Ask a Korean: Can Koreans Live Without Their Rice Cooker?

“Do you really want to hurt me?..

Let us eat rice!

…Do you really want to make me cry?!”

I don’t know how I ever lived without a rice cooker!  I mean, I haven’t fixed rice in a pot in a long while, but that’s how I used to make it.    Afterwards, the pot had to soak for days before I could wash it and you ended up wasting at least a quarter of it to the bottom of the pan…those were certainly the Dark Ages of Rice-Making.

Glistening morsels

Glistening morsels

Consider the efficiency of design and rice deliciousness of the Tiger Rice Maker, all that it requires of you is that you use quality rice, get the rice and water ratio correct and press the switch.  This relationship between rice eater and rice maker brings a warm, glowing feeling to my heart and tummy.   My Tiger served me faithfully for over twenty years, and when my mom and aunt’s rice maker (another brand that I won’t mention) broke, I passed it on to my Old Ladies.  Lesson learned: Be good to your Tiger, pass it on someday…

Come to mama!

Are you asking yourself if rice features in all Korean meals?  I can only speak for my Korean ass when I say that we ate it whenever my mom made Korean dinner and even when she made non-Korean dinner.  I always think of it as the most versatile and non-judgmental of the grains.  You really can’t say that of millet or buckwheat (even though I admire them both)…

And when all that remains in our cupboards is rice and kimchi after we locusts (me and the Boyfriend) have had at it, we are happy as pigs-in-a-blanket to chow down on a quick kimchi-mari…that’s kimchi mixed into rice with sesame oil, sesame seeds, and soy sauce.

Or fry them together for a fast & furious fried rice…

Take Two

Did you ever read Fifteen by Beverly Cleary? There’s a part in it where the teen protagonist goes to a Chinese restaurant with the boy she likes and a few friends.  The big joke is that they’re going to order “flied lice”.  I read this book when I was in sixth grade and thought nothing of it then.  But when I reread it as a grown-up, as I did a whole bunch of my YA books, I realized just how irresponsible the author had been in writing that scene…I don’t think Beverly Cleary is a racist, but she reads unenlightened.  In her career writing about white teens for white teens, quelle surprise (not) that when she does put non-white characters in her books, they would be besides-the-point, faceless and voiceless caricatures.  But I digress…

What I really want to express to you is how symbolic and essential rice is to Korean identity, past and present––connecting Koreans to their agrarian roots while allowing for economic self-sufficiency.  Farmers have tended to their family’s ancestral rice paddies for hundreds of years and though there may be no profit in it, that is not the most important thing:

“The purpose of farming is not to make money.  It is to preserve the Korean way of life” (Schuman 2005).

But with the farming population rapidly aging and no new blood to follow in the family tradition, what happens to the tradition?

Get your roll on...

Get your roll on with cucumber, egg, and hangar steak

I would be remiss if I ended this post without mention of what many Koreans would say is one of the quintessential uses for rice:  KIMBAP

Merrily we roll along...

Merrily we roll along…

Nothing fancy about it, really…

IMG_2982

Food or Abstract art?

what you got in your fridge?

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10 thoughts on “Ask a Korean: Can Koreans Live Without Their Rice Cooker?

      • We bought all the ingredients for the radish recipe in Cyprus. They have a different kind of white radish, which works well. And you can get distilled white vinegar at a larger supermarket called Alphamega.

        But for any recipe that requires using red pepper flakes, we got them from back in the States.

    • Hmm, I am pretty loyal to my Tiger rice cooker. It cost me a little over a $100 and is perfect. My first Tiger which I gave to my mom to use is about 20 years old and still works like a charm. But I guess if you want one with multiple features, it’s worth it to pay a little extra.

      • I guess I’m thinking about the pressure cooking feature. … Something to replicate they cook Japanese sushi rice as seen on the Netflix show, Jiro Dreams of Sushi. I wonder how pressure cooking changes the rice???

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