The Sanyo ECJ-FS50 multi-function cooker.
I have been resisting buying a rice cooker for a long time. After all, I have the Perfect Rice Pan and know how to cook rice. What’s more, my friend’s rice cooker produces tasteless, dry white rice and doesn’t do brown rice at all, so why would I want one?
When I was in Japan, I noticed that the rice cookers on sale there were somewhat more advanced than the ones I saw in the shops here. They had computer control, and settings for different types of rice, including brown rice. But nothing like that had ever reached the UK, most of the ones here being simple models, and there was no point bringing one home, because Japanese electricity runs at 100v, rather than 230v. I spotted this Sanyo cooker in the enormous Chinese supermarket in Glasgow. It was much more expensive than most rice cookers, but it explicitly claimed to have a brown rice mode, and was also a slow cooker—another gadget I’d been craving. It seemed to be a halfway house between the more usual British rice cooker, and the more interesting Japanese models—possibly the most simple of Japanese types. My partner is worse than I am when it comes to gadgets, so we bought one, and it sat in the cupboard for a few months whilst I continued to use the Perfect Rice Pan.
Inside the rice cooker
Last night, I decided to give it a go and see what it did to the Italian short-grain brown rice I use as my standard “Japanese” rice. It’s quite a small rice cooker, but it can cook up to eight portions of brown rice (or ten portions of the tasteless stuff), and its really simple to use—you use the measure supplied to add the rice (one measure=two portions), then top up with water to the appropriate line. The inside of the pan is clearly marked—if you put one measure of brown rice into the cooker, you add water up to the “1” line on the scale labelled “Brown”. You then put the lid down, make sure that the “keep warm” light isn’t on, press the “menu” button until an arrow points to the word “Brown” and then hit the “Cook” button.
And then you wait.
It takes much longer to cook rice—an hour and a quarter as opposed to 40 minutes or so. You get a countdown for the last 13 minutes, which is helpful if you are busy cooking the accompaniments, and it automatically switches to “keep warm” mode when it’s done. The completion of the rice is announced with a ding which might be audible if you live in a Zen temple, as long as you are not too close to any running water.
The rice itself came out as perfect Japanese-style brown rice—better than I do with the pan. It sticks together in just the right way. I haven’t tried it with other rices yet, but this setting should be good for Thai-style brown jasmine rice. I suspect I’ll stick with the Perfect Rice Pan for basmati and other long-grain rices, but for Japanese rice, the cooker wins.
There are many interesting settings to investigate, including one for sprouted brown rice—a product I’ve only just learned about, and plan to order from the Japan Centre soon so I can play with it. There’s a timer, where you set the time you’d like your rice to be ready, and there are steamer and slow cooker functions which look straightforward. I think we can ignore the cooked yoghurt mode!
My main criticism so far is that the supplied power cord is much too short, but it’s a standard kettle cable with a 13 amp fuse, so it’s not hard to replace. In the end, I had the cooker on the IKEA stool close to an otherwise unused outlet, and that kept it out of the way and off the work surfaces. The manual is clear, with amusing Japanese illustrations and very few lapses into Engrish.
I can work around the long cooking times. It is rather expensive, though.
Sanyo’s product page for the ECJ-FS50.
Japan Centre product page. I got it for less than that at the Chinese supermarket, though, and Amazon is even more expensive.