As was explained earlier, rice is such an important part of of the Japanese diet that gohan, the Japanese word for rice, refers to meals of all kinds. Rice isn't considered a vegetable that's served with meat or fish, as in the West, but an independent dish, eaten in its own bowl.


Short-grain rice (left) and its long-grain cousin.

The type of rice Japanese people eat is short grain, which is different from the long-grain variety that's enjoyed in most other parts of the world. When cooked, short-grain rice is soft and moist while long-grain rice is rather dry.

Here's a traditional way to cook rice.


(for two to three servings)



Rice: 2 cups
Water: 2 1/4 cups




Always rinse the rice before cooking. Place the rice in a large bowl and fill it with tap water.


Stir the rice with your hand a few times and then drain the water right away, being careful not to scatter the rice. Repeat two times. Now stir the rice again, this time with less water in the bowl, squeezing the rice in the palm of your hand as you stir. Change the water periodically until all the rice shavings have been washed off and the water stays clear even when stirred.


Drain off the water and let the rice stand on a sieve for about 30 minutes. This is to let the rice absorb the water on its surface so that it cooks soft and moist.




Place the rice and the measured water in a heavy pot, cover with a tight-fitting lid, and cook over a medium flame for around 5 minutes. Turn up the flame until the steam begins spurting out from the lid, at which point you should lower the gas to a very low flame.

When all the water is absorbed, turn off the gas and let stand for around 10 to 15 minutes with the lid on.

  1. Although the recipe is for the kind of rice sold in Japan, you can use similar varieties that are grown in California and Spain (Japonica).
  2. Be sure to use a thick pot with a heavy lid. To cook 2 cups of rice, you'll need a pot that's around 15 centimeters (6 inches) in diameter and 12 centimeters (5 inches) deep. The rice might spill over if the pot's too shallow.
  3. You should adjust the amount of water you use depending on the type of rice and season. Rice that's just been harvested needs less water--about the same amount as the rice.
  4. The instructions above are for when cooking over a gas burner. If you're using an electric stove, turn off the switch when steam starts spurting out from the lid and allow the pot to stand for around 20 minutes.
  5. Lift the lid as little as possible to keep the temperature inside the pot from falling and the steam from escaping. If after cooking the rice is still hard on the inside, you can place the pot of rice with the lid on in a moderately warm oven for about 10 to 15 minutes.





Some different types of miso

Miso soup is made by mixing miso paste (a traditional flavoring) and dashi (stock). The paste is made by fermenting soy beans, rice or barley, and salt. There are different kinds of miso depending on the region, just like there are different varieties of cheese. The most common type of miso is a light brown color, although there are also some that are pale yellow and others that are dark brown. The soup can be prepared with vegetables, meat, fish, tofu, or any combination of these.






Bonito flakes (left) and Konbu (right)



Dashi is stock generally made from konbu (kelp), dried bonito (a kind of fish) flakes, or both. To complement the taste of the miso, strong-flavored stock is used. Bonito flakes are now available outside of Japan, so try making dashi with them.

Water: 4 cups
Dried bonito flakes: 2 cups, loosely packed
(20 to 30 grams, or around half an ounce)



Bring water to boil. Add bonito flakes and wait for the water to boil again. Turn off the flame and remove the flakes with a strainer.


The dashi will look like this.

Concentrated stock is available at stores selling Japanese foods in granular, powder, and liquid form. You can use these, too, if you can get hold of them. While the amount you use will be different according to the type of dashi, figure on adding around two teaspoons for around three cups of water.


Tofu: 1/2 block
Miso: 4 tablespoons
(more or less, according to taste)
Leek: 1/2
(a whole scallion may also be used)
Dashi: 3 cups


Chop the leek and cut the tofu into small cubes.


Heat the dashi and mix in a little miso at a time. (Don't use 4 tablespoons all at once; it could be too much. You should add more only if the taste is still too weak.)


Add tofu and turn off the heat as soon as the stock comes to a boil. Serve in bowls, topped with chopped leek.


Rice and miso soup -- your Japanese meal is ready!

Thanks to:    Kids Web Japan

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