That was my latest (admittedly banal and self-indulgent) Facebook status update, but as I wandered down to the supermarket it occurred to me it could be a potential blog post. As you can imagine, shopping in a country in which you don’t understand the language can frequently yield funny/frustrating/disgusting results, and whilst buying rice isn’t filled with the risks that some other items are (clear white-ish liquids being one – vinegar? Mirin? Cooking sake? Sugar syrup? Something else entirely?!), it is still nice to be able to get something tasty. This time, I had already decIded to get brown rice – something that isn’t at all popular here (in fact it’s associated with being poor) – which automatically eliminated about 90% of the types on offer. Which was good, given just how many types are on offer…
This is the main aisle for smaller bags of rice, unusual kinds of rice, and rice “additives” (will talk about these below)
Finally, there were four stacks like this, each with several brands heaped on top of one-another, but by this point, on a busy Saturday afternoon, I was starting to feel self-conscious about taking photos, so stopped
Whereas at home we get lots of different types of rice that you can normally distinguish from eachother, Japanese rice mainly looks the same to my untrained eye – it’s white and short-grained. All the varieties you can see are Japanese rice – no Thai, Basmati, Arborio, wild or American rice for you! Some varieties are suitable for making sushi, whereas the others are all multi-use. The only type they have that differs vastly is mochi rice, a stickier starchier type that is used mainly for making puddings. Here is a free factlet for you – Italian Arborio rice actually originated from a Japanese variety.
Since white rice is low on both fibre and nutrients, a range of products is sold to be cooked with rice to put these back in. There are three main types of these – brown rice which has been soaked in warm water for a period of days, after which it starts germinating. This makes it more nutritionally dense, and takes away the hardness common in brown rice. It is normally cooked with rice at a ratio of one part germinated to two parts normal. Barley is another thing that is cooked like this, and is designed to bulk up the fibre content. The other product are sachets of mixed seeds, grains and nuts that are cooked with the rice. They have things like millet, sesame seeds, barley, and sunflower seeds in, and are actually very tasty.
To end this post, the type I bought was a brown Koshihikari (コシヒカリ or こしひかり or 越光 if you are here and want to buy some) rice. It is one of the most popular all-purpose varieties, and the brand I got is in the first photo, end section, third shelf down on the far left. Delicious :)