A bowl of plain cooked rice

Posted on Jan 20, 2009 in Hiroko's Blog

A bowl of plain cooked rice – no oil, no salt and no spice – at a Japanese meal is as indispensable as a piece of bread in any meal here in America. Although polished white rice is the mainstream in Japan, my choice is brown rice.

Its distinctive nutty flavor and firmer texture is great. Today highly advanced Japanese rice cookers (Zojirushi IH rice cooker: check-out Hiroko’s Amazon Store) can cook brown rice as tender as its white counterpart, but I prefer to cook it firmer and crunchy. At Japanese food stores in big cities in America, you can find additional healthy varieties.  I was grown up with haigamai, partially polished rice. The harvested rice was partially polished, so that germ, the source of B vitamins, is intact in each grain of rice. How this type of rice with germ attached came into being is a story similar to the Western tale of scurvy and lemon juice. Beriberi, caused by the lack of B vitamins, was rampant among the wealthy Japanese classes living in the big cities since the 18th century. The poor farmers and commoners who ate unrefined brown rice did not suffer from beriberi. Studying this phenomenon in 1910 Dr. Umetaro Suzuki discovered that a component of rice bran including the germ was effective in preventing beriberi – thus, the birth of partially polished haigamai. My father was a doctor and my mother made nourishing meals for his patients who stayed over at his clinic on a lower floor of our house following surgery. For the sake of nutrition for the patients, my mother prepared haigamai and our family shared that same rice at our own meals.