Multiple pressure IH rice cooker 多壓力IH電子鍋
In the interest of saving myself money on food (Taiwan used to be a lot cheaper for everyday restaurant meals) I decided I would go out and buy a rice cooker. I am not particularly fond of the rice produced by cheap rice cookers, especially when they burn the rice on the bottom and fail to even soften rice grains at the top. In order to save money, I will need something that will taste better than the restaurant food.
Korea has some fairly advanced pressure rice cookers, but since a cheap rice cooker came with my apartment last year, I never bothered to buy my own. Consequently, I ate very little rice compared to what I ate in Kunming, China (good rice cooker, red rice available) or in Osaka, Japan (good rice cooker, I brought brown rice back to Japan when I went abroad to countries that sold it cheaply).
Since I was last in the market for a rice cooker, the state-of-the-art has advanced considerably. Before IH was the big thing. Now, at least in Japan, Korea, and Taiwan, the big thing is IH pressure rice cookers. They do a better job of simulating how rice was traditionally cooked in Japan – in a big black kettle with a wood covering on top, which in turn had rocks piled on top to increase the pressure inside the pot.
Very true to the ideal, Mitsubishi even makes one with a 7mm thick pot carved out of a solid block of carbon by master craftsmen in China. That one is a bit expensive for me, though it would be something I would definitely buy if I had lots of cash. In something that reminds me a bit more of a European kitchen, Sanyo offers a model with a solid copper pot.
I saw some interesting things going to stores all across Taipei in search of the best rice cooker. I also found out where I can get a demo Blendtec Blender extremely cheaply (it might be my next appliance purchase). I know you want to see pictures, so :
I got a stack of brochures, but I wasn’t ready to buy after a day of shopping. I had to do some research as to why a pressurised rice cooker is better than an ordinary one. It wasn’t for speed like pressure cookers used on stovetops. The quoted time to prepare rice was identical to that of a non pressurised cooker. The fact that such rice cookers aren’t readily available in western countries did not help this search. For the brand I settled on, Zojirushi, the claim is that the pressure not only allows the rice to be cooked at a hotter temperature, but also helps to break down the starch in the rice into sugar that both tastes better and is more usable by the body. Besides breaking down the starch, by design the juices from the rice as it cooks get recycled back into the rice, retaining more nutrients and flavour.
The multiple pressure rice cookers have a further feature – pots that aren’t necessarily flat on the bottom. By changing the pressure in the pot as the rice cooks, rice circulates throughout the pot rather than staying in one place. The shape of the bottom assists this process as well as optimising the temperature distribution throughout the pot. Even when not changing pressure, the ability to change the pressure level allows the sweetness level of the rice to be changed and optimised across different varieties of rice.
The basic result is that the rice should never burn, and you should never see the steam holes you might see resulting from the cooking process in a cheap cooker.
I got their top model they sell in Taiwan, the TP-HTF10 (there is also an 18 model, but that is too big for my needs). It is the only multiple pressure rice cooker available in Taiwan for now as well. Outside, it is beautiful, which I would expect for a rice cooker that cost me 13000NT after bargaining (about $388US). In an ordinary economy, I might not have had any leverage at all to bargain on such a new, special product.
Inside, it is possible to see part of the pressurisation system. This one can do three different levels of pressure, though the most advanced models in Japan can do seven levels of pressure.
The inner lid must be washed every time to ensure the pressure valve stays clear.
There are at least two reasons why these cookers are not sold outside of Asia yet.
- The first is that the pressurised cookers are tuned for the rice sold in a particular area. Korean pressurised rice cookers cook at higher pressure than Japanese models because Korean rice tends to be harder and contain more starch than Japanese rice. If you cooked Japanese rice in a Korean pressurised cooker, you’d get mush. A Japanese cooker would not remove enough of the starch from Korean rice.
- The second reason would be product liability. Amongst a huge number of warnings, the two warning pages of the manual notes that it is possible to open the lid while the rice is pressurised. In doing so, you risk serious injury from the rice and steam exploding out of the machine in such a case. I am sure that the companies involved could make it so you can’t open the rice cooker while the contents are under pressure, but I am betting they wish to profit from that step in the future. After all, Japanese people don’t plan on buying rice cookers – unless there is some new technology that makes a case for upgrading. Otherwise, they just want a cooker that will last an extermely long time.
When I cooked my first bowl of rice, this seemed to bear out what I found from my research. I purposely did not wash the rice to give the cooker plenty of starch to break down. If you cook with a basic rice cooker, you are likely to get a lot of thin, transparent crinkly material after you cook some rice. That material is starch. Washing the rice beforehand helps, but does not allieviate the problem.
Very little starch on the sides and no steam holes. The rice was fluffy, chewy, soft, and left a nice sweet aftertaste. Not sweet like sugar, but sweeter than rice normally tastes. I had no need to add any condiments to the rice, though I probably will anyway in the future. During my rice cooker search, I found soy sauce that is prepared the traditional, organic, time-consuming way.
I’d say it is the best rice I’ve ever eaten, but I had to wait 3 hours and 20 minutes for it to germinate and then cook. A better time to judge will be when I use the timer so the rice is ready when I want to eat. White rice would always take around an hour (since it can’t be germinated), and non germinated brown rice would also take about an hour.