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, 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 110 volt outlets in the house we built along with 220 volt outlets. We no longer have that rice cooker and we no longer have a 110 volt line coming into the house (the local electric company refused to repair the transformer down the street from us and opted to remove it instead).
When we received our electric rice cooker as a gift 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.
Our First Rice Cooker was a Gift
When Josie (my wife) and I were in Japan together for about six months, she made a friend of a Japanese neighbor. When Josie left (which was about three months before I left), that woman gave her a brand new Zojirushi rice cooker, made for 110 volts. She knew we would be using it in the United States.
We brought that rice cooker with us when we moved to the Philippines in 2006. It lasted until 2014, while we were in the United States. One of my nephews decided to plug it into a 220 volt outlet and that was the end of that rice cooker.
Do the math – 1988 to 2014. That’s 26 years.
A New Rice Cooker
From the time we returned to the Philippines in December of 2014 until the beginning of this month, we did without a rice cooker of any kind. Josie was providing the rice to be cooked in one of her sisters’ rice cookers. She has two sisters (and their families) living in our compound. Josie either got tired of asking or tired of waiting, because she broke down and bought a new rice cooker at the Royal Subic store at the Subic Bay Freeport Zone.
The new rice cooker is less expensive than a Zojirushi would be. I don’t remember the exact price, but it was around 1500 pesos (around $33 USD). A Zojirushi rice cooker sells for more than $100 USD in the United States. The brand name is Asahi, assembled in the Philippines with parts made in Japan. There are many rice cooker brands in the Philippines and they’re not all made with Japanese parts.
When Josie was looking at rice cookers in various places, she made sure to steer clear of anything Chinese-made. When she chose this one, she had the store employee show her the paperwork that showed it was a Japanese rice cooker. She wasn’t taking any chances. Japanese products will last a long time. Chinese products won’t.
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.
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 (sinaing) 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 are used. Fortunately, I learned how to cook rice the old-fashioned way long before seeing any kind of rice cooker.
My wife taught me, of course, because ugly Americans like me are good at screwing up even the simplest cooking instructions (I can burn water). In a standard pan, a little 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 under cooked 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 good 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.
Originally published in September, 2013. Updated with corrections and new information.