New Crop Rice
New crop rice, called shinmai (shin=new, mai=rice), is always looked forward to with great anticipation and enthusiasm. The rice, harvested each year from fall through the new year, has a higher moisture content, and cooks up slightly softer, with a finer aroma and more lustrous shine than rice harvested at a later date. This year’s severe heat and humidity produced a superb rice crop that we just can’t wait to eat!
It’s important to store shinmai properly. As shinmai ages, it begins to oxidize and lose some of its flavor. It’s best to store somewhere with low temperature and low humidity; the vegetable bin in your refrigerator may well be the perfect spot! Placing the rice in a store-bought rice container is recommended, but any clean plastic container will do the trick. Use a funnel to pour the rice into the bottle, firmly cap it, and store it upright or on its side. Plastic bags are not a good idea as they may have tiny holes through which air and undesirable odors can pass. Keeping your rice in the freezer is also an option, but just remember not to thaw it before cooking. Simply rinse and cook as usual.
The advancement of rice polishing techniques has resulted in rice that has less remaining bran than it used to. Rough washing can cause the layers that contain much of the flavor to be stripped away, so only a few gentle rinses to remove any impurities is best. The rice is usually rinsed three times. The first time, it is placed in a container with a lot of water and gently swirled to rid it of any dust, small pebbles, etc. Before the rice can absorb this now-cloudy water, it is quickly drained away, and the rice is rinsed for a second time. This time, just enough water is added to cover the rice; it is again gently agitated and the water once again completely drained. This step is repeated for the third rinse. Remember not to let the rice sit in the rinse-water, and to drain the water quickly.
A key point to cooking shinmai is to use less water than you would normally use to cook the same amount of older rice. A general guide would be 3 cups rice to 2.8 cups water. Always remember to soak the rice for at least 30 minutes prior to cooking. After the rice has steamed to completion, gently fluff it with a shamoji (rice scoop), so it doesn’t stick together.
There are many delicious treats to enjoy with the coming of autumn. New crop rice cooked with seasonal wild mushrooms is a typical crowd-pleasing fall dish. As long as you remember to use a bit less water than normal, delicious, fluffy shinmai is practically foolproof to make! Marukai stores have a vast selection of 2012 shinmai. Why not experience the pleasures of shinmai for yourself?