Sometimes we just don’t know when to quit in the name of strange cooking experiments.

Earlier this fall, we tested out Japanese food company Meiji’s recipe for matcha ice cream takikomigohan, which is a seasoned rice cooked with a variety of ingredients (usually sans ice cream) that can be easily prepared inside of a rice cooker. Despite our initial misgivings due to the ghastly combination of ingredients swimming around the rice cooker, the end result tasted surprisingly delicious, like a kind of smooth, creamy pilaf.

▼ The ingredients that went into matcha ice cream rice (prior to cooking)

Always the intrepid writers that we are, we couldn’t help but wonder–was it something about the recipe being matcha ice cream that ensured its success, or would any ice cream flavor be interchangeable? There was only one way to find out.

We felt obligated to start the experimenting with the most basic of all beloved ice cream flavors: vanilla.

We threw the seasonings and the ice cream into the cooker. It had a decidedly unappetizing look, just like the first time we did it with matcha ice cream.

After one hour of cooking, the resulting rice didn’t look all that different than normal, but it did have an interesting yellowish sheen. Its smell was honestly the most surprising part, as a sickly sweet vanilla aroma wafted up through the steam. The degree of sweetness was much stronger than with the matcha ice cream, so it was also harder to bridge the gap between the sight of rice and the smell of vanilla.

We steeled ourselves up to take a bite…and were pleasantly surprised. It wasn’t bad at all. In fact, the sweetness of the smell wasn’t mirrored at all in the taste. If anything, the combination of the other seasonings led to a salty-sweet sensation. The bottom line is that as long as you can get past the smell, the vanilla ice cream takikomigohan is another solid pairing.

We do have one big caveat, though. There was a pretty drastic difference between the freshly cooked vanilla ice cream rice and the same rice when heated up as leftovers the next day. We don’t have a scientific explanation for it, but the vanilla flavor definitely packed a stronger punch as more time went by. After eating about two cups of it, we felt like we had eaten nothing other than vanilla-flavored rice. That hadn’t been the case at all with leftovers of the matcha ice cream rice.

After those mixed results, we wanted to test one more flavor of ice cream takikomigohan: fermented butter caramel ice cream. 

As the ice cream itself was a light brownish color, it made sense that the cooked rice would also have a deeper color than the vanilla batch. In fact, it almost looked like rice mixed lightly with soy sauce. But the more pressing concern was the blast of sickly sweet caramel flavor that engulfed us upon opening the lid. It smelled like we had been melting caramel–not cooking rice.

We felt a little apprehensive to take a bite…but this one also turned out to be not that bad. It didn’t taste nearly as sweet as it smelled. The main difference from the first round was the swapping of vanilla and caramel flavors.

Unfortunately we ended up eating all of the caramel takikomigohan right after it was made, so we didn’t get to test it again on the next day. Instead, there’s one important piece of info that we’d like to share.

The next day we made a batch of regular rice in the same rice cooker. The moment we opened the lid…

▼ Huh? What’s that smell…?

…there was still the lingering smell of caramel! Thankfully, it didn’t affect the taste of the rice at all. The smell didn’t go away until about three uses of the rice cooker after that.

All in all, the matcha takikomigohan is still the clear winner in terms of both taste and smell as well as longevity. However, on the bright side, the vanilla and caramel ice cream rice versions were still light years ahead of the concoction we made that one time in a rice cooker with beer and potato chips. We don’t expect anything will ever topple that.

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