Kitchen Pal: The Rice Cooker

I believe that a true Malaysian household is never complete without a rice cooker. We eat rice with everything! Kari ikan (fish head curry), stir-fried vege, soups; you name it! We even make nasi briyani (biriyani rice), kai chok (chicken porridge), nasi lemak (a Malaysian favorite) even nasi goreng (fried rice) from cooked rice! Plus what would chap fan (economy rice) operators do if their rice cooker was malfunctioning, eh? Therefore the rice cooker is a very important appliance in Malaysian kitchens. Inspired by a conversation I had today, I'm gonna try to do a light article about this culinary friend of ours :)

How can you have nasi lemak without the nasi?

Most of the time, all we do is wash the rice grains, put them in the pot, measure the right amount of water, push the button & let it cook to perfection. But how does the pot make steamy, fragrant rice?

The Mechanism
The pot in the cooker is removable; at the bottom of the cooker is a heating plate & a magnetic thermostat (usually shaped like a small disc) which sits on a small spring on top of the heating plate. When the rice & water is added to the pot, the weight of the pot will push it to depress the thermostat. Switch on the electricity, push the button & the heating plate begins to warm up. 
Water boils at 100 degrees Celcius; as long as this upper limit has not been reached, the heating will continue. Rice will absorb the water during the process & the temperature will rise as the amount of liquid water in the pot decreases. The thermostat will detect when the temperature reaches the upper limit & the heating process will be switched off, putting the pot in a "keep warm" mode until the electricity if switched off. The rice is then ready for consumption :p

We don't use the rice cooker solely for cooking rice; sometimes the appliance comes with a "basket" that can be placed on top of the pot so that steam from the pot below heats up food in the "basket", like dumplings & vegetables. Mum steams bawal hitam (black pomfret) with ginger, sesame seed oil, soya sauce, & garlic with the basket. Scrumptious.

Steamed pomfret...Yum

It's also used to heat up food especially when you don't have a cooking stove/microwave around. This is especially true in my university hostels; the girls here buy canned food & heat it up in the cooker (despite the university hostel rules forbidding possession of rice cookers in the campus *whistle*)

They even make tong sui (Chinese dessert) using the cooker. Simple to cook & nice to eat, perfect for rainy nights.

Once when we ran out of cooking gas, I cooked stir fried spinach in the rice cooker pot. It was delicious :p

The rice cooker is a user-friendly appliance; there are cookbooks dedicated to providing recipies solely using the rice cooker. Plus steamed food is healthier than the fried stuff! 

Definitely a must-have if you wanna experience homecooked Malaysian favorites!


bebelulu said...

hehhe..all those pics look yummmy..
but here, i've used the rice cooker to make my own mac n cheese!Truly a great machine..hehe

ash said...

nice articles ;p
everyone should begin to realise that how cool is this familiar machine ...haha...

Albrecht said...

Owh... well.. I'm gona try doin a pizza with dis thingy later :D

gravitino said...

Nasi lemak seems delicious. I have been to a Malaysian restaurant in Tokyo but I didn't try it. I ate chicken rice, some noodle and so on.

rowan said...

Well then you better go back there when you've the time & ask for nasi lemak! :D

Shark_Blade said...

Gosh I'm a sucker for nasi lemak. Can't remember the last time I ate one. *craving for one*
I like the way you write, great article Jo. :)