Kitchn Love Letters

The “Magical” Instant Rice That I Stock in My Pantry (It Rivals Any Restaurant)

published Jan 8, 2024
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a square, pale blue baking dish with white rice in it and a fork on the side
Credit: Kelli Foster

There’s nothing better than smelling freshly cooked rice in my adorable Zojirushi rice cooker. The only downside is it takes more than 30 minutes to make. And, even though I should always have fresh, warm rice in my cooker, I often forget to prepare a new batch. For emergencies like that, I always stock instant rice in my pantry. 

Growing up in Korea, I got really familiar with the idea of instant rice. You see it everywhere in Korean grocery stores with so many different types, from plain white to multigrain rice. When I moved to America, I realized it’s not as common as it was in Korea. So many of my friends didn’t even know about these magical instant rice.

Credit: James Park

It’s comforting to see a stack of CJ Foods Cooked White Rice in my pantry. It comes in handy when I want to enjoy a taste of freshly cooked rice — in just about 90 seconds. I introduced the magic of these instant rice to my culinary assistant (we make a lot of rice for different recipes!), and she ordered six of the bulk-size boxes by mistake (Was it a mistake?!). And, just like that, everyone on The Kitchn food team (in New York) felt the magic too.

Credit: James Park

What’s So Great About CJ Foods Cooked White Rice?

By now, you can easily find different brands of instant rice. CJ Foods first entered the instant rice industry in 1996 and has dominated the market — especially in Korea — ever since. The name of this product is Hetbahn, which translates into “freshly cooked rice.” Because it was the only one in the market in Korea for the first few years after launching, the name “hetbahn” became the catch-all term for all instant rice.

What makes hetbahn so amazing is its immaculate taste. Each grain of rice is so perfectly cooked, as if it’s made in my rice cooker or at a restaurant. And, when you open the package, the smell is exactly like what I smell from my rice cooker — the steam of nice starch, similar to what you get when you open baskets of steamed dumplings, hits your nose. The texture is not too watery, and you can really chew each grain of rice. Truly magical!

And, the convenience! It’s especially perfect if you can’t always cook rice from scratch, like college students who live in a dorm with no kitchen. It comes in pre-portioned packs too, so I can easily take it with me. As long as I have a microwave, I’m set.

What’s the Best Way to Use CJ Foods Cooked White Rice?

Enjoy hetbahn just as you would any other rice. I always pair it with a variety of banchan for a simple meal or make chili crisp fried eggs over rice. I make so many different types of egg rice dishes, and the warmth and taste of hetbhan are perfect for any eggs.

In fact, Hetbahn is the best option to make fried rice because it’s kept at room temperature. So, when you make any type of fried rice, you don’t even need to heat it up in a microwave. Just open the package and treat it like cold rice for your fried rice.

Another way to enjoy hetbahn to the maximum is to mix in with leftover ramyun broth. You can heat it up in the microwave, but the cold, cooked rice of hetbhan also gets gently warmed in the hot, ramyun broth, absorbing the flavors of ramyun better than ever. It instantly turns the leftover ramyun broth into a wonderful rice dish. In fact, this is the main reason why I keep hetbahn in my pantry 😉

Buy: CJ Cooked White Rice, $15.99 for 12 bowls on Weee! (normally $19.99)

Do you have a favorite instant rice brand? Tell us about it in the comments below.

This is part of How to Be a Lazier Cook, highlighting the super-easy recipes, cooking tricks, and grocery items you need to start off the year a little lazier and a lot more delicious.