What’s for Lunch?

lunchjar01Salmon teriyaki with seasonal mixed vegetables over rice. Jambalaya with cornbread and sautéed greens. Chicken vindaloo with mint yogurt sauce and papadums. Japanese dry curry with rice and boiled eggs.

Sounds mouth-watering, doesn’t it?

More and more people have meals like this for lunch. They’re fresh, healthy and balanced. They satisfy the belly and the heart. They make us pause, enjoy lunch (even if it’s just for 10 minutes!) and feel refreshed. A meal like this feels like it was made with care, with attention to flavor, comfort and nourishment.

A meal like this deserves to look as good as it tastes, to be crisp and clean, not mushy or soggy or mashed together. The best way to bring these homemade lunches to work orlunchjar02 slxd school are to take them in a lunch jar, like the Classic Stainless Lunch Jar (SL-XD20) by Zojirushi.  The Classic Stainless Lunch Jar is perfect for transporting gourmet lunches, and has some remarkable features. The outer container is made of durable 18/8 grade stainless steel with superior vacuum insulation, which keeps food hot or cold for up to six hours. The jar also has three generously sized inner containers – one for a side dish, one for a main dish, and one for soup. The main dish container has an insulated lid that prevents room temperature items placed above it from becoming heated or chilled, while the soup and main dish containers are kept hot or cold by the insulated jar! Each inner container is microwaveable and BPA-free. The jar also comes with chopsticks, chopsticks case, and a detachable carrying strap. You can find out more on our product page.

We’ve got great ideas about what to have for lunch.  What are yours?

Very Japanese Cooking Tools

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Have you ever been to a Japanese supermarket and gone to the kitchenware section? Maybe you were looking for chopsticks or a good knife or a bamboo mat to roll your own sushi? I’ll bet you came across some strange looking paraphernalia that caught your eye, and you wondered, “what the heck is that for?” If you think some American kitchen gadgets are pretty strange, take a look at some of these inventions that were made specifically to do a task needed for Japanese cuisine. If you get serious about going Japanese, you gotta get one of these!

Rice Washer There’s no way you would know that the device above is for washing rice if you saw this tool all by itself. The plastic helix-shaped whisk even unfolds so it can be washed thoroughly from the inside-out. Not only does it save chapped hands, it’ll save your nails too, when faced with this almost daily chore in a typical Japanese household.

gyozapressThe Gyoza Press Homemade potstickers anyone? This clamp crimps the dough to make perfect little potstickers. Just lay the wafer-like dough on the press, fill with filling, and fold over. Beats making a lopsided one by hand, right?

 

 

 

 

 

eggmoldEgg Molds Create animal shaped eggs for your kids’ bento lunches! Boil an egg, place in mold when still hot, then close. Leave in cold water for a few minutes while your egg cools, and out pops a hard boiled egg bunny!

 

 

 

 

 

fishroasterFish Roaster This handheld grill is made to roast fish on your stove top, which many Japanese families do, instead of over a charcoal grill. It does a remarkably nice job–just keep your vent fan on high!

 

 

 

 

 

donabeDonabe This earthenware pot is usually used to cook hot pot dinners on a hot plate at the dining table. These pots can be fairly expensive and very exquisite, especially the authentic Japanese ones handcrafted by artisans. They’re as much a tabletop centerpiece as they are a cooking vessel. Here’s a Chanko-nabe recipe from the Zojirushi site.

 

 

 

omeletOmelet Pan This rectangular pan is used specifically to cook omelets in this shape. They are then rolled and sliced into the egg toppings for sushi.

 

 

 

 

 

takoyakipanTakoyaki Maker No, this does not cook eggs, even though it looks like it. Each cavity in this unique pan makes a ball of batter flavored with chunks of octopus, known as takoyaki, or octopus balls. The doughy snack is a favorite of Osaka.

 

 

 

 

onigiriOnigiri Mold In the old days, homemakers used to be adept at shaping rice balls into triangular shapes without the aid of a mold. My Mom used to make them this way, and the one advantage was that she would dust her hands with salt so she could flavor our onigiri. But you can’t beat modern conveniences, can you?

 

 

 

 

scalerFish Scaler You may never find one of these in an American kitchen, but many home cooks scale and clean their own fish in Japan, where it is often bought whole and fresh at the market.

 

 

 

 

 

okonomiyakiOkonomiyaki Spatulas These odd looking spatulas were created specifically for flipping okonomiyaki, sometimes known as Japanese style pancakes. Usually used in pairs so you can get underneath both sides of the pancake, you deftly flip the whole thing when one side is done cooking. Also used to slice it up into smaller pieces. You can find a Zojirushi recipe for okonomiyaki here.

 

 

 

tsukemonoPickling Press Japanese pickles, known as tsukemono, used to be made in large ceramic pots. The vegetables, whether cucumbers or cabbage or eggplant or other, was placed in a pot with fermenting ingredients and pressed down by the weight of a heavy stone to get the excess liquid out. These modern presses are much easier and don’t require heavy lifting.

 

 

 

sukiyakiSukiyaki Pot Another tabletop favorite at Japanese households, especially when celebrating special occasions, is sukiyaki. This cast iron pot keeps the broth bubbling as it continuously cooks over the hot plate at the dining table. Try Zojirushi’s sukiyaki recipe.

 

 

 

 

bentoBento Accessories You may think, “why do I need plastic grass?” but if you want to make authentic Japanese bento, you need plastic grass to separate the food inside your bento box. It’s used to keep the flavors from mingling and as a decoration. The tiny disposable vials are for soy sauce. Look, little fishies!

 

 

 

 

katsuobushiKatsuobushi Shaver A carpentry tool in the kitchen? No, but close to it. Cooks who take their umami seriously might insist on shaving their own dried bonito, otherwise known as katsuobushi, a prime ingredient of soup stock and source of the savory 5th taste known as umami. Smoked and dried bonito can be bought in chunks, which is then shaved into flakes with this wooden planing tool; or you can simply buy it by the bag at a grocery store. Katsuobushi is an important ingredient in Japanese cooking; see how to make your own soup stock here.

 

 

Guess what? Almost all of these tools can be found at your local Asian supermarkets if you have one, and if you don’t, I’ve seen them online too. Part of what makes cooking fun is getting to use all these gadgets, right?

Photos courtesy of: Kunjiadaren, Kotobuki, Andrew YangMiya Company, Japanese-Kitchen, TasteWithTheEyes, Okutsu, YouFoundKeke, Ikenaga, & Ninben

Beyond Fish: Roasting Indoors

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Ah, summer! What a glorious time to be in and out of the kitchen! Seasonal ingredients are abundant and warm weather has us eating light all season long. We have as much fun hanging out on lazy weekends as we do eating, so why not make it that much better?

We have developed a product that takes all the fun and flavor of a summer roast, and s-EF-VPC40-NLcondenses it down to the size of your countertop; saving you on space, smells and clean up! Our Fish Roaster (EF-VPC40) is the perfect tabletop appliance for creating quick and delicious roasted foods. From omega-3 packed fish to protein-rich chicken, pork, and beef—just throw them in the roaster and you’re ready to go. Don’t forget to add vegetables, too! Delicious roasted vegetables make the perfect summer side dish.

This product comes equipped with a platinum catalytic filter that will eliminate up to 90% of smoke and odor components by chemically decomposing them. There’s no need to flip s-EF-VPC40_Openfood thanks to a powerful 1,300-watt heating element on top and bottom, and the heat reflectors ensure a crisp finish. An extra wide roasting rack can accommodate large fish, meats, and vegetables up to 13-3/4” in width, and a stainless steel roasting rack will direct excess oils and fats away from foods. Simple disassembly means clean-up is a breeze as well!

Come check out our recipe page and discover what you can cook in this wonderful fish roaster.  Make it your own and keep those summer vibes cookin’ all year long!

Goya: The Bitter Melon

Goya, or the bitter melon, is a favorite in Japan this time of year. With its pebbly surface and long green shape, it resembles a prickly cucumber or summer squash more than it does a cantaloupe or honeydew melon. Don’t be fooled by its cute name, either. “Bitter melon” is not a playful title for the latest Jolly Rancher. This unusual fruit really is bitter.

So why is Goya so popular despite of its bitter flavor? Well, it’s because these funny little fruits are packed with vitamins, minerals and healing properties that might just help you fight through the hot and humid summer in Japan. It’s also believed that they may help improve your skin texture and digestion since they are high in Vitamin C and fiber. With that bitter taste, they are almost like a medicine!

bittermelon01Although you can find them pretty much in any supermarkets in Japan during this time of year, you can also grow them in your own back yard! With seeds purchased online, mulched soil and plenty of sunshine, these funny fruits will be abundant in no time.

Scared to try? Don’t be! You can pair this ingredient with savory bold flavors like soy sauce, bonito flakes, and onion. You can also add it to a noodle or fried rice dish for an unusual treat. Be adventurous and let us know how you like this funky ingredient!

Katsuobushi Kezuri

Photo by Sakurai Midori

Photo by Sakurai Midori

Katsuobushi or bonito flakes are a staple of the Japanese cuisine. These salty-smoky, light as a feather, umami packed flakes are often sliced so thin, they dance or wiggle on the surface of the dish. It is also the main ingredient in umami rich dashi stocks, a key ingredient in many Japanese dishes. The inimitable bold and slightly fishy notes of katsuobushi will add depth and complexity to any ingredient.

These days you can find a bag of bonito flakes in just about any Japanese/Asian supermarket for a few bucks. So why shave your own you ask? Well, you know the difference between freshly shaved Parmesan cheese and the kind that comes pre-shaved and lives on the shelf for eons? That’s why!

Katsuobushi on top of udon

Shaved katsuobushi garnishing udon

Shaving your own katsuobushi requires a little bit of finesse, but will yield you a finished product that is so far superior to the pre-shaved ones in the bag that you will never want anything else. All you need is a block of dried katsuo (bonito) and a katsuobushi kezuri, or shaver.

The katsuobushi kezuri is a small box made of wood or steel with a small blade on top. The dried bonito block is shaved over the box and the shavings or flakes are caught inside. It will take practice to shave off a long, thin piece of katsuobushi, but the finished

product will be well worth your time! We found this beautiful video of a master at work here to help inspire you. Enjoy!

Furin: A Japanese Wind Chime

fuurin02In Japan, our wind chimes are quiet, small and made of glass. First introduced to Japan by Chinese monks in ancient times, these chimes were originally used to watch the strength and direction of the wind. Their soft and peaceful sound was quickly given new meanings in Japan. Adopted by Japanese temples to ward off evil and keep people safe, they were hung on all four corners of the temples. It was said that if you hear the furin, no disgrace will occur.

These chimes were originally made of copper, later glass and today, even pottery. Over the centuries we have become more creative with the design of furin, making them in unusual shapes and sizes. You can even find branded furin with popular Japanese characters like Hello Kitty. Their peaceful sound and small size make them a favorite in Japanese homes and apartments, and help people relax during the hot summer months.

Pancakes: An American Breakfast

We Americans love pancakes. Me, I don’t necessarily love them but I have to admit they’re one of my guilty pleasures and I like them enough where I crave them once in a while. If you think about it, they’re the perfect breakfast–they’re cake-like enough to be a breakfast pastry, so they go really well with breakfast meats like bacon or sausage. Lots of people like them on the sweet side, with whipped cream, maple syrup, fresh fruits, chocolate chips, whatever. I prefer a balance, so I take a bite of pancake, then a bite of sausage, then a bite of pancake, take a sip of coffee, more pancake, then another bite of sausage, then a bite of…well, you get the idea.

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Pigs in a blanket

Pancakes go by different names depending on how they’re prepared:
Short stack: a small order of pancakes, usually only 3 high
Pigs in a blanket: sausages wrapped in pancakes (totally solves how I eat my pancakes)
Silver dollars: small, mini-pancakes usually served 5 to 10 at a time; named for when there were such things as silver dollar coins

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Dutch Baby

There are regional and cultural off-shoots of pancake-like pastries too:
Johnnycakes: a cornmeal flatbread popular in New England, associated with the state of Rhode Island
Dutch Baby pancakes: an oven baked style that rises high above the edges of the pan–the result is a light puffy crust and an eggy middle; sprinkled with cinnamon and lemon juice
Sourdough pancakes: from the prospecting days when sourdough could be used in place of yeast to make pancakes and bread–a favorite in Alaska

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French crepe

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Okonomiyaki

And there are international versions of pancakes:
Crepes: probably the most famous–wafer thin and folded, filled with anything from strawberries and cream to ham and cheese
Blintzes: from Eastern Europe, blintzes are thicker than crepes and filled with similar ingredients, then folded into rectangles to be refried again
Flapjacks: even though Americans use the name interchangeably with pancakes, in the UK flapjacks are more like pastry bars made with oats, golden syrup and butter–sometimes filled with raisins

Asian countries have their own savory version of pancakes:
Cong Yu Bing: Chinese scallion pancakes made from dough instead of batter, served with a dipping soy sauce/vinegar combination or chili sauce
Okonomiyaki: Often called Japanese pancakes or Japanese pizza, it might be both because of all the different ingredients that go into them; a couple of great recipes can be found here and here on the Zojirushi website
Jeon: Korean style pancakes that are filled with anything from seafood to kimchi, this dish is also served with a dipping sauce; try the seafood recipe here from Zojirushi

I like to play with my pancakes. The ones at the top of this post were made with a squeeze bottle and a couple of pancake molds that you can get anywhere. Just let the design part cook a little bit longer than the rest by drawing it first. Then fill the background in and finish the rest of the pancake. The design part browns darker than the rest so you get a pancake outline. Woot! Pancake art!Image-1

This was pretty easy to do–if you have an electric griddle like the Zojirushi Gourmet Sizzler it would be better because the temperature would stay constant and you could do it at the table with the kids. My daughter helped me with these. Here are some more by people far more talented than me:

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And here’s a few links to some pancake recipes on the Zojirushi site: Blueberry Whole Wheat & Gluten Free. And a Spring Crepe one too. ENJOY!

Photos courtesy of The Original Pancake House, Cafe Fujiyama, Chocolat & Caetera, Bryce Butcher of GoodCook

Staying Hydrated with Our New SM-YAE48 Travel Mug

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Whether you’re en route to work or hanging out by the pool, we know it’s important to you to stay hydrated in style.  That’s why we’ve developed the SM-YAE48, a travel mug designed with your lifestyle in mind.  Enjoy up to 16oz. of your favorite hot or cold beverage in a new and improved style that maximizes capacity while minimizing space.

Treat yourself to a comfortable drinking experience with a wide spout mouth and tapered lid cover that won’t block your line of sight when you’re on the go.  With a stain-resistant smyae03SlickSteel® interior, easy-to-fill wide opening, and partially disassemblable lid, this mug is also a breeze to clean.  And, no matter how bumpy the roads you travel, or jumbled your backpack or purse, its leak-proof lid and safety lock guarantee your drink gets wherever you’re going spill-free.

It gets even better!  The SM-YAE48 is available in four stylish colors: Stainless, Dark Cocoa, Cherry Red, and Lime Green! So, what are you waiting for? Fill this mug up with today’s piping hot black coffee or iced fruit tea, and savor your drink at one of your favorite places. We’ve got ya covered!

Your Sushi Party Awaits: Working with Makisu!

 If you do one thing this summer, it should be throwing a sushi party! No, seriously–it’s a great way to get together with friends, get creative, and enjoy some good food while you’re at it. In addition to the usual essential ingredients (fresh fish, wasabi, soy sauce, nori seaweed and lots of sushi rice), you’re going to need a makisu mat.

A makisu is that tan-colored mat made of woven bamboo sticks and cotton thread that you often see at the sushi bar. Sushi chefs use the makisu to shape sushi rolls, and sometimes egg omelets. They aren’t very expensive, and are simple to clean and store. Just be sure to completely scrub off any food bits, and dry completely after washing to avoid bacteria growth.

It may seem easy, but it’s actually a bit tricky to roll sushi using makisu. Have you had those floppy rolls that fall apart when you try to pick up with chop sticks? That’s a bad example right there. A properly rolled sushi should hold its shape when you pick them up. But don’t worry, we can show you how to roll sushi! Check out our maki sushi recipe here to learn how.

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Full disclosure: Creating a sushi roll is not as easy as it might look, but that’s part of the fun! Throw yourself into it, and don’t be afraid to make a mess. Sushi parties can get a little messy, but we guarantee it will be well worth it!

Go to your local Japanese market to get all the ingredients you might need. Be adventurous and fill your rolls with your favorite ingredients—how about tuna, sriracha, Japanese mayonnaise, crab, octopus, cucumber and salmon? Don’t forget pickled ginger and sesame seeds for garnish, and plenty of nori (seaweed) or soy paper to wrap! We’ll do what we can to help you get that sushi rice just right, and the rest is up to you and your friends. We promise, it will be a party to remember. Enjoy!

Doyo-no Ushi No Hi, A Day for Eating Eel!

One of our favorite summer holidays is called Doyo-no Ushi No Hi. It falls late in the month of July when the weather is hot and humid, and it is all about eating eel to beat the heat! Sound crazy? It has been a tradition in Japan for hundreds of years.

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Japanese summers are hot and humid, and it can become quite exhausting when you are slogging through those sticky humid days! We call this “summer fatigue” natsubate, and in Japan we believe that eating vitamin and mineral rich eel will help us get through the heat. If you ever find yourself in a Japanese supermarket this time of year, you will see eel being sold quite often.

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Sansho Pepper plant (photo by Didier Descouens)

One detail to note is that Japanese eel or unagi is always served with a topping of sansho pepper, which is similar to Sichuan pepper, but with a citrus note.
Sansho
has a number of uses in Japanese cuisine, but the most famous is definitely with eel. This spice has an effervescent cooling sensation when you eat it, as well as a slightly lemony and earthy quality, which complements the rich eel very well. In fact, most store-bought eels come with the sansho prepared in a small packet on the side.

Sansho pepper is a perfect pair with eel, but throughout the year it can be enjoyed with a number of other items such as chicken, tofu, and fish dishes. It is also one of the ingredients for the popular seven spice blend called shichimi togarashi, which goes great with yakitori (grilled chicken on skewers), soups, and noodles. Sansho pepper by itself may be a little bit overwhelming, but you will probably appreciate it in shichimi togarashi. Give it a shot!

Have you ever tried to cook with sansho pepper? We’d love to hear your recipes and uses for this amazing spice!

Shave Ice Summer

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Growing up in Hawaii, I was raised on “shave ice” since small kid time. And do me a favor, don’t call it “shaved ice” to a local kama’aina–you’ll show your malihini (newbie) colors. I am, of course, partial to Hawaiian style shave ice, but I’m aware that there are other kinds these days. Long gone are the days when the only good shave ice was on the Islands and everyone else had to settle for sno-cones.

A style that is very popular now is a “snow ice” type of hybrid between ice and ice cream, originally from Taiwan. Whereas shave ice is ice that’s drizzled with fruit flavored syrups, snow ice has been infused with milky flavor prior to freezing. It is then shaved off into sheets of ice–the effect is a creamy, ice dessert that melts in your mouth. Truly the only kind of shaved ice that competes with shave ice in my humble opinion. I tend to like my snow ice simple, with a minimum of toppings–maybe the little mochi bits or raspberries or kiwi. But if you like yours with more imagination, you can get a mountain of ingredients that will make yours look like a gaudy psychedelic iceberg. Above pic is taro flavored snow ice with strawberries, blueberries and mochi bits.

In Japan, their traditional version of this dessert is known as kakigori, which literally means shaved ice. Theirs is a coarser, more crystalline consistency topped with syrup, often ujikintokistrawberry or green tea flavored.  Sweet condensed milk is also added sometimes, and one of my favorites is super charged with matcha ice cream, azuki (red beans) and mochi–the classic Ujikintoki. Hawaiian shave ice fans might find the ice texture too coarse for their taste, but I think it has a character all its own.

If you’re in Japan, you can find the coffee shops that serve kakigori by looking out for the universal sign for “ice”, a banner that they display outside their storefronts.
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I recently had a Korean version that was an ice parfait in a cup–mango juice, pineapple, korean icevanilla yogurt, coconut flakes, granola and honey. That’s the one on the left; the other one has condensed milk, yogurt, coconut flakes, granola and honey. These were both surprisingly good. They’re obviously going for the texture with all those crunchy ingredients, and hoping to blend it with the cold, sweet ice. It works!

Nothing though, beats my childhood Hawaiian shave ice. Let’s face it, for the shave ice purist, there’s nothing like the Rainbow one with the classic flat wooden spoon sticking out of it. Whenever I get a chance to go back, I make sure to make a stop at the world famous Matsumoto Shave Ice. They’ve been there for as long as I can remember, and on any given day you’ll see a busload of tourists stopped outside the store. If you go to visit on your way to the North Shore, be sure to follow the instructions on how to order your shave ice; it’ll make the line go faster!

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The Real Thing

Thanks to timeout.jp for Ujikintoki, sneakers-actus.fr for Kakigori, and ahappyhowto.blogspot for Shave Ice. Other photography by Shelley Opunui, visit her Instagram here: ironchefmom

Fake Food!?

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Food replicas are a part of the dining out experience in Japan. Almost any restaurant will have a glass showcase out in front, with several of their most popular dishes on the menu lined up on display. With the price of the dish clearly marked on tent cards, the food models are an easy 3-D menu that allows diners to make up their minds before they even step inside.showcase

I love these things–invented in Japan and unique to their culture. When they’re well-made, it’s very difficult to tell them apart from the real food. In fact, I can tell you from personal experience of the time I got queasy from staring at a tempting plate of lasagna at an Italian restaurant in Tokyo.

Let me explain. We had gone out to see a movie and decided to have dinner afterward. Big mistake. The movie was Alien–remember the “chest bursting” scene? It was a pretty intense film with highly stylized and realistic action parts where the alien creature causes a lot of mayhem and human destruction, if you know what I mean. The restaurant was a popular high end place near the theater; and the food on display looked really good until we kept staring at all that tomato sauce and melted cheese and ground beef and…well, we lost our appetite for Italian food and ended up having sandwiches at a coffee shop. LOL! True story!
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Food replicas have been around in Japan for over 90 years, when a department store restaurant first started making the fake food to lure customers inside. When Americans and Europeans traveled to Japan to help with rebuilding efforts after WWII, no one could read Japanese menus, so the replicas clearly helped the foreigners decide what they might want to eat. At first the models were made of paraffin wax, but the colors would fade over time, so plastic vinyl chloride is used today–a material that is virtually permanent.
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The material may be high tech, but the process is still handmade. Molds of real food are used, and when that’s not possible the molds are hand sculpted. Painting and airbrushing is what lends the food its realism and detail, as well as the multiple parts that need to be assembled together to make a  single sushi roll. Sometimes actual food prep techniques are mimicked to get the realism required, like chopping plastic vegetables with a chefs knife, or deep frying plastic shrimp in hot oil.

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One of these is REAL! Which one??

Today there are a few large food replica companies in Japan, but for the most part many of them are mom and pop artisans who have raised the level of craftsmanship to an art form. Techniques and trade secrets are closely guarded in an industry that generates billions of yen per year. If a single restaurant ordered replicas to be made for most of its menu, it may cost hundreds of thousands of dollars–the replica is always custom made to be exactly like the restaurant’s dish.

Replicas courtesy of Bentoss, Trends in Japan (web-Japan.org), Japan Online. Photos by Bert Tanimoto and Shelley Opunui.

Soak in Summer with Zojirushi

summer02Warm days that seem to never end. Enjoying outdoor activities with your family and friends. The best fresh produce your local growers provide… these are just a few of the reasons we love this time of year!

With so many things going on, you probably wonder how many meals you have time to make at home each week. We believe that it’s both lack of time and inconvenience that keep us from the simple homemade fare we crave. We’re here to help! Our rice cookers, stainless food jars, bread makers, and various other gourmet products lend themselves to quick and easy meals at home. Our appliances are designed to help you create a delicious meal easily and save you time when cleaning up. So spend less time in the kitchen and more time enjoying your summer!

Shiso, a Complex Flavor in the Kitchen

It’s shiso season shiso01and we couldn’t be happier. Shiso is just one of those unique ingredients. For those who aren’t familiar with it, shiso is an herb with a texture similar to mint. It has bright, slightly bitter, earthy flavor that brightens up your favorite summer dishes. If you aren’t familiar with it, it’s used in a way similar to parsley or cilantro.

Of the five tastes, shiso definitely falls under bitter. So if you’re looking to ‘grow up’ or try something new on the plate, why not play with shiso–after all, what’s the worst thing that could happen?

shiso03The cool thing about shiso is that you can use it in endless ways. Throw it in a fresh veggie salad, serve it with fresh fruit, float it in soup, or garnish a cocktail.  It’s so versatile! It’s not expensive, and even a small amount will leave you with plenty to play with. We suggest chopping it fine to sprinkle over vegetables or using it as a garnish for meat dishes. You can even puree shiso into a pesto, or wrap it around fish.

Go ahead and be adventurous, and have fun with this versatile herb. If nothing else, it will make an interesting conversation starter. We are pretty confident that you will enjoy its unique flavor profile!

The Only Knife You’ll Ever Need

In Japanese, santoku literally means the “three virtues.” In this case we mean chopping, cutting and dicing, of course! The santoku knife is world famous for its fabulous capabilities in the kitchen.

This rather large knife might be compared to a ‘chef’s knife’ in the states. They range from a 5” to 7” blade size with a sharp point. These indispensable tools are designed for a firm grip while allowing for full blade use. They are known for their sharp edges and their “dimpled” blade, which helps to release food slices stuck on the blade. This knife is a perfect multi-functional tool.santoku

You can find santoku knives across a wide range of prices and materials. You can even find ceramic varieties in stores and online these days. If you take good care of yours, store it correctly and have it professionally sharpened, it should last, well, forever. Keep in mind that a sharp knife is a safe knife, and as they dull they become more dangerous, since you have to use more pressure.

If you are looking to add to your collection, or looking for the perfect all-around chef’s knife, a santoku is a must-have item. You will be amazed by their function and versatility.  Please be kind to all of your knives, treat them with respect and above all else, keep them out of the dishwasher!

Rise and Shine!

Waking up in the morning can be a bummer! Kids, summer day camps, breakfast, work- it can sometimes feel like an endless list of tasks. Some days, don’t you just want to stay in bed with a newspaper and a cup of coffee? Maybe some homemade coffee cake?

ecysc01We’re sorry that we can’t remove all the weight and worry of everyday life, but we can try to make it a little bit sweeter. That’s why we’ve spent the last year perfecting the Fresh Brew Plus Thermal Carafe Coffee Maker (EC-YSC100). We thought the smell of a perfectly brewed cup might be just the thing to get you going and on your way…

Now, this is not your regular drip and go machine. The carafe is constructed with Zojirushi’s advanced vacuum insulation technology that helps keep coffee as fresh and great tasting as when it was first brewed. By utilizing a thermal carafe instead of a burner, coffee can remain hot for hours without burning. The Fresh Brew Plus brews coffee at 200 degrees Fahrenheit, which is the optimal temperature for the best tasting coffee. It also features a 24-hour programmable timer so you can have a delicious cup of coffee ready in the morning.

The Fresh Brew Plus Thermal Carafe Coffee Maker is also remarkably easy to clean! The removable water tank is fully washable and the swing and filter baskets lift out easily for thorough cleaning. In addition, this unit has a “clean light” indicator that illuminates when cleaning is recommended. So, rise and shine- your coffee is ready!

Wedding Season cross Cultures

Is it us or does wedding season feel longer and longer each year? March through October seems to be filled with weddings, both in our lives, and on social media. During the spring and summer months we are inundated with images of string lights, mason jars and rustic floral arrangements. Beautiful brides glide through outdoor venues decorated with dessert tables and photo booths. What has social media done to the modern American wedding?

wedding01A similar shift is happening across the Pacific Ocean. The traditional Japanese style wedding is becoming less and less of the norm, and couples are opting for ‘western’-style affairs complete with white gowns, tiered cakes and the toss of a bouquet! Some couples even have ceremonies where both wedding traditions are combined. In this situation the bride and groom will perform one part of their wedding in a western style dress and tuxedo. Then, they will have a change of wardrobe and wear traditional Japanese wedding kimonos for the reception. That would make for one elaborate wedding!

But what is a traditional Japanese-style wedding, you ask? Well, that’s a longer story…Japanese weddings are typically all-day affairs beginning early in the morning and stretching out through the night. Both bride and groom don classic wedding kimonos as wedding03they make their way to a shrine. The bride’s kimono will be white with a large white headdress called tsunokakushi. The headdress is meant to be a symbol of both submission and protection from jealousy. Sound familiar? Tsunokakushi is not unlike a western-style wedding veil!

Japanese wedding ceremonies are performed by a Shinto priest in a shrine. Instead of opting for the long walk down the aisle in front of a large crowd, these ceremonies are often intimate with only the couple’s parents in attendance. Drinking sake is an important part of the ritual and symbolizes getting through the many challenges that will arise within the marriage.

Then at last, the reception will commence. Japanese style wedding receptions are held in tatami rooms where husband and wife sit on a stage to see their guests. At this point, the bride might change into a more colorful kimono, or in more recent years, a western-style gown. Food and drink will be served, and people will eat and drink to their hearts’ content. People dance and sing, and give speeches to the new couple. Money is the gift to give at a Japanese wedding. The standard amount is about $300.00, wrapped nicely in an envelope.

As we look at both eastern and western-style wedding traditions, we can’t help but see many similarities. Both versions begin with a ceremony and end in a reception, both require lots of food and drink, and there is some sort of gift giving in each situation. Couples celebrate with close family, friends and colleagues, and it is not uncommon for the couple to take a honeymoon when it’s all said and done.

So perhaps we aren’t that different after all. Have you ever been to a Japanese-style wedding? If so, we would love to hear your reactions and thoughts on the matter! Happy wedding season!

May Brings Long Spring Days

bbq02Welcome to May! The days are stretching longer, weather is warmer, and we are seeing celery, shallots, apricots and pluots at the market. This time of year is always filled with
excitement. Vacation is just around the corner, and summer barbecues are so close that you can almost taste them!

This month, we celebrate a number of spectacular eating holidays, from Cinco de Mayo, to Mother’s Day, and Memorial Day. There is always an excuse for dinner, brunch, or a backyard BBQ. We have been planning ahead for this month, and have set aside a few recipes that you just might find useful.

We are excited to share our fabulous new rice cooker with you this month, and introduce you to a few of our amazing recipes. We would also love to know what you have been cooking in your kitchen. If you have any kitchen miracles you would like to share, please send them our way.

 

Children’s Day

On May 5th we celebrate Kodomo no Hi, known as Children’s Day, in Japan. It is a day when older family members and friends recognize and honor their little ones, and wish for their well-being and happiness.kodomonohi02

This is a visually festive holiday. Japanese households and schools (mostly kodomonohiyoroielementary schools) display carp streamers, also known as Koinobori, during this time of the year wishing for good luck and promising fortune for the children. In Japanese culture, the carp has long been associated with strength and determination. It serves as a metaphor for children to strive hard to reach their goals and to overcome obstacles encountered in their personal pursuits. Inside homes, people display samurai helmets and armor as a symbol of strength and prosperity.

During this season, it is also customary to make Kashiwamochi, a special rice cake dessert wrapped with an oak leaf. It is filled with some kashiwamochisweet Adzuki bean paste, and the fresh scent from the oak leaves transfers to the rice cake, adding a subtle, yet pleasant herbal taste to the dessert. Children all over the country look forward to receiving this special treat on Kodomo no Hi.

In the United States we celebrate holidays like Mother’s Day, Father’s Day and Grandparents Day to pay respect and love to our elders, but there isn’t a special day to celebrate and embrace the young generation. What do you think about implementing something that resembles Children’s Day in the western world? Wouldn’t it be a nice way to connect the young with the old?

Wasabi – An Insight into This Amazing Condiment

 As mawasabi03ny of you know, wasabi is one of the most recognized of all the Japanese condiments, and is in the same horticulture family as horseradish. The history of wasabi has noble beginnings dating back over a century ago, when people first started utilizing it as a medicinal ingredient to kill harmful bacteria. It was about 400 years ago when people began to enjoy wasabi as a condiment, and around the same time that the cultivation of the plant also began.

 

Today, the number of Japanese wasabi farmers has decreased to only a handful, as growing it is a very time consuming and labor intensive process. As a result, it has become very difficult to purchase genuine wasabi, and the majority of it we find in the general markets and restaurants is just a mixture of Western horseradish and green food coloring.

Don’t be disappointed though, because there are a few wasabi farmers in the U.S. They are mostly in the state of Oregon, where they have the cool climate and the clean water necessary for growing it. So if you really want to try some real wasabi, you can visit those farms in Oregon!

wasabi04For an authentic Japanese meal, try adding genuine wasabi paste to our traditional Nigiri Sushi recipe: https://www.zojirushi.com/app/recipe/-i-nigiri-sushi-i-. Real wasabi can hold its flavor for
up to 15 minutes only, and it must be graded immediately before serving. Compared to the imitation one, the real wasabi is a bit less spicy, but its fresh aroma is just beyond description! Try it, and let us know if you can tell the difference!

Otoshibuta, Your New Best Friend

 If you don’t have an experience cooking in a Japanese kitchen, you have probably never seen otoshibuta before. Literally meaning, drop lid, these round cooking lids are slightly smaller than the diameter of the pot, and sit directly on top of the cooking ingredients.  Otoshibuta helps the cooking liquid move towards the lid, and coats the top of the food creating a more concentrated flavor. It also reduces the likelihood of the cooking liquid boiling over on the stove, and allows food to cook quickly and evenly.otoshibuta

Otoshibuta are typically wooden and soaked in water just before use. This will prevent the tool from soaking up the cooking liquid, or worse, cracking. You can also find plastic, silicon or metal varieties, but a bit of tin foil or even paper towel will serve as a makeshift otoshibuta in a pinch. In fact, tin foil ones serve better than the wooden ones when you are cooking delicate ingredients because the lid will not crush the ingredients while simmering.

This tool is great for simmering hardy root vegetables like potatoes, carrots, and pumpkins, as well as fish. Perhaps you can find an online tutorial or a recipe, then experiment for yourself. Just when you thought you knew it all, right? There’s always more to learn!

Product of the Month: Induction Heating System Rice Cooker & Warmer NP-HCC10/18

NPHCCWe are over the moon to be sharing our newest rice cooker with you! The NP-HCC is one of the most advanced and innovative so far! We have continued to perfect and enhance our cutting-edge induction heating technology to bring you perfectly cooked rice every single time.

This rice cooker is equipped with a variety of settings including GABA brown, porridge, sushi and now, Jasmine rice! We cater to the rice you choose, while you simply enjoy! Did you know that our GABA brown function actually cooks brown rice low & slow to activate and increase the nutritional value of the rice? We are always thinking about you and how best to serve…

The best feature of this product just might NPHCC03be the easy to read orange back lit LCD control panel. We have changed it from the green to be easier on the eyes. It’s always fun to switch up the colors!

We’ve kept your busy schedule in mind with a delay timer & automatic keep warm. The rice will be made around your schedule and can be kept warm for up to 12 hours. Yes, that’s about 3 meals folks!

With a sleek stainless steel interior and a thick non-stick inner pan, this product is easy to clean both inside and out. We thought a detachable inner lid would help with those tough to reach corners.

From delay cooking to keeping warm, cooking to cleaning up, the NP-HCC has got it all going on. We sincerely hope you enjoy it as much as we do!

Name That Sandwich!

sandwichmain

The sandwich above is famously called the Number 19 at a famous deli here in Los Angeles called Langer’s®. It’s a very simple sandwich–pastrami, swiss cheese and cole slaw on rye bread with Russian dressing. I can assure you that it tastes every bit as amazingly good as it looks.

As a professional writer though, I was wondering why they couldn’t think of a better name for it. Don’t get me wrong, this sandwich has become so famous that it’s their signature, and now everybody knows “the famous #19″. But when Langer’s® first opened, didn’t they want to name their sandwiches? I happen to think adding personality to food is what gives a menu or a restaurant its character.

If it were me, I’d give my sandwiches names. Some restaurants do this, but few do it well. I say that you and I can do better, and no easy tricks like naming yours after a celebrity, like “The Will Ferrel” or “The Beyonce Burger”, OK? The trick is to get creative with the ingredients, or project what it tastes like into your name. I’ll get us started with these classic sandwiches. I’ve given each a name and a menu description to make them sound spectacular.

French Dip by cupcakediariesblog

French Dip by cupcakediariesblog

French Dip Sandwich or Beef Dip in a Broth Bath–say that 3 times fast as you plunge our tender rib eye into a warm au jus. Crusty French bread and rare roast beef, soaked in its natural juices.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Egg Salad by blogchef

Egg Salad by blogchef

Egg Salad Sandwich or Eggstreme Makeover–the classic egg salad as you like it, but we’ve spiced it up a little with curry–finished with cilantro, scallions and cucumber.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ham&Cheese by pixgood

Ham&Cheese by pixgood

Grilled Ham & Cheese Sandwich or Hammy Cheesy Sammy–our premium ham, thinly sliced and nestled between slices of genuine American cheese. The bread is toasted to a perfect brown on our griddle with the right amount of butter on each side.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Tuna by diminishinglucy

Tuna by diminishinglucy

Tuna Salad Sandwich or Singa Tuna Fish–our flaky fresh tuna lightly tossed with crunchy chopped celery, a balance of onion and finely diced dill. Homemade mayo on the side so you can build to your taste.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Meatball by themedinners.blogspot

Meatball by themedinners.blogspot

Meatball Sub or Polpetta Delizioso–tangy rich marinara sauce smothered on our signature Italian meatballs, served up open-faced on our artisan white bread. This sandwich classic is topped with grated cheddar cheese.

 

 

 

 

 

 

And so on and so on. See how a little bit of creative writing can make anything sound like a heavenly gastronomical masterpiece? You can do it too–create a sandwich and use your imagination to name it. One of my favorites is a popular breakfast sandwich at Denny’s® called “Moons Over My Hammy®”. It’s a “classic ham and scrambled egg sandwich with Swiss and American cheeses on grilled sourdough”. This one is so good, Denny’s® trademarked the name!

Many sandwiches do have names that have stood the test of time. No need to change anything at all, but it does prove that when a nickname is good, it sticks and identifies it forever. Everyone knows what a Reuben is, or a BLT, or a Hero, PB&J, or Club.

So how about Langer’s® number 19? The Prince of Pastrami? Deli Delight? Right Between the Ryes? Maybe we should leave that one alone–it seems to be doing fine on its own without our help.

Additional photography by Shelley Opunui