I’m an easy sale. I was talking with co-worker and rice fanatic, Zerlina, at work the other day, and the merits of a rice cooker came up. She mentioned how delicious the rice is from a cooker, how the fragrant jasmine rice will make the house smell good, explained the versatility of the machine and why it is popular with University students – cook rice and Chinese sausages all in one pot! I was hooked.
I quizzed her further on what sort of rice cookers are out there and she, being a mobile Wikipedia in human form, described them all from a stove top clay pot variety, to a simple electric, to the high tech.
Here’s your basic clay pot variety:
Inexpensive. Stop top method. Of course, you can also make rice on the stove top, using one of these:
But using either of the above involves some risk, primarily leaving it unattended while writing a blog post and returning to an overflowing mess because you forgot the step to reduce heat and cover once the water starts to boil.
Then some smarty pants decided the rice cooker could become a stand alone electric device.
These basic models have been around for ever, and although I was intrigued, I do have a loose sort of rule that does not allow me to buy anything that has only purpose. At the time, my mind thought a rice cooked but one thing. Rice. So I poo-poo’d the rice cooker, and kept cooking rice in my trusty pot, that I also use regularly for tomato soup, popcorn, porridge, boiling eggs, etc. etc. As you can see, one pot, many purposes.
But then, we fast forward to my conversation with Zerlina, and my multipurpose being hears “cooks sausages with the rice”. Well now. Now we have a multipurpose! What else can it cook? Porridge! I’m now starting to obsess about getting a rice cooker! But what kind?! The ever so helpful Zerlina recommends a Zojirushi rice cooker, which also happens to be available at Amazon.
So I do some research. Rice cookers do cook more than rice. Breads and sponge cakes too! As it happened, Amazon had a nice 3 cup Zojirushi rice cooker on sale, free two-day shipping, and extra savings because of Black Friday week.
A moment please. Let’s talk about Black Friday. All week on Facebook, I have been “liking” and “sharing” a variety of posts from “Buy Nothing Day” to being minimalist, to “Spend More and Support Local”, etc. etc. all in the spirit to bring awareness to not fall to the craze of consumerism, and think local, reuse what you have, etc.
…Then I go and buy a Zojirushi rice cooker imported from Japan… BUT IT COOKS PORRIDGE, AND I CAN SET A TIMER TO WAKE UP TO HOT COOKED STEEL CUT OATS FOR BREAKFAST AND NO POT WILL BOIL OVER ON THE STOVE.
It also plays Twinkle Twinkle Little Star when you press Start, and that alone, makes it worthwhile.
Now let’s talk about porridge. To me, porridge is things like steel cut oats, Sunny Boy cereal, cream of wheat and the like. I went to bed last night excited about making porridge in my new rice cooker. But I woke up around midnight and started giving this some thought. I cook steel cut oats with a 1:3 ratio. According to the markers in the rice cooker pot, it’s label for porridge made it about a 1:5 ratio. Something was wrong. I tossed and turned, and when I woke up early this morning I Googled “Japanese Porridge”. Japanese porridge, it turns out, is also something also called Zosui or Okayu, a nourishing sort of comfort food. I was intrigued.
For breakfast, I still made us steel cut oats using the 1:3 ratio. The rice cooker was a dream. Pushed the button, danced to Twinkle Twinkle Little Star, and while the rice cooker cooked our breakfast, I did some further research on okayu and zosui. I wrote up a list of things needed, and once breakfast was done, we headed out to T & T Supermarket at West Edmonton Mall. Couldn’t think of a better one-stop shopping place to get white miso and carrots.
Before going head-on into a more traditional konbu dashi (seaweed kelp) stock as the base of my zosui, I thought I would ease into this new soup using a more familiar chicken stock base. This is what I did:
In the rice cooker, I put in:
1 cup sushi rice
3 cups chicken broth
1 chunk ginger root
I hit the “porridge” button on the menu. Danced again to Twinkle Twinkle Little Star.
While that cooked, I poached and shredded a chicken breast. I finely chopped some green onion – white and green bits, and finely grated some carrot. I beat a single egg.
When the rice cooker sang out the hit song “Amaryllis”, I added a few more ladles of chicken broth from the poached chicken to give it a soupier texture. Then, I mixed up about a tablespoon of miso paste with a ladle full of chicken broth, and added it the pot. Next up, using chopsticks, stirred in the beaten egg. Then mixed in the chopped green onion, chicken, and carrots.
This is what we got:
It tastes far better than it looks. It’s hearty, rib sticking soup. It’s got the chicken thing happening for familiarity, the miso gives it a delicious umami kick. The egg gives it richness, the ginger its warmth, and the green onion a freshness that we don’t get in our regular North American chicken soups. The inspiration for this concoction is mostly from Gekiuma’s blog post, Japanese Soupy Rice Porridge For Colds and Unhappy Tummies.
I have always enjoyed rice, and really never had a problem with cooking it on the stove top. However, lately I am trying for health and economic reasons, to pack my lunch during the week instead of eating out all the time. I am happy to have a protein and a carb, along with an assortment of veggies. Potatoes, although delicious, I find hard to measure out and eat within moderation. Pasta encourages things like cheese or olive oil. Rice, on the other hand is easy to portion out for each meal and is delicious on its own – no added fats or oils.
Yes, our rice cooker is a bit extravagant. But the extravagance is also time saving and is encouraging healthier eating, so that, in my books, is priceless.