Okowa: Sticky rice with all kinds of good things


Okowa (おこわ)is the name given to a type of rice dish in which sticky glutinous rice is mixed with all kinds of vegetables or meat and steamed. It’s related to Chinese sticky rice, which you might have had as part of a dim sum meal. If the rice mix is steamed in small packets, wrapped in a bamboo leaf, it’s called chimaki. You can mix any number of things in with the rice to make it a complete meal in itself.

The rice used is not the usual Japanese rice - it’s short grain glutinous rice, often sold as mochi rice (餅米). (See Looking at rice for the differences between rices.) It’s the kind of rice that mochi rice cakes are made from. When cooked, it becomes very sticky - the grains cling together much more than regular medium-grain rice does. Because of this, anything made with it is very filling. (Some people like to mix mochi rice and regular rice together, but I like the full-on stickiness of all mochi rice.)

By mixing a lot of vegetables and protein (the gu) in the rice, okowa can become a complete meal unto itself. I like to make it with all-vegetable ingredients or with added meat, depending on my mood and what I plan to make besides it. The base is the same though. Okowa is meant to be eaten at room temperature, makes great onigiri, and freezes very well, so it’s a nice change of pace for bentos from regular rice.

Okowa makes me feel very nostalgic somehow - it reminds me of my grandmother. It’s an old fashioned, very Japanese dish.

I’ve given two methods of cooking this: in a rice cooker, and in a microwave. Either way, it turns out great.

Recipe: Okowa

The base:

  • 2 cups mochi rice or short-grain glutinous rice
  • 1 Tbs. dark sesame oil
  • 2 cups minus 2 Tbs. dashi stock - traditional or vegan, or 2 cups of water with some dashi stock granules
  • 2 Tbs. mirin
  • 1 1/2 Tbs. soy sauce
  • Pinch salt
  • 1 tsp. brown sugar (optional)

The things you add to it - vegan version:

  • 5 dried shiitake mushrooms, soaked and re-hydrated (you can use the soaking liquid as the stock)
  • 1 large carrot
  • 3 aburaage - fried tofu skins; or 6 inarizushi skins, well drained
  • 1 small piece (about 1 inch square) fresh ginger

The things you add to it - omnivore version:

  • 4 dried shiitake mushrooms, soaked and re-hydrated (you can use the soaking liquid as the stock)
  • 1 large carrot
  • 1 cup of ground pork or pre-cooked and chopped meat (e.g. leftover pork roast, turkey, etc.)
  • A few green onions, enough to produce 1/4 cup chopped
  • 1 small piece (about 1 inch square) fresh ginger

Wash the mochi rice as per the instructions here. Strain into a sieve or colander and let it sit a while to drain away all the water.

Mix the sesame oil with the drained rice. Add the other ‘base’ ingredients, mix well and let it steep for at least 20 minutes.

In the meantime, dice the carrots, chop up the shiitake mushrooms, finely chop the ginger, and cut up the fried tofu skins. If you’re doing the meat version, chop up the meat if needed, and chop up the green onions.

If you’re cooking this in a rice cooker, put the rice, liquid and the ‘things you add to it’ into a rice cooker, and cook using the regular setting. When it’s cooked, fluff it up well and take it out of the cooker. Do not keep okowa in the rice cooker the Keep Warm setting - it will start to go funny rather fast.

If you’re using a microwave, put the rice, liquid and the ‘things you add’ in a bowl. Cover the bowl with plastic film. Microwave on HIGH for 12 minutes. Take out, and mix well. Re-cover, and microwave on HIGH for another 3 minutes. Mix well and recover. Let it sit, covered, for at least 10 minutes. (This method was featured on a recent issue of “Today’s Cooking Beginners” (きょうの料理ビギナーズ); they nuked it for 12 minutes - then 2 minutes - 2 minutes, but I found that 12 minutes - 3 minutes works fine.)

Let the okowa cool to room temperature. You can use it as-is, garnished with a little pickled red ginger as shown in the photo. You can also make onigiri (no filling needed) - just wet your hand slightly and form into balls, or use the plastic wrap method (without the salt). The rice will stick together very well.


You can freeze okowa - I like to make them into onigiri first. Then you can take one one onigiri at a time.


You mix in any kind of vegetable and/or meat combination with the basic rice and flavorings. Some traditional additions include fresh mushrooms of all kinds, boiled bamboo shoot, precooked chestnuts, sweet potato, various mountain greens, and so on. On the meaty side you could add roast duck, char siu pork, finely diced sausage…

You can also vary the flavor by using another oil instead of sesame, using chicken stock instead of the dashi, and so on. Experiment!

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Thank you, this looks

Thank you, this looks splendid. I have been meaning to try some sticky rice variations, and wondering how to use my Zojirushi in more interesting ways.

Mmm… I love sticky rice!

Mmm… I love sticky rice! I’ve been meaning to ask my mom how to make it in the rice cooker but I’m gonna give your recipe a try. My mom usually puts in Chinese sausages (la chang), dried scallops and re-hydrated shiitake mushrooms.

Me 2, love sticky rice

I do a similar chinese sticky rice recipe. Mine has lap cheong (chinese sausages), dried scallops - rehydrated, dried shrimp-rehydrated, dried shitake mushrooms-rehydrated, green scallions, coriander. I usually stir fry the ingredients (to get some oil out, especially since the lap cheong is very oily along with the rice and then put in rice cooker. The method is usually continuing stir frying with liquid until the rice is cooked but I am too lazy to do it. Usually add a dash of soy sauce and some sesame oil towards the end.

But I love the vegan way you are proposing so I gotta definitely try that, especially since I have everything at home already. I am thinking that if there is no aburage at home, we can also substitute with the seasoned tofu skins for making those tofu skin sushis (I just can’t think of the name right now).

Thanks for another fun recipe.

I’m going to have to

I’m going to have to remember these when the film festival starts for those nights when I don’t have time to go home after work before a movie. These look like a good take-along meal.


Made this tonight with fresh shiitake (I can almost never get it!) and shrimp. I could have eaten the whole pot ful.

I have lots of short-grain

I have lots of short-grain brown rice; it gets very sticky when I cook it the correct way (presoak for hours, then cook over a very low flame); can I use that for these delicious treats? I’m trying not to eat a lot of white rice these days.

You could give it a try,

You could give it a try, though you may need to cook it a bit longer (if using the microwave, do an extra 2 minute cycle or two, and/or soak it much longer, e.g. overnight.)

Planning for the thaw

How long should I plan for frozen onigiri of the size pictured (platic wrap method) to thaw? Is it sufficient to pack them in the morning and simply leave them unrefrigerated until lunch (approx. 4 hours)? If not, is there a rule of thumb for defrosting?

If the onigiri will be at

If the onigiri will be at room temperature they should defrost by lunchtime, though they might be rather chilly in the middle. What I do myself is to to either defrost them completely in the microwave in the morning until they are hot and then to cool them down (they last fine until lunch this way), or defrost them partially (i.e. nuking them for about a minute) - they don’t taste as good with this method but are fine. If you have access to a microwave at lunchtime, the best way is to bring the frozen rice balls and nuke them at lunchtime.

Wow, it was super tasty!

I made this today and it was delicious. Even the kids have eaten a whole portion.

But I have one question: Do I have to soak the rice first as directed on the package? I did so and it turned out a bit mushy.

The given variations are quite interesting but how do I add sweet potatoes? Just cut in little cubes and add them with the other ingredients?


It’s usually good to soak

It’s usually good to soak this type of rice so it cooks more evenly. If it ended up mushy, maybe try adding a little less water next time? (The water a particular batch of rice needs does vary a little, depending on how old it is and so on.)

Yes you can just add cubed raw sweet potatoes when you cook the rice!


What setting should I use for this recipe using a Zojirushi (Neuro-fuzzy)? Regular? Or perhaps Sweet or Porridge?


I made this last night for dinner and packed some for lunch today. I have a bunch of veggies i’m trying to use…for this i used regular and shiitake mushrooms (fresh), asparagus, kabocha, and edamame. Delicious!

Re: Okowa: Sticky rice with all kinds of good things

This is exactly what I was trying to cook the other day, but I didn't realise it was Japanese as well as Chinese so I didn't think to look here for the recipe! I'll definitely be trying this one soon. Thanks again Maki!

Re: Okowa: Sticky rice with all kinds of good things

but what type of Dashi Stock? Is it the soup?

Re: Okowa: Sticky rice with all kinds of good things

I made this for dinner last night and it was fantastic, went down very well with my small people who don't usually like cooked carrot and mushroom. My husband has the rest in an onigiri in his bento today. Thanks Maki!

Re: Okowa: Sticky rice with all kinds of good things

Great recipe!

My rice didn't go quite as sticky as I imagined, I might try letting it steep for a little longer next time.

Very delicious all the same though!

Here's my Onigiri;

Re: Okowa: Sticky rice with all kinds of good things

Gosh, this stuff is delicious! So delicious, I had to make a second batch!

This time I left it to steep for an hour and used 220ml instead of 200ml of stock and it came out perfectly this time.

I think this is down to my basic (no fuzzy logic here!) rice cooker, it just needs a bit of extra stock for this recipe :)

Re: Okowa: Sticky rice with all kinds of good things

Hi, I just made this rice and it tastes amazing! It isn't as sticky as when I make normal rice though, I am not sure what I did wrong. As I weren't sure about the microwave wattage I used judgement and did it for 7 mins at first then another 4 as it weren't quite done then another 3. Could this have had an effect?

To make it simpler could I cook it in a pan on my stove like I would normally as I am quite confident in making rice this way now.

Oh and by the way the ingredients I added were spring onions, prawns, shitake mushrooms and ginger :D

Re: Okowa: Sticky rice with all kinds of good things

I love this recipe!!! I do make it with regular Japanese rice as shorter grains are difficult to come buy, in fact so is Japanese rice! It may not be as sticky but it sure tastes amazing!!

Re: Okowa: Sticky rice with all kinds of good things

This looks and sounds wonderful. If cooking it in the rice cooker, should I use the sushi rice setting? and there is also a setting for mixed rice.

Re: Okowa: Sticky rice with all kinds of good things

You have a new-fangled rice cooker far more advanced than mine it seems ^_^; but I would try the mixed rice setting probably...no guarantee though since I haven't tested it out myself...

Re: Okowa: Sticky rice with all kinds of good things

Finally made Okowa for dinner this evening and it was simply delicious. It went really well with a warm boiled egg. I cooked it in my rice cooker using the mixed rice setting and it turned out really well. It was interesting how the ginger flavor gave it an unexpected spicy kick. Thank you so much for this recipe!

Re: Okowa: Sticky rice with all kinds of good things

Thank you for your dedication to this brilliant website!! Its database is unrivalled XD I have asked for your cookbook for my bday! Could I sub dashi stock for water or another stock? I could get ahold of the stock, but for this week couldn't get any. Any help is welcome thank you ^_^

Re: Okowa: Sticky rice with all kinds of good things

You can try another stock, e.g. vegetable stock or chicken stock. It will taste a bit different but still good!

Re: Okowa: Sticky rice with all kinds of good things

Brilliant, thank you very much!

Re: Okowa: Sticky rice with all kinds of good things

Is this the same kind of rice that is sold as "sweet" rice? I love to use it mixed with toasted sesame seeds to make a very dense variation of onigiri.

I just got some Brown Sweet Rice yesterday, and am not sure what setting to use on my fuzzy logic rice cooker...sweet or brown, do you think?

Re: Okowa: Sticky rice with all kinds of good things

OK, an update: I called Zojirushi, and they recommended the brown setting....I got perfect glutinous rice and made my sesame balls. Delicious! I can't wait to add the flavourings described in this post. My kids love the sesame origiri and fried rice, this seems like the perfect addition to their bento lunch boxes!

Re: Okowa: Sticky rice with all kinds of good things

I would like to make this, but am not found of cooked carrots. I was considering substituting daikon, but it will not give a separate taste to the sticky rice. Has anyone tried a different slightly crunchy vegetable? Maybe bamboo shoots?

Re: Okowa: Sticky rice with all kinds of good things

My mom was dying to learn how to make this. I just pointed her to this page and she said it turned out quite tasty. Thanks for posting the recipe.

Re: Okowa: Sticky rice with all kinds of good things

I'm glad it was useful to your mom! ^_^

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