A bread-maker makes bread, and ice-cream machine makes ice-cream, but a rice cooker… now there is no one-trick-pony. When I bought my first rice cooker, I was concerned that I was using up a considerable chunk of my kitchen space on a contraption that basically only boils a bit of rice.
But after several years of being a member of the rice-cooker-appreciation-club (please note, not a real club…), I have discovered that this versatile machine is capable of making so much more than a boring bowl of plain rice. So what can you make?
When electronics companies in Japan first started marketing rice cookers that could be used to make cake, Japanese people were highly unimpressed. As rice purists, they didn’t want anything else sullying the perfection of their rice, and indeed their rice cookers. But these days, many people use rice cookers for baking, and a lot of models even come with a Kēki (cake) setting. My rice cooker is huge – one of the ten-litre ones – so when I tried making cake, it came out pretty flat just because the surface area of the cooker is so big. The mixture moulded perfectly to the shape of the bowl and so the cake has a perfectly smooth crust to it. I used a generic sponge cake recipe and layered the bottom side with sliced apple and maple syrup. The cake was quite heavy but it was moist and sweet. As for cooking time, it took hours. Every time the rice cooker turned off, I went to check and it was still not done, so I just turned it back on from ‘warm’ to ‘heat’ until it was done. So, now that I have an oven to bake in, rice-cooker cake isn’t worth the effort for me. But if you are a cake-lover without an oven, there are tonnes of recipes online for making cake in a rice cooker, including Youtube videos if you need extra guidance.
My Japanese friends were pretty surprised by this recipe – rice isn’t used in a sweet context here at all. Once I had the idea, it seemed pretty obvious that a rice cooker would be good for cooking rice pudding. With a basic recipe of milk, rice and sugar (with other ingredients to flavour) it’s a simple recipe and not too difficult to make. I found that it needed stirring a couple of times to make sure that the milk soaked in evenly throughout. I flavoured mine with cinnamon and raisins, but you can also serve rice pudding with stewed fruit or add chocolate powder to the mixture. Here the recipe I followed.
If you’ve ever made stew in a slow cooker before, it’s not hard to see how a rice cooker can do roughly the same thing. After an initial blast of heat, you can even leave your rice cooker turned on ‘warm’ overnight to give the meat a good, slow cooking until it’s nice and tender.
This is a type of stew that is the traditional food of my home town, which consists mainly of butter beans. I haven’t yet tried it in my Japanese rice cooker (mainly because I can’t seem to find pigs trotters at the grocery stores or markets here) but I made some in my Chinese rice cooker and it worked really well. For my Japanese rice-cooker, I might end up forgetting about the pigs trotters and following this recipe which uses a bacon joint instead of the pigs trotters.
This recipe is really easy, and it makes for a healthy meal. Frittata is basically a spanish ommlette. You pre-fry the vegetables and then just put them in your rice cooker with lots of egg mixture, and let it bake. Additional ingredients such as cheese, slices of mini sausages or pieces of ham go well with it. Just remember not to have too many ingredients – if the egg mixture doesn’t cover them properly, it will fall apart when you take it out of the rice cooker. The recipe is listed on this Buzzfeed link.
So there you have it – five things you might not have thought could be made in a rice cooker. Aside from the popular choices of cake and stew, there are all sorts of strange things that can apparently be made in a rice cooker. This article details 21 such options, including bread, salad and risotto.