The Rice Cooker Chronicles

Papery edge of the stuff at the bottom of the rice cooker

Our rice cooker broke two weeks ago. I’m not quite sure why it gave up the ghost–perhaps it simply tired of being a one-trick pony. More likely it’s because it was a $15 bargain from the local department story.

If you live in an Asian family, you’ll know what a disaster a broken rice cooker is. We don’t have the first clue how to cook rice in anything else. A saucepan on the stove? Is that even possible? So we borrowed a spare from my aunt–all good Asians should have a back-up. (We are not good Asians.) Then we went off in search of a new rice cooker.

Living in Australia, it’s ridiculously hard to find the kind of rice cooker most commonly used in Asian countries, where the lid is hinged and there’s a handle stretching from one side to the other. The ones available in stores tend to be pot-shaped with a glass lid and a knob of a handle. Is it because they don’t declare quite so loudly how obsessed you are with that fragrant, fluffy, mouth-watering… ahem. Let’s just say I have no idea why.

Note to any potential rice cooker buyers: Don’t get the ones where the lid is made of aluminium. I owned one in Canberra and had to resort to placing a chopping board atop the lid to stop the bubbling rice-starch water from rattling the lid off and splattering starchy rice-water everywhere.

If you can’t tell, the search was very serious business. First we had to consider the size of the cooker–as a family of four, we settled on a five-cup one. It’s big enough to cook enough rice for an additional 2–3 people (any more and we’d need to use our big cooker) but small enough that you don’t end up with nothing but a thin, hard crispy layer on the bottom. See? These things matter!

Then there was the issue of whether to get a normal one with a single switch (“Cook” or “Warm” is all the choice you get) or one of the fancy ones with fuzzy logic. The most expensive ones allow you to select the type of rice (eg. white, brown, sushi, sweet, sticky), or the type of food (eg. congee, soup, cakes–yes, cakes). Granted, I’m not so sure I want it to be fuzzy on whether it’s cooking rice or a cake, but the idea’s pretty neat.

The problem is, the normal rice cookers start at around $10, while the ones that have the cake selection tend to be in the $300 to $400 range. This is where the stingy Asian in me asks why exactly we need an appliance to bake cakes when we have a perfectly good oven. The oven doesn’t have the same cool factor, but I can say with confidence that it’s very good at baking cakes, even if the chef may not have the same skill level.

In the end, we came to a compromise. We bought a fuzzy logic model that can make rice, soup and congee (all the Asian staples!), coming in under $80. That’s a win in my book.

Tune in next time for the chronicles of buying a toaster oven–as all Singaporeans know, it’s the only practical way of toasting your bread!


Leanne Yong is an aspiring Aussie author who is working on her second young adult novel. Check out her blog at Clouded Memories for more information and a journal chronicling her latest foray into novel writing.

Photo by Quinn Dombrowski, via Flickr

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2 thoughts on “The Rice Cooker Chronicles

  1. *sigh*
    Do not buy a Black and Decker rice cooker. Any of them. Just. Don’t.
    Aroma loves to sell inexpensive rice cookers with all the charms and variations. they are poorly made. Sorry. Another one I would avoid.
    Americans are going to look at Hamilton Beach rice cookers if they’re on a budget, and T-Fal if they like being risk takers. Zojirushi and Tiger are intriguing.

    • Ouch. I’d agree, there’s definitely a lot to avoid. Western brands especially (but that may simply be my personal bias!). But, you know, Asians have been doing this cooking rice thing on a daily basis, so I tend to trust their brands more. 😛
      I’d most definitely recommend Zojirushi and Tiger if you have the cash. Well worth every cent.

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