About Zojirushi America Corporation

Inspirations from Everyday Life.

Zojirushi Ms. Bento® Stainless Lunch Jar (SL-MEE07)

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September means back to school, college and work! Our Ms. Bento® Stainless Lunch Jar keeps you organized with a convenient way to take fresh and wholesome food with you, wherever you go.

The Ms. Bento® is a complete package, containing a washable, stainless steel outer jar, two microwaveable inner bowls, chopsticks, chopsticks holder and an easy-to-carry bag.

The durable outer container is made using Zojirushi’s superior vacuum insulation technology, which creates lasting insulation by removing the air between two layers of stainless steel walls. This keeps food hot or cold for hours.

The two inner bowls are perfect for a variety of foods. The main bowl has a 10 oz. capacity, good for holding rice, meat, vegetables, pasta or noodles. The main bowl’s insulated lid locks into place and helps to retain the temperature of the food inside the bowl, as well as prevent heat or cold from transferring from the side bowl, which sits above the main bowl and keeps foods at room temperature. The side bowl has an 11 oz. capacity, and holds foods such as salads, vegetables, fruit and desserts. Both bowls are locked into place with the outer lid.

Like all of our products, the inner bowls, outer container, lids and chopsticks are all easy to clean with soap and warm water.

The Ms. Bento® Stainless Lunch Jar comes in Aqua Blue and fits into the matching tote bag. It’s one of our best-selling products and we know you’ll love its practical and stylish convenience.

As always, we would love to hear from you, so be sure to leave a comment below.

 

Japanese Street Food: Dango! Dango! Dango!

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September marks transitions in Japan–from the humid heat of summer to the more temperate months of autumn, from vacations to a return to school and work, from the growing season to harvest.

Dango is a Japanese street food that transcends the change of seasons. It’s eaten all year long, with unique sweet or savory variations made for special occasions.

Dango in its most basic form is made from sweet glutinous rice flour and water. The dough is shaped into round balls which are boiled until cooked. The cooked dango are cooled in cold water and then skewered, ready to be grilled or basted and garnished. Different variations of dango are popular during certain events, but Mitarashi Dango is eaten throughout the year. It is said that Mitarashi Dango originated from the Kamo Mitarashi Tea House in Kyoto, and traditionally consists of five white dumplings, skewered on bamboo sticks, and is served with a sticky sweet soy sauce glaze. These dango can easily be found at festivals, food fairs and night markets!

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Mitarashi dango

Hanami dango (pictured in main photo) is another popular form of this delicious dish. Made during the cherry blossom viewing season in the spring, hanami dango consist of three colored dumplings–one green, one pink and one white–skewered on bamboo and served as part of hanami bento. The tradition of eating these dango during the bloom of cherry blossoms dates back to the 8th century!

Anko dango are white dumplings topped with sweetened red bean paste and yaki dango are white dumplings grilled over an open flame and served with a savory sauce.

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Anko dango

In September, Tsukimi Dango are prepared as part of the Jugoya celebration, during which Japanese people commemorate the harvest, decorate their homes and witness the Harvest Moon. Tsukimi dango, meaning “moon viewing dumplings”, are plain white dumplings. Their glossy, white, round surfaces resemble the bright moon. Families celebrate this time by setting up a small table near a window or on a porch. Tsukimi dango, arranged in a pyramid shape on a plate, are placed on the table along with sato-imo, or taro root. Sprays of pampas grass, or susuki, are also displayed on the table, as they resemble the rice plant. Families celebrate the season, eat these wonderful treats and enjoy the full moon, which is considered to be the most beautiful of the year.

With such a lovely image in mind, we hope you try making your own dango this month… and as always, we hope you share your experiences and photos with us!

Zojirushi’s Secrets for Delicious Rice: How to Wash Rice

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Rice is a staple in kitchens all over the world. Last month we discussed how to correctly store rice to preserve its nutrients, freshness and quality, as well as how to measure rice to prepare it perfectly. In our post this month, we share our secret for rinsing and washing short-grain Japanese rice.

The key to washing and rinsing rice is to be quick and gentle. Before modern milling methods, rice was typically not as clean and bran-free as it is today. Improved million methods now result in rice that is cleaner, but also more sensitive to scrubbing and soaking. Rice grains can break if they are rubbed together too harshly, so it’s important to use a light touch. Rice grains that have had the bran polished off also begin absorbing water quickly, so it’s important to limit the time short-grain rice is exposed to water, especially as the water becomes dirty.

There are four steps to washing and rinsing rice the Zojirushi way.

Preparation
Measure and add the desired amount of rice to the inner cooking pan of your Zojirushi rice cooker using the rice measuring cup that comes with it. Fill a separate bowl with clean, cool water and pour it into the inner pan.

Initial Rinse
With an open hand, stir the rice in the water 2-3 times, then drain. Repeat this initial rinse step up to three times, until the water begins to run clear. Be sure to spend no more than 10 seconds during each rinse, so the rice doesn’t absorb the starchy water.

Wash
After the initial rinse, make a claw with your hand and quickly stir the drained but wet rice 30 times in a circular motion, without squeezing the rice in the palm of your hand. Pool cool water in a separate bowl while you rinse, and pour into the rice, stir gently two to three times, and drain. Repeat this step two to four times, depending on how starchy your rice is. For less than four cups of rice, wash it twice. For between four and seven cups of rice, wash it three times, and for more than eight cups of rice, wash it four times. If the water remains cloudy, keep washing and rinsing until the rice grains are visible through the water. Be sure to work quickly so that each wash takes only 15 seconds or less. Washing the rice this way prevents it from breaking and cleans residue and starch from each grain.

Final Rinse
The final rinse removes any remaining starch from the rice. Pour plenty of water into the inner pan, stir with an open hand and drain the rice. Repeat this step twice to ensure that the rice is clean.

Be sure to complete the four steps within 10 minutes, and the rice is ready to cook!

Different types of rice need to be washed and rinsed in their own ways. Our method works best for short-grain white rice. Let us know how you prepare your rice!

Japanese Street Food: Yaki-Tomorokoshi!

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The first week of August was a week of many festivals in Japan, and with summer festivals come summer street food!

Yaki-tomorokoshi, or roasted corn, is a savory preparation of fresh, sweet summer corn. Along with okonomiyaki, takoyaki and yakisoba, freshly grilled corn is a must when attending a natsumatsuri, or summer festival.

Imagine this… colorful festivals, often full of people dressed in yukata, a type of kimono worn in summer, with beautifully decorated floats, or festival lanterns… all crowded together in the hot days and nights of August. Surrounding festival goers are specialty food stalls, and the delicious smell brings additional excitement to the festive atmosphere.

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Making grilled corn is a quintessentially Japanese process—simple ingredients prepared in careful, thoughtful ways. The husk and silk of each ear of corn is stripped away and tied at the end of the ear to make a handle. The cleaned corn is placed on a well-oiled grill and usually basted with soy sauce for a wonderful savory flavor. We’ve even had yaki-tomorokoshi with a sweet honey miso butter made of soy sauce, miso paste, butter, honey and salt.

Festivals are great places to celebrate and to eat! Other popular street foods include grilled squid and steamed potatoes with butter as well as candied apples, sponge cakes, crepes and of course, cotton candy!

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Yum!

Some of the most popular summer festivals that happened this month are the Akita Kanto Matsuri, the Sendai Tanabata Matsuri, the Yamagata Hanagasa Matsuri, and the Aomori Nebuta Matsuri. Each festival is unique, but they all share a theme of praying for a successful farming season, prosperity and progress and the fulfillment of wishes. And they all have many, many street food stalls… where you can easily find a serving of yaki-tomorokoshi!

If you’re in Japan in time for festival season, don’t forget to try grilled corn… and don’t forget to look out for next month’s post about Japanese street food!

 

Essentials of Japanese Cooking:  Herbs & Spices

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As we’ve learned in previous posts, ryori no sa shi su se so and umami-rich dashi are the essential seasonings used in Japanese cooking. But what other flavorings does Japanese cuisine rely on?

In our post this month, we explore the most popular herbs and spices used in cooking both traditional and modern Japanese dishes. Let’s begin by answering these questions: What is an herb? What is a spice? And how are they different?

According to the Herb Society of America, herbs are “small, seed-bearing plants with fleshy, rather than woody, parts. They are valued for their flavor, fragrance, medicinal and healthful qualities, economic and industrial uses, pesticidal properties and coloring materials (dyes).” Commonly used herbs in European cooking include parsley, basil, thyme, sage, oregano and chives. In Japanese cooking, popular herbs include mitsuba, shiso and negi.

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Herb negi

By contrast, spices are “any dried part of a plant, other than the leaves, used for seasoning and flavoring a recipe, but not used as a main ingredient.” Well-known spices include cinnamon, black pepper, cloves, ginger and turmeric. In Japanese cooking, popular spices are wasabi, togarashi and shoga.

Herbs and spices can sometimes come from the same plant. For example, cilantro, the herb, produces coriander, the spice made from its seeds. And shiso leaf (top photo), the herb, produces shiso seeds, the spice. Herbs and spices exhibit different properties during cooking and are prepared and stored differently. Herbs are best used while they are fresh and green, usually picked just before using. Spices are generally dried, with the exception of some spice roots, and are either ground, made into a paste or used whole. Both herbs and spices can be used uncooked and cooked, adding different tastes to food.

Japanese herbs such as mitsuba, shiso and negi are commonly used in Japanese dishes. Mitsuba, or trefoil, has a thin greenish-white stalk and a three-pointed leaf. It looks similar to flat-leafed parsley, with a flavor similar to sorrel or celery, and is most famously used in Chawanmushi. Shiso is a member of the mint family and has an earthy flavor. It is fried as part of tempura dishes and used to garnish and season various dishes such as Salmon Chazuke, salad and sashimi, or slices of fresh cut fish.

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Mitsuba

Negi is a member of the allium family and is used as an herb in many dishes. Both the white and green parts of negi are used in Japanese cooking, although different regional dishes use one or the other more often. Negi has a taste similar to scallions and leeks, with the white portion becoming sweet when cooked and the green portion used as a garnish atop dishes such as miso soup, cold soba noodle, and cold tofu.

Herbs generally add a fresh, light, green flavor to dishes. Spices, by contrast, add depth and intense flavor. Togarashi, or hot red chili peppers, are used both fresh or dried. Crushed into a powder, ichimi togarashi, which means “one flavor chili pepper”, is commonly added to soups and udon noodles just before eating. Ginger, or shoga, is another spice typically found in Japanese cooking. The freshly ground root is highly aromatic and pungent, and is often used in seafood dishes to mask any unpleasant smell of the fish. When pickled, ginger is served as a condiment alongside such dishes as sushi, okonomiyaki and takoyaki. One of our favorite summer recipes is Shoga-Yaki, or Ginger Pork, and we know you’ll enjoy it too!

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Wasabi root

Wasabi is probably the most iconic of all Japanese spices. Made into a paste from the grated root of green horseradish, wasabi has antimicrobial properties that can keep food from spoiling. Wasabi is highly pungent and spicy and is most often served with Nigiri Sushi and other types of sushi or sashimi.

Subtle to strong, herbs and spices are essential for bringing out the flavor of Japanese foods. Which one is your favorite? Let us know in the comments below!

Zojirushi Micom Rice Cooker & Warmer (NS-LGC05)

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We’re excited to introduce our newest small-capacity, microcomputerized rice cooker this month!

The Micom Rice Cooker & Warmer (NS-LGC05) is stylishly designed, and has innovative technology and cooking features that make it easy and convenient to use.

This rice cooker’s microcomputer uses advanced fuzzy logic technology to make fine adjustments to cooking temperatures, so that rice cooks perfectly each time. The multiple settings let you easily cook a variety of rice, including white, mixed, sushi, brown, and—for the first time—long grain white rice. Expanded healthy menu options include settings for steel cut oatmeal and GABA brown rice, which soaks the brown rice before cooking for enhanced nutrition. Each of these menu settings can be selected on the easy-to-read LCD control panel, which also has a clock, and delay timer function.

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This rice cooker uses a triple heater on the bottom, sides, and lid to generate heat all around the inner cooking pan so that the rice heats evenly. The removable steam vent cap located on the outer lid allows for high-temperature cooking without messy overflows. Once rice is cooked, the rice is automatically kept warm, and the REHEAT cycle brings the rice back to serving temperature when you’re ready to chow down.

Along with these great features, the rice cooker comes with a practical and easy-to-clean nonstick coated spherical inner pan. High-contrast water level lines on the inside of the pan make it simple to read how much water should be added to the pan for the specified amount of rice. The pan and the detachable inner lid are both hand washable, and the clear-coated stainless steel exterior is easy to wipe down after use. The built-in retractable power cord and sturdy fold-down handle make it easy to store and transport this compact rice cooker.

The NS-LGC05 Micom Rice Cooker & Warmer comes in a 3-cup capacity, making it ideal for small kitchens. Individuals and small families can make as little as ½ cup of rice or oats and as much as three cups of perfectly delicious rice. Accessories include a rice measuring cup, spatula and spatula holder.

We know you’ll love this new rice cooker as much as we do, and you’ll be able to purchase it from our great retail partners this month! As always, we’d would love to hear from you, so be sure to leave a comment below.

 

Zojirushi’s Secrets for Delicious Rice: Storing & Measuring Rice

 

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Nutritious, cultivated all over the globe, enjoyed as part of global cuisines–rice is truly a universal food. Delicious rice begins with high-quality seeds and careful cultivation, and ends with fastidious storage, measurement, washing and cooking.

Over the next few months, we’re sharing our secrets for preparing delicious short-grain Japanese rice. Our first post focuses on how to correctly store and measure short-grain rice so that it’s ready for cooking in our rice cookers.

Purchasing the freshest, highest-quality rice possible is the first step in preparing delicious rice. Buying rice in smaller quantities means it will be used quickly, with less chance of spoiling. Rice is typically packaged in breathable bags, in sizes ranging from as little as two pounds to larger 15-pound bags, and at Zojirushi, we recommend buying the amount of rice you can consume within a month or so.

Once the rice is brought home from the market, it’s important to store it in such a way as to preserve its freshness. Rice should be stored in dry, airtight containers with the milling date, if available, noted on the container. Storing rice in airtight containers helps prevent the fatty acids in the rice from oxidizing and keeps it free of other contaminants. Rice should also be protected from humidity and high temperatures. Rice stored in cold pantries or refrigerators will stay fresh longer, as high temperatures speed up the degradation of the rice grains. Keeping rice in low-humidity environments protects it from the growth of molds and mildew.

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Measure accurately by leveling off each cup

Knowing how to measure rice correctly is the next key to preparing delicious rice. Each type of rice uses a specific rice-to-water ratio, and using too much or too little water causes the rice to cook too hard or too soft. In Zojirushi’s rice cookers, the amount of water needed to cook rice is easy to figure out, but the rice needs to be measured accurately first. The key to accurately measuring rice is to use the “overfill and level off” method. Using the rice measuring cup that comes with each Zojirushi rice cooker, scoop rice out of its container. Overfill the cup to above the brim, and then remove the excess by gently leveling off the top of the cup. Shaking excess rice off the cup or pressing rice into the cup could change the amount of rice that fits in the cup, affecting the way the rice cooks, and ultimately, its taste and texture.

Many other cultures have their own methods of buying, storing and measuring rice. How do you do it? Let us know in the comments below!

Japanese Street Food:  Chukaman

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It might be summer, but we’re feeling nostalgic for the cooler days of autumn and winter, and thinking fondly of eating chukaman!

Chukaman are soft, steamed buns filled with sweet or savory ingredients. These buns were introduced into Japanese cuisine by Chinese immigrants, and over time, have become part of the food culture of Japan. “Chuka” loosely translates to “Japanese-style Chinese cuisine” and “man” means “steamed bun”.

Most people who’ve grown up in Japan fondly remember eating these steamed buns on cold winter days, buying them piping hot from local convenience stores like 7-Eleven and Circle K on the way home from school or work. Popular food bloggers and writers publish recipes about how to make homemade chukaman, from fresh ingredients and using expert wrapping techniques.

But the best part of eating chukaman is choosing which filling to get!

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Nikuman

In Japan, chukaman come in many varieties. Nikuman are the most commonly available savory buns, filled with seasoned minced pork, scallions and ginger. Anman are the most popular sweet buns, filled with red azuki bean paste. Pizaman and kareman are filled with pizza sauce with cheese and curried vegetables and meat, respectively.

Regardless of which filling is selected, the softness of the bun is what makes chukaman addictive. There are various recipes for the dough, but it is usually made using flour, yeast, sugar, salt, baking powder, oil and water. The dough is mixed, kneaded and allowed to rise, infusing it with air bubbles that makes it soft and light. The dough is then formed into discs and stuffed with the filling. Each disc is pulled into the shape of a small pouch and twisted at the top to seal it. Once the filled buns are formed, they’re steamed and ready to eat!

Everyone has their own favorite way of eating chukaman but the easiest way to eat them is hot out of the steamer, without any extra seasoning or sauce. Really, there isn’t time to wait once you have a bun in your hand!

Have you eaten chukaman? Share your “steamed bun” stories with us and don’t forget to look out for next month’s post about Japanese street food!

 

Essentials of Japanese Cooking:  Unlock Umami-Rich Dashi

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“Dashi is a subtle broth with the capacity to enhance and intensify the flavor of those foods with which it is cooked or blended. That ability is locked within kombu (kelp) and katsuo bushi (smoky bonito fish flakes), the two ingredients used to make this basic sea stock: Both are both rich in water-soluble glutamates.” – Elizabeth Andoh, author of Washoku and Kansha, and leading expert on Japanese cuisine

If umami represents the soul of Japanese cooking, then dashi certainly represents the heart, enhancing and harmonizing the flavors in many Japanese dishes. This month, we continue our series about umami with a tutorial about how to make dashi. We also feature recipes that use dashi, showcasing the breadth of dishes that rely on this essential ingredient.

In classical Japanese cooking, dashi is commonly made with water, kelp (konbu) and the shavings of dried, smoked skipjack tuna (bonito flakes or katsuobushi). Two types of dashi can be prepared from one batch of ingredients: ichiban dashi and niban dashi. Ichiban dashi is the first extraction of umami from the konbu and katsuobushi, resulting in a pale, clear and delicately fragrant broth. Niban dashi is the second extraction of umami from the leftover konbu and katsuobushi used to make ichiban dashi and results in bolder flavor. Japanese cooks use both types of dashi to flavor specific types of dishes and to fully utilize the ingredients without waste.

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Ichiban dashi is simple to make, as long as a few techniques are followed with precision. To extract the full flavor-enhancing properties of the glutamate-rich ingredients, start with cold water. Place the water in a saucepan, along with a square piece of konbu. Heat the water over medium heat until just before it boils, when bubbles start to appear along the bottom and sides of the pan. Remove the konbu, and let the water come to a full boil. Removing the konbu at this precise time prevents the glutamates extracted from the seaweed from becoming bitter due to prolonged exposure to high heat. Remove the pan from the heat and allow the liquid to cool. Then, add the katsuobushi to the saucepan and heat the mixture again until it reaches a boil. Turn the heat off and let the bonito flakes steep in the liquid. Finally, strain the liquid through several layers of paper towel or cheesecloth, into a clean glass container, so that no small pieces of fish or seaweed are left in the broth to muddle the flavor.

This step-by-step recipe for Ichiban Dashi notes the actual proportions, temperatures and cooking times…and we know you’ll find it enjoyable to make!

Niban dashi is made using the already-cooked seaweed and fish left over from preparing ichiban dashi. Add both ingredients back into the saucepan, add a few cups of water, simmer the mixture for several minutes over low heat, then strain.

In the case of both ichiban and niban dashi, the keys to creating the best dashi lie in extracting and preserving the glutamates from the konbu and katsuobushi. Prolonged cooking, excessively high heat and inadequate straining can result in a dull and fishy broth that sullies, rather than enhances, the dishes that rely on dashi to infuse them with umami.

Ichiban dashi is used in many types of dishes, from soups to appetizers to salads. We have some great recipes that use ichiban dashi on our website, like Tofu Misoshiru, Shrimp Ball Broth, Hiyashi Chawanmushi and Crab & Cucumber Sunomono.

Bringing out the flavor of fresh, high-quality ingredients using umami-rich dashi is at the core of Japanese culinary tradition. We encourage you to make your own dashi, and as always, would love to hear about your experience!

Zojirushi’s Fresh Brew Plus 12-Cup Coffee Maker (EC-YGC120)

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Is one of your favorite experiences waking up to the aroma of freshly brewed coffee? Or sharing a glass of iced coffee with a friend on a hot afternoon? We love our coffee here at Zojirushi, and are excited to share the new Fresh Brew Plus 12-Cup Coffee Maker (EC-YGC120) with special features for brewing iced coffee with you!

This stylish coffee maker brews up to 12 cups of hot coffee, or up to  6 cups of iced coffee! Ideally, coffee should be brewed at 200°F, and our coffee maker quickly heats water to this temperature to maximize the flavor of your coffee. For hot coffee, open the easy-access swing basket and fill the filter basket with your desired amount of ground coffee.  Then, fill the removable water tank with fresh water corresponding to the amount of coffee you’re brewing using the clearly-marked ‘HOT’ water measure lines as a guide. Press START. Your coffee is all set to brew!

The heating plate that the glass carafe sits on has four keep warm settings–HI, MED, LOW, OFF–and keeps the brewed coffee warm at the temperature you like. When the carafe is removed, the machine inhibits messes with the drip prevention mechanism, and the clean spout design of the glass carafe makes pouring smooth and easy, helping to avoid dribbles and dripping.

If you prefer your brew iced, the Fresh Brew Plus makes brewing complex and bright iced coffee a cinch. Fill the Ice Basket in the glass carafe with ice, add water to the water to the level line on the water tank marked “ICED”, put your ground coffee into the filter basket, then turn the heating plate keep warm setting to OFF. Press START to brew your coffee. The coffee is instantly chilled as it brews, locking in delicious flavor and aroma… ready to drink!

Our Fresh Brew Plus 12-Cup Coffee Maker is easy to clean and maintain, just like our other products. A Clean Indicator illuminates when cleaning is recommended, and the filter basket and swing basket are easily removed for washing in the sink.

We’ve even added a few other great features to this new coffee maker:  a convenient clock timer that can be set at night so you can wake up to the enticing aroma of freshly brewed coffee, a measuring spoon that works perfectly with our coffee maker to make filling the filter basket easy, and sample filters, so you know exactly what fits!  All food contact zones are BPA-free.

We know you’ll love this new coffee maker as much as we do, and you’ll be able to purchase it from our great retail partners this month! As always, we’d love to hear from you, so be sure to leave a comment below.