel design is simple, yet elegant, and matches just about any décor. Accessories included with this cooker are a rice scoop, scoop holder and a measuring cup. Cleaning is easy because of the removable non-stick coated inner pot. You can also remove the steam vent which is recommended after each use. It is recommended that you wash the rice in lukewarm water before cooking to eliminate the unpleasant odor that bran may give off. This rice cooker is easy to use with one switch button that pops up and clicks when the rice is finished cooking. An indicator light will come on and it automatically switches to the keep warm mode. Several customers on Amazon raved about the longevity of the product. One had this cooker for 12 years, another for 16, and another for 15 and all three said that the cookers were still going strong!
Panasonic Corporation formerly known as Matsushita Electric Industrial Co, Ltd, is a multinational electronics company with headquarters in Kadoma, Osaka, Japan. It was founded in 1918 by Konosuke Matsushita, and today is one of the largest Japanese electronics producers. They are committed to environmental protection and sustainability and strongly believe in the founder’s vision which was to put people before products.
Best Panasonic Rice Cooker Review: SR-3NA Automatic
This is a one-step automatic cooker that can make up to 1 ½ cups of uncooked rice. Put your ingredients in, flip the switch and you can go and take care of your kids, do laundry or prepare the other parts of your meal. This model is not recommended for brown rice. It is recommended that you wash your rice in a separate pan before cooking. The Panasonic SR-3NA has a see through glass lid so that you can check on your rice as it cooks and the indicator lights let you know when the rice has finished cooking.. A rice scoop, measuring cup and multi-lingual instruction booklet come with the cooker. The instruction manual is written in English, Spanish French, Chinese and Korean. You can make restaurant quality dishes like Spanish rice with enchiladas, sticky rice for sushi, wild rice for tossed green salad, and even desserts like creamy rice pudding with cinnamon on top. Most customers like the fact that it is plain and simple, with not a lot of bells and whistles, but it gets the job done. This cooker comes in four sizes: 3-cup, 6-cup, 10-cup, and 20-cup. It is great for individuals who only have to cook for themselves, but the other sizes are also available for couples or larger families. The non-stick coated aluminum pan makes clean up easier.
Sanyo is a Japanese electronics company with headquarters in Moriguchi, Osaka, Japan. It was founded in 1949 by Toshio Iue who was the brother-in-law of Konosuke Matsushita, the founder of Panasonic. In 1952 they made Japan’s first plastic radio, and in 1954 their first pulsator washing machine. Iue’s goal was to sell the company’s products across the Pacific, Atlantic and Indian Oceans, so he named the company Sanyo, which means three oceans in Japanese.
Best Sanyo Rice Cooker Review: EC-503
A rice cooker and vegetable steamer all in one with a single switch operation makes this product simple and convenient. The white enamel finish matches most kitchen décor and the glass lid makes it possible for you to check on the progress of your rice. When your rice is finished cooking, the cooker automatically switches to the keep warm function. Accessories include a spatula and measuring cup. Also included is a multi-lingual instruction manual written in English, Spanish, French, Chinese, Korean, and Vietnamese. This cooker can be used for white or brown rice and it is recommended that you soak brown rice for approximately 60 minutes before cooking. To steam veggies, cut the veggies into same size pieces and place them in the steamer tray. Then place the steamer tray inside of the inner pot with water. Put the inner pot inside of the cooker and press the cooking switch. You should always use the steamer to cook your veggies. If you use the inner pot, it may scorch them. The inner pot, steamer tray and lid are detachable for easy cleaning. The cooker should be cleaned after each use. Also, the power cord is removable for easy transport or storage.
Japanese Rice Farming and Technology
We hope that our reviews of best Japanese rice cookers (2017 edition) were usefully to you and helped you make the best decision for your requirements!