"What is a rice cooker?" Some children may ask me this 10 years later. Like pagers and MP3 players, the rice cooker may vanish into history because of ‘Hetbahn’ which is more delicious than home-cooked rice. When Hetbahn was first launched 22 years ago, people used to say, "who will buy cooked rice?" Now they say, "Who cooks rice?" Amid all this, Hetbahn has transformed itself from an emergency food to a daily food. It is indispensable to our dining table! There is one particular person who wrote this success story of Hetbahn. It is none other than chief researcher Hyo-young Jeong on the Hetbahn Cupbahn Team of CJ CheilJedang Food Development Center. I asked her about the secret behind this delicious cooked rice.
Cooking Hetbahn again and again for 15 years
▲Chief researcher Hyo-young Jeong on the Hetbahn Cupbahn Team of CJ CheilJedang Food Development Center.
Chief researcher Jeong on the Hetbahn Cupbahn Team of CJ CheilJedang Food Development Center truly fell for Hetbahn. She majored in food and nutrition, and studied starch chemistry at graduate school. As soon as she graduated, she joined CJ CheilJedang in June 2000. At first, she developed free-mix products like pancake mixes and frying mixes, and moved to the rice processing team in 2005. The rice processing team is now the Hetbahn Cupbahn Team. In total, she has been conducting research on Hetbahn for 15 years.
The Hetbahn Cupbahn Team, led by chief researcher Jeong, is developing rice processed foods ranging from Hetbahn to 'Hetbahn Cooked Rice with Mixed Grains,' 'Hetbahn Cupbahn' and 'bibigo Porridge.' The 14 researchers there are the very best in the field of cooked rice! CJ CheilJedang has the pride in cooked rice because of their long and dedicated efforts.
▲Chief researcher Hyo-young Jeong and her team members are testing the cooked rice samples made of rice produced in various areas.
The growth of Hetbahn is proof of their efforts. From its launch in December 1996 till December 2018, the number of Hetbahns which has been sold over 22 years is about 2.5 billion. Fifty million people ate about 50 Hetbahns per person. If you arrange them one after another, they would go around the Earth 8 times. Last year alone, 417 million Hetbahns were sold, more than 8 per person. The 'Instant rice=Hetbahn=delicious cooked rice’ formula is becoming more solid year after year. So what is the secret behind the delicious taste of Hetbahn?
Same-day rice polishing! The reasonable evolution of delicious cooked rice
▲"We properly manage rice, the raw ingredient of Hetbahn, from harvesting, and cook the rice immediately after polishing the rice firsthand! This is the secret of the taste of Hetbahn."
The ingredients in a bowl of Hetbahn are only rice and water. It may look simple, but CJ CheilJedang’s technology, which has been accumulated for more than 20 years, is contained in it. It is not easy for the cooked rice to taste the same consistently. The weather conditions are different from year to year, and rice farming conditions are different too. The same rice variety grown in the same region cannot but differ in quality.
But the Hetbahn we eat every day has the same taste all the time. It is possible because we optimized the processing conditions by rice variety, region and season. To this end, chief researcher Jeong cooks rice under different conditions and samples it tens of times a day.
"A company research institute must continuously make new products. And we made Hetbahn cooked white rice after conducting basic research repeatedly for a very long time. Hetbahn could be as successful as now because of the solid technology we have built from the basics."
▲Mirror, mirror, which cooked rice is the most delicious in the world? "Of course, it’s Hetbahn!"
Whenever she found an opportunity, she looked for the best rice by region and variety every year. Every year during the harvest season when a new crop of grain is produced, she decided what rice to buy, and shared how to harvest rice with the farmers in advance, and purchased the rice harvested according to the standards. The rice generally sold in the market is brown rice polished into white rice. But the rice used as the ingredient for Hetbahn is the brown rice, such as the ears of rice with only the chaff removed. The brown rice is polished firsthand into white rice in the CJ CheilJedang Hetbahn factory.
This is the secret of the taste of Hetbahn. The rice polishing technology is the key that determines the taste of cooked rice! In 2008, CJ CheilJedang introduced its own rice polishing system to manage rice quality directly. So depending on the conditions of rice that differ year after year, and depending on the variety, the rice polishing conditions will vary. As the rice is polished differently depending on the variety, we can use the rice that can make for a good taste as the ingredient for Hetbahn.
This rice polishing system is right before the Hetbahn manufacturing process to make Hetbahn right after rice polishing. The fresh brown rice, stored at a low temperature, is directly polished with the best technology, and the polished white rice is cooked right away. So Hetbahn is certain to taste good. The quality of rice will deteriorate the moment it is polished. To make the best taste, the rice polished on the same day is cooked immediately. This is why Hetbahn tastes better than home-cooked rice.
▲"Depending on how rice is polished, the color, gloss, stickiness and texture of the cooked rice all vary!"
Until the day when Hetbahn feeds people all around the world
Chief researcher Jeong always eats Hetbahn with her family at home. She knows very well that it is the most convenient and safest cooked rice. When she occasionally goes to a nearby convenience store or supermarket, and sees the carts filled with Hetbahn, she feels rewarded.
"I even say this at home. Hetbahn rice is really good rice. The rice is delivered at dawn when the temperature is the lowest in a day. I tell them that we manage everything the best way we can, and polish the rice firsthand, and cook the rice immediately afterward. Apart from the price-performance ratio, I am confident that it has the best quality."
Recently, research efforts on multi-grain cooked rice are increasing. CJ CheilJedang introduced various multi-grain cooked rice products, such as cooked germinated brown rice, cooked black rice and cooked five-grain rice, launched based on research on consumer preference, and launched 'Hetbahn Everyday Multi-Grain Cooked Rice,’ made of brown rice, barley and black rice, last year. Jeong says she wants to make more products out of the native mixed grains of Korea, and promote them around the world. As good varieties have been developed, and farmers worked hard, she wants to let more people know about Hetbahn. As the number of people eating multi-grain cooked rice is gradually on the rise, she is planning to further increase the stature of Hetbahn’s multi-grain cooked rice.
"We are always interested in rice varieties because variety developers and farmers must cooperate with each other. Foreign super grains were very popular. But there are many native multi-grains that are not well known yet. So I’d like to promote Korean mixed grains more widely."
That is not the end. Her ultimate dream is the globalization of Hetbahn. She is conducting research on not only sticky short-grain rice commonly consumed in Korea and Japan, but also non-sticky long-grain rice mostly eaten in Southeast Asia. People around the world will surely eat Hetbahn before long, won’t they?!
The secret behind the taste of Hetbahn turns out to be very simple. Just like how freshly baked bread is tasty! It is delicious because the rice is cooked right after polishing. Hetbahn has grown based on excellent ingredients and technology research faithful to the basics. Now Hetbahn is challenging the rice cookers in the kitchens around the world. This year, revolutionary Hetbahn products, which have been in development for 2 years, will be launched. The taste of Hetbahn cooked with rice polished on the same day is something that must be experienced by all!