Uruchi Mai - White Rice

What is it?

The keystone to every Japanese meal.

How do I use it?

Rice is the base upon which you build your Japanese meal. Therefore, always, always use Japanese rice. To use basmati, jasmine, or other rice types when cooking a Japanese dish is unforgivable. The texture and flavour of white Japanese rice dictated the development of all other Japanese dishes, and therefore it cannot be substituted with any other rice. If you insist on a healthier option than white rice, try haiga mai (half-polished rice – see below) or use a 50/50 mix of white and brown rice (genmai).

What should I buy?

Japanese-grown rice is imported to North America, but you can also purchase Japonica rice grown in the U.S. (usually California). If you are thinking of doing a lot of Japanese cooking, it’s worth heading to an Asian or Japanese specialty store to purchase a large bag of high quality rice.

  • Uruchi mai (White rice)

If you want just one rice in your cupboard for Japanese meals, this is the standard one to buy. This short-grained rice has been polished (the outer bran and the germ removed) to give it its white colour. Use this for everyday steamed rice, onigiri rice balls, fried rice, and sushi.

  • Genmai (Brown rice)

Generally associated by the Japanese baby boomer generation with prison meals (their equivalent to “crust of bread”), genmai has only relatively recently become popular for its health benefits. Unpolished or partially polished, genmai has a nutty flavour, doesn’t stick together readily, and requires more water when cooking. Japanese brown rice is available at large Japanese specialty stores, but might be difficult to find elsewhere.

  • Haiga mai (Half-polished rice)

Available at some specialty Japanese shops (Fujiya at Clark and Venebles carries it in Vancouver), haiga mai is the perfect compromise for the health-conscious who also want to maintain the ideal taste and texture of white rice. The bran has been removed, but the germ (which contains several nutrients) remains. Haiga mai has nearly all of the benefits of brown rice but cooks and tastes more like white rice.

Haiga-Mai (Half-polished rice)

Storage: Keep rice bags sealed tightly in a cool, dark place. As long as it’s not spoiled by humidity, it should keep for at least a year.