This is an electronic rice cooker, one of Japan's modern kitchen miracles. Anyone serious about preparing and eating rice should have one of these. Also great for preparing Western dishes.
Rice is so important in Japan that the word for it, gohan, also means "meal." Rice is more than the staple food of Japan... it's cultural identity, mythology, and history rolled into one. Not only is rice served at virtually every meal but it's also the basis for many other foods, miso and sake to name but a few. It isn't surprising that there are hundreds of recipes dedicated to
the making of rice, here are three
of my personal favorites.
onigiri - rice balls
ONIGIRI (rice balls)
Onigiri are one of the great finger foods found in Japan, they're meals in themselves in a way that Western snacks could never be. Purchased from markets or concession stands, the triangular shaped rice balls are the perfect food for travellers or people too busy to cook. They're very easy to make and are packed as lunches for school kids and businessmen. Many Japanese markets sell plastic molds used to press sticky cooked rice into onigiri. These molds really make the process easy, giving you perfectly shaped rice balls.

2 cups of cooked rice, still slightly warm
(see basics for preparation method).
salt to taste
4 sheets of nori seaweed (cut into pieces about 5 x 2 inches)
a small bowl filled with salted water to keep your fingers moist.

(make any number of the following fillings and set aside in small bowls)
Three large pitted and minced umeboshi (pickled plums)
1/4 cup of dried bonito flakes mixed with a 1 1/2 teaspoons of shoyu
1/4 cup of dried bonito flakes mixed with a 1 teaspoons of red miso

Wet your hands with the salted water and then grab about 1/2 cup of the cooked rice. Mold the rice into a ball and flatten somewhat (keep dipping your fingers in the salted water to prevent the rice from sticking to you). With your thumb make a depression in the center and place within it some of your chosen filling. Mold the rice to cover the filling and continue to mold the ball into a triangle shape. Wrap the rice ball with a sheet of the nori and it's ready to eat. Serve at room temperature.

I like making my onigiri with cooked salmon mixed directly into the rice. I buy an inexpensive cut of fresh salmon and fry it in a pan with just a little vegetable oil. After the cooked salmon has had a chance to cool, I flake it into tiny little pieces using a fork. Then I mix the salmon into the rice and begin molding the onigiri. Here's another version of onigiri... make a rice ball with your favorite filling in the center, but omit the nori seaweed wrapping altogether and instead roll the finished rice ball in roasted sesame seeds!
YAKI-ONIGIRI (grilled riceball)
Try grilling your rice balls for a different taste! Make the onigiri the same way as above, but do not wrap in nori or sesame seeds. Using a stove top grill (or the broiler in your oven), toast the onigiri being careful not to burn them. Once the rice has turned color and become dry, turn to toast the opposite side. Use a pastry brush to apply shoyu to one side of the onigiri, toast, then turn the onigiri over and repeat the process until the rice balls are thoroughly toasted. This makes a perfect meal in winter and fills the house with the wonderful smell of
toasted rice. Delicious!
This is a traditional, extremely simple, and satisfying way to serve rice.

2 1/2 cups of steamed rice
3 cups hot Japanese green tea or
3 tablespoons of flaked cooked salmon
3 tablespoons of shredded toasted nori seaweed
1 finely chopped green onion
1 teaspoon of wasabi paste

Place the hot rice into a deep serving bowl and pour in enough piping hot tea or dashi to almost reach the top of the rice. Place the flaked salmon, nori, and green onion on top and crown with the wasabi.
KAYAKU GOHAN (mixed rice)
Mixed rice uses whatever ingredients are fresh and available, so other ingredients could supplement or relace what I've listed here. Try using any firm fleshed white fish or very thin slices of deep fried
tofu in this dish.

2 1/2 cups uncooked rice
3 cups of dashi (see basics for preparation method)
4 tablespoons of shoyu
3 tablespoons of mirin
1/2 small carrot (cut into very thin slivers about a half inch long)
4 fresh shiitake mushrooms (cut into thin slices)
1/3 cake of konnyaku (cut into very fine slivers)
10 snow peas (cut into very fine slivers)
3 tablespoons sake
1 sheet of nori, lightly toasted on the stove top grill and then crumbled

Combine all the ingredients except the sake in a large pan, mix well and bring to a boil. Cover the pan and reduce heat to low, allowing the rice to cook normally for around twenty minutes. Just before the rice is done lift the cover and sprinkle with the sake, cover again and let set for 10 minutes. Mix the rice well before serving into a bowl,
top with the nori flakes.

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