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    How to Never Waste Rice Again

    By thomas | September 1, 2007

    It happens to the best of us. We come home from a long day of work and we’re hungry.

    Rice takes time to cook, so we start there. We measure out a cup or two of rice, lift the lid of our rice cooker, and see this:
    Two-day-old rice

    Oh no! That’s the rice I made two days ago but forgot to eat. It used to be white, fluffy and moist, but now it is dry, crunchy and yellowish. I could eat it, but I risk breaking my teeth.

    In the past, old rice in the rice cooker was a signal for me to open the trash up, but there’s a better way: zousui.

    Zousui (雑炊 [ぞうすい]) is Japanese for rice soup. The reason our rice is hard and crunchy is that it is dehydrated. All we have to do is add water and a little heat and our rice is back to proper edible form.

      Here’s what we do:

    1. Put the old rice in a pot.
    2. Add enough water to cover the rice. If you want a thicker soup, use less water. For a more watery soup, use more water.
    3. Put a fire under the pot.
    4. Add dashi (soup stock). For zousui, I recommend Weipa (ウェイ・パァー). You can find it in the Chinese (中華) section of your local grocery store. The package looks like the picture below. A container of this will supply you for a year’s worth of zousui or more. And it’s delicious. One big spoon should be enough for this amount of rice. Add to taste.
    5. For nutrition, add some spinach leaves.
    6. Beat an egg and ease it into the soup.
    7. Itadakimasu!

    Zousui takes less than 5 minutes to make. If you are prone to leaving rice in the rice cooker like I am, it can save you from wasting a ton of rice. There’s no wrong way to make zousui. Experiment with different vegetables and I think you’ll find they all go well with zousui. Enjoy!

    Do you have any rice-saving tips? I’d love to hear about them. Leave a comment.

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    Topics: Japanese Food | 23 Comments »Trackback

    23 Responses to “How to Never Waste Rice Again”

    1. kk Says:
      September 29th, 2007 at 2:45 am

      I grow my own fresh herbs since the herb selection at most markets here is dismal and expensive for fresh. I also grow cherry tomatoes and zucchinis sometimes on my balcony.

      Anyway, a perfect use for your old rice and scraps from your veggies and meals is compost! Much better for your plants than the fertilizer they sell in the store. I have two buckets I use for this purpose. You will initially have to put a little dirt in your first bucket. Then start adding the food. Shake up the bucket every time you add new food. Eventually you will start putting food in your second bucket so the first can fully compost. Then you have a constant rotating stock of compost.

      If you have coworkers that garden at all, you can give them compost too. Most will love it because from my understanding homemade compost isn’t a common practice in Japan.

    2. Jonneh Says:
      September 29th, 2007 at 3:21 am

      Very useful site already! I loved the rice tip, I’ll have to definitely try that when I go to Japan for the JET Program. I’ll be checking this site out :D Thanks!

    3. thomas Says:
      September 30th, 2007 at 10:32 pm

      kk: Great tips! Growing your own herbs and making your own fertilizer is a great money-saving idea. You’ve convinced me to give it a shot. I always feel guilty running off to the store to grab a bit of cilantro (or whatever) for a recipe and then end up wasting most of it. It would be great if I could just snip a bit off of a plant on my balcony.

      Jonneh: Thanks for the encouragement! Good luck on your future JET interview. Hope to see you here in the future.

    4. shiisa Says:
      October 14th, 2007 at 7:09 am

      Excellent tip! This post reminds me of how you can also do the opposite: say you have a great nabe (hot pot) meal, something like crab or kimchi. Don’t throw out that left-over soup once all the ingredients have been picked out. Throw in enough rice to get a nice, oatmeal-like consistency, garnish and voila – zosui! Pack it in some tupperware to let it sit overnight and let the flavors really soak in, and you’ll have some tasty leftovers for the next day!

    5. thomas Says:
      October 14th, 2007 at 9:46 am

      shiisa: Awesome tip. This makes a great follow-up to the zousui article :) I’ll post it up in a few days for everyone to see. Thanks a lot!

    6. Zousui Revisited | Says:
      October 25th, 2007 at 2:56 pm

      […] first tip ever was how to avoid throwing out old rice by making zousui (rice soup). Helpful reader shiisa sends in another zousui tip: use leftover nabe […]

    7. Daily J » Topic » Why I want every Japan-related blogger to blogroll NihonHacks, right now! - an exclusive interview with Says:
      November 24th, 2007 at 3:55 am

      […] to avoid/fix <some problem>?” Some things I’ve written about on Nihon Hacks are how to avoid wasting old rice, saving on cleaning products, cheap steaks, and how to find cheese in […]

    8. Tips and Tricks for Survival in Japan « Says:
      January 14th, 2008 at 3:33 pm

      […] train, saving money on cleaning products by buying refills, how to find cheese in Japan, how not to waste rice, how to make miso soup quickly, finding cheap steaks and even winning on a UFO […]

    9. Lunautilus Says:
      February 17th, 2008 at 12:09 am

      Just so you know, this should only be tried if the rice has been held at a high temperature. If your rice cooker shuts off after a while, it can lead to food poisoning by bacillus cereus, a bacteria common to rice which can survive cooking and multiply to toxic levels after a few hours of cooked rice left at room temp. I don’t think I’ve heard of any deaths related to it, but it can lead to a nasty bout of gastro-intestinal strife a few hours after eating tainted rice.

      Apart from that, the soup sounds pretty good. This can be made from soft rice, too, right?

    10. thomas Says:
      February 17th, 2008 at 1:45 am

      @Lunautilus: Thanks for the warning! Would this bacteria also survive being boiled in water to make soup?

      And yes, soft rice makes for good zousui too.

    11. MICHAEL J. SCHMITZ Says:
      February 17th, 2008 at 4:21 pm


    12. Jason Says:
      March 4th, 2008 at 2:52 pm

      michael, actually the exchange rate is currently around 100 yen = 1 dollar, give or take a few yen. so a 300 yen steak would be equivalent to a $3 steak. given that the article in question was about severely discounted and about to expire meat, then it comes out to beef in japan being much more expensive than beef in the united states

    13. john k Says:
      March 23rd, 2008 at 2:04 pm

      when you’ve cooked your rice and you have left overs, simply put it in the fridge, or better still, the freezer….never left it in the rice cooker

    14. saramantha Says:
      May 19th, 2008 at 11:02 pm

      Leaving rice too long in the cooker will cause it to become smelly, too. If you’re prone to this, I suggest wrapping each portion in plastic wrap and refrigerating or freezing. Just nuke it in the microwave in the wrap for a few minutes and you’ll have your fluffy white rice again!

    15. Chesu Says:
      May 26th, 2008 at 6:07 pm

      I fry my leftover rice. Cold, dry rice is perfect for fried rice, as it more readily absorbs the chicken stock, soy sauce, and whatever else you flavor it with. One cup of leftover rice becomes a very filling meal.

    16. Kirsten Says:
      July 30th, 2008 at 4:53 am

      You could also make rice pudding with milk, egg, sugar, cinnamon, etc. A little taste of home.

    17. September Hacks From The Past Roundup | Says:
      September 16th, 2008 at 3:57 pm

      […] How To Never Waste Rice Again […]

    18. Alec Says:
      September 17th, 2008 at 2:18 am


    19. Tips for a Broken Economy - Great Deals and Savings Online « Social Networks for Everyone!! Blog Says:
      September 18th, 2008 at 8:42 pm

      […] blogger Thomas Hjelm. His blog have plenty of useful and curious tips like “how to never waste rice again” and there are other similar tips in blogs, one which I like a lot is the list that appear in […]

    20. Stells Says:
      October 17th, 2008 at 6:28 am

      I always leftover rice to make bacon fried rice.

      Fry up some bacon and leftover veggies (cabbage, carrots, onion, etc), add the rice, and fry it all together. Mix in a dash of soy sauce, mirin, some spices (I like curry powder, pepper, and dried negi), and an egg (optional), and you have some bomb fried rice!

    21. Japanese words Says:
      February 28th, 2009 at 1:52 pm

      I tend to either only make as much as I am eating or that meal, or make enough for a couple meas and then freeze the rest.

    22. Just to eat « Mungo Says:
      October 17th, 2009 at 3:21 pm

      […] don’t want you just to sit down at the table. I don’t want you just to eat, and be content. I want you to walk out into the fields where the water is shining, and the rice […]

    23. NES Says:
      February 28th, 2010 at 7:42 pm

      I found some very old rice in my cupboard, it’s 3 years old. I’m probably going to eat it anyway, I wonder if I could make this zousui or if it’s too old even for that.