Japan's Zojirushi Umami Micom Rice Cooker & Warmer is one rice cooker to rule them all

Photo courtesy of Zojirushi
Photo courtesy of Zojirushi

Japan's Zojirushi Umami Micom Rice Cooker & Warmer is one rice cooker to rule them all

by Sarah B. Hodge
Stripes Japan

Rice is more than just a food in Japan: wet rice cultivation shaped the course of Japanese history, rice plays an important role in Shinto rituals, and it’s the backbone of Japanese sake, mochi, and traditional Japanese desserts. Traditionally, rice was cooked in a heavy iron pot called a kama on a wood or charcoal-burning stove, where controlling the exact temperature was difficult. In 1955, Toshiba introduced the first automatic electric rice cooker for household use, starting a “kitchen revolution.” Other Japanese manufacturers continued to add features and innovations, and today nearly all Japanese households own an electric rice cooker.

Visit any Japanese appliance store or housewares section, and you’ll be faced with a dizzying selection of high-tech rice cookers. Sure, I owned a cheap one before I PCSed to Japan, but purchasing my first Japanese rice cooker was akin to perusing features on a new car: did I want fuzzy logic / micom (computer chips that automatically make adjustments to cooking time and temperature)? IH (induction heating?)? Pressure cooking? Did I need a setting for cake? Steel-cut oatmeal?

Since I make rice frequently, I wanted a rice cooker that would work in both Japan as well as stateside and one that offered a number of functions. So, when I had the chance to test out Zojirushi’s updated Umami model (NL-GAC10), I jumped for joy. Not only does it have standard settings like jasmine, quick jasmine, sushi, mixed rice and brown rice, but it also has Zojirushi’s exclusive umami mode, which soaks and steams the rice longer to produce a sweeter and fluffier rice. Those looking for traditional breakfast options like okayu or congee (rice porridge) will find settings for thatquin as well.  The Umami model also comes with a steamer basket, making it easy to quickly steam veggies, fish, or eggs to create a complete healthy meal.

I love the fact that it has settings not found on other brands of rice cookers, particularly the GABA brown rice setting. GABA brown rice is sprouted brown rice that is much higher in gamma-aminobutyric acid and fiber and is said to be more easily digestible. Using the GABA Brown Rice setting activates the GABA in the brown rice by soaking it for two hours at 104°F before cooking.

Another unique feature is the “slow cook” setting, which lets you make soups and stews right in the rice cooker, and the rewarming feature to bring cooked rice to the perfect serving temperature. The timer function makes it easy to have perfect rice ready and waiting in the morning to make bento boxes, or have dinner ready when you get home (takikomi gohan is a favorite in my household). I love that the redesigned steam vent lets off much less steam (and odor) than my previous model, and you can now turn off the melody that signals the end of cooking (great if you’re setting it overnight to make rice early in the morning).

I put the Umami Micom through its paces making several batches of umami, sushi rice, GABA brown rice, mixed rice, and basmati rice cooked on the jasmine setting, as well as following Zojirushi’s recipe for slow cooker minestrone and caprese rice salad. You’ll also find a wealth of other great recipes on their website.

The Zojirushi Umami micom rice cooker is incredibly versatile; whether you’re shopping for your first Japanese rice cooker or an appliance that can handle a variety of tasks from steaming to slow cooking to making perfect white, brown, jasmine, and sushi rice, the Zojirushi Umami Micom (available in 5.5 and 10-cup size) is the perfect all-in-one appliance, especially if your family eats rice or grains daily.


Caprese Rice Salad recipe (courtesy of Zojirushi)

Ingredients (serves 4-6):

To Cook in the Rice Cooker:

2 cups (rice measuring cup) long grain white rice

2-1/2 cups (rice measuring cup) water

2 fresh basil leaves, whole

1 dry bay leaf, whole

2 sprigs of fresh thyme leaves, remove from stem

1/2 tsp. salt

1/8 tsp. black pepper, coarse ground


To Add to Cooked, Cooled Rice:

6-8 oz. fresh mozzarella, cut into large bite-sized pieces

1 cup fresh tomato, chopped

1/2 cup pine nuts, slightly toasted

1/2 cup kalamata olives, pitted

1/4 cup fresh basil leaves, roughly chopped

1 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil

1/4 tsp. salt


1. Measure rice accurately using the measuring cup that came with your rice cooker. Rinse rice quickly, drain and place in the inner cooking pan.


2. In a separate bowl, mix salt and pepper into the water, and add to the inner cooking pan. Place the herbs on top of the rice.


3.Cook the rice using the “MIXED” setting.


4. While rice cooks, combine all remaining ingredients in a large bowl. Refrigerate the mixture and allow to marinade.


5. When rice completes cooking, discard basil and bay leaf. Gently fluff the rice with rice spatula, and spread out onto a large plate. Refrigerate to cool, about 30 minutes.


6. When rice cools, add rice to the marinated tomato/mozzarella mixture, and toss gently.


7. Serve immediately.

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