Using a Japanese Rice Cooker in the Philippines

I always have a rice cooker in my kitchen, one of many handy kitchen appliances in the Philippines. Rice can be made in a plain pan, but a good rice cooker will keep it warm. When my wife and I moved to the Philippines in 2006, we brought our rice cooker with us, so it used 110 volts instead of the Filipino standard of 220 volts. That was okay, though, because we put 110v outlets in the house we built along with 220v outlets.

When we bought our first electric rice cooker many years before that, I joked that my wife was my little rice cooker and I didn’t need an electric one (kind of like being my dishwasher). She wasn’t amused and I received a swift kick for that remark.

The Zojirushi Brand Rice Cooker Vs. the National Brand

rice cooker National is a brand name from Japan. While Zojirushi is also a brand name from Japan, you won’t see it even one fraction as much as National in the Philippines. My mother-in-law’s rice cooker says National on it, the electric floor fans in my house say National on them and I can’t even begin to think of all the products in our compound that carry the National brand name.

National is the Asian brand for the Panasonic Corporation (formerly Matsushita Electric Industrial Co., Ltd.). That would explain the similarity of some National appliances to their Japanese-American Panasonic counterparts. If I looked hard enough and was nosy enough while visiting other people’s homes, I’d probably spot rice cookers that carry the Panasonic brand name as well as the Hitachi and Sanyo brand names.

The Zojirushi is the most trusted rice cooker in Japan. It strikes me as strange that I don’t see the most trusted brand being sold locally. Perhaps it sells at some of the malls, but I haven’t been looking so I wouldn’t know. I’ve seen rice cookers that look like mine at the Royal Subic store at the Subic Bay Freeport Zone, but I didn’t look close enough to see the brand name.

Brands of Rice

I won’t get into this too much. There are hundreds of brands of rice in the Philippines, both local and imported. I prefer the imported brands from Thailand, such as jasmine rice.

When buying rice in the Philippines, one can’t be too careful. The cheaper brands use some form of filler mixed in with the rice, which has absolutely no nutritional value whatsoever. Some of the rice doesn’t even smell good, before or after cooking.

How to Cook Rice

In the Philippines and in the Tagalog language, uncooked rice is called bigas and cooked rice is called kanin. I have no earthly idea why there would be two different words for the same thing. Anyway, cooking rice in a rice cooker is much simpler than cooking rice in a standard cooking pan. There’s still a kind of technique that needs to be used to make sure the right proportions of rice and water and used. Fortunately, I learned how to cook rice the old-fashioned way long before buying my first rice cooker.

My wife taught me, of course, because ugly Americans like me are good at screwing up even the simplest cooking instructions. In a standard pan, not much bigger than a sauce pan, my wife filled it about a third with uncooked rice. Then she added enough water to where she should put her middle finger in, touch the rice and the water would reach her first knuckle. Now, my fingers are fatter than my wife’s, but not longer. The first time I cooked rice, it was undercooked because I didn’t add enough water. After two or three tries, though, I learned to make the perfect pan of rice.

Cooking rice in a rice cooker requires the same kind of precision with the amount of water added. I don’t measure how much rice I put in. I just push the lever on the rice dispenser three times and use that amount. Then I add the water, stick in my clean finger (of course I wash first – I don’t need the added flavor of a dirty finger with my rice). The rice is cooked perfectly each time.

The rice cooker, as is the case with most rice cookers, has two settings; one for cook and one for warm. After the rice cooks initially, it automatically switches to warm. Rice cooked in a rice cooker like this will last at least three days as long as it’s kept plugged in and there isn’t a long power outage.