I mean, really, how much better could the rice it makes be?

Our Japanese-language reporter K. Masami is excited for the rice harvest, which happens around this time every year. She’s not a farmer; she’s just excited to eat really delicious, freshly harvested rice. Unfortunately, she realized she has no way to really cook rice, because she recently converted her rice cooker into a black garlic maker, which basically means it’s occupied for weeks at a time while it makes black garlic.

She does have a big earthenware pot called a donabe, which she typically uses to make hotpot, but while you can make pretty good rice in a donabe, it’s not as easy, and with just a slight change in the amount of water used or the time cooked, it can really change the flavor. The easiest, most convenient method for cooking rice is without a doubt the rice cooker. Which meant Masami needed to buy a new one.

However, the better the rice cooker, the higher the price. That’s a fact of reality. So before she bought something, she decided to rent a really expensive rice cooker called the Zojirushi Enbudaki to find out if the higher prices are truly worth it.

▼ A commercial for the Enbudaki featuring Japanese actor Hiroshi Abe

The Zojirushi Enbudaki rice cookers are really fancy, and really expensive. According to price comparison site Kakaku.com, the NW-US07 Small Volume 4-serving Pressure IH Rice Cooker and Warmer, a smaller model, retails for more than a whopping 60,000 yen (US$402), at its cheapest. That isn’t exactly a price point Masami can just go out and buy, so she decided to rent the 4-serving model from household appliance rental service Rentio for two weeks, which cost a much more affordable 4,980 yen.

Masami has heard that this advanced rice cooker has two to four times the heating power of ordinary models, using concentrated area heating as well as intense convection heat produced by overheating via a whirling rotation. It sounded complicated; Masami was a bit worried if she’d even be able to figure out how to use it.

It arrived fairly quickly after she reserved it. It felt really heavy, and compared to her single-person use rice cooker, looked somehow both quite a bit bigger and still compact.

Masami quickly learned that the feature she would appreciate most about the Enbudaki is the option to set how you would like your rice cooked, including “Firm,” “Slightly Firm,” “Normal,” “Slightly soft,” and “Soft,” which was really surprising. She wasn’t sure if she could really get full use out of all of its features in just two weeks, but she was determined to try.

She hadn’t bought a rice cooker in years, so she also had no idea that recent models no longer require users to soak their rice before cooking. Apparently, soaking is built into the cooking process! The Enbudaki was no different. Masami was so surprised to learn how far rice cookers had advanced. She used to have to start her rice early to make sure it had enough time to soak before cooking, but now things are much easier.

▼ The huge menu was kind of intimidating though…

But as she discovered, that wasn’t the only value in the Enbudaki. Once she started using it, Masami realized what a boon the ability to completely customize your rice was. Masami likes her rice a bit on the firmer side, so when she cooks it she makes sure to soak it for less time and to cook it with less water. But with the Enbudaki, all she has to do is put her rice in the cooker and press the “Firm” button.

The result was completely different than any rice she’d ever cooked before. She could feel the difference as soon as she put it in her mouth–without even chewing. The rice was perfectly firm and chewy–even better than she’d thought she’d liked it before.

Later she decided to try the “Soft” setting. Like before, she didn’t do anything special with the rice. She put in the normal amount of water and hit the button. As soon as it was done, she could tell just by sight that the rice was a lot fluffier, and when she tasted it, it wasn’t just soft, it was perfectly soft. The texture was exquisite.

It seemed like what she’d heard was true; the special heating methods produced really special rice. The Enbudaki was a really excellent rice cooker. The only problem Masami found with it was that she ended up wanting to eat too much rice, because it was so good and so interesting to test out the different textures. She doesn’t even eat that much rice usually, but she just kept munching away on the rice she made with the Enbudaki.

Sadly, those two weeks were up in no time. It only took a few days for her to miss the Enbudaki, to look back fondly on the days of gorging on delicious rice of all different kinds. So it wasn’t long until another Enbudaki appeared on her doorstep.

Yes, she caved and bought one. It cost 68,830 yen, but when you think of all the delicious rice it would make, that’s not so bad…Right? It also makes takikomi gohan, or rice mixed with other ingredients like veggies and seafood, and she suspected it would also make delicious brown rice. There was so much left to try…She was beyond excited to explore the fancy machine’s promise in making things like nametake tuna rice, kaki gohan, and coffee infused rice.

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