If there is one type of rice that best represents sushi and Japanese culinary arts, it is Koshihikari rice (often called “Koshi rice”). Koshihikari rice is considered a super-premium short grain rice that has been artificially selected over many years to produce its unique characteristics, with a firmness, consistency, aroma, and a natural sweetness that is without peer. Slightly off white, firm yet creamy, this low glycemic rice has attributes that make it perfect for sushi or general consumption, if one is so inclined. Along the same vein as Kobe or Wagyu beef, this rice is a type carefully cultivated and milled in Japan, and was traditionally only grown and consumed there, and for a long time, Westerners were not privy to this Japanese luxury. Eventually, word of this incredible rice spread, and while Japan was happy to export milled Koshi rice to the rest of the world, grain that would germinate was kept from export, effectively prohibiting other countries from growing their own Koshihikari rice. In 2003, Japan began to certify Japanese Koshihikari rice with DNA testing, thus ensuring a compliant product marketed with JAS certification. The intent was to keep this rice a Japanese product; however we all know how well that strategy works with any commodity.
In time, this rice still managed to find its way to different parts of the world, and it is now grown in the United States. California and Tennessee are two states that have found success in cultivating Koshi rice, and even though it may not be grown in Japan, the American variety of rice manages to retain many of its qualities that make koshi rice such a unique product. Being grown locally, it is less expensive and more readily available than the Japanese variety.
In Japan, home cooked rice is consumed generally within a few months of processing. Most ‘new crop’ rice is used as is, but depending on the household and perhaps the intended dishes it is not unusual to blend shinmai (new crop) with komai (old crop). Shinmai tends to be stickier because the rain grains still retain some moisture. This is ideal for serving rice alone. Komai tends to be less sticky because the rice has lost more moisture, and is ideal for dishes like Cha Han (Fried Rice) or Kare Raisu (curry rice) where a person might want each grain to not stick to its neighbor. Additionally, nearly all Sushi restaurants in Japan use komai or some kind of komai blend because as the rice grain dries and loses moisture it develops small hairline cracks on the surface. These cracks permit the Su (vinegar) to be absorbed better. Outside Japan, sushi-ya do not pay as much attention to the blending of rice, but in a country where sushi is relatively new, this has not been of much concern.
Koshi rice is to sushi rice as single malt scotch is to the scotch world. While many consumers may not be aware of, or even concerned with the difference, to those who place more emphasis on the nuances of their food, Koshi rice is a different game. While I personally use Japanese Koshi rice when making sushi at home and trying to impress my friends with my sushi making skills, I have recently had the opportunity to try Koshi rice made by a Tennessee grower, which I will review in another article. While I am a huge fan of the Japanese short grain variety of rice, I don’t intend to sound like a rice snob, and I am happy to eat a bowl of non-Koshi rice that I am served at a sushi-ya. That said, when I am home, crafting my own meal and taking the time to perfect it, I like to have the ultimate rice to make my meal complete.
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You mentioned, “I have recently had the opportunity to try Koshi rice made by a Tennessee grower, which I will review in another article.”
I live in TN and am interested in where I could get this rice.
Also, I have enjoyed catching up with your blog and was wondering if you plan on having more frequent postings in the future.
Hi, I like your description of Koshihikari rice, it is very appropriate to put it on par with Wagyu beef. wonder if I can use it as my product describtion for my site?
I would prefer that you not use my exact wording as Google penalizes sites for duplicate content. You may take what I have written and re-write it to change it enough so that Google won’t see it as duplicate content, but I’m sorry I can’t let you use it “as is.”. You would have to make significant changes to the verbiage, though. I’m sorry that I cannot say “yes” and allow you to copy and paste my content, but it would benefit us both if you didn’t, so it is in both of our best interest if you re-write the content. I hope you understand. Thanks for the compliment, though. 🙂
I eat Koshi hikari everyday- I dont use it to make sushi since I live in Japan. We dont call it sushi rice- we can use it to make sushi by the way we cook it in the rice cooker but I am assuming when people want to buy sushi rice they buy komai koshi hikari. Shinmai is rice purchased within 3 months of harvest so I am not sure what we are eating the rest of the year.
Yes, what a lot of westerners probably don’t realize is that what we think of as “sushi rice” is really just “rice” in Japan, where rice is often part of a daily meal, unlike most Western countries. Thanks!
I just tweeted out your link as my reference link for this variety. I’m diabetic, and found a haiga-mai koshihikari, and I’m in heaven! When you grow up with a rice cooker steaming up the kitchen daily, being told you can’t eat white rice any more is like a prison sentence.
The glycemic index of koshihikari is 48, which puts it well below the “low glycemic” threshold of 55, and actually lower than some legumes like pinto beans.
I should rather eat this rice a fraction as often as I used to eat jasmine rice, than eat brown rice (just not the same) or feel guilty if I cheat and eat a higher glycemic rice — most of which run in the 80s for GI.