Wash the rice several times, draining it well after the final rinsing. Place the washed rice in a sturdy medium-size metal pot and measure in the water. Ideally, the rice should soak for 15–20 minutes before cooking. If you are pressed for time, though, add an extra teaspoon of water and cook the rice immediately.
Place the pot, tightly lidded, over high heat and cook for 4–5 minutes or until the rice water bubbles and foams. You can hear this and you’ll also see the lid dancing up and down; there’s no need to peek inside. Lower the heat to medium at this point and continue to cook for about 8–10 minutes or until nearly all the water has been absorbed. Again, you can hear this: it will be a low hissing sound. The lid, too, will be less active. Turn the heat up to high again for just 20–30 seconds to help “dry off” the rice. Remove the pot from the heat and let the cooked rice steam itself, tightly lidded, for about 10–15 minutes. Cooked rice will stay hot for about 20 minutes after steaming, and quite warm for yet another 15 minutes.
To serve, dampen a wooden spoon (the Japanese use a paddlelike one called a shamoji) in cold water and lightly toss the rice before scooping out individual portions.
Note: Since quick heat control is a major factor in good rice cooking, those of you with electric ranges will need to work with two burners, one at high and one at low.
Sushi dishes require freshly cooked rice. Wash the raw rice until the water runs clear, then drain it well. Measure and add your cooking water to the pot and cook the rice according to the master recipe above. Transfer the cooked rice while it is still warm to a wooden bowl. The Japanese use a handai or sushi oké, which looks like a small tub. Some come with lids, others do not. Made of fragrant cedar wood, a handai is just porous enough to absorb excess moisture from the rice and its seasonings. You could improvise with a large unvarnished wooden salad bowl. Pour the seasoned vinegar called for in each recipe over the rice, a little at a time. Toss gently with a wooden paddle (shamoji) while fanning the rice with a stiff fan (uchiwa) or piece of cardboard. This helps to cool the rice to room temperature while avoiding unwanted condensation from the steam. The rice will take on a lustrous glow.
I highly recommend that any leftovers be used in Gingery Rice Porridge or Sweet Rice Porridge with Red Beans. Of course such non-Japanese dishes as fried rice or rice pudding make fine use of leftovers, too. You can reheat cooked rice for 2–3 minutes in a steamer or double boiler, but texture and flavor will suffer somewhat. If you do reheat rice use it in dishes such as Parent and Child Bowl, Pork Cutlet Omelet on Rice, Batter-Fried Shrimp and Vegetables on Rice or Garnished Rice with Tea.
© 1986 Elizabeth Andoh. All rights reserved.