Rice is the second highest produced grain in the world after corn. With a large portion of corn crops grown for purposes other than human consumption, rice takes the title of the most important grain with regards to human nutrition and caloric intake. It is especially important in Asian counties such as Japan, however, the consumption of domestic rice in Japan has decreased by half compared to 1962. In an effort to arrest this decline, Japan’s Sanyo has committed to creating products that contribute to increasing rice consumption. The latest is the GOPAN, the world’s first home cooker that makes bread from rice grain. It should also appeal to those on a gluten-free diet.
The food self-sufficiency rate of Japan is 41 percent and the Japanese Government has set a target of improving that to 50 percent within 10 years. Upping rice consumption is seen as an important factor in achieving this target and Sanyo has already released such products as the pressure IH type rice cooker “Odoridaki” and the “Rice-flour bread maker” that bakes rice bread with rice flour. However, because of the limited availability of rice flour and consequently its high price, rice-flour bread baking hasn’t caught on with consumers. Sanyo therefore set out to develop a system to make rice bread from home-milled rice flour.
By taking a hint from the conventional rice-flour bread baking process in which rice flour is mixed with water, Sanyo has invented an out-of-the-box rice milling method which mills rice grain into rice paste after softening it in water. Measured amounts of washed rice, water, salt, sugar and shortening are placed in the GOPAN’s bread pan, while wheat gluten and dry yeast are placed in the automatic ingredient dispenser on the upper side of the unit’s body. After the automatic process of milling, kneading, rising, and baking, a rice bread is produced.
Variety is the spice of lifeFor people that are allergic to wheat gluten the GOPAN comes with a wheat-free setting. For this process all the ingredients are placed in the bread pan with powdered rice (joshinko) taking the place of the wheat gluten.
Using ingredients like brown rice and minor grains also allows the GOPAN to produce a variety of breads and, like other conventional bread makers it can be used to make wheat bread, bread dough, and wild yeast bread. The device also includes a “Gluten and nut automated putting feature” for the creation of gourmet breads, while a “Jam Course” feature tops the bread with a topping made from fruits. Additionally there is a “Noodle Dough course” for the making noodles and pasta and a “Rice cake course” for making rice cakes.
Next week, Sanyo will open the “GOPAN Café” in Tokyo to give punters a chance to try out the new device before it’s release in October. The café will be open from July 21 to September 30, 2010 and will let customers select from a special menu of rice breads cooked using the GOPAN.
Sanyo’s GOPAN is set for an October 8th release in Japan at a price to be announced. Sanyo hasn’t yet revealed when or if the device will get a release outside Japan.