Oh! My Aching Rice Cooker!

Last night for dinner we had Korean and the night before - Japanese. Tonight… Japanese again. But wait…I am getting ahead of myself. First, I’d like to introduce you to my rice cooker. Twenty-one years ago, I lived in Hawaii next door to the best Thai cook I’ve ever met. Anne made foods for me I’d never dreamed existed let alone ever eaten – foods I now list among my absolute favorites: kimchi, som tum (green papaya salad), tom yung goong (hot, sour shrimp soup) and more. And, I often reciprocated. In fact, we started sharing a plate of our respective dinners with each other almost every night. (She told people I was the best “American food” maker she’d ever known.)

One afternoon, when we were cooking together (she taught me volumes about Thai food and cuisine in general), she asked me how I made rice. Like the typical mid-westerner, I told her with a shrug, “In a pan.” My otherwise soft-spoken, mild-mannered neighbor suddenly smacked her hand on the counter and admonished, “No, no! That will never do!” She proceeded to explain why I needed an electric rice cooker as well as how to use it and how to take care of it. Shortly after that, I became the proud owner of a ten-cup Tiger rice cooker. I remember buying it because it was probably the most expensive thing I’d ever purchased – it was nearly $100 even back then. As with time, I most regrettably lost touch with Anne, but I still have my rice cooker…and it still steams like a champ.

So, this is what I’ve cooked the last few nights with the help of my overworked, aged but still kicking rice cooker.

The first night on this most recent Asian food kick I made rice and Oyaku Donburi (a Japanese chicken and egg dish served over rice) from a recipe in my Quick & Easy Japanese Cuisine for Everyone cookbook (available from amazon.com along with Quick & Easy Thai that I love so much most of the pages are falling out).

On Korean night, I made rice in my rice cooker, Daeji Bulgogi (spicy pork which technically I only cooked, as I bought the raw, marinated meat at my favorite Korean grocery) and Miyuk Gook. Also known as “birthday soup,” this highly nutritious seaweed soup flavored with sesame oil (which I most recently learned should be kept in the fridge once opened for optimum flavor) is served at birthday meals and - I was surprised to learn - to new mothers after childbirth.

Tonight I made curry. When asked about Japanese food, most minds probably picture sushi. However, I can attest to the fact that curry is way more popular in Japan than sushi. (Sometime I’ll tell you about the curry doughnut I ate there.) It is the ultimate Japanese comfort food. While some people make the curry sauce from scratch, many use the prepared sauce blocks that look akin to chunks of peanut butter fudge. I have the powder but rarely ever open the can - the paste blocks are just too convenient. I am partial to the mix made by S&B Foods although House Curry (called Vermont Curry in the states) is also delicious. All are available in mild, medium and hot variations. (Neat story and cooking information about curry at this link: http://www.sbfoods.co.jp/eng/currystory.html )

There are three primary ways to eat this Japanese variation of the Indian favorite: with dipping bread, over udon (a thick wheat-flour noodle) – boy, did I burn my lip eating this once – and alongside perfectly prepared rice (and not Minute Rice, Uncle Ben's, jasmine, or basmati – don’t even try to convince a Japanese person these deserve to wear the name “rice”). I made my curry rice with leftover roast beef, potatoes, onions and carrots just like it said on the box.  My kids were in heaven and there was barely enough for my husband’s lunch the next day.

I’ve decided, after three days in a row, to give the rice cooker a rest. Tomorrow night we are having sekihan using my bamboo rice steamer. I’ve already have the adzuki beans and sweet rice soaking.


  1. Yay Japanese curry! I'm so happy that you talk about Japanese food, which is more than just sushi! :-) I enjoyed browsing around your blog. It was such a fun read! =)

    1. I try to add appropriate links (labels) to all my posts so people can read about what they like. I'm glad you liked this post. I have so much fun talking about what I like to cook (especially Japanese food and Thai food!) Thank you so much for stopping by and reading!