The story of the humble rice cooker

PUBLISHED : Friday, 17 January, 2014, 9:34am
UPDATED : Friday, 17 January, 2014, 9:35am

For the past five decades, the rice cooker has been used by Hongkongers wanting to cook the staple perfectly at home. Yoshiko Nakano, author of Where There Are Asians, There Are Rice Cookers: How 'National' Went Global via Hong Kong recounted the story of this phenomenon.

Japanese manufacturers developed a machine that cooked rice perfectly, and it became a huge hit in rapidly industrialising Japan in the 1950s. The manufacturers assumed they could simply sell the same model around the world, but they were wrong.

Researchers and tasters "localised" the rice cooker, tweaking its design to allow for the addition of other ingredients. In Hong Kong it was adapted to make congee, in Iran it was customised to produce the tahdig, the essential golden crust of rice beloved there.

Nakano says that rice cookers have accompanied generations of migrants and students since. They have transformed from being a symbol that people are "no longer poor" to symbolising a comfort food that is cooked to perfection.