Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Japanese Culture is all About Japanese Rice

There's no equivalent to Japanese rice in the American diet. Certainly Americans eat a lot of bread, pasta and beef each day: but can you name one food that 300 million Americans eat two to three times a day, every day? Rice is more than food for the Japanese, it is culture. And Japanese rice cookers are TVs for the Japanese - non-negotiable items for daily life.

In the Japanese language "gohan" means both cooked rice and food. So you can see that Japanese rice is as fundamental to the lives of the Japanese as food itself. If you don't have rice, it is almost like you don't have anything to eat. Rice in Japanese culture is used for everything from Japanese rice balls to a sushi rice recipe.

Historically Japanese rice was so important that it served as currency in feudal Japan. One could exchange bags of rice for goods and services. And in Japan during WW II, many civilians had to eat millet and oats instead of rice so the Imperial Soldiers throughout the Pacific would have enough rice to nourish them when they went into battle.

And in Japan it's not uncommon for someone to have Japanese rice with each meal - even breakfast! Most Japanese cook their rice in a Japanese rice cooker and prefer it to be sticky.

And unlike many Americans who are tempted to view plain, white rice as bland, the Japanese are horrified when they see Americans dump soy sauce onto rice. It's not uncommon for the Japanese to take a bite of Japanese rice and comment extensively on the flavor and quality of the rice.

Rice is often taken as a portable snack as well, almost like a granola or energy bar. Many Japanese love these " Japanese rice balls," which are shaped into a ball and then covered in Saran wrap; often they feature seaweed or even pickled plum. This is a Japanese tradition that goes back centuries.

In contrast to Thai or Chinese rice, Japanese rice is dryer, fluffier and easier for the uninitiated to eat with chopsticks.

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