I’m not sure if this is a big secret, per se; you probably use a steamer unit to cook your rice anyway! But, for those of you who don’t have one and are wondering about getting another machine, please don’t waste your hard-earned clams yet! Stick with one machine for now…
A rice cooker is most famous for cooking one thing…. RICE! And it really does a good job, because sticky rice comes out tasting nice and fluffy (moist) if set correctly. But that’s not all it does. In fact, you can do loads of other things with a rice cooker. Here I will show how a basic rice cooker works and how it can be used to steam food as well.
To the left are some standard rice cooker options. I prefer option 2 because my family doesn’t eat large portions of rice and the smaller machine is cheaper. This might also mean that the steaming space will be limited, but it will still work. (Visit this tutorial for more details on how to make rice.)
PREPARING: In order to transform a standard rice cooker into a steamer for just about anything, you’ll need to get a steamer basket, which adjusts to the container it is put in. It will sit in the inner pot of the rice cooker. The water level shouldn’t come above the steamer basket. Make sure that you can put the steamer tray (a simple stainless steel plate will be fine) solidly on top of the steamer basket, without it floating around.
Take a look at the eggplant I cooked using this method. You’ll notice that the steel plate can continue to be used as a serving dish when you are finished. This plate costs about $.05 here in China, but I’m sure you can get one for $1.50 in any large marketplace in the West. NOTE: If you don’t care about the juices leaving your food, you can leave out the steel plate.
COOKING: When you have placed the steamer basket in shallow water inside the rice cooker, you can then place your plate of food on top to prepare for steaming. When the plate is level, close the top of the rice cooker and start it up! It will cook the same way you cook rice. Check your recipes for length of time required. But if you are like me, you can just guesstimate when its ready!