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Decoding Sushi Rice: Unraveling the Mystery Between Sushi Rice and Japanese Rice

Updated: Aug 1, 2023



If you've ever considered making sushi at home, you might have been entangled in the enigma of rice varieties—sushi rice, Japanese rice, basmati rice, sticky rice, and more. The distinctions between them can be puzzling, but fear not, for I am here to illuminate the differences.


Summary

To make sushi rice:

Use either Sushi or Japanese Rice

Use either Short or Medium Grain

Never use Sticky, "Mochigome" rice

My first choice: Lundberg Organic Sushi Rice

Runner Up: Nishiki

For Super Premium tasting, look for Koshihikari


Why should I use "Japanese Rice" for sushi?

When referring to Japanese rice, we mean Japonica Rice, a short-grain variety. In the United States, there are approximately 20 different types of rice, categorized into three main groups: Short Grain, Medium Grain, and Long Grain. The primary difference lies in the starch content, with short-grain rice containing more starch than medium or long-grain varieties.


You want the rice to stick together for sushi, such as rolls and nigiri, making short-grain rice the ideal choice due to its higher starch content.


Is Sushi Rice the Same as Japanese Rice?


You may have encountered rice labeled as "Sushi rice" and wondered if it differs from Japanese rice. The answer is no; they are the same.


Technically, there is no official "sushi rice" category, just as there is no "Risotto Rice" category. Rice varieties such as Aroborio, Carnaroli, Vialone, Nano, and Baldo are used for Risotto. (Note: I suppose you can get technical and say, “there is not Japanese rice.” Rather, it is rice Japonica.)


"Sushi rice" is merely a label commercial sellers put on Japanese short-grain rice for consumers. While it is not exclusively meant for making sushi, you can use it to prepare various rice dishes or recipes calling for short-grain rice.


To clarify, sushi rice is not sticky rice.


Rice vs. Sticky Rice?


Uruchimai (粳米) refers to the Japanese rice we commonly use. However, there is another type of Japanese Rice called sticky rice.


Mochigome (糯米) is glutinous rice, often called Sticky rice in the United States. It is used to make Mochi, the gooey exterior of Mochi ice cream. Sticky rice is whiter, rounder, and larger than Uruchimai.


Uruchimai and Mochigome are Japonica rice or Japanese rice types, but the key difference lies in the starch content: amylose and amylopectin.




Uruchimai contains 80% amylopectin, while Mochigome ("Sticky Rice") is almost 100% amylopectin, making it sticker and gooier when cooked.


To make mochi, Mochigome is steamed, not boiled like Uruchimai, and then pounded while hot to achieve its soft, gooey texture.


Which Brand of Rice Is Good? (In the US)


Nishiki,Calrose Botan and Kokuho are some of the most popular types of Japanese Rice available in the United States. Though they are not "True" Japanese rice as they are hybrid varieties, they work well for sushi.


I prefer: 1) Nishiki, 2) Calrose Botan, and 3) Kokuho.




For my business, Breakthrough Sushi, I use Lundberg Organic Sushi Rice. In addition to the taste, there are two reasons for this choice:


One. The rice vinegar I use, Marukan Organic, is made from Lundberg Organic Sushi rice. So, it pairs perfectly with sushi rice.





Two. Lundberg Sushi Rice was one of the few organic short-grain options available in most supermarkets. I wanted to use ingredients that are accessible to everyone, not just Japanese supermarkets or specialty stores.


For those seeking a premium rice experience, consider Koshihikari or Sasanisiki, Japan's "best tasting" rice. Keep in mind that taste preferences may vary among individuals.


Note on "Premium" Japanese Rice





The term "premium" on Japanese rice packages refers to the best quality the manufacturer can produce, not a comparison to other products. Some even use the label "Super Premium" for top-tier rice.


Now, you can purchase Japanese-grown short-grain rice in supermarkets and online on Amazon.




And now, you CAN purchase Japanese grown short grain rice at supermarket and online on Amazon (where else?)


Until recently (sorry don't know exactly when "recently" is...), Japanese government prohibited exporting Japanese grown rice to the US. But now, they relaxed the law, so we can.


Here are a couple super premium (even in Japan) Koshihikari rice.









As a rule of thumb, any rice with "Koshihikari" is a good bet for super high-quality tasty rice.



 

Breakthrough Sushi offers both in-person and online sushi classes for team building activities and private events. The online format is also ideal for hybrid meetings and conferences. Our sushi kit contains all the fresh ingredients you need to make sushi.


For any event inquiry, please email our events coordinator.

 

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