If you know a thing or two about Japan, then you must know that the Japanese absolutely love their rice. Japan is said to have started producing rice approximately 4,000 – 5,000 years ago. White rice has been an essential part of the Japanese diet ever since the methods to grow the grain were passed down from the Korean Peninsula. This feature will show you just how much love the Japanese have for this humble staple and hopefully turn you into a fellow Japanese-rice fan, too.
A nutritionally well-balanced rice
The carbohydrates that are part of the composition of rice are one of the three major nutrients essential to building a healthy body. Once the body breaks down these carbohydrates into glucose, it is then used by the body as a source of energy. This glucose is the source of energy that keeps the brain ticking over and rice is abundant in this particular nutrient. Along with carbohydrates, rice also contains protein – a nutrient essential for healthy blood and muscles, as well as various vitamins and minerals. In short, rice is an excellent, nutritionally well-balanced food source.
It has also been said that rice is the perfect food for those having issues losing weight. Unlike breads and noodles, which are made of wheat flour and other finely ground grains, rice is more slowly digested and absorbed since it is eaten as whole grains. This then helps to reduce snacking in between meals because it keeps you feeling fuller for longer, and as a result of this, your body releases the fat-storing hormones more slowly, which is then said to suppress fat storage. Perhaps the secret to the many slimmer Japanese people walking around the streets can be found in the rice?
Unyielding research behind Japanese rice
There are many countries, other than Japan, that rely on rice as their main food source, however, none of these countries receive as much praise for their rice than the land of the rising sun. One of the reasons behind this reputation lies in the selective-breeding research that has taken place over the last 100 years. There are approximately 900 different varieties of rice registered in Japan. New varieties continue to pop up every year in order to produce rice that is suited to the Japanese climate. This is how Japan continues to maintain its high-quality rice production.
Of the many different varieties, the following list contains the most widely known amongst the Japanese and foreigners alike. Be sure to give them all a taste to experience all the different qualities they possess.
Onigiri are balls of rice gently pressed by hand and are a highly convenient food since they can be eaten almost anywhere.
This is the most widely produced and eaten variety in Japan. It has the perfect balance of stickiness and firmness.
A variety known for its chewy texture. Mostly grown in Hokkaido.
A variety known for its great chew and balanced sweetness. Mostly grown in Akita prefecture.
A variety known for its wellbalanced stickiness and soft mouth feel. Grown all around Japan.
A variety of rice with the perfect balance of firmness and chew. Mostly grown in Yamagata prefecture.
A variety known for its great sheen when steamed, and perfect balance between stickiness and firmness.
A variety known for its clean taste. Mostly grown in Hokkaido.
Make an onigiri for a simple treat
An article about Japanese rice wouldn’t be complete without at least mentioning the ubiquitous onigiri. No doubt many readers have already seen characters in movies or anime taking tasty bites out of these satisfying staples. Onigiri are balls of rice gently pressed by hand and are a highly convenient food since they can be eaten almost anywhere. Japanese people have always loved onigiri as a food on the go since they can be eaten with one hand and don’t require any chopsticks to munch away at them. These days it is almost the go-to food for business people and they are easy to find since they are sold at all convenience stores in Japan. Various ingredients are used to fill these rice balls, such as ikura (salmon roe), umeboshi (salted plums), and even beef. Each store and region has its own unique spin on these food items, so be sure to travel around the country to find the perfect onigiri to fill your belly. In fact, there has been a recent increase in the number of places that specialise in selling onigiri, so pack your bags for a rice-balling trip to Japan!
Fill up on some Japanese rice in Australia
The following pages are filled with handy information for Japanese rice fans. Arm yourself with this knowledge to eat Japanese rice in Australia and enjoy various different types of the rice in your own home!
Specialist rice ball purveyors with the Japanese tick of approval – MUSUBIYA
MUSUBIYA, a specialist purveyor of rice balls based in Sydney, has been recently making the rounds in the local Japanese community for its high-quality offerings. This establishment has a strong focus on using Japanese-grown rice, which they cook in clay pots (a technique even the average Japanese person finds difficult). Clay pots are traditional Japanese cooking vessels that allow rice to be cooked at a slower pace due to their low thermal conductivity. Rice cooked in clay pots is said to draw out the true sweetness and savoury qualities of rice through this slower cooking method. While controlling the intensity of heat and levels of water is difficult and can be tedious, this is the secret to cooking delicious rice. As the clay pot continues to remain hot after the heat has been turned off, the rice is given the opportunity to slowly steam and release any excess moisture, resulting in perfectly plump individual grains of rice. The amount of water used and level of heat applied to the clay pot is adjusted each day according to the temperature and humidity.
MUSUBIYA also offers delivery services in their efforts to offer delicious morsels, without the hassle, to as many people as possible. While rice balls are generally said to be at their peak deliciousness when warm and freshly made, this establishment has gone through many processes to figure out the perfect level of firmness of the rice, and seasoning of the fillings to ensure their products are tasty even after they’ve cooled down. Plans are already in the making for rice balls using brown rice for the health conscious, takikomi-gohan (rice cooked with broth and various ingredients), mazekomigohan (rice mixed with different seasonings and ingredients), and other options. Does an ebi-ten musubi (tempura prawn rice ball), rice ball wrapped in grilled meat, or spam rice ball sound good to you? Then hop onto the MUSUBIYA website and try a tasty rice ball or two today!
Cook some SunRice Japanese rice at home
SunRice is the largest manufacturer and distributor of rice in Australia and has a major influence on the supply of rice within Australia. The company was founded in 1950 and in non-drought years, produces an average of 500,000 tonnes of rice every year. The company also specialises in growing a niche variety of rice only grown in a small number of countries. The Riverina region of NSW is said to be an ideal location for rice growing because of its fertile soil, temperate climate and the perfect level of sunlight that shines over the area. SunRice conducts its own research and development in order to cultivate different varieties of rice. Seeds are carefully managed so they do not mix with other seeds during the cultivation process. Quality is also strictly controlled and SunRice’s Australian-grown rice can be traced all the way from cultivation through to distribution. This quality assurance system is all part of the company’s Pure Seed Program. Picking up a bag of rice grown and manufactured by SunRice is simple since they are sold at major supermarkets. Rest assured that if you don’t have a rice cooker, then a pot will do just the trick for cooking some delicious rice. Grab yourself a bag and cook up some delicious rice at home today!
JAPANESE STYLE SUSHI RICE
Rice developed especially for making sushi. This uniquely smooth rice is firmer than regular rice so that it does not become wet and soggy when mixed with sushi vinegar. It also has a characteristically fragrant aroma and natural sweetness.
Rice produced for general Japanese cuisine. Highly versatile and can suit all Japanese dishes. Known for its stickiness, aroma, and natural sweetness.