What is a Rice Spoon?

Mary McMahon

A rice spoon is a spoon designed for mixing rice with seasonings; such spoons are an integral part of the preparation of sushi rice and other seasoned rice dishes. You may also hear a rice spoon called a “rice paddle,” which is a more accurate reflection of its design, and in Japanese, this utensil is called a shamoji. Stores which stock sushi supplies often carry rice spoons, and they are sometimes included in sushi kits as well.

A bowl of rice.
A bowl of rice.

The design of a rice spoon is quite simple. The spoon is wide, flat, and broad, so that it can be used to gently turn rice while seasonings such as vinegar are mixed in. The design ensures that the seasonings will be distributed as evenly as possible without crushing the rice or breaking the grains. The rice spoon still needs to be handled carefully to keep the rice fluffy and well-seasoned, and it usually needs to be regularly dipped in water so that it will not stick to the rice.

Rice spoons are often included in sushi packs.
Rice spoons are often included in sushi packs.

In addition to being used to season rice, a rice spoon is also used to serve or measure out rice. In sushimaking, the rice spoon is used to transfer rice to a sheet or nori, and to shape the rice before other ingredients are added and the sushi is rolled. Rice spoons can also be used at the table to serve rice to guests. In China, rice spoons are sometimes used to shape rice for rice balls, dumplings, and other dishes, so that cooks do not need to handle the food directly.

Traditionally, rice spoons are made from wood, typically bamboo. The wood may be plain or lacquered, and sometimes the handle is decorated with Chinese or Japanese characters. It is also possible to find plastic and sometimes ceramic rice spoons. Metal, however, is not used, because metal can react with seasonings, especially vinegar, generating a strange and often very unpleasant flavor. Metal spoons can also damage the wooden bowls traditionally used to season rice.

Caring for a rice spoon is very easy. If the spoon is made from wood, it should be washed after use, ideally without soap, and then patted dry and hung in a cool dry place so that it will not crack, split, or become damaged by banging around in a utensil drawer. Plastic rice spoons can usually be run through the dishwasher or washed by hand and dried on a dish rack, as can ceramic spoons.

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Discussion Comments


@babylove - That's a very good question. Seasoned rice vinegar or awase-zu is made by mixing the vinegar with sugar, salt and sake.

This mixture gives the mild tasting rice vinegar more flavor and the stickiness it needs to form sushi. It also makes a wonderful salad dressing when you mix it with ginger or sesame oil.


I've seen rice vinegar before but I have never heard of seasoned rice vinegar? What are the ingredients in it and what makes it different than a regular bottle of rice vinegar?


We should all request that all manufacturers of stainless steel utensils stop labeling any of their spoons to be used with rice, at least not sticky rice.

I know first hand what a terrible blend the metal is with the acid from the vinegar. After several batches of ruined sushi, I learned the hard way to only use a wooden or ceramic rice spoon. As far as wood goes, I prefer bamboo because it's the most durable and is less likely to break or stain.

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