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Uruchi mai (polished white rice)
Uruchi mai is the most common kind of Japanese rice used today. Most of the Japonica rice for sale in the U.S. is grown in California, where the method is dry planting instead of flooded fields (the method used in Japan). Although there is a difference in quality, it is not as noticeable as the difference between the low grades found at regular supermarkets and the superior grades found in Asian and Japanese grocers. Polished white rice has 75% carbohydrates and 8% vegetable protein. This is the only kind of rice that is suitable for sushi. For instructions on cooking rice, visit the rice page of the Recipes section.

uruchi mai

Genmai (unpolished brown rice)
Although most Japanese cooking is based on white uruchi mai, genmai (unpolished or semi-polished brown rice) is gaining in popularity because of its health benefits. It’s higher in fiber, and retains more vitamins and minerals than white rice. It is light brown, harder, and requires a longer cooking time. It has a pleasing nutty flavor that goes well with certain rustic dishes such as grated tororo (mountain yam). For a change of pace, I sometimes mix a small quantity of genmai (four to one) with uruchi mai to take advantage of its health benefits. Even though the cooking times are different, the result comes out perfectly because the difference in texture adds interest.


Haiga mai (half-polished rice)
While genmai is the healthiest variety of rice, I don’t use it regularly because it goes with certain types of side dishes, and not others. Luckily, with the appearance of haiga mai at our local market several years ago, we no longer have to compromise on any loss of nutrition or taste. Half polished rice is just that; the outer bran is removed, leaving the nutritious haiga (germ) layer intact. The taste and texture is similar to white rice, and the flavor is closer to white rice than brown. The color is a light shade of tan, which I don’t even notice any more. However, when making sushi, I always use white rice because of the lighter flavor, slightly more glutinous texture and of course, the pure white color. TOP


Mochi gome (sweet or glutinous rice)
Mochi gome is more glutinous, with whiter, rounder and larger grains, than uruchi mai. Although it isn’t noticeably sweeter to the taste, it does contain more sugar. Mochi gome is usually steamed instead of boiled, and when pounded, it creates a sticky paste which is used to make mochi (rice cakes.) It is also delicious when cooked with other ingredients, such as red beans, for sekihan, or takikomi gohan.


Kurogome (black rice)
Kurogome is grown from heirloom seeds and is currently undergoing a boom in popularity in Japan, along with other black foods such as sesame seeds. These are celebrated for their cholesterol-lowering and weight management properties. While kurogome is very expensive (a 1-lb bag is more than $5.00) it is usually cooked with white rice. Only a few tablespoons are needed to turn 2 cups of white rice into a beautiful deep indigo color. Chinese black rice is similar in texture and flavor and is a little less expensive.


When mochi-gome is pounded to a sticky mass and formed into cakes, it is called mochi. Since mochi-gome was more expensive than regular rice, mochi was considered a special treat and is one of the central foods displayed and eaten during the Oshogatsu New Year’s holiday. Mochi can be found year round, and is a convenient and filling snack, but it is associated with this holiday. The cakes can be found dried, where they are often shaped in rectangles or squares, or frozen, in rounds. TOP