Place the rice in a bowl and cover it with cold water. Stir vigorously to wash it clean of excess starch. Strain the rice and repeat the washing procedure with fresh cold water. Continue to rinse-and-swish with fresh cold water until the rinsing water runs clear. This will probably take three or four rinses. Drain well after the final rinse.
Place the rice in a sturdy, straight-sided
Over high heat, bring the water in the pot to a rolling boil. It’s best not to remove the lid to check on the rice’s progress. Instead, rely on other clues; you can hear the bubbling noises and see the lid begin to dance. This should take about 5 minutes. Reduce the heat and continue to cook until the water is absorbed (about 5 minutes longer); you may hear a low hissing sound. Increase the heat to high again for 30 seconds to dry off the rice. Remove the pot, still tightly covered, and let the rice stand for at least 10 and up to 30 minutes.
Transfer the cooked rice to a large bowl. The Japanese use a wooden tub called a handai or sushi oké, which is ideal. But a wide-mouthed glass or ceramic bowl is fine, especially if it has a wide flat bottom (avoid metal since it tends to retain heat). Toss the rice while fanning to cool it without condensation forming. The Japanese use a flat lacquered fan called an uchiwa, but a piece of cardboard is just as useful. Use a wooden spoon to toss the rice (the Japanese use a paddlelike one called a shamoji).
When there are no more clouds of steam rising from the rice, begin to toss it with the seasoned vinegar. Start with just a tablespoonful. Using gentle folding and tossing motions, gradually season the rice with the rest of the vinegar. Sample a bit; if it seems just right, add an extra sprinkle for good measure. As the rice cools, some of the vinegar evaporates and leaves the rice milder than when you first tasted it.
Cover the seasoned rice with a damp cloth until ready to use. It will keep well at room temperature for 4–6 hours. DO NOT REFRIGERATE IT as the rice will become crusty, hard, and thoroughly unpleasant. The seasoned vinegar acts as a preservative, protecting the rice from spoilage.
© 1985 Elizabeth Andoh. All rights reserved.