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Rice in Japan is an essential part of everyday living and very important in Japanese culture, so it’s no surprise that Japanese rice comes in a great variety with more options than just normal white rice or brown rice to choose from, as well as special rice cookers to cook them in. In fact, there are so many different types of Japanese rice you can pick that it may get overwhelming.
Whether you like white rice, brown rice, glutinous rice, or something in between, there are many types of Japanese rice that are sure to suit your tastes.
If cooking rice is a big part of your everyday routine, here are 6 varieties of Japanese rice you should try out from your local Japanese supermarket.
Japonica rice is the most popular and well-known type of Japanese rice that is most often used in everyday Japanese cooking and can easily be cooked in your traditional or Japanese rice cooker. White rice is made by polishing brown rice and removing the bran layer and germ, and this plump, short-grain variety of Japanese rice is further categorized as Uruchimai (ordinary rice) and Mochigome (sweet rice).
Uruchimai is recognizable for its short to medium translucent grains and has a number of uses including making sushi and sake, while the short, round, and opaque grains of Mochigome are usually used in desserts. Additionally, a popular cultivar of this Japanese rice type is Koshihikari rice, which is most often used as sushi rice.
Eating brown rice is a popular alternative to white rice as a means to get more dietary fiber into your food, and in Japanese cooking, brown rice can also be mixed with green tea leaves to create Genmai-cha. Germinated brown rice or GABA rice is made by removing only the bran layer while leaving the germ intact.
While brown rice is noted for having a nuttier flavor than white rice, this type of Japanese rice has an even more nutty flavor compared to regular brown rice and can even be made right at home.
Once you rinse the brown rice, soak it in water overnight or until the grains plump up and you see tiny sprouts emerge from the grains. This type of brown rice can be cooked like white rice in your rice cooker as it has absorbed water.
Half-milled rice is a type of Japanese rice that is right in between brown rice and white rice. Polished white rice, while having a quick cook time and neutral flavor, goes through a process that removes the nutritious, oil-rich germ you’d find in brown rice. And while germ remains in and as you cook brown rice, it has a longer cook time and a flavor that some people may not enjoy as much as white rice.
This Japanese rice is the best of both worlds, with the rice grains undergoing a special milling process that removes the bran layer but not the germ, giving it the fast cooking time, tender texture, and easy digestibility of white rice while retaining the nutritious germ and health benefits of brown rice.
Mochigome, also known as sticky rice or sweet rice, is a type of Japanese rice that is most often used for desserts like mochi. While it is traditionally steamed instead of boiled like white rice, this type of cooked rice is extremely sticky and not eaten with savory meals like typical white rice.
The bran powder or bran layer has been removed, so washing rice is no longer necessary with this Japanese rice. While rinsing before cooking rice in the rice cooker is important to remove the Hada Nuka (literally “skin bran”) or rice starch, this type of Japanese rice skips the rinsing entirely thanks to a special manufacturing process that shaves off the Hada Nuka without the use of chemicals, additives, or water.
While this Japanese rice variety is more expensive than normal white rice, it is much more convenient with an enhanced taste. This Japanese rice is the preferred variety of white rice where rice is mass produced such as in school cafeterias, bento boxes, and convenience store onigiri.
Cooking white rice with other rice grown in Japan is a popular way to mix up flavors in a dish. The type of grains can be changed to your liking, with the most popular types being brown rice, millet, pearl barley, and quinoa.
By mixing your rice and grains, you can add other add nutrients such as dietary fiber, minerals, and vitamins that you wouldn’t otherwise get from just one grain type.
Rice in Japan is very important and so it’s no wonder there are so many different types to choose from and cook in your rice cooker. Buying Japanese rice can be a great way to discover new flavors and make new meals. Whether it’s white rice or brown rice that you like, the Japanese have certainly developed something that tastes even better than what you’re used to.
Long-grain, medium-grain, and short-grain rice are the three types of rice eaten around the world.