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The Taiwanese Rice Cooker That’s Gotten Better 18 Years Later

Photo: Hugo Yu

We asked seven exceptionally tasteful New Yorkers to tell us about an item they bought forever ago — and that they still love (and use) today. Here, Cold Picnic co-founder Phoebe Sung on the rice cooker that’s survived six moves (and multiple drops) and everyday use.

I moved into a tiny studio apartment in Boston eighteen years ago, and my dad was very passionate about getting me a Taiwanese rice cooker. He searched high and low at multiple supermarkets in Boston’s Chinatown. When he finally came back with this in hand, he was very proud. It was nearly identical to the model I had growing up, the one my dad cooked rice in every day and Taiwanese rice dishes, like batza, for special occasions.

It ended up being essential. In my apartment at the time, I didn’t have a kitchen, just a sink. My three main appliances were my then-new rice cooker, an electric kettle, and plug-in wok. The rice cooker did a lot of heavy lifting. I’d use it for rice, dumplings, Chinese sausage, and was even able to make some meals for small dinner parties. I sort of replicated this dish I’d get at a restaurant in Boston that was steamed tofu, shrimp, and pork that was then formed into patties. I also used it to make broth and a bastardized risotto.

I still use it every day. It’s gone through four moves in Boston and two in New York. My partner Peter and I have dropped it a number of times in the process (down stairs and off of moving trucks). It lost one of the handles, which we tried and failed to super glue on. Despite all of that, it works just as it did when I first got it. I’d even say that I prefer how it looks now. It has a clunky, analog look to it that I appreciate. The more I’ve upgraded other appliances, like printers, the more I feel like they’re made just to be replaced. The way my rice cooker looks reflects how it’s a little tank.

I did actually end up buying a second one of the same model. I keep the new one in my home upstate. My older one is my everyday rice cooker at my home in Queens. I very briefly considered switching them, but I didn’t have it in me to part with the old one. I’ve become so acquainted with it and learned how to make rice exactly how I like it (a little bit sticky and not so fluffy). I’m happy I kept my old one, because even though the two function the exact same way, rice tastes better when cooked in it. It tastes just like the rice I grew up with.

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The Rice Cooker That’s Gotten Better 18 Years Later