Tips on Cooking Short-Grain Rice

Times Staff Writer

Question: Can you please give some tips on how to cook Calrose rice properly? I heard this short-grain rice is the type used in Japanese restaurants, but when I tried cooking it at home, mine did not come out as nice and fluffy as theirs. I had a sticky, gooey and heavy mass of rice. Should the rice be washed? I don't usually wash rice to avoid losing important vitamins and minerals. Do I need an Oriental rice cooker to achieve good results?

Answer: Contrary to Western custom, thorough washing of rice is the accepted Japanese way of preparing rice. The rice is rinsed repeatedly with cold water until the water is almost clear to remove unwanted starchy powder. Do this by placing the rice in the rice pot, pour in cold water to cover the rice, then quickly stir the rice around with fingers and pour off the water.

The rice should be washed about 30 to 60 minutes, if possible, before cooking. After the final rinsing and draining, add the cooking water. Use 1 cup plus 2 tablespoons water for 1 cup raw rice or use slightly more water if you want a softer, more moist rice.

Ideally, the rice should soak 20 to 40 minutes before cooking for softer, fluffier texture. If there is not enough time, add about a tablespoon more water. Cover the pot and place over high heat 4 to 5 minutes or until boiling. Reduce heat and simmer 10 to 15 minutes. Turn off heat and let it "steam," covered, about 10 to 15 minutes. Remove the lid and gently fluff the rice with a damp wooden spatula or fork.

If you will be doing a lot of rice cooking, the automatic rice cooker, which is somewhat expensive, is a good investment to make as it controls timing and keeps the rice warm. Otherwise, a sturdy, flat-bottomed and straight-sided aluminum pot will suffice. The rice tends to stick to the pot, so after using, facilitate cleaning by soaking in warm soapy water.

Q: I have a clay pot I've used for years with much success. Can it be used in the microwave oven? If so, how much time will I save? The only disadvantage with the clay pot is the long period of cooking in the oven at a high temperature.

A: Yes, clay pot cookery can be adapted to microwave cooking for about half the time it takes in the conventional oven. Conventional clay pot recipes may be used with the following adjustments: The pot should be soaked, as usual, in water for 10 to 15 minutes.

The amount of liquid in the recipe should be decreased by one-fourth. For instance, use 3/4 cup where 1 cup is called for. Ingredients that require longer cooking (such as carrots) should be added early in the cooking cycle for even cooking. Salt is best added after cooking as it tends to dry and toughen meats. Place larger pieces of food around the outer edge of the pot as the sides cook more quickly than the center portions.

In adjusting timing and power settings, start with about one-half of the original time. Set the power on HIGH for the first 10 minutes, then finish off on LOW (1/3 power). Check for tenderness. If barely tender, let the pot stand, covered, 5 to 10 minutes. Stir mixtures such as stews once or twice to ensure even cooking.

Remove the pot from the oven with heat-proof pot holder.

Q: Do you have a method for boiling peanuts in the shell? They make good snacks but I can't seem to prepare them correctly. I found some raw peanuts in an Oriental market but when I tried boiling them at home, they took forever to cook and never really became tender.

A: Treat the peanuts like dry beans. There are two ways of cooking them. Soak the unshelled peanuts overnight in cold water, then drain and cook in simmering salted water to cover until tender, about 1 to 2 hours. Or cover with salted water in a pot and bring to a boil. Cover and let stand for 1 hour. Then simmer 1 to 2 hours or to desired tenderness. Drain and serve warm or at room temperature.

Address question on food preparation to You Asked About, Food Section , The Times, Times Mirror Square, Los Angeles 90053. Personal replies cannot be given.

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