I never used to be a big fan of rice – I’m more of a potato and pasta person. That was until I moved to Japan. The reason being that Japanese rice is ooh so delicious even without the sweet and sour sauce or chicken tikka masala that most Westerners would demand with their rice.
I grew to like Japanese rice so much that one time on my way to an important academic conference (you can read about it here) I was so nervous about my presentation that I didn’t quite know what to do with myself. So when I went to a supermarket before the presentation to buy a bottle of water, I walked out not only with a bottle of water but also with a £40 rice cooker and some Japanese rice.
Even though buying a rice cooker on a conference trip was maybe slightly crazy, I think that that rice cooker was one of the best buys of my life, given that after the purchase, our au pairs used to lug huge 10-15kg bags of rice from the supermarket back home on a regular basis.
I loved my rice cooker and it became a bit like a pet to our household, after all instead of your usual Western rice cooker, I think ours looks a little bit like a defensive armadillo curled up in a ball (see photo above). My husband, who is going through a midlife crisis and is considering buying a motorbike, has however been eyeballing the rice cooker as a potential crash helmet.
My rice cooker (like pretty much all Japanese rice cookers) cooks the rice always to perfection – just as sticky as Japanese rice should be. And if you decide to leave the cooked rice in the cooker, it keeps the rice hot up to a day or two. My Japan and Japanese rice cooker experience have left me wondering why on earth had I been cooking rice in a saucepan on a hob all those years before we moved to Japan (even when correctly cooked, it just does not compare to the rice produced by a Japanese rice cooker!). So, when me and the kids came back to England a couple of weeks ago (me for a holiday, the kids to stay for good), I decided to bring the armadillo with me to our home in England.
We managed to fit the cooker in my suitcase (at the expense of many of my clothes ending up in the bin to make room for the hefty armadillo), transport it in one piece from Japan via Finland to England, place it on a central place on the kitchen counter, plug it in… to hear a loud pop and observe fire and sparks shoot out from underneath the rice cooker. It had not occurred to me (or my husband) that the current in Japan is only 100V whilst in England it is 240V. The poor armadillo got somewhat an electric chair treatment, and now we are worried it did not survive the warmer than necessary welcome to England.
In the hope that the armadillo is still alive and kicking, my husband went to buy a transformer to make it compatible with the current in England, but it turns out that the transformer would set us back by £130 (recall, I only paid about £40 for the cooker in supermarket in Japan). Not only that, the transformer was apparently a huge black-and-yellow piece of equipment you might see builders carrying around (and thus not something I want on my kitchen surface even if it would mean saying goodbye to the rice cooker).
I’ve just had a look online as to whether or not I could find a new Japanese rice cooker in England and found that our £40 armadillo’s identical twin costs £200 on Amazon! Like I said, I have really grown to like Japanese rice – we all have, so much so that we’ve got a draw full off all sorts of moulds for my children and my husband’s sticky rice (see photos below).
But I don’t really know what to do… £200 for a rice cooker just seems quite a lot to me, partly because we haven’t been able to find Japanese rice in Brighton anyway – the only ones we have found are either Italian or American approximations of the real thing, thus in my eyes (and probably in the eyes of most Japanese people) unacceptable copies.
So, the task for the next couple of weeks is to (a) buy an affordable Japanese rice cooker, (b) locate a shop that sells Japanese rice in Brighton and (c) find a rice-loving builder (who owns a suitable transformer) in order to rehome our beloved armadello, or alternatively hand it over to my husband to be used as a crash helmet.