Thursday, September 25, 2008

We love Akita Komachi rice

In the middle of May, during my usual evening walk I had seen that the farmers had planted rice saplings in the farm fields near our home. In the beginning of July, my hubby accompanied me for the evening walk in the unpaved gravel road in between the farm fields full of rows and rows of rice saplings. The fresh green color was very pleasing to the eyes. Recently on September 22, my hubby again accompanied me for the evening walk. We noticed that the rice fields have turned golden and are ready to be harvested. I was mesmerized by the beauty of each rice plant containing many heads full of tiny grains that are golden in color. It was the first time in my life that I saw the rice plants with grains, which was really an amazing experience for me. Today during the walk I saw that the farmers have already started harvesting the rice. The rice produced in Akita prefecture goes by the famous brand name 'Akita Komachi'.

Me standing in front of rice field on July 06

Hubby standing in front of the same rice field on September 22

Close up view of rice plants

Rice plants containing many heads of tiny golden grains

Rice goes through a variety of processes before it is ready for cooking. Rice from the field is harvested and threshed to produce paddy rice (rough rice). Rice kernels are still encased in their inedible protective hull (husk). It is then hulled using sheller machines to remove the husk, and this process yields brown rice with the bran layers still intact around the kernel. In Japan, the rice is husked and made into brown rice near the field itself soon after the harvest. Finally, the milling (whitening) stage removes the bran layer from the brown rice to produce white rice.

Schematic diagram of rice

Brown rice is the least processed form of rice. It is known as genmai in Japanese. Genmai is unmilled or partly milled whole grain rice with the embryo and bran intact. The bran layers of the brown rice give it a characteristic tan color and nut-like flavor. Recently Genmai has gained popularity among Japanese people for health reasons because embryo and bran contain large amounts of nutritions. In addition to the fiberful bran coating, the brown rice is a good source of many vitamins and minerals, like Vitamin E, Thiamin, Riboflavin, Niacin, Vitamin B6, Folacin, Potassium, Magnesium, Iron, as well as fermentable carbohydrates, lignans, phytoestrogens and phenolic compounds. Japanese people had used genmai for centuries for its nutritional, health, and beautifying qualities and these days they are catching on its benefits again.
After moving to Akita prefecture, we usually buy ready-brown Akita Komachi rice from supermarkets where it is available in 30 kgs bags. Supermarkets also keep 10 kgs, 5 kgs, and smaller bags of white rice. Nowadays we prefer to buy brown rice. In India, brown rice is usually associated with poverty. Recently, during a telephone conversation with my parents living in India, somehow I started talking about the benefits of eating brown rice. When my parents heard that we buy brown rice they were shocked and reluctantly asked me whether we are in need of any financial assistance! It was really funny.
We have a compact rice-milling machine at home for milling/polishing the brown rice. Yes, we mill the brown rice ourselves! We cook brown, slightly (milled) whitened, or white rice depending on what we feel like eating. It is still difficult for hubby and me to eat the brown rice without any sort of milling. So usually I mill the brown rice for 3 min and remove only a bit of the outer bran thereby retaining most of the nutritional values. The brown rice milled for only 3 min goes very well with almost all the Japanese food menus. Sometimes when we have meat patties or Japanese curry-rice for lunch or dinner, we prefer slightly more whitened 5 min milled rice. On the other hand, when I cook Indian food, I use completely milled (9 min milling) white rice. Cooking time of brown rice is longer than milled white rice. However, as I use a rice cooker, I do not mind the longer time required for cooking the brown rice. Recently I realized that I have really developed a taste for brown rice. I can even eat the brown rice without any sort of seasoning or for that matter any thing else! It has a mild nutty flavor and is chewier than white rice.

Video of rice milling at our home.

Photos showing brown rice, slightly milled, and fully milled white rice

The by-product of the milling process, rice bran (komenuka in Japanese) can be used for making a kind of pickle called nukazuke. Although it is a time consuming process, I have tried making nukazuke of cucumber, eggplant, and carrot.

Rice bran obtained after milling the brown rice

Akita Komachi rice, whether it be brown or white rice, is really tasty. We even use the bran that is obtained after milling the brown rice for making nukazuke pickles.


sugata said...

it's really nice to see the processing of the rice.though i have seen the harvesting at my village,still this new technology is really part of it is, u have observed every bit of it.take care.

Manisha Kundu-Nagata said...

Sugata, thanks for your comment. Yeah it is really a great experience for me to see the processing of rice from planting of sapling to making white rice. I am enjoying it.

google said...

I liked the "Schematic diagram of rice" part... and a nice essay!

Gennaro said...

I like italian rice!
Risotto alla milanese very good!!!

Manisha Kundu-Nagata said...

Google, Thanks for your comment. Actually, it was hubby's suggestion to label the photo as 'The schematic diagram of rice'. Our traditional way of writing research papers!But I guess for blogs,it is funny.

Manisha Kundu-Nagata said...

Thanks Gennaro for your comment.Yeah, I would surely love to try 'Risotto alla milanese' when I visit an Italian restaurant next time!

Anindya said...

Are standard Indian rice other than Basmati available there?

What kind of rice is used for making Sushi? I've heard that you cannot use standard rice as sushi rice. Instead, you must use a short-grained sticky rice that holds its shape & appearance when molded.

Manisha Kundu-Nagata said...

Thanks Anindya for your comment.

I think Indian rice is available in Indian/Bangladeshi stores, although I have never bought it. From the very beginning of my stay in Japan, I eat Japanese rice and have got used to it. It has great taste.

Yeah for making sushi, short grained sticky rice is used. Infact, all varities of rice in Japan are short-grained and sticky with some variation in the stickiness. Hubby says that he has never heard of Japanese rice variety which is NOT short grained or sticky. Japanese rice is definitely very tasty and I can eat it even without any toppings/side-dishes.

Patsha said...

Most people know that brown rice is better than white rice. But most of them still prefer eating white than brown one. Because white rice is foster than brown one and has better test. In Thailand brown rice is eaten as herbal rice. Its medicinal benefits are used for curing some deseases.