Yup, believe it or not, it’s a thing. We’re in the age of the computerized rice cooker or instant pot, but the vintage rice cooker remains popular.
It’s some Asian American nostalgia. Back in the day, they imported these from Japan, and sometimes, Taiwan, and they made cooking rice easier.
What makes these vintage pots desirable is the lack of Teflon on the pan. The rice burns just a little bit, making it taste better. The surface can also be scrubbed with an abrasive scrubbie.
There’s also the retro appearance. It’s plain, and familiar, and classic.
The top brands selling are:
- National (aka, Panasonic) the classic that everyone copied
- Hitachi – allegedly the best one out there
- Tatung – was the most popular Taiwan one
- Comet – not Japanese, not for making sticky rice, and geared toward camping
Two other relevant brands are Zorjirushi and Tiger, but those are associated more with the “attached lid and insulated” era of rice cookers in the 1980s.
The old OG rice cooker designs were copied widely by Toshiba, Salton, Aroma, Black and Decker, and many other companies. They all basically copied the National Rice-o-Mat.
Before the National Rice-o-Mat was popular, a prior style of rice cooker, sold by Toshiba, had two pans, one inside the cooker, and a separate pan just like the current pan. You’d put the rice in an inner pan, and then put water into the outer pan. It would shut off when the water evaporated.
Believe it or not, this type of rice cooker is still made by Tatung, and called the Tatung Multi-Cooker. Given that they have so many models, I’d guess it’s their signature product.
PS – I’ve gone the next level and returned to making rice in a pot. You get even more scorching, and, I think, a better flavor. My next goal will be to get either a stone pot or a clay pot.