Monday, September 06, 2010

Rice booth

A week or so ago I was talking about how we buy rice in Japan and how it is stored etc. I forgot to mention that when we buy rice from the farmers it comes to us as brown rice and if we want white rice we have to polish it ourselves.

Of course one can buy a 2o lb. bag of polished rice in the supermarket. Then all you have to do is rinse it lightly before cooking it in the rice cooker. But since we live in a farming area of Japan, the huge 65 lb. (about) bag of rice is brown rice. Japanese like WHITE rice. There is something about brown rice that brings back memories of hardship and poverty. Historically white rice was only available for the nobility and villagers never ate a bowl of white rice in their lives.

Even now, older people will tell how during the war years a minuscule amount of rice had to be cooked with radish in order to stretch it for the whole family and how dinner was watery rice gruel. The luxury of WHITE rice is still revered.

There was a time when I tried to feed my family brown rice (more nutritious, more fiber) but no one liked it much because it was too chewy. Along with everyone else in the neighborhood who buys brown rice but wants to eat white, Tetsu and I take our bag to a neighborhood rice polishing "booth". These abound all over the countryside and can be found even in supermarket parking lots. I have to get Tetsu (it used to be Takumi's job) to carry the heavy bag to and from the car but within minutes we can get of pure, sparkly, white rice.

The sign on top of the booth says "Coin Rice Polisher". You can topple your bag of brown rice into the bin and watch it come out the dispenser as white rice. You can also choose if you want "well-polished rice", "partially polished rice", "polished but left with the germ" or a different type of polishing for mochi rice (sticky stuff). I choose "polished but left with the germ" and for each 10 kilos of rice it costs about a dollar to polish. (Tetsu's hauling 30 kilos there.)

And we can also bring home the polished off hull of the brown rice since it can be used for pickling vegetables or simmering bamboo shoots (it takes away the stringency) or just spreading around the garden as extra fertilizer. All for a dollar or two so it's a pretty good deal.

A few years ago Japan was having a rice shortage and the government brought in rice from Thailand which was longer grain and less sticky. Oh the complaints I heard about that rice! This year looks like it will be a good one for the Japanese rice farmers. The rice polishing booths are going to get a workout!

No comments: