About Zojirushi America Corporation

Inspirations from Everyday Life.

Zojirushi’s Travel Mug (SM-YAE48)

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We’re all searching for a way to be stylish, save money and still enjoy our favorite foods and drinks… and one of the best ways to do that is to make your favorite coffee or tea at home and take it with you when you’re on the go. We love our Travel Mug (SM-YAE48) for just these reasons: convenience, savings and style.

This mug is a new addition to our other taller, thinner models. It rests much more securely in car cup holders, and fits better under a pod brewer. The same wonderful features you find in Zojirushi vacuum-insulated bottles can be found in this travel mug: an easy to clean electro-polished SlickSteel® interior, wide mouth opening, and superior heat/cold retention. The Travel Mug also has a solid locking mechanism that makes it leak-proof when used according to the instruction manual, and the lid is a snap to clean, thanks to its larger surface area and removable gaskets. The flip-open top is designed to be comfortable while drinking, fitting the contours of your face. Best of all, the mug has a unique vent that allows liquid to pour out smoothly, which is great if you’re on the move and don’t want a huge mouthful of liquid splashing down your chin!

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Since launching our Travel Mug last July, we’ve gotten great feedback on Amazon.com from our owners. One of our favorite 5-star reviews is from Tygr, who posted this review on March 3, 2016:

How did they improve on near perfection? They did with this new mug model!

I love it. I had one of the previous models that I loved but this one is even better. Since they’ve widened the bottle the overall height was reduced so it not only fits perfectly in my cup holder but it also fits perfectly into my coffee maker so I can now have it brew directly into the mug — something I couldn’t do with previous versions! I love the chocolate color and the fact that the lid locks in place when open so it won’t fall forward when drinking out of it. Same unbelievable super long time for keeping things hot or cold. Who would have thought that they could improve on such an awesome product? — But they DID!”

The Travel Mug (SM-YAE48) comes in four beautiful colors: Lime Green, Cherry Red, Dark Cocoa and Stainless. Check out our product video and our website. We know you’ll love it as much as we do, and as always, be sure to share your comments with us! And don’t forget to pin a photo of your travel mug with #ZoGo!

What is Rice Really?: Growing Short-Grain Rice

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Rice, rice and more rice… we continue our series about What Is Rice Really? after having explored the plant, and short-grain, medium-grain and long-grain rice. Have you tried any of the recipes we’ve suggested yet?

While you were cooking rice, have you ever wondered how it actually gets from its beginnings as a tiny seed to your kitchen?

Growing rice—especially in Japan—is an endeavor both large and small. The careful attention that rice farmers pay to each minute detail of the rice growing process leads to the crop yields that feed the Japanese people. Farmers consider two things as they grow rice:  the plant itself and the environment used to grow it.

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Tilling the rice paddy

Rice farmers care for the rice plant from dormant seed through harvested food. Rice seeds were originally gathered from wild rice plants; however, in modern times, rice seeds are carefully selected and stored from previous harvests, as well as hybridized in cultivation facilities. The type and quality of the seed is hugely important to the type and quality of the yield in any given growing season. Rice seeds are the unhulled, unprocessed grains that are selected from the rice crop during harvest. Good seeds are generally of uniform size, will germinate 80% of the time, are free of pathogens, and produce seedlings that are vigorous.

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Seeds can be sown in a rice field in one of two ways: either through transplantation or direct seeding. Transplantation uses pre-germinated seeds that are sprouted in a seedbed comprised of water, nutrients (such as compost) and soil, generally indoors to protect them from contaminants and animals. Once the seeds have sprouted and have established themselves, they are transplanted, either by hand or by using a seeding machine. On the other hand, direct seeding allows farmers to broadcast ungerminated seeds in fields, and let them establish themselves wherever they fall. In larger farms, and especially in Japan, farmers transplant seeds to better ensure a safe and predictable harvest.

Growing rice is only possible when an environment is created that will allow the plants to flourish. Rice farmers are incredibly concerned with the quality of the soil, the quantity and purity of the water, the heat of the sun and protecting the plants from diseases and pests. Managing soil is the first step in rice production. During a Japanese winter, soil lays fallow and is allowed to rest. In the beginning of spring, around the time when cherry blossoms are in full bloom, rice fields or paddies are tilled, which means the soil is dug up, churned, and aerated with straw. Farmers amend the tilled soil with fertilizers, such as compost or nitrogen and potassium, and begin smoothing the rich, loamy land in preparation for drenching with water.

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Fall rice harvesting

Water in Japan is a vital resource–from rain, to rivers, to reservoirs–and rice is grown using wet cultivation. In the spring, the smoothed, tilled land is flooded with water to a uniform depth, and then planted with seedlings. Every day, the water level is monitored to ensure that the plants grow with adequate hydration, and that water is flowing with nutrients along flat fields and terraces. The intense heat of the summer months, combined with nutrient-rich soil and plentiful water, helps the rice plants to grow tall and healthy. Along with watching the water levels, farmers look out for insects that seek to consume the plants, weeds that want to overtake the growing areas and diseases that could infect the plants every day. You may have seen images of green rice paddies, but a successful crop grows tall and becomes golden through the summer, until it is ready for harvest in the fall.

Have you ever visited a rice field? We’d love to hear your experiences… and stay tuned for next month’s post about harvesting rice in Japan. The harvest season is an important time throughout Japan, when Japanese people share rich stories, traditions and festivals!

 

Japanese Street Food:  Yakitori!

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Who doesn’t love grilled chicken on skewers?

Yakitori is one of the most popular and ubiquitous types of kushiyaki found in Japan and in areas where Japanese food is popular. Yakitori are bite-sized pieces of chicken, skewered and grilled. In Japan, yakitori can be found at yakitori-ya restaurants, street food festival stands and more commonly, at izakaya, or bar and grill style restaurants.

Having them at a street fair or izakaya is quite an experience!

Generally paired with beer or sake, yakitori are perfect for after-work happy hour or after-party noshing. There are quite a few varieties of yakitori. One of the most popular ones is tsukune, which are ground chicken meatballs, glazed with a thin teriyaki-style sauce and often accompanied by shichimi pepper. Negima yakitori are small pieces of chicken thigh skewered on bamboo sticks with stalks of green onion, and occasionally salted or glazed. Without the green onion, these yakitori are called momo, literally meaning “thigh”. Kawa is a traditional yakitori preparation where chicken skin is folded and grilled extra crispy. Tebasaki are grilled chicken wings. Sunagimo are chicken gizzards, rebaa are chicken livers and nankotsu are breast cartilage… marinated, glazed and grilled to perfection. You can even get chicken heart, neck and hind end!

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Grilling yakitori is an art form. Binchotan charcoal is used to heat the grill, which is smokeless and odorless, and made from hard Japanese oak. The wood is fired at extremely high temperatures in an oxygen-poor environment and quickly cooled to make it smooth and long-burning. This charcoal is the best to grill with, as it doesn’t adulterate the flavor of the food.

Eating yakitori is half the fun. Skewers are usually ordered in sets of two or as part of a combination plate called moriawase. You pick your sauce or tare, or just have your skewer sprinkled with salt. Sometimes, ordering sides of boiled eggs, potatoes or vegetables rounds out the meal, but mostly yakitori are delicious with beer and sake and good friends!

Share your izakaya or yakitori-ya story with us… from here in the US or from your trip or stay in Japan. Then stay tuned for next month’s street food showcase!

Essentials of Japanese Cooking: Sake and Mirin

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We’ve talked about the five basic elements of Japanese cooking so far in this series, showcasing salt, sugar, vinegar, soy sauce and miso in ryori no sa shi su se so. But we have yet to explore sake and mirin, both of which are essential to Japanese cooking, and are the topics of this month’s post.

Sake and mirin are alcoholic liquors that are both imbibed and used as ingredients in cooking, similar to the way wine is used in French cooking. Both sake and mirin were originally cultivated as drinks–sake as a sacred offering to the gods, and to be enjoyed in ceremony by the Japanese people— and mirin as a popular aperitif among the upper classes. Today, their culinary uses have permeated all of Japanese cooking.

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A sake brewery

Sake, or nihon-shu, is a rice wine made from rice, spring water, rice koji and shubo. The technique for making sake was originally introduced to Japan from China, around the same time that the rice plant was introduced. The entire brewing cycle is overseen by a brewmaster, or toji, who carefully orchestrates the multiple steps that go into producing this wine. Rice from the last harvest in autumn is typically used to make sake, and once it is milled, it’s washed, soaked and steamed until the texture is ready for cultivating koji. Koji is a fermentation agent made by mixing the fungus Aspergillus oryzae to the steamed rice and allowing the enzymes from the mold to convert the starches in the rice to fermentable sugars. After about 48 hours, one part koji is then mixed with three parts steamed rice and placed in a temperature controlled tank or vat. A special type of spring water is used in sake brewing, containing very little manganese and iron, and containing high quantities of potassium, magnesium and calcium. This special brewing water and shubo, or yeast, is added to the koji rice mixture, allowing the yeast to consume the sugars created by the koji, and turn them into alcohol over the course of approximately three weeks. When the toji believes the brew temperature, sugars, alcohol levels and acidity levels are just right, the mixture is poured into cloth bags that are placed neatly in a pressing tank, which compresses the mixture and drains the liquid sake out of the base of the press. The sake is aged for up to four months in refrigerated tanks, after which it is either pasteurized or kept cool and packaged for sale.

Sake is powerful stuff. It’s got up to a 20% alcohol concentration!

Mirin is sweeter, and milder. Brewed in a way similar to sake, mirin is made with glutinous rice (instead of the rice used for sake), koji, and shochu (a type of distilled spirit), then fermented up to two months. The shochu suppresses the production of alcohol in mirin, so the final product is contains less of it than does sake. Two types of mirin are generally available: hon-mirin, also known as real mirin, and mirin-fu chomiryo, also known as mirin-like condiment, which has virtually no alcohol but a similar flavor.

A bowl of mirin (photo credit: Badagnani)

A bowl of mirin (photo credit: Badagnani)

Both sake and mirin are wonderful ingredients in Japanese dishes. Sake is often used to tenderize meat, poultry and seafood, eliminates unpleasant odor and draws out the natural flavors of the foods it is cooked with. Mirin can firm up meats and seafood, and add a touch of sweetness and sheen, especially to glazes and sauces, such as teriyaki sauce.

While mirin is almost exclusively used in cooking, sake is still a beverage enjoyed from the beginning to the end of a Japanese meal. Grab a small cup and pair it with Chanko-Nabe, a one-pot stew flavored with sake and mirin, or Teriyaki Yellowtail, marinated with sake and mirin.

As always, we’d love to hear about your experiences as a beginner with Japanese cooking, so leave us a comment below.

 

Zojirushi’s Induction Heating (IH) System Rice Cooker & Warmer (NP-HCC10/18)

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We love our Induction Heating System Rice Cooker & Warmer (NP-HCC10/18)! It’s one of our flagship products, and we love it for its stylish looks, great technology and ability to make perfectly cooked rice, every time.

This rice cooker comes in a stylish dark stainless steel color and is available in two sizes, (up to) 5.5 or 10 cups. The induction heating technology allows this rice cooker to make super-fine temperature adjustments for precise heating, and turns the pan into an instant, all-over heat source for even and consistent cooking. The NP-HCC10/18 is great for cooking many types of rice, from short-grain to long-grain jasmine rice, and even make GABA brown rice using a special setting on the rice cooker that increases the nutritional value of the rice. Menu settings on the front panel make it easy to decide which type of rice and the texture you’d like your rice cooked to. The delay timer and keep warm settings make it easy to have your rice ready at a certain time, and kept warm so that it’s fresh when you’re ready to eat. Cleaning and maintaining this rice cooker is a snap—the exterior is easy to wipe down, and the interior lid and non-stick inner pan can be removed for washing.

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We’ve gotten great feedback on Amazon.com from our owners since launching our Induction Heating System Rice Cooker & Warmer (NP-HCC10/18) in 2015.

Leslie Christopher gave the rice cooker a five-star review, saying, This product is worth every penny. Before purchasing the rice cooker, we read a review on Forbes and it stated that it was the one kitchen appliance that actually cooks something BETTER than you can by hand. We now have four or five different kinds of rice on hand – jasmine, basmati, brown, sprouted, wild, etc. I can quickly make white rice for our son and then make a batch of brown sprouted rice for the rest of the guests. I can make dried beans from scratch, and then freeze them. I have made steel cut oatmeal, too. Please purchase the rice bowl for washing the rice, and you will be pleasantly surprised. Perfect every time!”

LCBrowning also gave the rice cooker a five star review: “I started using my new rice cooker right out of the box. Best rice I’ve ever made. I watched the Zojirushi online movie of how to use and wash my rise ahead of cooking. We are never to old to learn something new…”

We’re so happy to know that they love this rice cooker, and we know you will, too. To learn more about this rice cooker, check out our product video and our website. As always, be sure to share your recipes with us!

 

What is Rice Really?: Long-Grain Rice

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We continue our series about rice with information and recipes about this staple food by discussing long-grain rice—one of the most well-known types.

As with medium- and short-grain rices, long-grain rice is classified by its size. Grains are slender and usually four or five times longer than they are wide. The grains are 7mm in length or longer, and when cooked, result in separate, loose and soft grains. The majority of long-grain rice is grown in Northern India, Bangladesh, Thailand and other parts of Southeast Asia, parts of China, Jordan, Yemen, Iraq, Egypt, and Argentina, Brazil and the United States in the Americas. The many types of long-grain rice include basmati varieties, fragrant jasmine and upland rice. The origin of long-grain rice contributes to its aroma, flavor and texture.

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Not only is long-grain rice distinct from medium- and short-grain rice in terms of size, texture and flavor, but it’s also processed somewhat differently. Long-grain rice kernels are more fragile than the shorter varieties, and require more delicate handling. Milling the rice requires a series of discs and rollers for removing the tough outer husk and inner husk one at a time to produce unbroken polished white grains. When packaged for export and sale, long-grain rice is usually stored in hard plastic containers or tightly packed into jute or burlap bags lined with hard plastic fibers, in order to protect the grains. Due to the more intense processing cycle, long-grain rice is often more expensive to buy, leading some countries to produce and export long-grain rice at a higher price, and import less expensive, potentially lower quality, rice to feed their people.

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Spicy Basmati Rice with Lentils and Spinach

The expense is often worth it. Long-grain rice has been used to create iconic dishes from so many cuisines across the globe. Full of flavor and aroma, the grains are used for Biryanis from India, Pilafs from the Middle East, Red Beans & Rice from the United States, and even plain boiled long-grain white rice as a staple in Southeast Asian dishes. Some of our favorite recipes include Thai Green Chicken Curry with fragrant jasmine rice, Gumbo Bowl and Spicy Basmati Rice with Lentils and Spinach. We love all of these! And when you make them, be sure to use long-grain rice… these fragile, distinct grains have such a unique texture—you’ll definitely love the results you get from using the right type of rice!

Let us know what you tried, and share your recipes below!

Japanese Street Food:  Imagawa-yaki!

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Have you ever had one?

An imagawa-yaki or a taiyaki?

If you haven’t, then it should be added to your street food bucket list!

Imagawa-yaki is a grilled, stuffed pastry popularly thought to have originated during the Edo Period in the early 1800’s in a bakery located near the Imagawa Bridge in Tokyo. Many variations of the original imagawa-yaki are available today, including taiyaki and modern savory ‘ima‘s.

Regardless of the type of filling, the batter, made of flour, eggs, sugar and water, is whisked together to a smooth consistency, and then poured into a metal mold and stuffed with either a sweet or savory filling. Imagawa-yaki are made in circular molds, and traditionally filled with sweet, red adzuki bean paste. Some traditional bakeries have innovated spin-offs of the original, even creating a chocolate covered pastry for the summer months!

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Taiyaki

Taiyaki are also extremely popular, especially during Japanese festivals. Shaped like sea bream fish–which are thought to bring good luck—these pastries are filled with sweets, such as bananas and Nutella, custard cream or chocolate. Connoisseurs suggest always getting the head side of the taiyaki, especially if you’re going to share, so you get the most of the sweet gooey filling!

Although traditionally filled with sweets, imagawa-yaki pastries are now also available with savory fillings. Usually found at Japanese fusion bakeries in the United States, these pastries, called ‘ima’s for short, are filled with sausage and peppers, prosciutto and cheese, spinach, feta and sundried tomatoes, and even spicy chilies and meat. These fusion pastries are a modern, international twist on the classic pancake-like pastry!

If you’ve had one of these, tell us about it! And if not… get eating!

Stay tuned for next month’s street food showcase!

 

Essentials of Japanese Cooking:  Miso

We continue our Essentials of Japanese Cooking series this month with a feature on miso… the so in ryori no sa shi su se so. Miso is a fermented paste made from soybeans, salt, either rice or barley, and a fermentation starter called koji. Used in miso soup, as a marinade, in dressings and sauces and a variety of other dishes, miso is an important staple in the Japanese pantry.

Miso is said to have originated in China, as early as the 4th century BCE. It was introduced to the people of Japan by Buddhist monks who traveled from China and brought many new ideas that inspired and informed Japanese food culture. The way Japanese people began to produce miso refined it into a few varieties, each with a distinctive flavor and nutritional profile, texture and umami (the rich and savory taste of glutamate-based foods).

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Four main varieties of Japanese miso are available at most grocery stores in Japan, along with a few specialty gourmet types. The main varieties include rice or ‘kome’ miso, which is the most commonly consumed variety, barley or ‘mugi ‘miso, pure soybean or ’mamemiso, and blended ’awasemiso, made with two or three types of other miso pastes. Each of these pastes are fermented from a few weeks up to three years, and the lighter varieties are more mildly flavored than the darker ones.

Specialty miso pastes including hatcho miso, an all-soybean paste with a medium sweet/strength/saltiness profile, saikyo miso, a golden yellow paste with a naturally sweet, low salt flavor, and moromi miso, a chunky miso with the grains of rice or barley only partially crushed. Each of these specialty miso pastes are used in particular dishes, and not in general preparations such as miso soup or grilled fish.

Miso is high in protein, the B vitamins, enzymes, Vitamin E, fiber, lecithin, isoflavones, peroxidase inhibitors and prostaglandins–all of which may help to nourish and regulate the body. Miso was a critical component of Japanese diets during lean times and famines, and it is still consumed almost daily by people in Japan.

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Miso soup

Traditionally, miso soup is enjoyed first thing in the morning, as part of a Japanese breakfast, to cleanse and nourish the body. (We have a great recipe for tofu misoshiru on our website!) The soup is made using a miso koshi, or small metal strainer, to create an even, smooth broth. Miso is also used in marinades and as a glaze for meat, seafood and vegetables, but must always be added to a dish either before or at the tail end of cooking, so the beneficial nutrients and the delicate flavor in the fermented paste are not destroyed by heat.

Miso is most often used in marinades, sauces and dressings. When used as a marinade, miso helps to breakdown the proteins in fish and poultry, infusing them with umami and drawing out any acidity or bitterness from the animal flesh. Salmon and cod marinated in miso and then broiled are popular preparations for these healthful oily fish. Miso-Marinated Chicken Kushiyaki is a great way to broil chicken. When used in sauces and dressings, miso can be mixed with mayonnaise, ginger, sesame oil, honey, citrus and even spicy sriracha sauce. Miso is even used occasionally in simmered nimono dishes, called miso-ni, in which miso is blended with dashi, mirin, soy sauce and fresh ginger and then used to cook various meat and vegetables.

One of our favorite recipes using miso is Beef Miso and Rice on Salad Leaf. The miso is used to impart a rich flavor to the sautéed ground beef and rice! Try it and tell us how it worked for you.

In our next post, we’ll discuss cooking with sake and mirin, and give you some other great recipes to try out! As always, we’d love to hear about your experiences as a beginner with Japanese cooking, so leave us a comment below.

Zojirushi’s New Stainless Steel Vacuum Carafe (SH-HB10/15)

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We heard you!

We know you love the cute, colorful and very functional Zojirushi Stainless Steel Vacuum Carafe (SH-HA10), so we’re excited to tell you that we’re introducing the updated Stainless Steel Vacuum Carafe (SH-HB10/15) this month!

The new carafe is available in 1.0 liter (34 ounces) and 1.5 liter (51 ounces) sizes. It comes in two colors—Stainless and Copper—and has all of the great standout features that Zojirushi prides itself on: superior heat and cold retention, 2 ½ inch wide mouth compatible with many direct brewing attachments, unbreakable stainless steel construction inside and out, easy-to-remove pinch-release lid and one-touch pour for easy serving. Of course, the new Stainless Steel Vacuum Carafe is easy to clean, too!

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So why do these features matter when you’re choosing a carafe?

Well, Wiscobob gave us this review on August 20, 2015 about how durable and easy it is to use:

“I was tired of breaking glass carafes so decided to give this a try. Combined with the RSVP Manual Drip Coffee Filter Cone it works perfectly. Easy to clean and robust. Keeps coffee warm (if not hot) for a good 12 hours or more. Heck, even after 24 hours it is still warm. And yes, I’ll pop a cup into the microwave to warm it up the next morning and it still seems fresh.”

Cory DeNuccio said, “This is so nice and attractive for coffee on the patio! Or upstairs! Awesome quality! Holds about four cups! Keeps coffee piping hot!!” on May 12, 2015.

And another Amazon Customer said “I’ve always been happy to make coffee with a simple Melitta cone drip system. But the glass carafe is easy to break. So I end up precariously perching a #4 cone atop random vessels. This carafe fulfills the promise “Accommodates most direct brewing attachments”. A nifty pinch-to-unlatch system makes it easy to remove the top. This reveals a wide & flat opening that easily supports a filter cone. The squat shape, rounded handle, & thumb latch make one-hand pouring a snap. What’s not to love?” on February 21, 2014.

You can use it for serving guests, keeping your own tea or coffee hot throughout the day at the office, for RV travel, or for keeping cool, fresh water near your bedside at night. It’s a great, versatile product, and we hope you enjoy the new one, inspired by everyday life, and available now!

 

What is Rice Really?: Medium-Grain Rice

mediumgrainriceWe continue our series about rice this month with an exploration of medium-grain rice!

Medium-grain rice is classified as such because of its size, with each grain measuring two to three times longer than it is wide (or, in more scientific terms, between 5.0 – 5.99 mm in length, and possessing a grain shape with a ratio of 2.1-3.0). When cooked, medium-grain rice tends to be moist and to stick together, although the stickiness varies depending upon how it is prepared. Asia produces the largest amount of medium-grain rice, but it’s a popular crop elsewhere in the world, as well.  In the US, medium-grain rice is grown in Arkansas, California, Louisiana, Missouri and Texas.  It’s becoming an important crop in Africa and Latin America, too.

Different types of rice are suited to different types of cooking; for example, short-grain rice is the most common type used in Japanese cuisine, and long-grain rice, which we’ll talk about next month, is the most common type used in gourmet Indian and Middle Eastern dishes. Medium-grain rice also has its special uses. In Japanese cuisine, especially when made outside of Japan, medium-grain rice is often substituted for short-grain. It is also heavily consumed in parts of South India, the Caribbean, Sub-Saharan Africa, West Africa, Central America, South America and in parts of Europe—especially Italy, where it is ideal for risottos. In the US South, medium-grain rice is used in puddings and desserts.

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Fava Bean Risotto

Medium-grain rice is used in some of the most delicious recipes! You can find an excellent recipe for Fava Bean Risotto, full of savory creaminess perfect for the spring crop of fresh fava beans. We also recommend this beautiful Arroz con Pollo, where the cook’s who’ve tried the recipe prefer using medium-grain rice to long-grain rice—and how about this spicy Cajun Jambalaya created by Emeril Lagasse? Don’t forget to finish it all off with this classic British Rice Pudding!

Medium-grain rice is versatile, nutritious and perfect for so many kinds of dishes.  We hope you enjoy these recipes and please let us know how they turned out. Stay tuned for next month’s post about long-grain rice and more great recipes!