This post originally appeared in the September 7, 2021 edition of The Move, a place for Eater’s editors to reveal their recommendations and pro dining tips — sometimes thoughtful, sometimes weird, but always someone’s go-to move. Subscribe now.
I know my mom won’t be reading this (because she’s only ever on the internet to play Farmville knockoffs), which is the reason why I can step forward and say: I have a stash of instant rice packets in the kitchen cabinet just below my microwave. I replenish them on an every-other-week basis, “accidentally” stumbling onto them in the discount area at my local Korean grocery store — I have no qualms digging through metal crates of ill-assorted snacks and condiments. The instant rice packets are just as good as “regular” rice (if not better), and for a lazy cook like me who likes to be in and out of the kitchen in a flash, it’s my ultimate hack.
I grew up in a Chinese household where my mom gave me military-level training on how to cook rice starting at 10 years old. I’m perfectly capable of cooking a good steaming pot of rice that’ll gain a nod from my relatives whenever they come over for a meal, but even then I insist on hoarding Hetbahn, a brand of instant rice from Korea.
Consider having your own stash of Hetbahn if, like me, you hate doing dishes, constantly forget about the pot you used to cook your rice which you’ve left to “soak” beside the sink, are traumatized from getting your grains infested by those darn weevils, or just want to be able to whip up a filling meal in under 20 minutes when you’re strapped for time and without having to leave your morning meeting midway to wash and cook rice. But perhaps the one thing that really won me over is that whenever I get cravings for lao gan ma fried rice with lap cheong (my ultimate comfort food) that somehow always hit me at odd hours — aka, the time I should be preparing for bed — I can have cooked rice in 2 minutes and put it into the fridge overnight instead of yelling at my rice cooker as though that would make it cook faster.
With Hetbahn, the packet is steaming, the rice is glistening, and when I take a spoonful right from the single-serve bowl just to see how perfectly sticky-fluffy it is, I no longer feel as guilty about retiring my rice cooker to the “cabinet of forgotten stuff.” Hetbahn is a foolproof way to get a delicious bowl of rice each time without having to put any real work into it, especially if you’re someone who finds cooking rice tricky.
Now that I no longer have to carve out a chunk of my schedule to cook rice, I have that extra 30 minutes to do whatever else life demands, be it finishing the last work task for the day or finishing an episode of my newest Netflix binge. There’s a certain kind of joy that I get, the kind that makes me want to do a small happy dance, when I’m starving and know I can’t be bothered to spend more than a few minutes in the kitchen — but then I remember I have instant rice. After a quick stir fry and an even quicker ding from my microwave, dinner is served.
Amber Lee is a freelance writer, full-time foodie based in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.