Japanese short-grain rice is an esteemed cultivar of Japonica rice and is known for its delightfully fluffy texture and special stickiness.
Outside of Japan, most people are probably introduced to the Japanese rice that is used for sushi, maki, and rice balls. In Japan, it is eaten regularly as a quintessential part of the Japanese diet.
Ordinary rice, also known as uruchimai, is distinguished from other types of Japanese short-grain rice by a special stickiness and its shorter and rounder grain. This unique stickiness is mostly because of its higher moisture and starch content. As a result, it is stickier than other types of rice and holds together better in dishes.
In this article, you’ll learn more about how to identify Japanese short-grain rice, its health benefits and uses in cooking, and why so many people favor it.
How to identify Japanese short-grain rice
Understanding the three main types of rice in the world—long-grain, medium-grain, and short-grain rice—will help you distinguish Japanese short-grain rice from other varieties of rice.
Grown and favored for centuries in North America, long-grain rice is probably the type of rice that most people picture when they think of rice. When cooked, it has a long, thin, cylindrical shape with pointed tips that is moderately damp but not sticky. Under its assortment are rice varieties like Basmati, Jasmine, and Mexican rice.
A cross between the long- and short-grain varieties, medium-grain rice has a length that is roughly two to three times its width. They can be seen in European and Chinese cuisine, with the most popular cultivars being Bomba and Arborio. The cooked grains are moist, and slightly gooey—ideal for sauce-based dishes like the Mushroom risotto.
Short-grain rice, when compared to the long-grain and medium-grain varieties, are much rounder, chubbier and starchier as it has nearly equal width and length. Japanese short-grain rice is the ideal illustration of this type, with grains that stick together while maintaining their firmness and texture making it perfect for dishes like sushi, onigiri and donburi.
Milled differently, Japanese short-grain rice through a process known as “polishing.” Its distinctive white color and its shorter and more rounded grains are the effects of this process. Japanese short-grain rice has a stickier texture because it is generally milled more thoroughly than other types of rice.
Another factor which contributes to the distinctive flavor and texture of the Japanese short-grain rice is that it is grown in a method called “flooding.” Simply, this involves flooding the fields with water during the growing season resulting in a sweeter flavor and a stickier texture. Such seasons are shorter and cooler compared to the conditions used in other types of rice. As an effect, Japanese short-grain rice has a higher starch content, which also causes its sticky texture.
Additionally, Japanese short-grain rice prefers temperatures that are between 20 and 30 degrees Celsius. This means that they are normally planted in early spring to be harvested in late summer or early autumn.
What are its uses in cooking?
Japanese short-grain rice has a preferred flavor. With the way it is grown and milled, Japanese short-grain rice has a unique flavor and texture. It is sweeter and chewier than other types of rice making it the best option for sushi, noodles, and other dishes that call for a delightfully sweet, chewy texture.
Another reason why Japanese short-grain rice is great to incorporate in cooking dishes is that it has a higher amylose content than other types of rice. Amylose, also known as the “starchy, non-sticky starch,” does not dissolve in water and helps grains maintain and stabilize their shape. Not only does it give the rice its sticky texture, but it also comes with nutritional benefits.
A mainstay of the Japanese diet, it has been demonstrated to be healthy in a number of ways. Compared to other rice varieties like white rice, Japanese short-grain rice is wholesome and has a lower glycemic index. This means that it is less likely to affect blood sugar levels. Its typical traditional farming practices, which forgo the use of harmful chemicals and pesticides, is what helps its consumers reap its healthfulness.
What’s more is that since it is more frequently paired with miso soup which has a lot of beneficial probiotic bacteria, Japanese short-grain rice is consumed in much healthier ways than other types of rice. Remember that steaming it rather than boiling it helps maintain its nutritional value.
Popular dishes that call for Japanese short-grain rice
Surprisingly, Japanese short-grain rice can be consumed with a manifold of well-known dishes. Below are a few of our favorites, but you can always get inventive and incorporate them in your own recipes.
Sushi. Without a doubt, sushi has become one of the most popular Japanese dishes that have spread all over the world. It comes in many forms, but the most popular of which is maki, or “rolls,” which involve rolling vegetable or seafood fillings in a seaweed sheet coated with rice. This is very fun to make or share with family. What’s more is that children find it visually appealing. Once you try making this, you’ll find out that Incorporating good-quality Japanese short-grain rice is crucial to successfully rolling and slicing your sushi.
Onigiri. This is a popular Japanese snack made of Japanese short-grain rice and fillings. Generally, they are round or triangular in shape, and they are mixed with lots of Furikake—a Japanese seasoning with spices, sesame seeds, and chili. After mixing, meat or fish are stuffed into the sweet, chewy rice along with a sauce, like mayonnaise.
Rice comes in many varieties but Japanese short-grain rice stands out with its unique flavor, versatility and uses in cooking. In addition to tasting better than other varieties, its health and nutritional benefits are also better for you. Start experimenting with some recipes if you enjoy Japanese food and want to learn more about it. Your cooking will come together splendidly once you have Japanese short-grain rice as a base.
Try cooking with some Japanese short-grain rice today!