Monday, April 2, 2012

Japanese (Japonica) Rice

Somebody ever told me that if I have a pack of good quality rice, but if don't have a good rice cooker, I might end up not able to cook the best rice. Since I've got myself a mighty Zojirushi Rice Cooker, I am now more determined to buy some better quality rice to give it a try. I could eat better too, in a way. 

Ever since I've got my rice cooker, I had been reading alot about rice. There are an incredible number of varieties of rice in the world. What caught my attention is the varieties of rice that is available in Japan. And I will streamline to that.  What I'm gonna share here are all my summarized understanding about Japanese Rice after a few reading & findings online.

Japanese loves rice. So do I. Obviously. Urgh!
Here is a list of some of the popular ones, imported from Japan, that can be found in Singapore...
  • Koshihikari (I just bought this. Haha! Read on!)
  • Akitakomachi
  • Hitomebore
  • Hinohikari
  • Nanatsuboshi
  • Mochi rice / Sweet rice 
Other than defining the quality by it's variety, the quality of rice are also very much depends on which region that the rice is grown. When buying rice, you must consider two factors - the variety and place of production. For example, Koshihikari rice produced in the Uonuma district in Niigata prefecture is considered Japan's best Koshihikari rice and is very expensive, while Koshihikari rice produced in Chiba prefecture in the Kanto Plain is much less expensive. Something like that.
Those that you usually see in NTUC, Prime Mart, or Cold Storage, it is usually not imported from Japan. They are the same variety of grain, but harvested in USA or other places. Therefore, there is a difference in grades, taste, color and it's texture. And of course, the price is a big difference lah! :)

Japanese Rice
<< I had been eating this Hitomebore rice for the past without complain. It cost me S$19.90 for this 2kg bag. Got it at Shaw House at promo price. I would say, it taste decent and good. Has it's chewy texture and easy to handle.

Few weeks ago, I saw this at Jusco Tebrau City JB. They are selling at RM56.00!!! This is crazy can? How would a Malaysian spend such price for a pack 2kg rice? Well, maybe?

I believe that the Kokuho Rose and Calrose brands are at the low end in quality, though I can't recall specifically buying Calrose at any time. Yes, there is a difference. The color, the texture, the taste... It's just different. Calrose is a type of Japanese rice that was developed in California. Botan, Kokuho Rose, Nishiki, Shirakiku, etc. are brands of rice.

Japanese Rice
I had been wanting to try Koshihikari rice. It's just that I do not want to buy a pack of new rice without finishing my Hitomebore rice.

I'm eyeing on this pack of Koshihikari rice >>
for the past 2 weeks. Finally, I've got a pack over the weekend. It's labelled as Niigata Obaachan ("Obaachan" means Grandma) Osusume Koshihikari.

Koshihikari Rice
Koshikari is a super-premium Japanese rice that costs more than standard premium brands. Some brands are grown in California; some are imported from Japan. Koshihikari is grown not only in Niigata prefecture but also in other parts of the country such as Chiba prefecture, and even in the United States.

The Uonuma district in Niigata prefecture is famous for producing Koshihikari of top quality, and this is why Koshihikari produced in this district, or Uonuma-san Koshihikari ("san" means "produce"), is called "burando mai" (brand rice). Uonuma-san Koshihikari is ranked as Toku A. (Toku means Special).

Japanese Rice
Generally, rice is considered good if it is white, shiny, aromatic, sweet (becomes sweet when you chew it), sticky, and resilient. This is what I called good rice.

Mine is not specifically from Uonuma district. But still, it is from Niigata prefecture. The price is already very expensive loh. This bag of 5kg rice cost me S$77.40. It is the most expensive pack of rice that I've ever bought so far.

I really feel the pinch. And I was talking to this pack of rice while I carry em' up... "You bloody expensive rice! You'd better worth the price and don't dissapoint me I tell you!"


In the end, the rice eater is the one who pay for the rice. Hahaha! I'm happy! This might not be the best Koshihikari rice, but I would say I'm really contented. By paying S$77.40 for 5kg, it means S$15.48 per kg. It's really crazy enough, at least for now.
Japanese Rice

The result of my Niigata Koshihikari? It's really really reeeeally awesome! I'm soooo soooo satisfied! I just wants to eat more! I have no regret for getting this. I will give review about this later part in another post.
Japanese Rice

Maybe in future I'm gonna get a pack of Uonuma Koshihikari. Singapore is selling it. It cost S$40.00 for 2kg. Seriously, this is really way over-priced. Look at the packaging alone, you can tell...
Japanese Rice
And, I heard rice produced in the Shiozawa area of the Uonuma district is the very best and I'm sure that the price could be crazily expensive too. Maybe I should buy it only when I have the opportunity to go Japan.

If you do read abit about Japanese rice, I believe you will encounter the word "Musenmai". It means that the rice doesn't need to be washed before cooking. In the old days, rice was coated with talc during processing, and needed to be washed before cooking. In the 1950s-1960s, when people realized that talc could contain asbestos, rice mills substituted cornstarch, but the rice still needed washing to remove the excess starch. New musenmai rice is processed using tapioca, which apparently doesn't stick to the milled rice.

How to differentiate Japanese Rice by reading packaging.
I'm just like others, I don't read Japanese language. But I think this might be useful if you were to look for Japanese rice that is organic :-
1) 有機 yu-u-ki, just mentioned above
2) 無農薬 mu-nouyaku (no agricultural chemicals)
3) 減農薬 gen-nouyaku (reduced agricultural chemicals)
4) brown rice 玄米 gen-mai - has the capability of removing kankyo hormones and food additives from your body
5) shinmai (new crop rice 新米) and komai (old rice 古米)

We're definitely not familiar with this, but Japanese rice is classified as below according to how it is milled.
  • Genmai 玄米, unmilled, brown rice
  • san-bu zuki 三分づき, milled until 30% of the bran is removed
  • go-bu zuki 五分づき, milled until 50% of the bran is removed
  • shichi-bu zuki 七分づき, milled until 70% of the bran is removed
  • haku mai 白米, white rice
  • haiga mai 胚芽米, milled, but germ intact

I need a pack of brown rice! Arrgh!!! I only left with two cups of brown rice at home. Finishing real soon. I'm gonna get one if this! Brown Koshihikari! It's not cheap I tell ya... S$39.90 for a pack of 3kg! Isetan has a rice milling machine there. Milling rice on my own? I never try this before. I think it's gonna be fun!

Japanese Rice

Stay tuned!

p/s : Friends, if you intend to give Niigata Koshihikari Rice a try, but not willing to buy it at such big bag size like me. You can contact me, I can just pack and sell you 1kg, since I have 5kg at home. Do give it a try before you invest on a big bag :)


  1. I just bought a 2kg bag of Uonuma koshihikari for $13.98 USD! Not bad! At Marukai in Cupertino CA. Thank you for the information about rice! I just bought a zojirushi induction heat plus pressure rice cooker so I've been interested in buying the best Japanese rice.

  2. Thank you Annie. Very informative. I've been curious about real Japanese rice ever since I saw a show on TV many years ago where some Japanese people were blind tested on rice grown in Australia and US. All of them were able to taste the difference and said they would continue to only buy the Japanese product. Normally we just eat Jasmine or Basmati rice but after reading your blog I went out last night and bought a 2kg bag of Shinmei Akafuji Koshihikari from Niigata. It cost AU$18! Can't wait to try it for myself!