Japanese Short Grain Rice
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Japanese Short Grain Rice is a Short Grain Rice and a Japonica Rice that is known as “ordinary rice” or “Uruchimai” in Japan. Japanese Short Grain Rice is the staple food of Japan. Think of it as ordinary Japanese table rice or even as our version of Sushi Rice and you won’t go far wrong.

Japanese Short Grain Rice is not the same as Japanese Sweet Rice/Japanese Sticky Rice (also known as Glutinous Rice or Mochigome Rice). Raw Japanese Short Grain Rice has short, translucent Rice kernels. Cooked, it becomes opaque and has a slightly sticky quality that makes it easy to eat with Chopsticks.

Season

Japanese Short Grain Rice is sown in the Spring and harvested in the Fall. See Smart Kitchen’s General Rice Resource for more information on the seasonality of Rice.

Cultivation

See Smart Kitchen’s General Rice Resource for more information on Rice Cultivation.

Production

Japanese Short Grain Rice is the staple food of Japan. Koshihikari Rice and Akitakomachi Rice are the predominant forms in Japan. In the U.S., we grow Japanese Short Grain Rice from these same types. About 7% of the rice grown in California’s Sacramento River Valley consists of short grain varieties, most of these are Japanese Short Grain Rice. 

Varieties

There are a few common varieties of Japanese Short Grain Rice. Each cultivar has its own preferred use. The two preeminent varieties are: Koshihikari Rice and Akitakomachi Rice.

Koshihikari Rice, sometimes called “Koshi Rice,” is highly esteemed and is the most dominant variety grown in Japan. Its grains have a sweet aroma and are firm, moist, and sticky and can hold their firmness for a decent amount of time. Koshihikari Rice is used for traditional Japanese Cuisine, Sushi, as a Side Dish for a rich dish or spicy entrée, and even for Desserts such as Rice Pudding.

Akitakomachi Rice is the second most popular Rice type in Japan. Its grains have a slightly sweet aroma but actually a neutral/nutty taste. The grains cook up firm, moist and a bit sticky (though less sticky than Koshi Rice). Akitakomachi Rice is also used for traditional Japanese Cuisine and Sushi. It can be good topped with spicy foods like Curry or made into Rice desserts such as Rice Pudding.

Other cultivars of Japanese Short Grain Rice include: Oborozuki Rice, Yumepirika Rice, Yamada Nishiki Rice, and Sasanishiki Rice.

Oborozuki Rice and Yumepirikia Rice are found mostly in Hokkaidō, which is Japan's most northern prefecture, and were bred to thrive in a colder climate.

Yamada Nishiki Rice is most as a variety used to make Sake, Japan’s rice wine.

Sasanishiki Rice has a reputation for maintaining its taste, hot or cold. 

Purchasing

Japanese Short Grain Rice is generally available as White Rice (with the Rice Bran removed) but can be found as Brown Rice (with the Rice Bran attached) in the United States.

If Japanese Short Grain Rice is available at your local store it will most likely be White Rice and sold in a prepackaged container. You may find it in bulk bins at a Japanese Market or Asian Market. If you can’t find Japanese Short Grain Rice locally, check the Internet.

In every case, when purchasing, always check the expiration date as Rice can go bad if stored too long. We wouldn’t buy Brown Japanese Short Grain Rice from a bulk bin, as the Rice Bran Oil (contained in the Rice Bran) can go Rancid pretty quickly if exposed to air and/or heat.

We would buy White Japanese Short Grain Rice from a bulk bin but would want to make sure that the merchant has high volume, and that the Rice bin is, and has been, properly covered. You don’t want any surprises in your purchase.

While selecting your Rice (in bulk or in packages), keep an eye out for any signs of moisture which can ruin Rice. Also, try and buy as few broken grains of Rice as possible. Your final dish will likely be a mess of overdone and underdone Rice if you cook with broken grains and whole grains: broken grains are smaller than whole grains and the two sizes won’t cook together uniformly.

Finally, if you are conflicted, for budgetary or philosophical reasons, about buying Organic, you may want to give in here and buy Organic Rice. The reason is that research indicates that domestic non-organic Medium Grain White Rice contains 1.4 to 5 times more arsenic than organic Medium Grain White Rice from Europe, India or Bangladesh.

Storage

Because it is a dried Grain, an unopened container of White Japanese Short Grain Rice will keep almost indefinitely in a pantry at room temperature, in the refrigerator, or frozen. Once opened, the only real risks to the shelf life are moisture and pests, including bugs and rats. Keeping the container sealed and airtight can protect against both of these.

Let cooked Japanese Short Grain Rice cool to room temperature before storing it in the refrigerator. Cooked Japanese Short Grain Rice will last about 4-7 days in the refrigerator but it is best to use it within 2 days.

Because Brown Japanese Short Grain Rice retains its Bran Layer (with the Rice Bran Oilwhich will go Rancid), it has a shorter shelf life than White Rice and requires a little different handling and philosophy to maximize your yield and value.

With Brown Japanese Short Grain Rice, how you store it revolves around how quickly you plan to use it. If you plan to use it all in a few weeks, store the Brown Japanese Short Grain Rice in an airtight container in a cool dark place like your pantry. Sealed, it may last 3-6 months but will be best for only a few weeks. If you open your package from the pantry, store the unused portion in the refrigerator or freezer for a better shelf life.

In the refrigerator, sealed, your Brown Japanese Short Grain Rice will last for 6-12 months in an airtight container. Frozen, you should get 12-18 months (for best quality). 

Culinary Uses

Traditionally Japanese Short Grain Rice is eaten at every meal in Japan. Today, most of it is cooked in a modern Rice Cooker (“suihanki” in Japan) into which measured amounts of fresh water and rinsed Rice are added. The Japanese Short Grain Rice is rinsed before use to allow any excess Amylopectin Starch in the outer layers to be washed away.

The Japanese Short Grain Rice can also be pre-soaked for anywhere from half an hour to two hours. In Japan, they adjust the timing depending on the season: the shorter soak being used in the summer and the longer soak being appropriate for the winter. Ultimately, soaking time will depend on freshness and quality of the rice grains.

Older Japanese Short Grain Rice will need more water, maybe 5 parts water to 4 parts Rice, than Fresh Japanese Short Grain Rice, which will only need a 1:1 Ratio.

The Rice Cooker can also Hold the Rice warm so that it remains moist and edible for several hours. For service, Rice from the Rice Cooker is placed into a Rice Bowl (“Chawan” in Japanese) or held in a covered wooden box called an “Ohitsu.”

In general, Japanese Short Grain Rice, which is stickier than Medium Grain Rice is cooked with the “Bang/Bang” method described in Smart Kitchen’s Cooking Sticky Rice Exercise or by Steaming Rice.

Nutritional Value

Serving Size: 1 (119 g)

Calories 358

Calories from Fat 43%

Total Fat 0.5g 0%

Saturated Fat 0.1 g 0%

Cholesterol 0.0 mg 0%

Sodium 5.1 mg 0%

Total Carbohydrate 79.1 g 26%

Dietary Fiber 2.8 g 11%

Sugars 0 g 0%

Protein 6.5g 13%

Gluten Free

Yes

Low Fat

Yes

Low Calorie

Yes