(Edit: This article was featured on Korea.net, the official website of the ROK, on Sept. 10, 2010.)
Without a doubt, rice is an important part of almost every Korean meal. There are a lot of requests I get asking people to teach them to cook Korean food. I’m a man, and I was raised in the U.S., so my skills in cooking authentic Korean food are dubious, however, if there’s one thing that I know how to do properly, it’s how to cook rice.
But rice isn’t that hard to make!
Au contraire! It is difficult. You have to get exactly the right ratio of water to rice, and it has to be cooked in exactly the right way. Otherwise it’s ruined. I’ve had rice prepared by people who don’t care about the particulars, and it’s not good. Trust me. I remember one time in college, some guy I was friends with had the audacity to just put the rice in a pot and boil it, without thinking about how much water he was actually putting in there. The result was a slurry of rice paste. I’m sorry, but I like to EAT rice, not drink it.
But don’t Koreans just use rice cookers?
Yes, actually. And in the past, each rice cooker had different instructions, certain altitude specific instructions, glass lids, metal lids, etc. There was no one right uniform way to make rice. My mother did most of the cooking in my house, and her method was to put 4 parts water for every 3 parts rice. Sorry, mom, but even though that was pretty close, your rice didn’t exactly come out the way I like it.
Some of my Korean-American friends told me about the hand method. Here, you put some rice into the cooker, then rest your hand on top of the rice. Then fill it with water until the water covers your entire hand. This method is obviously not scientific as people have different hand sizes, and this method ensures that there will be about 1 inch or 2 of water above the rice. If you’re making rice for one then you’ll have too much water, and if you’re making rice for 6, you’ll have too little with this method.
So what’s the best method then?
Well the method I currently use is to not measure the rice at all, and put way too much water into the rice cooker. I then push the button for the kind of rice I want, slightly dry, normal or slightly moist. I go watch TV and the rice cooker’s sexy female voice politely announces when the rice is done.
Sound’s strange? In my apartment, I have a really high tech Cuckoo rice cooker. It looks something like this.
Sometime in the 1990’s rice cookers evolved to include pressurized models. These ensured that the cooking conditions would be the same no matter where you were or which season it happened to be. You still had to get the ratio correctly though, and for the first month or so, it was a learning process.
My current rice cooker is so high tech that it measures the volume of rice and the humidity inside the cooking chamber, and lets off excess steam to ensure the correct humidity level for the type of rice I selected. Before it lets out steam, it issues a warning. “Attention, I must let off some steam. Make sure you don’t touch me until all the steam has been released, Thank you!” The voice of the rice cooker is that of a sexy young female, kind of like the lady who tells you that the number you’ve dialed is no longer in service. I love it when she tells me that my rice is ready. She’s so nice.
Wow, that’s neat!
Yup, and if you have enough money to buy a robocooker, then you too can make perfect rice with ease.