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As someone raised in a Chinese American household, with parents who owned a Chinese American takeout restaurant, these are questions I actually never had to ask. And I attribute that to the fact that we always had a rice cooker.
Forget old-fashioned, time-honored rice-cooking procedures as badges of honor and proven authenticity — all the Asian people I knew bought rice cookers as soon as they headed out into the world on their own. And I was no exception. (The amount of time and aggravation you save and the convenience of unsupervised cooking is a no-brainer.)
And so, I bought my first rice cooker — a tiny thing from Walmart — when I was 19 years old, for about the same amount of dollars, when I moved into my first apartment. With no accessories except for a plastic spatula that looked like it belonged in a toy kitchen set and a rice measuring cup, it made rice … adequately. The rice would stick and the water always threatened to bubble over. But it was fine for a college student. Turns out, a big key here was buying a good rice cooker!
When I bought my first house as a newlywed, I wanted to feel like an “adult.” And what better way to do so than with a nice rice cooker? One that had a large capacity for guests and meal preps, with a sleek design and nonstick interior, and a lid that held in precious steam with a satisfying click.
So I went to Costco. And got a $30 Aroma rice cooker. It was a little more expensive than my original, but so much fancier.
I was incredibly proud of it, all new and shiny. It came with a steamer basket, too — a luxury! It had a delay cook feature, which meant I could set it before work and come home to a kitchen smelling sweetly of rice. It was lightweight and kept rice warm for hours. And it served me well far longer than my marriage, lasting over 10 years.
So when the power cord finally stripped (from years of being wound around the easy-carry handle), sparked, shorted, and died just a year-and-a-half ago, I was devastated. It was the end of an era.
What sold me (after setting aside my initial dubiousness to further research this) were its claims of carb reduction by utilizing distilled steam rather than allowing starchy rice water to be absorbed into the grains. It was a bigger rice cooker than what I had previously, and boasted soup-making and slow-cooking capabilities, an oatmeal setting, and a sleek, modern look.
My verdict? It’s fine. A bit inconsistent and I have yet to use all those extra cooking features. I actually find myself yearning for the simplicity and perfection of my old rice cooker. Not the original one, which was too simple. But the middle one, which was just right. The Goldilocks of rice cookers!
It was so basically wonderful. I really miss it and, while I haven’t seen it at Costco recently, I have found it on Amazon. (That’s good news for any of you who are in the market!) Why don’t I buy it? Because I have this other one for now and I don’t want to be wasteful or frivolous. One day, when my current rice cooker goes south, I’ll buy a new one. And you can bet it’ll be that old $30 favorite.
Do you have a favorite rice cooker? Tell us about it in the comments.