Delicate Customs: Undo-Kai!

Undo-kai time is here!


Every year in Japan, schools hold sports festivals showcasing their students’ physical talents in competitive and cooperative sports. Families and members of the community all assemble at their local or school stadium and watch children at each grade level compete in track and field, dance, o-en-dan, kumi-taiso, ki-ba-sen, tama-ire and ball games.

Undo-kai festivals are daylong events, and often coincide with the National Sports Day holiday on October 10, which commemorates the opening of the 1964 Olympic Games in undoukai03Tokyo. The day begins in the morning, with a procession of children marching to music in their gym uniforms – red teams (aka gumi) separated from white teams (shiro gumi) by the color of their hats. Families spread out blankets on the nearby grass, and lay out their cushions and picnic lunches, ready for the morning’s performances. Children on each team warm-up and stretch, the o-en-dan cheering squads perform dances to music and taiko drums, and the track and field and ball games begin!

Each team has been practicing for this event, from the youngest first grader to older sixth grade students. Each member of the team contributes to the team’s points, which will be tallied at the end of the day to declare a winner. The morning’s competition breaks for one of the highlights for families…a picnic or bento lunch.

Students share the bento lunch with their families, taking a long break in the shade to rest and prepare for the afternoon’s competition. Bento lunches are as much a part of the Undo-kai tradition as the games themselves. Parents and grandparents have been up since early morning preparing onigiri, fresh vegetables, fruit, desserts, chicken, fish, shrimp, omelets, sausages, salads, pickles and sandwiches. The shapes and colors and textures of the food, all delicately seasoned, is a sight to see! Freshly-brewed tea is loaded into insulated bottles and the entire feast is packed in beautiful, stackable bento boxes.


After eating until everyone is satisfied, the children return to the games, and the afternoon’s competitions of kumi-taiso (group gymnastics), ki-ba-sen (shoulder war), dancing and music continue as more points are collected for each team. Finally, the games end, and the scores for each team are announced. The school principal and representatives from each team lead the closing ceremonies. Win, lose or tie, each team has demonstrated a quintessentially Japanese trait… cooperation, even while competing.

Rice Snacks We Love


Rice is the staple food for over half of the world’s population. It’s probably the most important grain in terms of the nutrition it provides the human race. But it also makes a darn good snack, and that’s important too! Here are some of my favorites.

There are so many varieties, so many flavors, shapes, and textures. The round disk kind are the classic senbei and gives me the kind of crunch I like the best. Sometimes you have to have good teeth though, because these guys can get pretty hard. It’s my addiction to soy sauce that gets satisfied when I bite into one of these.
Senbei is basically grilled, baked or fried rice cakes that have been flavored with soy sauce or any number of ingredients. The nori wrapped ones are also popular; I love how the nori gives it an added dimension and a “leave behind” texture as you chew the sheet of seaweed.

The smaller bits are known as arare, which comes from the Japanese word for hailstones. These make pretty good beer chasers, although I don’t think they’ll ever replace peanuts. Hawaiian locals discovered how to mix them with popcorn and call it “Hurricane Popcorn”. I like the ones called Kaki no Tane, which means persimmon seeds because of the resemblance. They’re usually spicy and mixed with peanuts.

The lightly colored ones are made from a different (glutinous) kind of rice, which gives it a softer crunch; not a crack! but more of a scrunch! I love these for variety–they’re usually salted vs. coated with soy sauce.

mochi Mochi
From hard and crispy and savory to soft and sticky and sweet! Japanese mochi is so good, you can fill it with anything from adzuki red bean paste (traditional) to ice cream. They come in all kinds of shapes, and the fancy ones can get pretty pricey. Despite all the modern styles though, mochi is still one of the traditional Japanese desserts that has been been around for centuries. It’s still one of the best Korean mochicompanions to green tea ever, IMHO.


Koreans also like their mochi, but theirs (called duk) is a bit firmer and less sweet. You can buy the kind filled with a brown sugar syrup at the Korean markets, often coated with a sesame oil to keep them from sticking together. Japanese dust theirs with flour to serve the same purpose.



PakTongKohChinese Rice Cake
Also known as Pak Tong Koh, this is my go-to dessert when I’m having Dim Sum. Usually diamond-shaped or triangular, the light sweetness is perfect after several rounds of steamy dim sum. It reminds me of mochi, but not quite. It’s more gelatinous and translucent, as if I’m eating rice pudding in solid form. I usually eat one piece at the restaurant and bring the rest home.


rice crispiesCrispy Rice Snacks
We can’t talk about rice snacks without mentioning this all-time, All-American snack, can we? These simple marshmallow infused, crisped rice treats will never grow old. Why? Because adults don’t want to grow old, and when we see our kids scarfing these treats, we want to feel like them! Rumor has it that when working on the original recipe, molasses was used; but it was soon discovered that marshmallows were less messy. Brilliant move!

buttermochiButter Mochi
For all you malahinis out there, if you don’t know what Butter Mochi is, it’s exactly what it sounds like. The base is mochiko, sweet rice flour, and with the addition of butter and sugar, you’re basically making baked custard. It’s a bit dense, because it is mochi after all, but the semi-chewy texture and richness of flavor is so ono! Zojirushi has their own version that you can find here.


gelatoRice Gelato
Gelato di riso, or Rice Gelato. The perfect blend of a not too sweet rice pudding that’s icy cold! This is good stuff indeed; this dessert still gives you the creaminess of ice cream, but adds that extra dimension of texture with the bits of rice. Go Italy! go Gelato! Delizioso! I found a nice recipe on the Zojirushi site here.



The Mexican version of this dessert drink is made with sweetened rice and cinnamon. In various Latin American countries, they use ground seeds or nuts instead, and there are alcoholic versions as well, made with fermented corn flour. My daughter loves the horchata that we can get at the local Mexican restaurants near where we live. And it’s a great alternative for the lactose intolerant too!


So after compiling all these rice snacks that I’m personally fond of, I got to thinking that I just traveled around the world just on rice! I went to Japan, Korea, China, Hawaii, Italy and Mexico! No wonder rice feeds over half the world’s population!

Picture credits: simply mochi, Jennifer Zhang, Shelley Opunui,, Zojirushi and Bert Tanimoto

That Rich Experience

One of the best things about going to a café is the richness of the experience. We go because a barista is able to craft the most flavorful cup of coffee and steep the perfect pot of tea, serve it in lovely cups, usually with a small biscotti or tea cake. We go because the indulgence reminds us to take a break, calm our minds and refresh our bodies.

cafe03That same luxurious experience happens at home or at work, when our beverage is made with care and attention. Brewing a delicious cup of tea, especially, requires high-quality leaves, water heated to the correct temperature, and the right amount of steeping time.  When brewed carefully, tea doesn’t lose its unique flavor, potency and aroma—after all, who likes a harsh, acidic and bitter cup of tea?

cdlfc01Zojirushi has developed a new water boiler, the Panorama Window® Micom Water Boiler & Warmer (CD-LFC30/40/50), with features that truly help people create beverages of the highest quality, with the richest experience. The Panorama Window® Micom Water Boiler & Warmer is an energy-saving, compact appliance with a swivel base, a large panorama window on the water gauge, four KEEP WARM temperature settings, REBOIL and optional QUICK TEMP mode, a timer function, café drip dispensing mode, and multiple safety features.

One of the highlights of the Panorama Window® Micom Water Boiler & Warmer is the optional QUICK TEMP mode. With the regular mode, heating water to 175°F would require it to first be boiled, and then cooled to reach the selected temperature, taking a little over cdlfc02two hours. With the QUICK TEMP mode, a full boiler of water can be heated to this temperature in 20-30 minutes, depending on the size of your water boiler and the temperature setting. No boiling means considerable time savings!

The four temperature settings—160°F, 175°F, 195°F and 208°F—are ideal for brewingcertain types of teas and coffees, and making instant foods and baby formula. For example, you can use the 208°F setting to brew black, herbal, pu-erh, mate and rooibos teas, as well as prepare pour-over coffee and instant noodles. At the lowest temperature setting of 160°F, you can steep delicate green teas such as gyokuro without burning them, and even warm up baby formula.

The Panorama Window® Micom Water Boiler & Warmer is available in a 3.0L, 4.0L and 5.0L capacity. Find out more about it and take a tour of the product through our latest video.

Good Taste: Matsutake Mushrooms

Autumn is here and it is time for the glorious taste of matsutake mushrooms!


This vibrant mushroom, also called the “pine mushroom”, is traditionally gathered in September in forests where undisturbed red pines grow in Japan, Korea and the Pacific Northwest. It’s a rare and wonderful fungus, whose flavor is so prized it is used as a main ingredient in Japanese dishes.


How about a matsutake pizza?

The matsutake has a meaty stem, with a light brown cap when fully grown. Prized, tender, young matsutake are paler and smaller in size and are found in the duff at the base of red pine trees, forming subtle bumps called ‘mushrumps’. Because the mushrooms are picked wild and usually eaten before the cap spreads open, devoted gatherers wipe them clean with a damp cloth, trim them closely so as to retain the most woody, aromatic flavor possible, and celebrate their bounty by cooking them in the open air, grilled or delicately sautéed. Two fabulous traditional recipes are Matsutake Gohan, a seasoned rice dish made with wild matsutake, shoyu, mirin, sake and mitsuba, as well as Matsutake Dobin Mushi, a soup made with matsutake, gingko nuts, mitsuba, thin slices of chicken, shrimp and dashi broth, all steamed together in a small teapot.

Because of its short harvest season, cooking with matsutake can be expensive. Last autumn, wild-harvested Japanese matsutake sold for approximately $500 per pound. Prices are significantly lower for US-grown matsutake, but these mushrooms are still considered the most expensive in the world, even beating out wild-harvested French truffles. In the US, fresh matsutake can be found at Japanese and other Asian grocery markets and gourmet food stores, or can be ordered online from various specialty retailers. When shopping for matsutake, it’s best to purchase fresh ones, as the mushrooms are by tradition not dried. Canned matsutake have become available, although they remain a poor substitute for the truly delicious newly-harvested ones.

Have you tasted this wonderful delicacy? Tell us about your favorite matsutake experience!

How to…use a Suribachi and Surikogi

suribachikogi01Japanese cooking relies on a few carefully selected implements…a good knife, long chef’s chopsticks, a rice cooker and a mortar and pestle, or the suribachi and surikogi.

The suribachi is a finely-crafted earthenware mortar, in which all kinds of foods, seeds, spices and herbs are ground. Glazed on the outside in either a traditional brown or more modern hues, the medium-to-large sized bowls are carefully designed on the inside with rough ridges, called kushi-no-me, against which the cook will grind food. As with many Japanese arts, these fine ridges are often created to be beautiful as well as functional, and can be found in circular, comma or daisy-wheel patterns. When used with a surikogi, or wooden pestle, the textured interior surface helps to mash food quickly, until it is pulverized to the desired consistency.

The surikogi adds much to food preparation. Traditionally, the surikogi is made from the thicker part of the trunk of a sansho bush (Japanese pepper tree). When the knobby bark is left on the pestle, it helps cooks hold onto the implement more easily, and also imparts a slight and subtle peppery flavor to the food in the mortar.

The suribachi is originally from China and was introduced to Japan sometime in the 11th century. The earliest ones were made from rough stone and used to make medicine, grind flour, and roughly work other food. In modern Japanese kitchens, the suribachi and surikogi are much more refined, and usually purchased as a set.


Japanese cooks will tell you to buy a big suribachi so that seeds don’t come flying out, and a sturdy, thick surikogi, so that it stands up to the demands of crushing and grinding. When using the suribachi, it’s important to place it on a flat surface, on top of a silicone mat or folded towel, for stability. And the best technique for using the surikogi is to hold it with two hands, one at the top of the dowel and one at the bottom, and rotate around the mortar.

For many gourmet cooks, implements like the suribachi and surikogi can be used to make dishes from multiple cuisines…Japanese shiraae dishes, Middle Eastern hummus and muhamara, Indian garam masala, and even Moroccan harissa! No matter what style of food you enjoy, the Japanese suribachi and surikogi are drool-worthy kitchen wonders.

Tell us what you use yours for!

Delicate Customs:  The Art of Bonsai


bonsai03When people first learn about bonsai, they are often surprised that it is considered a form of art, rather than gardening. Bonsai, for many, is an object, a tiny potted tree, one that is cared for just like any other potted plant. But true bonsai is an activity, one that is undertaken for many years, with patience, sensitivity and nurturing.

Bonsai trees are not stunted or pruned into an artificial shape. Just as a painter works on a canvas or a sculptor works with bronze, bonsai artists work with the living structure of a tree, cultivating and coaxing it into its final beautiful form. Bonsai artists respect the dignity of each living organism, working with it over the years to help focus its growth and character.

Depending on the artist’s vision, the trees can grow to be a few feet tall or be shaped into the tiniest miniatures, and be cultivated into balanced, natural, shapes. The most popular varieties of trees and shrubs used in bonsai are pines, whose leaves are evergreen, maples, whose leaves change color in autumn, flowering cherry or plum trees, and fruit-bearing trees, like the quince and persimmon. Regardless of the tree chosen, a beautiful and well-suited container is always considered part of the entire piece.bonsai02

Bonsai cultivation has a large global following. While originally a Japanese art, the World Bonsai Friendship Federation has done much to promote the exchange of ideas, designs and culture across the globe. Every few years, they host a World Bonsai Convention, with the next one to be held in April 2017 in Japan, at the traditional birthplace of bonsai, in Saitama City at the Omiya Bonsai Village.

Bonsai has an interesting history. It was originally a hobby for aristocrats and priests during the 14th century. As bonsai art spread into mainstream Japanese culture, more bonsai01people began creating these small trees, and, in the early 19th century, when Japan opened its doors to the world, many visitors from Western countries began growing bonsai. After World War II, the art of bonsai spread even more, as large-scale exhibits were staged and the trees were given as gifts between nations.

In modern times, creating bonsai doesn’t require a visit to Japan. There are many resources for growing your own tree from seeds, learning how to develop the best environment for the plant with the proper mesh screens, how to reveal the trees’ most beautiful shape through pruning and wiring, and how to enhance its growth through watering, feeding and fertilizing. Bonsai clubs are a great place to start!

Do you have a bonsai that you love? Are you part of its creation, or was it handed down to you, generation to generation?

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


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


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.


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


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


French crepe



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:


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