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Sushi Rice and Algebra

12 Jun 2012

While I’ve been making sushi at home for years and years, I’ve never really nailed down a definitive rice-to-water ratio. Granted, there’s a lot that goes into awesome sushi rice apart from the actual cooking — things that include, but are not limited to how long the rice is soaked or rinsed before cooking, what sort of cooking apparatus is being employed, fanning, and the effect of whatever your super-secret rice-vinegar addative-mixture may [or may not] be. The rice-to-water ratio, though, to me, has always been the most confounding element.

So, but, here’s the thing: We wanted to make sushi a few weeks ago, but were running low on rice, so we picked up a new bag at the store. The first bag — the one that was running low — was produced by Nishiki. Here’s what it had to say about making sushi rice:

Nishiki directions

 

The new bag? That was the Kokuho Rose brand. Here’s what it had to say:

Kokuho Rose directions

These two recipes provide two very [quantitatively] different worldviews with regard to preparing sushi rice. I make sushi JUST rarely enough that I can never really remember what I did from one time to the next. So, in my quest for perfect rice — and some degree of consistency — I set out to develop some kind of, like, thing. It seemed like a good chance to employ some recreational mathematics.

I wanted to make three [dry] cups of rice.

Here’s what I did:

First, I used x and y to represent rice and water values (x = rice, y = water).

That gave me two separate points:

Kokuho Rose: (1, 1.25)

Nishiki: (1.5, 2)

I graphed those and I was here:

The line formed by those two points was my jam — I just had to figure out what the line was.

I found the slope (m) with the ol’ m = y2 – y1 / x2 – x1. That got me here:

(2 – 1.25) / (1.5 – 1) or .75 / .5 or 3/2 or 1.5. Whatever. It’s the slope.

So, knowing the slope and a point on the line, I used that-thing-that-figures-out-the-equation-of-a-line-if-you-have-a-point-and-the-slope (y – y1 = m(x – x1)) to find the actual equation of the line. You just plug the slope and a point in there. So:

y – 1.25 = 1.5(x – 1) or y – 1.25 = 1.5x – 1.5 or y = 1.5x – .25 — the last of which is, like, the true identity of the line I was looking for.

So, that gave me this:

All that was left was to plug my x = 3 cups into the equation, get a y-value, and make my rice. So:

y = 1.5(3) – .25 or y = 4.25, which, of course, is seen here sitting lovingly perched atop the actual line:

I’ve made sushi rice twice so far with this equation. The first time was kind of a bummer, but I was also trying what I thought was a next-level soaking procedure which I think turned out to maybe be not-so-awesome. The second attempt, however, produced some pretty incredible, like, industry-standard sushi rice.

I’m thinking of maybe having some guests over so I can see what happens when I dicker with the x-value a bit. The way things are now, it seems like this might be a good solution for non-heroic-amounts of rice, but maybe not larger quantities; like, I can’t imagine that the -.25 cups of water is going to really make or break twelve or fifteen cups of [dry] rice, you know?

So, just to sum up: This was not really a scientific approach to making sushi rice; it was a haphazard approach to making sushi rice using scientific tools. What this recipe needs is a solid first-prinicple — something that beats, “Two brands of rice that have nothing to do with each other maybe have something to do with each other.”

If anyone has one, I’d love to hear it.

Thanks to Skybondsor for teaching me how to code subscripts!

In Blog, Friendship, Hard Bloggin', Just For Fun

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