Friday, August 10, 2012

Basic Onigri - The real taste of Akitakomachi Rice

Does Japan grown rice taste more delicious? I don't even need to hold my breath and I could straightaway give you the answer. It is a big YES!

I had been eating Koshihikari rice recently, and I really love it to the bit. I love Koshihikari more than Hitomebore, and more than any other grains. But I never had a chance to give Akitakomachi rice a try, not until recently.

In this post, I'll share with you how to make basic Onigri and also my verdict on the real taste of Akitakomachi.

It had been awhile since I stepped into Farmer's Market at Loewen Garden. This time, my intention is to bring my Mother In Law to visit this place. Although I knew she won't be buying anything there, but it is a good exposure. Farmer's Market sell good quality food, and usually, my husband categorized Farmer's Market as atas (high-class / pricey) market. Haha... I don't bother. As long as it is a good food, I think, it does comes with a price.

I spotted a new stall named Momorice, selling really good Japanese rice imported from Japan. Oh man! Japan imported rice! And I saw a rice miller milling fresh rice! Oh man! This is what I'm looking for!

Japanese short-grain is usually consumed "shinmai" style, meaning within three to six months of being harvested and milled. However, fresh Japonica rice is difficult to commercially obtain outside of Japan. I'm crazy. I know. I even asked Max to hand-carry a pack of fresh Uonuma Koshihikari all the way from Tokyo back to Singapore for me. See! This is how crazy I am. But then, they are FRESH!!!

I'm really glad that I saw Momorice milling their rice on the spot. It simply means, I no need to hand-carry the rice all the way from Japan and I get to eat fresh rice! Happiness!!! Hahaha...

I had a short convo with the friendly stall owner, and he handed over a pack of Akitakomachi for me to try. It is a starter pack. You could find it here.

You must be wondering why I love Japanese rice so much. Although Japanese imported rice slightly more expensive than USA harvested short grain rice, the aroma, plump texture, consistency and natural sweetness of Japan grown grains are simply incomparable.

Take a look at the plump grains...

They are beautiful isn't it?

Akitakomachi is another type of rice that had been in my "to-buy" list for quite sometimes. If you are a rice lover, you should know that Akitakomachi and Koshihikari brands stand out as two of the most well known and best loved rice in Japan. This rice is widely consumed in Japan, where it is also popularly used in preparing sushi. It's properties resemble those of Koshihikari rice.

Many locals complaint that Japanese grains are not that fantastic, commented that they never be able to cook as good as those in high-end Japanese restaurants. Telling me that the restaurant served ones are just different from the one we cook at home. But.... hello? Did you wash and cook the rice properly or not?  



If you are washing and cooking your rice with the right amount of water, you will be able to get the real taste of the rice. Soft, fluffy, sweet, plump texture... Woosh! Hahaha...

Here, I will show you how I wash my Japanese rice. I'm washing my Akitakimachi here...

1st and 2nd Wash : Looks like I'd just poured a bottle of milk in there? The water looks really milky. But nope! Those are starch that is coated in every rice grain.  

 3rd and 4th Wash : After two rounds of washing, the water is not as milky as the 1st and 2nd Wash. But still, we are not there yet.

5th and 6th Wash : Soak my fingers in the water. Check the transparency. Water is getting clearer. We're almost there.

7th and 8th Wash : Compare both 7th Wash photos and 8th Wash photos, you should understand what I mean. Water no longer mikly and transparently clear. We're done! Level with the right amount of water and it is ready to cook!

Rice need to be soaked for 30mins before you start cooking. This logic applies to my Zojirushi rice cooker too. But of course, my rice cooker has smart function. It will automatically cook the rice once 30mins is up. So, I totally no need to worry about the hassle of soaking and then, I make a turn, I forgot to cook the rice.

This always happened to me. So, I think I totally can't live without my Zojirushi rice cooker. Really...

Once the rice is done, I leave it in the rice cooker under "Keep Warm" mode for 5 to 10mins. And then, traditionally, rice are transferred to ohitsu, a wooden container made from the bark of cypress tree, and kept covered until rice is served. I don't have it at home. I just transfer it to my wooden bowl.

Based on all my online read-ups, it is said that Akitakomachi tends to be firm, moist and less sticky than other varieties. Let's take a close look at the cooked rice... And by just seeing it only, this looks really good to me.

I want to taste the real flavor of this good grain. Seriously, good food are not meant for you to just chomp in like a monster. They are meant for you to savor it slowly. Let the food linger in your mouth for a while and slowly chew it. And there, you could really taste the real flavor of the good food.

But it doesn't mean that I will just eat the plain rice just like that. Right?

What I did this time is that, I pressed my Akitakomachi rice into Onigiri. In order to taste the real flavor and great texture of the rice, I don't think I want anything else on my rice. Just plain basic Onigiri. Perfect!

Ingredients :
  • 1 cup of Raw Akitakomachi. You will get about 340gm Cooked rice.
  • 1 tsp Fine Sea Salt
  • a bowl of water to wet your palm
You could use other Japanese Short Grain Rice. No problem for that. But for better result, I'd recommend you to use Japan Imported Akitakomachi or Koshihikari. For the real stuff, I don't think they are as expensive as what you imagined :)

  1. Transfer the rice from rice cooker into a bowl (use wooden bowl if you have). The rice will be cooled down slightly and you will be able to touch the rice without burning your hands.
  2. With your bare hands, wet both palm, rub a pinch of salt on my palm evenly.
  3. Transfer rice to your hands, shape rice into balls or triangles by gently pressing rice 2 - 3 times with both hands. You could use Onigiri mould to get a better shaping. I did that too.
  4. Adjust the shape of the Onigiri if necessary, and garnish acccordingly.
Note 1 : Standard Onigiri size is about 120g. But for me, I make it small. Mine is about 65g for each Onigri.

Note 2 : When the hot rice transferred to my hands, the water evaporates and forms a thin salty layer over the rice ball. This salty layer keeps moisture and air inside while preventing germs from multiplying. This is why, japanese carry their Onigiri around even during the hot summer months. This layer of salt also keeps the rice moist. Even when it is cold, the rice ball will still remain tasty, even after hours.

Seriously, I felt lousy.

The photo of my Onigiri does not justify how beautiful my actual Onigiri is. Sigh!

Here's the verdict : My first impression on Akitakomachi after my 1st bite - rather light in taste and less glutinous than Koshihikari. Chewing it longer, it less sticky, soft, but still hold it's individual grain shape very well in my mouth. The after-taste is neutral and has really faint light nutty taste that I barely could notice. The faint saltiness from the sea-salt could really enhance the yumminess of the rice. I really like it! And I want more fresh Akitakomachi now! Hahaha...

I think this might be the reason why fellow chefs commented that Akitakomachi is truly superb in traditional Sushi rolls, salads and other asian dishes. Sushi is a dish which require good quality cooked rice, vinegared it, and combine with other ingredients (fillings, toppings and condiments). Usually fresh raw fish or other seafood is used. If the sushi rice taste too nutty, then, the overall taste of the sushi will be greatly affected.

The truth is that, I hate it when I ate sushi rice that is mixed with jasmine rice. It's absolutely... Sigh! But well, many casual japanese restaurants in Singapore and Malaysia did that. This is to cut cost. They have no choice, because short grain rice are more expensive than the usual Jasmine rice.

My husband might not want to eat plain Onigiri. So, I did Shoyu and Bonito Onigiri for him. All I need is Japanese Shoyu (Light Soya Bean Sauce), some Bonito flakes and some white toasted sesame. Although they are not as fanciful and as nicely shaped like those you see in the Japanese Restaurants. But with the mild saltiness that shoyu and bonito gives, they are delicious!

Although Koshihikari is still the most radiant looking rice grain, but if you noticed it, Akitakomachi looks really white and glossy too.

You will have to agree with me that you could only find such glossy texture rice in Japanese harvested rice. There are several explanations as to why, but the two major reasons are Japan’s ideal soil and water quality and harvested rice are milled practically right before use to ensure the rice retains its moisture.

Akita has a large amount of snowfall during Winter. They have abundance of water all through the year and there are a large area of deep forest in Akita. The large amount of water will be filtered and purified by the forest. Consequently, the quality of water in Akita is very good. So, this really explains why Akitakomachi taste delicious and looks really attractive.

I would highly recommend you to try and experience the difference of Japan grown rice. They are really worth more than what you'd imagine :)


  1. You never mentioned how much water per cup of rice you need to cook it :(

  2. After much experimenting, receiving different instructions, I come to the conclusion that
    somewhat less than two units of water to one unit of rice, (2 cups of rice to 3 3/4 cups of
    water) after soaking for about 15 minutes rather than the often suggested 30 minutes
    works just fine. I also simplified the rinsing process by placing the rice in a large, fine sieve
    and use the spray function of my sink faucet to rinse the rice over a small glass bowl to
    indicate when the water runs clear. Fast and effective!

    Give it a try.

    Emil J.