Sushi chefs around the world use a very specific type of wooden bowl, called a hangiri, to cool sushi rice. It’s a large, flat, shallow bowl that resembles an old-style barrel. There are a few reasons why the chefs prefer this type of bowl over any other and I’ll tell you exactly why!
The ideal features of a cooling bowl are surface area, even cooling, and moisture absorption. The shallow depth and flat base are also key components for cooling rice.
Wooden bowls absorb heat, but wouldn't metal or plastic bowls do the same?
Yes, but wood also absorbs excess moisture in addition to evenly absorbing heat.
Are they made of a specific type of wood? Or will any wooden bowl do the trick?
In addition to having a flat base, these large bowls are made from cypress. Cypress is a native tree in both central Japan and Taiwan and is specifically used for its resistance to mold, rot, insect infestation, and resilience to warping.
Cypress also comes with its own, natural, preserving oil! It is easy to manipulate this type of wood and is very cost-efficient. Traditionally, the bowls were also bound with copper bands (and as far as I can tell it’s purely aesthetic).
As a sushi hobbyist, should I invest in one of these hangiri?
That depends on how often you will use it. As a hobbyist, it is perfectly acceptable to use a plastic bowl (but not a metal bowl, as it absorbs virtually no moisture).
However, if you make sushi at least once a month, then you will quickly notice the quality difference in your sushi rice.
Is it dishwasher safe?
Absolutely not. Unfortunately, this is one downfall of owning wooden cookware; you must hand wash it. I recommend washing your hangiri as soon as you’re done using it with soap and warm water.