YAKITORI, The Japanese Ka-bob

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I have recently renewed my love for Yakitori. Not that I wasn’t always a fan of these skewered delicacies, but I just hadn’t had any outstanding ones–until my recent trip to New York, where I found the most amazing yakitori this side of the Pacific Ocean. The word yakitori literally means “grilled chicken”, but also refers to this style of dish–bite sized morsels of chicken and vegetables skewered on bamboo sticks and grilled over an open flame. There are many variations of yakitori, usually cooked to order and served a few skewers at a time.

Typical Yakitori menu:
Negima: classic yakitori, made with alternating pieces of chicken thigh and short spears of scallion, brushed with a teriyaki style sauce as it grills.
Tsukune: meatballs make of minced chicken, vegetables and spices, usually skewered 3 to a stick.
Kawa: only the skin of the chicken, grilled to be crispy on the outside–not as fatty as you might think, if done right.
Tebasaki: chicken wings, splayed and skewered with bone in, usually 2 to a stick and eaten with a dusting of salt.
Reba: chicken liver, loved for their firm texture as you bite into it, as well as the taste.
Nankotsu: mostly cartilage taken from the breast bone, again prized for its crunchy texture.
Sunagimo: chicken gizzards, popular for its grainy taste and healthy benefits.
Sasami: chicken breast; soft and tender, this part is less fatty and regarded for its high quality–often served with wasabi.

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You can see how almost every part of the chicken is used, and there are more organs that I haven’t listed here. I’m a fan of yakitori, but not a fanatic enough to eat weirdness. Any yakitori restaurant will also serve a variety of non-chicken skewers like pork, vegetables like shiitake mushrooms and asparagus, and their own creations like bacon wrapped whatever on skewers–you can’t go wrong with bacon!

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Binchotan charcoal

There’s some background that you might appreciate about yakitori. Any decent yakitori restaurant will use a particular type of charcoal called Binchotan, an extremely hard, slow burning white charcoal that doesn’t release smoke or any unpleasant odors like common black charcoal, making it a favorite of discriminating chefs. Its hardness even makes it ring with a metallic sound when struck. Binchotan originated from Japan and dates back to the Edo Period of the 1600’s.

The types of seasoning or sauce used to flavor each kind of yakitori also varies with the type of meat or chicken part or vegetable being used. You are usually given a choice of condiment at the table, including the house sauce, ground red chili pepper called shichimi, or plain salt. Other seasonings like miso paste or ponzu or wasabi are usually applied before it reaches your table.

One restaurant I went to many years ago in Tokyo always had a reservation list at least 2 weeks in advance. And it was because there were only about 12 seats in front of the counter, where a very picky chef prepared and grilled every skewer by himself, one by one in front of every customer. He would then place a pinch of the specific condiment that he wanted you to use next to it on the dish. This was his way of urging everyone to eat his yakitori exactly the way he thought it best, because he wanted you to have it taste the way he intended, not overly seasoned or altered. I don’t think anyone objected.

If you’ve never had yakitori, I would suggest you try it–Zojirushi has a recipe for a miso based chicken one that you can easily make at home with a roaster. Find the recipe here.

Yakitori images courtesy of Shelley Opunui and Restaurant Totto, NYC.
Binchotan courtesy bigelowchemists.com

Celebrating March and the Spring Equinox

Happy March! Ah, where does the time go? It seems like only yesterday we were celebrating Christmas and New Years! Suddenly, spring is upon us, and we are already looking ahead to summer.  Time sure does fly when you’re having fun! There are several exciting things happening at Zojirushi right now. We’ve got new recipes, new announcements, and some fantastic new products to share with you this season!

This is a magnificent time of year to be in the kitchen, and we are overwhelmed with the variety of fruits and vegetables coming through our doors. We are still seeing beautiful winter produce from tart and crunchy granny smith apples to spicy winter lettuces. At the same time, Spring produce is just starting to bud with items like fresh artichoke, baby asparagus and the labor-intensive fava bean! Our kitchens are overflowing with inspiration, and we hope yours are too!

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As we straddle the timeline between winter and spring, we can’t help but look forward and back simultaneously. The Spring Equinox is the best time to let go of whatever it is you’re still holding on to from winter, and give life to dreams and goals for Spring. If there is anything you are still hoping to change or achieve this year, now is the time to set that intention. The Equinox will fall on March 20th. You might want to take time that week to sit in silence and quiet mediation. We are planning on it!

Please read on for fun tips, recipe inspiration and product information. We hope that your Spring is filled with happy memories and delicious cooking. Here’s to you!

Hinamatsuri, a Treasured Japanese Holiday Celebration

KONICA MINOLTA DIGITAL CAMERAEvery year on March 3rd, we display beautifully crafted dolls in celebration of Hinamatsuri or Doll’s Day. The dolls are meant to represent the emperor, empress, attendants and musicians of the Heian Court. While the dolls do a wonderful job showing off the style of the period, they represent much more than just ancient royalty. The dolls are a powerful tool used to ward off evil and bad spirits.hinamatsuri3

Back in the Heian period (794-1185), people actually believed dolls had the power to hold evil or negative spirits. They would gather the dolls up, and send them out to sea on small wooden boats, hoping that the dolls would carry their troubles with them, and clear them of worry and anxiety. How does that sound for catharsis?

The funny thing is that, eventually, the dolls would become caught in the nets of local fishermen. This became such a huge problem, the ritual had to be changed! These days, people still send the dolls to sea, but pull them out after some time. Finally, the dolls are burned– destroying evil spirits once and for all. At least for that particular year! It is believed to be bad luck to leave one’s dolls on display past March 4th!

Like all great Japanese holidays, Hinamatsuri would not be complete without a very particular kind of food. On this special day we drink a fermented rice wine with sweet notes called shirozake. In addition to this unfiltered sake, we enjoy bite sized rice crackers called hina-arare, hishimochi, a diamond shaped tri-colored rice cake, and our personal favorite, chirashizushi.

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Chirashizushi is a mixed “sushi cake”, if you can picture it. It is a celebratory treat, and fun because you can really make it your own! We wanted to share our special recipe for “Gomoku-sushi”, which is a type of Chirashizushi – just in case you wanted to try! Enjoy!

Fukinoto, a Spring Delicacy

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Fukinoto, or Fuki, is one of the things we miss most about Japan! This unique plant can actually be found growing wild throughout the country. Sadly it is difficult and almost impossible to find and grow here in the states. Often foraged from the wild and always enjoyed once prepared, the stems of this vegetable taste kind of like celery. They are prepared in the same traditional way throughout Japan– the shoots are cooked in miso soup, while the buds are fried in a tempura batter.

The sight of Fukinoto throughout Japan is a sure sign of spring’s start! We like to think that the bitter taste helps cleanse the body of winter’s heavy fare – preparing us for the lighter fare of the season. If you have ever heard Fukinoto we would love to hear where and how. It is an unusual item and wonderful conversation starter! Happy foraging!

Saibashi, Not your Grandmother’s Tongs

Saibashi is not a subway stop in Tokyo! For those of you “un-initiated” into the cooking tools of Japan, prepare to be impressed! Seemingly simple and unassuming, Saibashi can be described simply as, ‘really long chopsticks’. They are much, much more than that.

Saibashi are widely considered one of the most important tools in the Japanese kitchen. Saibashi are so incredibly useful that most Japanese chefs can’t live without them.

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Although they resemble chopsticks in shape they are much longer and serve a different purpose. From sautéing hot dishes to plating small ones, there are countless ways to use these beloved tools. Because of their length chefs are able to reach the bottom of a pot as well as using saibashi to stir stews and soups. The best part is, you can buy them online for about a dollar a pop! So go ahead, and prepare to be impressed. Grab yourself a pair of really long chopsticks and see how they enrich your kitchen life! Enjoy!

PRODUCT OF THE MONTH: HOME BAKERY MINI BREADMAKER (BB-HAC10)

This month we are celebrating one of our favorite and cutest products in the catalog! The Home Bakery Mini Breadmaker is perfect for singles, small families and those of you looking to “lean in” to making bread at home. This no fuss product makes tasty 1 lb loaves of bread in less than 2 hours. It also makes dough for cookies, & pasta, as well as homemade jam and even bakes a cake. Now you can say goodbye to chemical additives and artificial preservatives, and enjoy fresh bread at home! Here’s to you!

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Good Luck With Your Food

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With St. Patrick’s Day right around the corner, I got to thinking about all the good luck superstitions that everyone follows around the world. Surprisingly, a lot of them involve food and start with the new year, when all of us have the highest hopes. The Irish have never been known for their cuisine, but no one argues about the “luck of the Irish”. One smart cereal company came up with a classic breakfast that kids still love today, after all. St. Patrick’s Day just seems like a fun day to be green and we all hope that some of that luck rubs off on us.

On the other hand, we just had the beginning of Chinese New Year too, and they have oodles of lucky foods, including their noodles. It symbolizes long life in many Asian countries, so the longer the noodles the better–you must keep them in one piece until you get it all in your mouth though, for the full effect.

Pomelo, with grapefruit and lemon

Pomelo, grapefruit and lemon

Certain citrus fruits are also lucky in Chinese culture, simply because the Chinese language phonetically makes them sound lucky. The word for oranges sounds similar to the word for gold, for example; and the word for tangerine sounds like the word for luck. And the grand Pomelo, the largest fruit in the citrus family, is also a symbol of good luck because the Cantonese word for pomelo sounds like the words for prosperity and status. These fruits are often displayed and eaten during the Lunar New Year for their ability to draw money into the household.

Ehomaki

Ehomaki

In Japan, during Setsubun, which falls on February3rd, a popular sushi roll called ehomaki is eaten to celebrate the arrival of spring and for good luck. The ehomaki is a whole roll, filled with 7 ingredients representing the 7 gods of good fortune. The roll is literally eaten uncut, so as to not “cut off” the good luck. You simply chomp on the roll like a big nori wrapped burrito.

In Spain, they have a ritual on New Year’s Eve where everyone will eat 12 grapes in a row, one for each stroke of the clock at midnight, to “capture” 12 happy months for the year. Some even believe that the sweetness or sour taste of each grape will foreshadow the fortunes of each corresponding month–if the fifth grape is sour, then you’d better be careful during the month of May.

Black eyed peas

Black eyed peas

Here in the States, southerners like to eat black eyed peas, whose eyes bring a sense of looking into the future to bring good luck. There’s also collard greens (the color of money and prosperity) and cornbread (the color of gold).

Here’s my favorite: in Poland, Hungary and the Netherlands they eat donuts for good luck. Circular shapes are symbols of good luck because they also resemble coins and prosperity. I say you can’t go wrong with donuts–ever!

 

photos: ehomaki by matome naver, peas by texascooppower, pomelo by shelley opunui

Where am I?
Knowledge is power. Silence is golden.

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The Food Jar, a Moveable Feast

With Valentine’s Day on the horizon, we have sharing on our minds. After all, aren’t all relationships about sharing? We share experiences, memories, meals, homes. Some of us share expenses, kids and responsibilities! We can’t think of one thing worth having, but not sharing. This Valentine’s Day, we wanted to steer away from the usual chocolate and flowers, and offer you something more to share.

If you are not yet familiar with our Stainless Food Jars, we invite you to get to know them. With state of the art stainless steel, vacuum insulation technology and gasket seals, these puppies are built to last! We have spent years perfecting these jars to create a product that keeps food warm and delicious with minimum spills. Now, we offer a wide variety in shapes and sizes for every occasion.

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So, why not give the gift of a homemade meal this V-Day? Whether you bring lunch to share with that special someone or offer a meal made with love to a friend or colleague, a hot meal is a wonderful way to show that you care. We have developed several romantic soups for this particular occasion. Check our recipes for ideas and inspiration, and make it your own! We promise, that special someone will not be disappointed! Cheers!

Nanohana, A Japanese Delicacy

This time of year green nanohana take on bright yellow blossoms and a fresh taste. The vibrant yellow buds on this favorite veggie are a sure-sign that spring has indeed sprung. Nanohana or canola plant is actually one of the oldest vegetables cultivated in Asia. With a look and flavor similar to broccolini, you will see nanohana in many Japanese meals as a side, kaiseki course, or pickled and served in a small dish. It is well loved wherever it lands on the table!

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Nanohana is a multifaceted veggie that can be served in a number of ways. High in vitamin C and other nutrients, every morsel is edible from flower to stem. You might find it in the states this year under the umbrella of “broccoli”, and you will be able to identify it straight away by its yellow flowers. Keep in mind that nanohana flowers can be very small in size sometimes making them a challenge to find.

If you are fortunate enough to stumble upon nanohana, you will have no problem making it taste delicious. You can boil, steam, sauté in a stir-fry or dip in tempura batter for a seasonal treat. If it is young, you can even enjoy it raw and thinly sliced in a hearty rice salad. Traditionally, nanohana is blanched, dipped in dashi and sprinkled with bonito flakes this time of year. Try it in the traditional sense if you get a chance!

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Nanohana with small yellow blossoms is a magical sign of early spring in Japanese culture. If you do find this vegetable in your local farmers market, it will be a sign of good luck for the months to come. Happy hunting!

Donabe, Japanese Earthenware

If you would like to give your one-pot dinners a rustic, country flavor, then treat yourself to a Donabe pot this year. Donabe are clay or earthenware pots for cooking in Japan. You can set them directly on the fire or pop them in the oven for a simple and delicious meal! This was actually one of the oldest tools used to cook rice. They were used in Japan before the invention of electricity. It is a uniquely traditional way to prepare rice.

Most Donabe that are crafted with quality are incredibly durable, and should be able to survive through years of use. There are Donabe in Japan that have survived for centuries! Occasionally however they do chip or crack. Do not leave Donabe empty over the heat. Make sure it is full of tasty food or rice before cooking!

donabe2If you do make the jump and decide to purchase a Donabe, then please keep us posted with pictures and recipes! We would love to see how you make these beautiful pots your own!

Product of The Month: Tuff Sports SJ-SHE10

The Product of The Month we would like to feature in February is the SMTuff Sports SJ-SHE10. Perfect for those who are active, this vacuum insulated bottle holds up to 32 oz. of your favorite beverage, hot or cold, for hours. With a lid that conveniently turns into a cup, the Tuff Sports is perfect for soccer practice, tennis matches, even your kids’ Tee-ball game!

http://www.zojirushi.com/products/sjshe

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Winter is Ramen Time

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The more I think about the ramen culture, the more I think there’s more to it than meets the eye. On the one hand, ramen has become so trendy in America that it’s gone mainstream. Ramen restaurants seem to be springing up everywhere–from your neighborhood strip mall to urban boroughs. Yes, your styrofoam cup of noodles from your college days has grown up to become a deep, complex broth of sophisticated flavors. And the noodles? Al dente and hand made, of course.

The amazing dish in the photo above is from my recent trip to New York–IPPUDO restaurant in Manhattan, which specializes in the Hakata style tonkotsu, the broth made from boiling pork bones for as much as 15 hours. As you might expect, the salty soup is rich, deep and hearty enough to be a complete meal. Here you see it with toppings of sweetish BBQ pulled pork and takana, a Japanese mustard green.
$22 for a bowl of this ramen, thank you–and I waited outside for 45 minutes to get in.

But there’s a dark side to ramen, especially in our country where we’re quick to criticize and raise the alarm on the dangers of unhealthy and yucky instant ramen. Too much sodium, too much processing, too much MSG. Wait a minute–instant anything is fast hotwaterfood, and not meant to be eaten 3 times a day anyway! A recent 2-year long study conducted by the Journal of Nutrition found that South Korean women had a greater increase of heart disease, diabetes and even stroke, as a result of eating two or more servings of instant ramen a week.

The study caused an outrage in South Korea, where national pride was at stake for a food as popular as kimchee. Easily the highest per capita consumers of instant ramen, or ramyeon as it is known there, in the world, the study triggered some deep emotions of stubborn resistance, some mild guilt and a lot of indignation. It didn’t seem like the South Koreans were about to give up their beloved instant noodles anytime soon. And to be fair, the study couldn’t prove that other factors in the test subjects’ diets didn’t also influence the outcome. The Koreans pooh-poohed the study, saying it came from the land of cheeseburgers.

Other critics point to how instant noodles have become a dangerous go-to solution for feeding the hungry in the impoverished parts of the world. The dried food stores well, ships chineseboyeasily, and it is above all cheap. Advocates of healthier, “real food” warn us of the dangers of super-processed food, and how the answer to world hunger lies in agriculture. But this is easier said than done; many people have no choice when faced with eating to survive.

Instant ramen can be eaten healthier with the addition of vegetables and other ingredients, and maybe less of the soup base which contains all the sodium. So if you can’t beat the trend, why not try to make it just a little better for you? Especially the packaged kind, which is so tweakable to suit anyone’s taste and food culture, no wonder it’s conquered the planet.

It’s funny to me how a food that is helping to feed the world can be the bad guy too. Bet Momofuku Ando never thought his invention would cause such a stir (Google him if you’re interested).

I’ll never give up my ramen, instant or otherwise.

Chinese boy on train, photo courtesy of The Noodle Narratives, University of California Press

Where Am I?
Can you guess where I took my Zojirushi bottle? Let me know! I was there for 5 hours…

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Finding Home in the New Year!

Finding Home in the New Year!

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Happy January! With a new year and a fresh start on the horizon, the possibilities to make this year a great one are simply endless! We have countless new products, recipes and tips to share with you. From rice cookers to stainless products, we are delighted to unveil the fruits of our labor. We spend years testing recipes and fine-tuning products to ensure they are just right for you – our number one inspiration!

While our office is located in sunny Southern California, our hearts and much of our inspiration still hails from Japan. It’s amazing just how much of Japan is available locally and all around us. From Japanese farmers and nurseries that specialize in native plants and produce, to Japanese markets filled to the brim with memories of home. There always seems a way to add familiar flair to whatever it is we do.

 

This year, we would like to focus on coming home. If you’re like us and have two places that you call home, you’ll understand what we mean. Maybe it’s that jar of market jam on your turkey sandwich or east coast lobster as a special treat! We keep a tub of homemade pickled plums in the office just in case we get that little craving for a taste of home! There are so many ways to create a feeling of “home” while staying local, it is just incredible!

 

We would like to share some inspirations from our home through Japanese produce, products, and equipment. In turn, we ask that you share your favorite kitchen secret from home. Pickled shrimp? Patty melt? Fish tacos? Whatever it is, we want to know! Share your kitchen secrets and memories with us on Facebook and here on the blog.  Cheers!

 

 

Mitsuba: An Unusual Dinner Guest

Looking for a new green to add to your repertoire? Mitsuba could be just the thing to bring a little something to the table this month. Mitsuba, also known as Japanese parsley is known for its three leaves, fresh taste, and versatility. Somewhere in between shiso and celery leaf, mitsuba is bright and herbal with a fresh edge. You can eat every last bit of the plant including the stems, roots and seeds! And it’s a cinch to grow. If you have a garden box or a backyard plot, your mitsuba should be abundant in no time!

 

Enjoy mitsuba raw in a fresh salad or in your morning green machine. Garnish freshly chopped mitsuba over steamed clams and other fish dishes for a fresh finish or add to soups and stocks for an exotic edge. Mitsuba would also be great tossed in a rice salad with other fresh herbs and some lemons. Needless to say, there are many delicious options for this happy three-leafed plant!

 

Tell us how you like to use this magical little plant here on the blog. Who knows, it just might end up in one of our new recipes! Happy cooking!

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Homegrown Pickles: Using the Tsukemono Ki

No Japanese table is complete without a little pickled something. Daikon, plums, cucumbers, cabbage — you name it! We love a little salty/sour something during mealtimes. And we’ve got some good news – you can DIY your own pickles with the help of a Tsukemono Ki! Can you say it three times fast?

 

The Tsukemono Ki is a handy little tool made for pickling vegetables fast. In ancient times, pickles were made in giant wooden and ceramic tubs with large stones. This was a messy and time-consuming process that has been made more convenient over the centuries. The small and easy to store Tsukemono Ki is a little pickle pot that sits on your table, counter or in the cupboard with a lid that has a screw attached to an inner plate that applies pressure to make Tsukemono.

It will make crisp and crunchy pickles out of just about anything in a matter of hours. And they are widely available online and in Japanese markets!

 

Go ahead, experiment and mix a little bit of your home with ours. How about pickled Washington Apples? Napa Cabbage? Bell peppers? You be the judge! Pickle away and let us know what you find. Here’s to a little something sour! Cheers.

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PRODUCT OF THE MONTH – Induction Heating System Rice Cooker & Warmer NP-GBC05

We are delighted to share with you what just might be our cutest product yet…

Our little Induction Heating System Rice Cooker & Warmer is all dressed up in a beautiful new stainless dark brown color! This gem pairs the latest Zojirushi technology with streamline design to create the ultimate appliance for singles and young couples featuring…

 

  • Superior induction heating (IH) technology
  • 3 cup size ideal for singles and smaller families
  • Detachable and washable inner lid
  • Automatic keep warm
  • Made in Japan

 

http://zojirushi.com/products/npgbc

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I’ll Shoyu!

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OK, old joke, I know…sorry, but I always get a kick out of puns that cross international language barriers. Shoyu is the Japanese word for soy sauce, the most awesome condiment in the history of Asian cuisine. And since I could totally sustain myself on Japanese cooking exclusively, I just love shoyu.

I pretty much drizzle it on anything if I’m having a dish with white rice–but I do not dump it on the rice! First of all, that would be way too much sodium for me, but it’s just the purist in me that wants to eat white rice the way it was meant to be eaten–as an accompaniment to your entreé, not as a side dish. I still wince when I see people do this, but hey, I get it–rice has no flavor on its own. But the flavor comes from the foods you eat with the rice. Here’s a hint if you travel to Japan: refrain from doing it because it’s just bad form–let’s keep the white rice white, people!

Having said that, I am guilty of overusing shoyu and probably season my food when it

Hiyayakko--cold tofu

Hiyayakko–cold tofu

doesn’t really need it. But my argument is that good quality shoyu enhances the flavor of grilled fish, pan-fried steak, boiled vegetables, even fried eggs. And it absolutely belongs on cold tofu and boiled spinach.

So where does soy sauce come from, and who discovered it? All soy sauce is made from fermented soybeans, but there are many variations, ranging from the thicker, inky black sauces to the more transparent, reddish ones. Taste, color and texture is controlled by intricate differences in the brewing and fermentation process, and by the aging process as well, much like the way fine wine is made. I won’t get into too much technical detail here, but when purchasing soy sauce, just avoid the ones made by chemical processes. The best ones are naturally brewed.

Ohitashi--boiled spinach

Ohitashi–boiled spinach

The Chinese, of course, discovered soy sauce more than 2500 years ago, which makes it one of man’s oldest condiments. But the Japanese didn’t start their version until about 500 AD., when a Zen priest is said to have brought it back from China and started modifying its ingredients and brewing technique. The Kikkoman® company first introduced their soy sauce to America back in the 1800s, and they have been producing shoyu locally from Walworth, Wisconsin since 1972.

Soy sauce is widely used today by both professional chefs and home cooks. I’ve heard of shoyu being the secret ingredient in curry dishes and tomato based beef stews, so it’s obviously not being used just to bring the salt flavor out. Much of it has to do with the inherent umami in soy sauce, too. The Kikkoman® company even recommends sprinkling it on ice cream because it “draws out the flavor and gives it a delicious caramel-like aroma.” Whaaa? I haven’t tried this one yet–I think I’ll keep my Haagen-Dazs® the way it is.

Credits: Hiyayakko by pixelatedcrumb, Ohitashi by otakufood

Where Am I?
Can you guess where I took my Zojirushi bottle? Let me know! I go here almost every other week…

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December Is The Month of Celebration

We are so happy to be celebrating the holiday season with you again! This time of year is always special as families come together, gifts start piling up under the tree, holiday parties are in full effect, and the colder weather makes warm recipes that much more delicious!

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Food, however, is not the only thing ringing through our senses this season. Since 1925, Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony has been the song playing throughout theatres, malls, and radio stations during the month of December. This is also a time when people are running around buying gifts and putting together grocery lists.  Although it is a busy season, don’t forget to take a moment, relax with a cup of something warm and soothing, and enjoy life! Soak in this holiday season with everything that makes it special.

Toshikoshi, The Year End Soba Noodle

Soba is not as well known as Ramen is in the States, but it is a delicious and widely available noodle made from buckwheat flour. Often served cold with a chilled dipping sauce, you will find soba noodles everywhere from convenience stores and train stations, to specialty restaurants and food courts in Japan. The cut and texture of the noodles, as well as the temperature and flavor of the broth all depend on how and where you are eating soba. New Year’s soba have their own distinct flavor and name that is as fun to say as they are to slurp – Toshikoshi Soba!

soba

Toshikoshi Soba is the year end noodle dish eaten on New Year’s Eve. They have a distinct flavor and way of preparation, but what it symbolizes is what matters most. The tradition of eating soba noodles on New Year’s Eve dates all the way back to before the start of the Edo era, between 1603 and 1868. Back then, the act of eating long noodles symbolized a long life ahead. Buckwheat is a strong and resilient plant that can survive harsh weather, and therefore, this symbol of strength is another reason we enjoy soba during this time of year. Buckwheat noodles are also a symbol of letting go of hardships because they are so easy to cut while eating! Overall, Toshikoshi Soba is a way to offer good luck for the year ahead.

Toshikoshi Soba is served warm in a hot broth made of dashi, mirin, and soy sauce. This dish is often garnished with fresh cut spring onions and fish cake. If you are intrigued, keep in mind that you can enjoy soba all year round. Buckwheat noodles are delicious and lower in calories than whole-wheat pasta! They are rich in Magnesium, B vitamins and can act as a powerful antioxidant. Did we mention that they are also delicious?

So, what are you waiting for? Check the imported food aisle in your local grocer, and start experimenting with this wonderful noodle variety! Happy hunting!

Hyakunin Isshu – A Popular Game For This Season

If you have ever been in Japan around this time of year, you may have seen some people playing a unique card game based off of 100 ancient Japanese waka poems. Each poem has been written in a specific rhythm accompanied by an intricate drawing. These pictures and poems serve as an anthology of Japanese history.

Today, there are two variations of the card games used with these Ogura Hyakunin Isshu. One is called Karuta asobi and is similar to a matching game where you need to identify two matching cards. The other game is called Bozu mekuri and it utilizes the images on the cards. The object of that game is to gather as many cards as possible by the end of the deck.

Product of The Month: VE® Hybrid Water Boiler & Warmer (CV-DCC40/50)

This month, we would like to introduce our brand new Water Boiler, the Zojirushi VE® Water Boiler & Warmer (CV-DCC). What a great product for us to feature this month, as it would be the perfect gift for that special someone who loves freshly brewed tea each day. The newest in our magnificent line of appliances features…

  • Super VE technology that allows for excellent heat retention.
  • 4 temperature settings that offers micro computerized control
  • Quick Temp setting that lets you keep water warm without boiling
  • Auto Shut-Off, a safety function to prevent damage from overheating

For more information and specific product details visit our site.

http://www.zojirushi.com/products/cvdcc

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Flu Season Comfort

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Ever wonder what everybody else eats when they’re down with a cold? Having been brought up on okayu, or rice porridge, whenever I came down with the flu as a kid, I started wondering what other cultures do when the sniffles take over. Of course, the great American cure is chicken soup–apparently it’s even good for the soul; and there have been scientific studies done on its actual physical benefits too, like the steam from hot soup being good for congestion, or the inhibitive effects on inflammation which is the cause of sore throats.

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matzo ball soup

Most comfort foods during times of illness are easy to digest and kind of on the bland side because, let’s face it, we don’t have much of an appetite when we’re sick anyway. Hot broth like chicken soup does make us feel better, doesn’t it? It’s also the recommended food in Germany too, and the Jewish variation is Matzo ball soup, often called the “Jewish Penicillin”.

bianco

bianco

In Italy it is of course pasta, but it is strictly dieta in bianco, meaning a white diet. Nothing more than boiled pasta with a little bit of butter or olive oil and parmigiano, the water used to boil the pasta can be a beef broth, but it has to clear, strained, and fat-free. Other cheeses are too strong, so parmesan is used as the only flavoring, and small pasta is used so it can be chewed easily.

Australians love their Vegemite on toast when they’re sick, even though it hasn’t beenvege described in flattering terms by others. President Obama once said “It’s horrible” and called it a “quasi-vegetable by-product paste that you smear on your toast for breakfast.” Vegemite is actually leftover brewer’s yeast extract mixed with vegetable and spice additives. It’s been described as salty, slightly bitter and malty, but it is rich in umami, similar to beef bouillon.

khichri

khichri

In India, a simple porridge of beans, vegetables and rice called khichri (pronounced kich-ah-ree) is their comfort food–used to nourish babies, the elderly and the sick. To many Indians it even has spiritual meaning as a detoxing and cleansing health food. Many versions use spices like curry powder or tumeric, and the white rice (basmati) and lentils are usually cooked to a porridge texture when introduced to babies as their first “adult” food.

congee

congee

And speaking of rice porridge, the Chinese version of okayu, known as congee, and the Korean jook, are both also popular foods for the sick because it is easily digested. Compared to okayu their rice gruel is more soupy. There are similar dishes in other Asian countries as well, under different names of course. In Burma it is hsan byok, in India it is kanji, and in Indonesia it is known as bubur. If you would like to try Japanese okayu, you really don’t have to wait until you’re sick. You don’t even need a rice cooker if you have a thermal food jar like the one in this recipe from Zojirushi. Many rice cookers also have porridge settings, but be sure to read the instructions carefully before cooking this special type of rice dish.

Depending on where you grew up in the world, I’m sure there were comfort foods that you still remember to this day, and I’ll bet if you have kids, you’ve passed it on to them. Being sick wasn’t all that bad, now was it? What did you have when you were sick?

Credits: Matzo Ball Soup by sassygirlz, Bianco Pasta by rinaz, Khichri by inner-gourmet, Congee by shavedicesundays

 

Where Am I?
Can you guess where I took my Zojirushi bottle? Let me know!
Hint: I was only here for about 5 minutes!
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Wishing You a Happy Thanksgiving!

Time is flying dear friends, and we have so much to be grateful for this month. November marks our favorite American holiday, the tradition of Thanksgiving! Thanksgiving embodies everything we at Zojirushi believe in. From coming together with loved ones, to sharing a homemade meal, Thanksgiving is a great time for cooking, eating, and giving. It is a time to reflect on all that we have, give thanks for our blessings, and also to give back to the less fortunate. Food drives and community potlucks are some of our favorite weekend outings this time of year.

As we meditate on the spirit of giving, we recognize that it is not only in the charitable sense. Giving thanks is an obvious one for November, but we can give in so many different ways! Ask your kids to give a little more when they do their homework, give more to your spouse, or hold the door open that much longer for a stranger. Whatever giving may mean to you, put it into practice this November. Let’s pay it forward and give!

Although this month is all about giving, it is not the only thing on our mind. We’ve got eating and cooking on our minds as well. With all the delicious seasonal produce available in November, who wouldn’t have food on the brain! From hearty fall pumpkins and squash to luscious persimmons and sweet seasonal quince, we are endlessly grateful to our local farmers!

We hope to share pictures, recipes and ideas with you throughout the month as well as through the winter holidays. We find that YOU are always our biggest inspiration so let us know what you are cooking and eating this month, and Happy Thanksgiving! Cheers, Zojirushi!

Thanksgiving

Finding Zen in the Japanese Garden

The Japanese Garden or Nihon Teien is a magical place where one may find peace, serenity, art, and balance. These traditional Japanese gardens create perfect miniature landscapes that can be surreal and breathtaking. Throughout Japanese history you will find royal gardens for pleasure and art, or Buddhist gardens for peace and meditation. Stepping into a Japanese garden today is sure to calm the mind as well as please the senses!

Japanese Garden - Blog

Take a moment, close your eyes and imagine a monk delicately drawing lines in the sand of a Buddhist rock garden. Now imagine some golden Koi as they swim through a trickling pond. Then, there is that smell of bitter green tea from a teahouse nearby or a woman shuffling along in her kimono and tabi. These are all characteristics that can be expected in a Japanese garden.

While Japanese gardens seem distinctly of Japanese culture today, they actually originated in China. Japanese merchants who were inspired by the Chinese gardens of the Asuka period, approximately during the years 538 – 710AD, brought the concept back and made it their own, although the culture of the Japanese garden is known to date all the way back to the year 74AD!

Like most things, Japanese gardens have evolved over the centuries while remaining an essential part of the culture. You can find old and modern style gardens all over the world. That’s right, you don’t even have to go to Japan to experience the zen of the Japanese garden. Most American cities keep their own! So check your local parks and museums for a Japanese garden today and enjoy!

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An Ancient Game Still Popular Today

Sugoroku is a popular game played in Japan. It is almost exactly like backgammon with a few minor differences. The illustrious history behind this game is fascinating as well. Once outlawed in Japan for nearly 100 years due to it being used for gambling, it is now a commonly played game by both young and old. What helps make this game popular is the vibrant artwork displayed on the playing board. The rules never change but the elaborate decorative element makes each board unique. There are more variations of game boards than we can even count!

http://www.sugoroku.net/index_e.html

Product of The Month: Gourmet d’Expert® Electric Skillet (EP-RAC50)

For November, we have selected a Product of The Month that could be a huge help to you in the kitchen this Thanksgiving. We’d like to present the Gourmet d’Expert® Electric Skillet. This electric skillet can serve for multiple purposes. Its unique design allows for deep soup-type recipes, a flat plate for traditional grilling, and also works as a steamer! Because of how easy it is to clean along with the quality of the product, we are confident that this will be a wonderful edition to your kitchen countertop.

http://www.zojirushi.com/products/eprac

EP-RAC-Logo