There’s no argument that the Japanese have perfected the art of a delicious bowl of rice, but just what are you washing off?
All Japanese rice starts out as genmai, the unpolished kernel, or what we call “brown rice” in English. Although some Japanese eat rice in this more natural state, most homes and restaurants prefer seihakumai, the ubiquitous white rice, which has been processed to remove the germ (haiga) and bran (nuka).
But even after processing, the rice still has a sticky coating called hada nuka (literally “skin bran”), and that is what you’re supposed to wash off. If you don’t, your cooked rice will suffer in both taste and aroma.
What is “no-wash” rice?
Thanks to technology introduced about 30 years ago, processors can now remove this sticky coating so consumers don’t have to. Rice processed in the new way is called musenmai (no-wash rice), the advent of which has eliminated the time-old ritual of washing rice.
How is musenmai made?
The milled rice goes through one extra step in which it is tumbled in a narrow tube. This small innovation is pretty ingenious, because it uses the adhesiveness of the sticky layer against itself – during a quick 7-second spin in the tube, the residual bran sticks to the sides of the tube. The rest of the kernel falls away clean, and the waste bran is recovered and sold as fertilizer and animal feed.