Meshi (cooked rice, meal) (飯)

Meshi (meshi, ii, han, manma) is a food that is steamed or boiled until no water is left by adding water to rice, wheat or grains from gramineous plants. It is also an alternate name for a meal.
It means 'something that is eaten.'

The formal form is 'gohan.'
It is 'manma' in toddler language. It is 'mama' in the language of the elderly people.

Summary

People can barely digest beta starch in grains such as uncooked rice, and it does not taste good even when eaten. However, by adding water and heat during cooking, rice changes to alpha starch that is tasty and easy to digest.

When it is kept below room temperature, the rice gets cold and called 'cold rice' (hiya-gohan). As time passes alpha starch returns to beta starch (deterioration of starch) and becomes hard. Starch becomes less digestible, and its taste also deteriorates. If reheated, starch turns back into alpha starch. It is equivalent to toasting bread that has been baked already.

If kept warm, the 'deterioration of starch' can be prevented, but the quality will degrade with bad smell. Vinegared rice does not harden easily even when it gets cold.

Products in sterile packages that can be cooked in a microwave oven are also sold commercially.
(see packaged rice)

Cooking methods

In general, there are two methods. They are takiboshi and yutori.

Takiboshi is the common method of cooking rice that is practiced in modern-day Japan.

Yutori is a method in which rice is boiled in a greater quantity of water than in the takiboshi method, drained into a colander at an appropriate time, then returned to the pot again and steamed. It is similar to the boiling method used for noodles. The water that was used to boil the rice was not thrown away, but was used as an after-dinner drink just like soba yu (hot water used in boiling buckwheat noodles) or was used in other dishes.

In countries where sticky rice is not appreciated, both cooking methods coexist, yet there is a stronger tendency to favor the yutori method. In Japan, the two methods coexisted until the Edo period, but eventually the takiboshi method became dominant, and the yutori method became outmoded.

In Japan, when cooking white rice, rice bran powder on the surface is rinsed away with water before cooking. This is called washing rice. Since the olden days, it is said that rice is 'sharpened,' but force is unnecessary, and for white rice that is commercially sold nowadays, it is meaningless to use force when washing it. No-wash rice, that does not have to be washed before cooking, is also sold commercially.

Currently, electric rice cookers are mainly used. Until the 1950's the main stream method was to cook in a pot (rice kettle, cauldron). It is possible to cook using a commonly available pot, but if the pot is not tightly sealed the temperature does not rise evenly, and requires a technique to cook the rice well.

Earthenware pots that are designed for easy preparation of single serving sizes are also sold. For the outdoors, a camping pot is used.

Before the introduction of rice cookers, rice was transferred to and kept in a rice container called meshibitsu after the rice was cooked. Cartoons, set in the decade between 1965 to 1975, that depict a happy home time often had this type of rice container in their illustration.

At high altitudes, the boiling temperature of water decreases, and cooked rice by an ordinary rice cooker will leave a hard core at the center of the rice grain. At elevations above 2,500 m and at boiling temperatures below 94℃, rice does not get fully cooked even if it is cooked for a long time, and eventually turns into glue. It is necessary to use a pressure cooker or alpha rice.

If rice is not cooked through because of uneven cooking temperature when using a commonly available pot, the problem can be solved by transferring the rice into a rice bowl and reheating it for a slightly longer time in a microwave oven.

When brown rice is cooked, the endosperm expands but the rice bran layer does not expand, and therefore the rice bran layer bursts.

A pressure cooker is required even at low elevations in order to cook rice with bran layers to be digestible.

If it is cooked in an ordinary rice cooker, rice bran layers do not become digestible as skins on corn kernels do, and the mouth feel will be bad and coarse.

If it is cooked in a pressure cooker, then the mouth feel will be good, and it can be cooked to have a sticky, chewy texture. It has more nutrients and flavor components with rich taste, and there is a wonderful taste that is not found in white rice.

Sprouted brown rice is more suitablefor cooking in an ordinary rice cooker compared to ordinary brown rice. This has contributed to the increase in brown rice consumption. However, it is still better to cook it in a pressure cooker.

Brown rice is more nutritious than white rice, but sprouted brown rice is even more nutritious, and it has a better taste and is digested more easily than regular brown rice.

Rice cookers with a pressure cooker feature has a setting for brown rice as well as a setting for sprouted brown rice.

When starting to eat brown rice, there is a method of mixing it with white rice. However, some people feel that this has the opposite effect of making the rice less tasty, so it may be a good idea to try 100% brown rice.

It is served in the restaurant industry but such restaurants are few in number. For example, Bamiyan (a restaurant chain) serves sprouted brown rice, but it has a texture that is coarser than the white rice served at the same restaurant.

Besides boiling rice, there is a method of steaming it in a steamer basket. In the ancient times there also existed a steaming method using a koshiki steamer. In modern-day Japan, often times uruchi rice (non-glutinous rice) is boiled and glutinous rice is steamed. Sekihan (glutinous rice steamed with red adzuki beans) is usually steamed. Chimaki (rice dumpling) is wrapped in bamboo leaves and steamed. If glutinous rice is steamed and pounded, then it becomes a rice cake.

Examples of cooking white rice

The serving size is approximately one and a half go (a Japanese unit of measurement) for two people, two go for three people and three go for four people. One go refers to 180 ml (milliliters). The weight is about 150 g (grams).

Washing rice, when water is poured into the rice pot and mixed, the water becomes white and cloudy so the water is drained. The more it is washed, the less the smell of rice bran will permeate rice. In Japan, many people repeat until the water is clear, but if rice bran is that intolerable, then, in general, using no-wash rice is more economical.

The amount of water used, in general, should be 20% more water than the amount of rice. For one go, 200 ml of water should be used. Soak in water for about 30 minutes to let the water get absorbed.

Cooking; if cooking in a rice cooker, often times only a switch needs to be turned on to commence cooking. If using a pot, rice should be cooked over high heat at the beginning, and when the lid starts to rattle it should be cooked for about 10 minutes over low heat. Turn up the heat to high once more at the end and then turn off the heat immediately.

Steaming; After the rice is cooked, let it steam for 10 to 15 minutes. If steaming is inadequate then the rice will not be cooked through, but if steamed too much then the rice will be too pasty. Once steamed, then mix well.

Storage; if using a rice cooker then rice will be kept warm, but because of the high temperature rice will deteriorate and it will start to smell. There is a storage method of sealing rice airtight and keeping it in the refrigerator if it will be eaten within one day, or in the freezer if it won't be consumed within two days. Before eating, it should be heated using a microwave oven. The rice will be slightly less tasty, but deterioration will be little.

Main categories

Nowadays, it generally refers to rice that has been cooked.
To make it clear that it refers to rice, it is called 'beihan,' 'hanmai' or 'kome no meshi.'
Beihan made of white rice is white, and it is also called ginshari (silver rice).

Domestically, it is the type that is consumed the most, but the consumption ratio of this type is diminishing. There are people who say that 'no accompanying dishes are necessary if there is good-tasting cooked rice,' but this is not nutritiously possible with white rice.

In beihan made with white rice, the higher the amount of starch is the stickier the texture is, which is what the Japanese favor. Other than starch, good-tasting rice does not have as much nutritional components such as protein.

Glutinous rice may be used, but in general, non-glutinous rice is used.

Meshi made of barley (mugi) and rice is called 'mugi meshi.'
Usually barley is used. However, meshi made by mixing split barley into rice, as they are served in the restaurant industry, is generally not called mugi meshi.

Besides white rice that has nothing mixed in it, there are meshi dishes seasoned with various ingredients.

Meshi dishes cooked together with ingredients such as seafood, meat or vegetables and seasoned with soy sauce is called 'takikomi gohan,' 'kayaku gohan' or 'gomoku meshi (gomoku gohan)' (the ingredients are matsutake mushrooms, bream, peas and so on).

Mame gohan is rice cooked with green peas and seasoned with salt.

A rice dish cooked with glutinous rice mixed with ingredients other than rice is called 'okowa' or 'kowameshi,' but these words often refer to sekihan (red rice) that uses azuki beans to add color (red).

Recently, because health trends, mineral additives such as calcium are mixed into the rice, besides rice dishes made with sprouted brown rice or various other cereal grains.

Typical rice dishes

Takikomi gohan
Maze gohan; the ingredients that have already been seasoned and cooked are mixed into the rice after it is cooked.
Onigiri (omusubi) (rice balls)
Sushi; vinegared rice used for sushi rice is called 'shari.'

Donburi (rice bowl dishes), una don (eel donburi), ten don (tempura donburi), oyako don (donburi with chicken and eggs), katsu don (donburi with pork cutlet), gyu don (donburi with seasoned beef), among others.
Chazuke (rice with tea poured over it)
Ojiya (porridge)
Rice with raw egg
Neko manma (rice mixed with bonito flakes and soy sauce)
Fried rice
Ohagi (botamochi) (glutinous rice dumpling covered with sweetened azuki beans, soybean flour or sesame seeds)

As an alternate name for meals

When it is used to refer to a meal in general, it can also be used for meals that do not involve cooked rice. In particular, it is notable in words such as 'asameshi' or 'asa gohan' (breakfast), 'hiru meshi' or 'hiru gohan' (lunch), 'yuhan,' 'yu gohan,' 'ban meshi' or 'ban gohan' (dinner), and 'yoru meshi' or 'yoru gohan' (late-night meal).

Yoru meshi' and 'yoru gohan' may refer to dinner. Gohan' (meshi at noon) means lunch.