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Truly Japan: Beautiful Country, Beautiful Rice

May 04 2020 - Blog

Rice fields are an archetypal landscape of Japan, one that boasts a special beauty in each season: the mirror-like lustre of the paddy surface just after planting at the outset of spring; the green of new rice shooting up under the hot summer sun; the golden stalks of rice that ripple in the autumn breeze; and even the harsh winter has an upside as the land replenishes itself for a new cycle of rice-planting.

Rice-growing has become a foundation of Japanese identity and a staple of daily life. The rice that farmers grow so painstakingly is a life-giving food that connects the Japanese people.

Rice Brings Families around the Table

Families are brought together around the dining table by cooked rice, meat, and the fish and vegetables of the season. The conversations fostered by sitting around the table deepen family bonds and nurture the health of both body and soul.

When a Japanese family sits down to eat, they typically give thanks with the phrase "Itadakimasu". They give thanks for the bounties of nature, the fact of life itself, and the fellowship of sitting around the table together. As the meal comes to a close, it’s customary to say "Gochisōsama deshita," meaning "It was a pleasure dining with you".

Times have changed and fast food is available on every corner, but rice remains the food that brings together people and nature, as well as farmers and families.

Types of Japanese Rice Products

Rice (米, kome) is Japan's most important crop, and has been cultivated across the country for over 2000 years. As a staple food in the Japanese diet, the word for cooked rice (gohan) has become synonymous with the general meaning of "meal". Rice holds such fundamental importance to the Japanese culture that it was even once used as a currency!

The following are a list of common Japanese rice products and rice dishes:

1. White Rice (Hakumai)

Japanese rice is short-grain and becomes sticky when cooked. Most Japanese rice is polished to remove the hard outer skin (rice bran) and consumed as hakumai (white rice). White rice is the foundation of Japanese cooking and is served with most meals.

2. Brown Rice (Genmai)

Unpolished rice is less commonly sold as it is not considered to be as delicious as white rice. However, it has gained recent popularity as a health food because it is more nutritious than white rice. The outer bran retains much of the vitamins and minerals that are normally removed from white rice.

3. Multigrain Rice (Mugigohan)

Other grains and seeds may be added to white rice to add flavour and nutrients. One variation simply adds barley,  but more elaborate varieties may include more than a dozen different additions. Multigrain rice are named by the number of different grains added. 

4. Glutinous Rice (Mochigome)

Glutinous rice (also known as mochi rice or sticky rice) is the second most common variety of Japanese rice. When cooked, it is even stickier than regular Japanese rice and is commonly pounded into rice cakes, made into sweets or used in rice dishes such as sekihan (glutinous rice with red beans).

The Art of Eating Rice in Japan

A golden rule: Don't pour soy sauce into your rice in Japan! The Japanese appreciate the subtle flavour in their rice. When you eat sushi, dip the fish, not the rice, into the sauce.

Japanese Rice-Eating Etiquette:

If you want to serve cooked rice (ご飯, gohan) the Japanese way, you need a small bowl called ochawan (お茶碗) specifically made to serve rice. As an alternative, you could serve the rice in a small ceramic bowl with a base so that you can hold the bowl without burning your fingers.

Hold the ochawan with one hand by placing the base of the bowl on four fingers and your thumb on the rim, while holding the chopsticks (お箸, o-hashi) with your other hand. Yes, you got to lift the bowl when eating rice. In fact, eating rice out of the bowl without lifting it from the table lacks etiquette.

To eat the rice, use your chopsticks to pinch a mouthful of rice and put it in your mouth. It is bad manners to place the rim of the bowl to your mouth and slide the rice into your mouth with chopsticks.

Delicious Rice Toppings

Check out these typical condiments that Japanese people add to rice to give it flavour: Umeboshi (梅干し, pickled plum), Takuan (沢庵, yellow pickled radish) and Tarako furikake (ふりかけ, cod roe flavoured rice seasoning). You can even eat the rice with just these toppings without any other dishes.

Bring your family together with Japanese rice now! Savour your Japanese rice with Sky Premium’s freshly imported Salmon Roe Ikura, Tobiko, Mentaiko and Enzo Wakame.


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