As The Leaves Fall

October is a great month to beHearty Slow Cooked Chili in the kitchen. It’s the perfect season to experiment with roasts, soups and festive desserts as the holidays approach. In the spirit of fall foods, we’d like to turn our attention to slow cooking. The practice of cooking food for long periods of time at low temperature is perfect for this time of year. It fills the house with delicious smells and creates time for more important things – like family time!

October also kicks off the holiday season with Halloween! A holiday for trick or treating, costumes, and of course, candy! Host your own Halloween gathering this year with little bites and no-fuss recipes from the Zojirushi archives. Our recipes are seasonally inspired and meticulously tested to give you the ultimate kitchen experience. Whether it’s slow cooked fall fare or festive holiday snacks, we look forward to seeing what you create. As always, don’t forget to share ideas, recipes and pictures with us! Happy autumn and happy cooking!

Traditional Music in Japan

Music is a lot like food. It is Kotowidely celebrated, brings people together, and each culture has its own version. Like any other culture, Japanese music has a long rich history and a sound as exquisite and unique as the country itself. Unfortunately, and probably not unlike other cultures, modern styles of Japanese music today overshadow the traditional, and traditional music is only heard during certain occasions.

The foundation of traditional Japanese music was introduced from the Chinese. The Japanese adapted their style of music and poetry and recreated it into music suitable to be played at an imperial court, which is now called gagaku (雅楽). It consists primarily of wind and string instruments with percussion. This type of Japanese music dominated the imperial court dances during the Nara (710-794) and Heian (794-1185) periods.

When Buddhism was introduced, the ritual and chanting of religion strongly influenced Japanese music, and evolved into a new style called shomyo (声明), a style which one recited words along with the melody of the song. During the Kamakura (1185-1333) period, yet another style of music called Heike Biwa (平家琵琶) appeared. It was a type of narrative music in which musicians recited popular tales such as “Tales of Heike” as he played the Biwa, a violin like string instrument.

Heike Biwa opened the way to various performing arts. Dancing, acting, acrobats and dialogues were added to the music which gained popularity among the civilians. Noh () and Kabuki (歌舞伎) are the two well-known forms today.

The three “traditional” instruments we think of today are: Shamisen, a violin like string instrument that has a long neck, a small body and 3 strings; Shakuhachi, a flute made of bamboo; and Koto, a large wooden string instrument with 13 strings that are played with picks worn on the fingers, similar to those used in playing the guitar. Have you heard any of these instruments being played, and if so, where?

A Guide to Japanese Mushrooms

MushroomMushrooms are an essential part of the Japanese foodway. From sukiyaki to kaiseki, Japanese mushroom varieties bring elements of earth and balance to every dish. And what better time of year to learn about mushrooms than in the fall! They are easy to grill, bake, or sauté, and pair well with meat or soups, and even fair well on their own! With unique textures and flavor profiles, each mushroom has its own terroir and can be discerned much like a fine wine. With our guide to Japanese mushrooms you will be a connoisseur in no time!

Enoki: A favorite in the Japanese food world these mushrooms are characterized by their long skinny white stalks and small caps. They are crisp and mild in flavor. These mushrooms won’t lose their crunch in soups and hotpots and are also delicious blanched in a salad. You can even throw them on a grill for a nice smoky flavor.

Eringi: Arguably the largest variety, this is also known as Trumpet Mushrooms. This variety has a large white stem and a thin brown cap. These mushrooms are mild in flavor and can assume the taste of whatever they’re cooked with. They are good simmered, grilled, hot or cold. Slice and dice them for faster cooking!

Maitake: From the look of its frilliness, the name of this mushroom means “dancing mushroom”. It has a woodsy flavor and a nice meaty texture. Widely available in the US, maitakes are packed with vitamins, protein and fiber. Maitake mushrooms partner well with steak and are delicious with butter, olive oil or lemon.

Nameko: Meaning “slimy little things”, these are known for their gelatinous coating. Small and amber-brown in color, these mushrooms are often used in miso soup or atop a bowl of soba noodles. For you thrill seekers and adventurous eaters, this variety can be found bottled or canned in Asian markets and specialty food shops.

Shiitake: Perhaps the best known of the East Asian mushroom varieties, shiitakes are light brown in color and have thick caps. They are available fresh or dried. Dried shiitakes have a stronger flavor and are often used in simmered dishes and soups, while fresh ones form a more delicate texture when cooked or grilled. Overall, it has a rich and buttery flavor.

Shimeji: Also known as buna shimenji, these are the quintessential mushroom variety. With a grayish white stem and brown caps, these little guys are a perfect complement to any dish. They are delicious pan-fried or in soups with seafood or wild game. They can be bitter when uncooked, so always add a little heat before enjoying.

Product of the Month: Gourmet d’Expert® Electric Skillet EP-RAC50

EP-RAC50Our Gourmet d’Expert® Electric Skillet is a great product for transitioning to fall. Featuring a deep dish inner pan, a flat plate plus a steaming tray, it will carry you through many a breakfast, lunch and dinner! Stay warm on cold nights with homemade sukiyaki, steaks and fondues and welcome winter mornings with buttermilk pancakes. Its circular heating surface is perfect for even cooking, and with an adjustable temperature setting from 176°F (Keep Warm) to 480°F, you are sure to get that perfect cook every time. This compact and versatile product is easy to clean, pack and go. Take it with you to a holiday party for an interactive dining experience and enjoy!

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

September – Back to School & Stepping Into Fall

After a fun and sun-filled summer, Kwe are back to school! Packed lunches take the place of picnics and holiday planning comes into full focus. Summer zucchinis are overtaken by fall squash varieties and the first pumpkins come out of hiding in anticipation for Halloween. We find ourselves full of excitement and enthusiasm for the seasons to come.

This time of year we are brimmed with colors and variety at the market. Deep green broccoli, red apples and blackberries can make you feel more like a painter than a home cook in September. The last corn and tomatoes of summer are still lingering, but we have access to pears, beans and cauliflower too! The in-between-time of September is abundant and diverse beyond words. It is a very exciting time to be cooking at home.

With back to school being the underlying theme of September, we’d like to celebrate the box lunch! How have you elevated your packed lunches from the old days of the tuna-fish sandwich? What fun sides and snacks do you have planned for your kids this school year? Please share your thoughts and ideas with us on Facebook! You are our #1 inspiration in the test kitchen! Happy cooking!

Bento (弁当): The Japanese Boxed Lunch

BentoNo culture has embraced the boxed lunch quite like the Japanese. In Japan, boxed lunch or bento meals are readily available, almost anywhere. From department stores to train stations, you will find students and salary men alike making their way through bento lunches. Not unlike the TV dinners of old, a bento box features a little taste of everything: rice, cooked or pickled vegetables, and fish or meat. Often served in a box-like container with compartments, you can find varieties in lacquered wood as well as disposable plastic.

Dating back to the late Kamakura Period (1188-1333), bento maintained its popularity through the centuries on account of its convenience. They are great for picnics, train rides and even to take to local events. The balanced, simple quality is an easy answer to the fast-paced Japanese metropolitan life.

At Japanese homes, homemakers get creative in making bento for their family. It’s a great way to utilize leftovers and make the most of bits left around the kitchen. It’s also ideal for controlling portions of your meals. What a great way to enjoy lunch on the go!

Bentos are widely available at Japanese markets across the US. They are also fun and easy to make at home. It is more of a concept than it is a strict set of guidelines, so why not try making lunch in the spirit of bento? See our September issue of Zojirushi 101 for some fun ideas! And whatever you throw together this fall, don’t forget to share it with us on Facebook and Twitter! We look forward to seeing your creations. Happy lunching!

Zojirushi 101 Newsletter September 2013 Issue:
http://www.zojirushi.com/mailmagazine/101toppage.html

Kamon (家紋)

Have you ever noticed those circular emblems seen often at sushi restaurants or on a kimono? These are called kamon (家紋), an emblem that identifies an individual or a family name in Japan, similar to that of a family crest found throughout Europe. Its design consists of patterns of nature – such as plants and animals – encircled by a ring.

In the history of Japan, kamon was an important factor of the Japanese society, especially during the Sengoku period – a time of political intrigue and military conflicts. The design of an emblem distinguished social class and identified the clan or organization individuals belonged to. However with the end of the feudal system and the arrival of a new era, kamon use declined, and were mostly used by governments and at formal occasions.

Today you can still find these emblems in a few places. They may be displayed on family gravestones, and some have become corporate logos. The most common place where we find kamons today are on Montsuki (male) and Tomesode (female) Kimonos. Kamon are often emblazed as beautiful artistry on these kimonos, which are reserved for formal ceremonies such as weddings. It is a wonderful way to display this wonderful tradition.

Product of the Month: Stainless Mug (SM-PA30/34)

Product LargeLet us introduce you to our new addition. The new Stainless Mug is compact and versatile featuring vacuum insulation that keeps beverages hot or cold for hours. The streamlined design takes minimal space while maximizing capacity, and its tight-fitted lid with safety lock prevents beverages from spilling accidentally. In pink and lime, these are the cutest accessories for school, work and play. Minimize plastic bottle consumption while enjoying a cold or hot beverage with these adorable stainless steel mugs!

http://zojirushi.com/products/smpa

August Means Fresh Fare and Picnics

Palm TreesHigh-five to everyone who enjoys hanging out outside on a clear, sunny day! The sun is shining, the ocean is glistening, our test kitchen is packed with sweet summer corn and stone fruit, and we find ourselves wishing we were by the sea or out on a hike, or anywhere but in the office! Do you know the feeling?

On days like these, we suggest you pack up your lunch jars and vacuum bottles, and make your way for an outdoor lunch. Any meal can be very much enjoyed in the great outdoors with fresh produce and beautiful weather. Sharing a meal outside is a great way to rejuvenate, or look at a work project with a new perspective. It’s also the perfect excuse to get outside for a bit and catch some fresh air, right?

Sweet peas, corn, strawberries and melons are all farm-fresh in August and just perfect to pack and grab on the go. Take them in your Zojirushi lunch jar and grab your lunch date, you will be enjoying the fruits of the summer well through September!

Kabuki (歌舞伎): The Japanese Theatre

Can you imagine a lovely summer afternoon at the theatre? What about an entire day? In Japan, a trip to the theatre is a daylong event. Traditional Japanese theatre or Kabuki is a live drama, rich in showmanship. Nearly four centuries old, it’s a theatrical play of mime, dance, song, costumes and set design.

Kabuki dates back to the year 1603 in Kyoto. It quickly gained popularity and became a common form of entertainment. Kabuki was originally performed by women and young boys, who were later banned as performers because they were also available for prostitution, and Kabuki switched to all men actors in the year 1629. The new, all-male Kabuki was called Yaro-Kabuki where even female roles were played by men. The Kabuki of that era was notorious for its rowdy crowds and frequent fights.

One of the unique features of Kabuki is the hanamichi or flower path, which is an extended stage that stretches out into the audience. This hanamichi is used as a pathway for actors to enter and exit the stage, as well as a platform for actors to play out important scenes. Like many things in Japan, the Kabuki stage has become increasingly more advanced with technology featuring trap doors, hidden strings, lights and other surprises. Another is a mawari-butai, or revolving stage, which helps illuminate transitions.

Plots of Kabuki are similar to plots of plays performed in western style theatres. They are based on love stories, tragedy or conspiracies, comedies, historical events, and other well known stories. The plot is often based on a small section of a longer story, so to fully enjoy the performance it may be a good idea to read a little about the story.

Today, Kabuki continues to be a popular form of traditional Japanese theatre. Most Kabuki actors are famous stars, appearing in Japanese films and television. If you are planning a trip to Japan, don’t forget to visit a Kabuki theatre – your trip would not be complete without a real Kabuki experience! In 2008 Kabuki was inscribed into the UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage Lists.

http://www.kabuki-bito.jp/eng/top.html

Tofu: The Perfect Warm Weather Snack

By the hottest month of the year, a few of you may be looking to eat something a bit…lighter. If you are that someone and have never had tofu, you’ve came to the right place! It’s that spongy, sticky, cheesy looking stuff you aren’t quite sure how to cook. The jiggling white, bean curdling substance sitting in water in the back of your fridge – yes, that stuff!

Believe it or not, tofu is delicious,Tofu healthy, easy to cook, inexpensive and versatile. You can bake it, broil it, or fry it and each technique will give you a different and delicious result. Tofu is one of the easiest things to make as it takes on the flavor of virtually anything you cook with it. You can stir it up with veggies, add it to curry or toss it with steak for an extra bit of protein. You can even throw it on the grill for a smoky charred element!

Originating in ancient China over 2,000 years ago, tofu has been the center of many legends and myths over the years. Eventually making its way to Korea, Japan and India, tofu is now one of the most important elements in East Asian and Southeast Asian Cuisine. It is cheap to make, easy to store, low in calories and high in protein, making it a very popular item around the world. There are endless varieties from fresh to firm and dried to fried. If you were to travel across Asia you would find it in every meal from breakfast to dessert, proving tofu as one of the most delicious and versatile ingredients around.

Oh, and did we mention that tofu is also good for you? It’s high in the right kinds of proteins, and is believed to reduce the risk of heart disease, cancer and high cholesterol. And yes, it tastes good too! Not convinced? See for yourselves. Try incorporating tofu into your dishes, and let us know what you find. You just might be surprised! Best of luck and happy cooking!

Product of the Month: Stainless Steel Food Jar (SW-EAE35/50)

SW-EAE35_50The Zojirushi Stainless Steel Food Jar is the featured Product of the Month for August. This amazing portable food container comes in a classic stainless steel design along with two other vibrant colors to choose from. The vacuum insulated container keeps food hot or cold for hours. This is perfect for sending the kids to school with a fresh lunch from home or to take a warm soup or chilled fruits for lunch to your outdoor adventures!

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

July is the Month for Grilling

School’s out, the sun is Summer (1)shining and summer is in the air! What is better than spending a weekend grilling with family and friends? At Zojirushi we love grilling everything from farm-fresh zucchini to apples and oranges – grilled fruit is the perfect addition to a summer cocktail or sangria! Here are a few pointers for those who are planning to elevate their grilling skill this year.
Miso Marinade

Grilling is a great way to get your feet wet in the world of umami. The fifth taste is often characterized as meaty or savory, and beef and pork are great places to play with the elements of umami. Try brushing your meat with shrimp paste, or soaking it in a miso marinade before throwing it on the grill. These unusual ingredients are a great way to add flavor in new and interesting ways. It’s also a great conversation starter as most people don’t think to add seafood flavors to a meat marinade! Lead the way.

Not a fan of mixing shrimp with meat? Another way to elevate your grilling is by using different types of wood chips and charcoal. You can find several kinds of Japanese charcoals online such as binchotan, that are sure to add unique flavors to any meal. A simple wood chip from your local market will also do the trick. Cook low and slow using indirect heat when possible. This style of cooking is perfect for a slow afternoon and will make for a truly delicious meal rich with happy memories.

Take your time and have fun with it! Summer afternoons stretch on forever, so you can spend more time enjoying yourself with loved ones. As always, Zojirushi will be there for you every step of the way. We look forward to seeing all of your summertime creations on Facebook and Twitter! Good luck!

Six Ingredients for Umami
Umami
Umami. That mysterious and oh so popular taste you can’t quite put your finger on. It’s not salty, not sweet, but somewhere in between. Hiding in the shades of grey, its subtle savory elements are hiding in plain sight on the shelves and countertops of your local grocery store. Ingredients you know and some you’ve never heard of can take your next meal from good enough to AMAZING with a few drops of this and a sprinkle of that. Here are six ingredients that will make your food shine with umami that will impress friends and family alike.

1.)   Miso: The mysterious bean paste that epitomizes umami in every form from shiromiso (white miso), akamiso (red miso) or awasemiso (mixed miso), can be added to anything from salad dressing to apple pie. Miso can be used as a sauce thickener, glaze, poultry rub or marinade. This ingredient is sure to stand out from the crowd and get people talking.

2.)   Usukuchi-Shoyu: Now this is your chance to   impress. It’s lighter than regular shoyu, or soy sauce, but it certainly isn’t “light” soy sauce. With a saltier flavor and lighter color, usukuchi-shoyu has a flavor that is more intense than regular soy sauce. It pairs well with citrus for marinades and dressings, and works as a fun salt substitute nearly anywhere. Try it with roasted red peppers for a salty sweet flavor that can only be umami.

3.)   Parmesan Cheese: Shave it on top of vegetables, eggs, toast and pasta for a salty finish without using salt. Parmesan cheese is a simple way to add umami to any dish. We love it with eggs!

4.)   Oyster Sauce: Too fishy? Absolutely not. Oyster sauce is the caramel sauce of the sea. Made with sugar, salt and oyster essence, this super concentrated condiment will add umami to anything it touches. Add a touch to meat marinades, BBQ sauce and veggie stir-fries for that subtle umami edge that’s seemingly so hard to come by.

5.)   Dried Fish: A distant cousin of oyster sauce, dried fish can be found in many forms from baby shrimp to giant squid. Be careful though because a small amount of dried fish packs a huge punch. Dried fish is a great way to make soup starters or savory broths, delicious reductions and glazes as well. Simmer it with garlic and add as a finishing touch to veggies on the skillet.

6.)   Bacon: That’s right, good ol’ fashioned, thick cut bacon. It’s not just for eggs and  pancakes anymore. This fatty, smoky, greasy delight can add depth to anything from pasta with white sauce to farm fresh kale. Let it sizzle with onions as a base for veggies, add it to thick cut greens or use it to wrap up fish before you throw it on the grill. Bacon is a simple way to add savory decadence and elevate any dish.

Origami (折り紙): The Art of Paper Folding

Origami is a traditional Japanese art of paper folding in which a flat, square sheet of paper is folded in a variety of ways to create intricate shapes without the use of scissors or glue. Ori (折り) means “folding”, and kami () means “paper. There are only a few basic folds, but they create endless forms of animals, plants and other shapes. The most well known is the origami crane.

The history of origami begins soon after papermaking was introduced to Japan in the 7th century. Prior to paper folding, paper was generally used for record-keeping and religious writings. Eventually it was used to fold formal traditional ornaments for decorating gifts and wedding ceremonies. Later in Edo period (1603-1868), origami gained popularity and became a common activity amongst ordinary people.

Today you can find an endless array of books on Origami and Origami paper across the United States. It has been embraced around the world as a creative way to make something beautiful out of nothing. It is also a common activity in grade schools, senior homes and rehabilitation centers. Instructions can be found on various websites and videos online. All you need is some paper, and you are ready to go! Happy folding!

Product of the Month: Indoor Electric Grill EB-DLC10

EB-DLC10Grill foods where ever you want. The Indoor Electric Grill allows you to enjoy all the delicious elements of grilling without the hassle and mess of an outdoor barbecue grill. This portable grill has a large ceramic grilling surface for fast and easy grilling; perfect for parties. Its variable heat setting allows you to grill different types of food at its ideal temperature and timing. Now you can enjoy barbecued meats, veggies and fish, all year round. With the Indoor Electric Grill, last minute barbecues and dinner parties will be as easy as plugging in the cord. Plus, the stainless steel exterior will definitely fancy up your party.

http://zojirushi.com/products/ebdlc

Welcoming June

June marks the official start Summertime BBQof summer, and at Zojirushi, we are here to welcome the season. The long days, warm weather and abundance of fresh produce throughout the summer season means more reasons for picnics, BBQs and summertime celebrations in the sun. So gather your family and friends for a get-together, and it’s time to get your grub on!

Rocking the summertime fare is easy with Zojirushi. Our state of the art technology is rooted in generations of tradition and excellence, so that you can be prepared each and every time you cook. Here’s to shared memories, good friends and of course, good food! Cheers and happy summer to you all!

Living Flowers Through Ikebana (生花)

Ever heard of Ikebana? Ikebana, also known as Japanese flower arrangement, is a traditional Japanese practice that is equal parts art, discipline and spirituality. The name comes from the word, ikeru (生ける) meaning “keep alive, arrange flowers” and hana () meaning” flower.” Together, it means “to give life to flower.”

The focus of ikebana is a bit different from floral arrangement in the U.S. Ikebana focuses more on stems, leaves, line and form, than colors, although minimalism is important in color and arrangement. Some arrangements might have just one or two flower blossoms while others may be just stems and leaves. There are several different styles of ikebana from the old and rigid to the modern and free. Each style has a similar set of principles, while showing slight differences in composition and form.

Ikebana is believed to have emerged out of Buddhist practices in the middle of the fifteenth century as a ritual offering of flowers to the spirits of the dead. Over the years, it has become a pillar of Japanese culture, and today is practiced by many from children to housewives.

Ikebana has gained popularity in the US, and most cities have ikebana clubs or classes that anyone can attend. As complicated as ikebana might seem, it’s surprisingly relaxing and meditative once you get into the flow. The trick is to not think too much about it, and just let it wash over you. After a while, you won’t know who’s arranging who! So, if you are looking for a new hobby this summer, try ikebana. You might be surprised by what you find in the leaves and stems!

Product of the Month: Home Bakery Mini Breadmaker BB-HAC10

BB-HAC10This month we’d like to feature our nifty yet wonderfully charming product – the Home Bakery Mini Breadmaker! With the Home Bakery Mini, you can enjoy fresh baked bread everyday without waste. Its sleek white look and study handle make it easy to store and transport. This compact unit saves countertop space and is the perfect option for smaller households. Like your bread soft or firm? Now you can choose, with three texture options from regular, firm, or soft. With its quick baking cycle option, you can enjoy fresh baked bread in just two hours. The unit also comes with courses for kneading pasta and cookie dough without the mess. It even has a jam function for all of your seasonal summer fruits! Now you can have both, homemade bread and jam all from one!

http://zojirushi.com/products/bbhac

May Markets in Abundance

We are delighted to welcome the warmth of May! As we make our way closer to summer, we are reminded of the magic of the farmers market. We find that starting with high quality ingredients is the first step to creating delicious meals. In fact, it’s the same motto we’ve used for years in creating our products – only the best.

Shopping at farmers market is a great way to learn your way around the kitchen. What could be more inspiring than buying your food directly from the farmer? And, with a Zojirushi product, you don’t even have to worry too much about cooking it!

If you haven’t found your local farmers market yet, it’s time to get started. Spring produce is plentiful, and seasonal ingredients often encourage us to become creative cooks. We can’t wait to see all of your market driven creations through Facebook and Twitter. Nothing inspires us more than connecting with you, and seeing how you use our products. Wishing all of you a happy and delicious May!

May – 皐月 (Satsuki)

There are reasons why each month gets its name in Japan. May in Japanese is 皐月, pronounced ‘Satsuki’, meaning “the time to plant rice seedlings”. Satsuki is a wonderful example of how the meanings behind the name of each month in Japan are connected to the seasons and the events. While some months have a more metaphoric interpretation, May is a literal translation. Another unique tidbit about Satsuki is that it’s a common name in Japan for girls.

Natto

Natto is a fermented soybean, but don’t let that deter you from trying it. It is one of the best sources of protein and is filled with rich nutrients that are said to prevent blood coagulation, enrich skin and balance cholesterol levels.

The process of making natto is very unique. After the beans are washed and soaked for about half a day, they go through a steaming process. From there the beans are mixed with a bacteria culture– this is similar to how certain yogurts and cheeses are made. The total fermentation process of aging the natto bacteria takes up to 24 hours. Then it is placed in a refrigerator to be cooled.

Natto has a very unique texture almost like a sticky paste, and a strong scent and flavor due to the fermentation process. It is a common breakfast item in Japan – usually eaten with rice – that is often consumed in a small, white container with yellow mustard and natto sauce.

The Art of Sumo

Sumo is known throughout the world for its wrestlers engaging in a full-contact physical sport, and is one of the few sports that are professionally practiced only in Japan. So what is sumo? It is a wrestling match consisting of two large men facing off in a round ring, called dohyo, with the objective to force the opponent outside of the ring. Wrestlers are not allowed to touch any of his body part to the ground except for their feet.

With its long history, several elements of traditional Japanese culture and customs remain within the art of sumo. The most noticeable is the outfit. During the match, rikishi (wrestlers) wear his hair in a topknot, while the gyoji (referee) wears a silk outfit resembling the style of samurai during the Edo period (1603-1868). Prior to the match, rikishi throw salt into the ring as a form of purification, as the dohyo is considered a sacred place – much like the ritual of salt purification within the Shinto religion.

The life of a sumo wrestler is quite interesting. They live in a communal living environment called heya which are “training stables”, along with their trainers and assistants that help them with everything outside the ring – from tying their hair into topknots to preparing their wardrobe.

Practice begins at 5am and ends before noon. After practice is breakfast! Sumo wrestlers only have two meals per day and have a specific diet called chanko which includes a variety of stews and fish. After breakfast is free time, but many wrestlers take naps to get bigger.

So are you ready to eat like a sumo wrestler? We have for a special Chanko recipe that comes straight from the sumo kitchen! Now just because you eat the same dish as a sumo wrestler doesn’t mean you’ll take on their stylish figure. It would take a whole lot of chanko for that!

Chanko Recipe: http://www.zojirushi.com/recipes/-i-chanko-nabe-i-

Product of the Month: Micom Rice Cooker & Warmer NL-AAC10/18

Our new Micom Rice Cooker & Warmer NL-AAC10/18 is the perfect rice cooker especially for novices. It comes with micro computerized Fuzzy logic technology that delivers consistency in cooking delicious rice every time. It is loaded with multiple menu settings including steam setting. Yes, you can use it to steam vegetables, fish and dumplings too! The automatic keep warm function will keep your rice warm and ready to eat, when you’re ready for a meal!

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

Spring has Sprung

April is finally here, and we are ready to welcome spring with open arms. Winter has been a wonderful time for warm meals and introspection, but now we are ready for warm weather, fresh produce and new life. As the days get longer, we can’t think of a better way to enjoy the sunlight than with friends and family over a delicious meal. So grab your loved ones, pack a meal and plan for a lovely afternoon outdoors.

In the busy pace of modern life, it can be easy to get tangled in the stress and schedule of work, family and caring for a home. Sometimes we forget to stop and enjoy the moments with the ones we love. Food can be a great way to get us out of our heads and into the present moment. After all, everyone has to eat. Why not slow down and enjoy the moment?

At Zojirushi, we know how busy you are. We work hard to make your time in the kitchen as effortless and efficient as possible so you can spend more time where it counts – at the table. If you only get one or two moments to slow down each day, please, spend those moments with the ones you love. And remember a home-cooked meal can be just as easy as a store-bought one. The only difference is, the one you make at home will feed you more than ever imagined, because that’s where the love is.

Fermentation, an old practice finds new life

One of the biggest food trends of 2013 has been fermentation. People everywhere from Portland, Oregon to New York City are making, gifting and trading jars of everything from live kefir cultures to sauerkraut to kimchi. Publications for foodies and health-foodies alike are declaring fermented foods both healthy and delicious. And we, at Zojirushi, agree.

While fermentation has been around longer than human beings themselves, many in the US are rediscovering the age-old practice and breathing new life into it. The slow process can be a great way to step out of modern life and into a simpler era where people lived in harmony with the cycles of nature.

Fermentation literally means the chemical breakdown of a substance by yeast, bacteria or other microorganisms. It is the process that has brought us beer, wine, cheese and pickles. It actually starts the digestion process before we do, making nutrients more accessible to the human body.

Japan has a long history of fermenting foods that dates back to many centuries. In fact, most Japanese staples are in some way fermented and are full of living bacteria: miso, shoyu, sake, katsuobushi and tsukemono. And, many Japanese homes have a jar or pot of something pickling in the cupboard. Umeboshi or salted plums as well as nukazuke or fermented rice bran pickles are two simple forms of pickles that are easy to make at home and commonly found throughout Japan. You will find that the flavors vary slightly from region to region as each prefecture has its own style, making every pickle you taste unique in flavor profile much like a fine wine.

The process is so simple, even you can do it right at home. Homemade pickles make a great side dish to any meal, a unique gift, plus they’re great for your health. You can find many easy recipes and tutorials online, and put a personal stamp on your creation. We look forward to seeing what you make, and hearing all about the magic you create in the process. Happy pickling!

Japanese Tea Ceremony – Sado (茶道)

Having a history that dates back to centuries, Sado holds a long tradition that has evolved over time to an exquisite customary event it is today. It is an elegant display of aesthetic and social excellence as well as an art of performance involving preparation and serving of matcha, the Japanese green tea.

The concept of Japanese aesthetics is found in the definition of Wabi-Sabi, an idea of the most austere form of finding acceptance in imperfection; a belief derived from the Buddhist teaching. The characteristics of wabi-sabi include finding beauty in simplicity and harmony, a balance that is achieved and enhanced with practice of sado.

There are a few essential steps to properly preparing tea at a Japanese Tea Ceremony. Prior to meeting the host, the guests purify themselves by washing their hands and mouth at a stone basin, then they are called to a small room where the host greets each guest with a silent bow. Depending on the formality of the event, guests are served wagashi, a sweet traditional snack, or chaji, a full course meal, with tea.

The preparation of tea begins by gracefully cleaning the utensils-including chawan, the tea bowl, chasen, the whisk, and chashaku, the tea scoop. The host offers the prepared tea to the guest. Each guest takes a sip and wipes the rim of the chawan before offering it to the next guest. Upon receiving the chawan, bows are exchanged and the chawan is raised as a gesture of respect to the host. When the chawan is returned to the host, the host then cleans the utensils and exits the room, completing the ceremony.

The art of sado is so important to Japanese culture that it once was commonly taught in schools. Today, there are classes and clubs dedicated to learning and mastering sado.

Product of the Month: VE® Hybrid Water Boiler & Warmer CV-DYC40

This month we would like to feature one of our most advanced water boilers, the VE® Hybrid Water Boiler & Warmer CY-DYC40. Unlike our other water boilers, this model comes with a battery operated, cordless dispensing system for extra portability. Also, the vacuum-electric hybrid keep warm system keeps water warm non-electronically, providing energy efficiency. The micro computerized temperature control system comes with 3 temperature settings for various uses like making cup noodles, blanching vegetables and steeping various types of teas. All, simply so that you can enjoy hot water whenever and wherever you want!

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The Beauty of Traditional Japanese Craftsmanship

Kaiseki, an Edible Art Form

A trip to Japan can seem like a journey to another planet for some westerners. From the maze of Tokyo subways to the quiet of Kyoto temples, Japan is very much a living contradiction. It is one of the few places in the world where ancient traditions exist alongside modern technology. In Japan, you can order a bowl of ramen, a cappuccino – even a hotel room without ever seeing another human. You can also find some of the greatest handmade items in the world, from silk kimonos to artisanal sweets. While the Japanese have utilized modern technology to their benefit, they have not overlooked the value of craftsmanship and old world tradition – especially on the plate.

In Japan, no meal is more familiar than Kaiseki, a traditional style dinner served at special occasions. There are two types of Kaiseki. Kaiseki (会席) is a traditional multi- course dinner that is served at special occasions such as weddings and funerals. Then there is the type served before a tea ceremony, which is written (懐石). They are both read the same, but used differently.

Let us bring your attention to the Kaiseki (懐石) style dinner. The kanji for Kaiseki literally translate to “stone in bosom” coming from the old practice of Zen monks who would put warm stones in front of their robes to prevent hunger. Over time these kanji began to mean the cuisine for a get-together.

Today Kaiseki exists as a multi-course meal, but also as an edible art form. Everything is considered when putting together a Kaiseki: taste, texture, color and season. Even the dishes and garnishes are carefully chosen to reflect the season and flavor of the meal. The courses have a progression starting with a light appetizer and culminating with dessert and tea. To experience a full Kaiseki is to taste the real flavors of Japan.

Kaiseki is an exquisite embodiment of the Japanese palate, and a far cry from the miso soups and California rolls of your neighborhood sushi restaurant. There are a few restaurants in the US that serve Kaiseki, but the only way to truly experience this edible art form is to travel to Japan. If you ever make it that way, be sure to try a traditional Kaiseki. Be prepared to spend hours eating with the ones you love, and you will surely have an unforgettable experience. Happy eating!

Japanese Tradition: Bamboo Craft: Takezaiku (竹細工)

Bamboo craftwork is one of the oldest artisan traditions that were primarily used by peddlers for carrying their items. Dating back to Muromachi period (1337-1573), it has a rich history from all areas of Japan.

Bamboo has many unique qualities that enable it to be widely used for a variety of everyday items in Japan. Although it is technically a grass, some can grow as tall as trees and grow remarkably fast. What makes it unique is its properties that allow for it have a universal use.

Such items made from bamboo include kitchen utensils, flutes, furniture, interior and exterior walls, as well as many other things. Baskets are the most common items made from bamboo.

Different regions in Japan have become known over the years for specializing in unique bamboo crafts. For instance in Takayama in Nara prefecture, they found a way to use bamboo to make tea whisks that are important to the Japanese tea ceremony. Today Takayama is where the majority of tea whisks are made, with over 120 different types offered. The craftsmen of Miyakonojo in Miyazaki prefecture use bamboo to make archery bows and arrows. Tokyo is also known for making fishing rods from bamboo.

Product of The Month: Mini Bento Stainless Lunch Jar SZ-GD02

Not only is this thing cute and adorable…its durable and amazing!

The unique design utilizes a stainless steel outer body with vacuum insulation which helps keep your meal hot for hours. The main bowl and two side bowls are all microwaveable and BPA free. It comes complete with reusable chopsticks, chopstick holder and easy to carry zip-up tote bag.

Enjoy a great meal on the go. This is a great idea if you’re looking for a way to cut costs this year. Have you ever stopped to calculate how much money you could save if you packed a lunch for work at least once per week? This can be a great way to enjoy food from home wherever you are!

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Happy February!

February is the month of love and sweets! Not only is the 14th Valentine’s Day, we will also be celebrating National Chocolate Month, all month long! So chocolate lovers, what better time than now for an excuse to indulge in your favorite chocolate treats!

Even better, did you know that chocolate has been linked to serotonin levels in your brain? It is known to make you feel better and lower blood pressure. It’s also an international symbol of love, so share your favorite chocolate dessert with the person you love.

Wherever you are in the world this month, take some time to celebrate by sharing a bit of chocolate with the ones you love. That means family, friends, co-workers and partners. Wishing all of you a very happy February full of love and sweet eats!

Ramen

One of the most popular foods in Japan, especially on a cold winter day, is ramen. It’s hard to believe that ramen has only been a part of the Japanese foodway for about 100 years. Yes, only 100 years! Surprisingly it is of a Chinese origin that was later introduced to Japan. At that time, it was called “Shina Soba”, “Shina” meaning China and “Soba” meaning Japanese buckwheat noodles. Chinese cuisines were becoming familiar across Japan in the early Showa period (mid 1920s to 1930s), and ramen quickly became a popular dine-out dish.

Today ramen has an identity far from its Chinese roots. From the giant steaming bowls in subway stations to the instant packets in the supermarkets, ramen has become a symbol of Japanese culture. It’s up there with Mt. Fuji, Skyscrapers, and kimono! You can find ramen at every turn in Japan from the miso ramen of Hokkaido to the tonkotsu ramen of Hakata.

In America, chefs across the country have elevated the bowl of ramen to an art of fine dining. They are taking ramen and twisting it on its side. We have seen ramen made with abalone, mushroom – even banana-coconut ramen pudding! The creativity never seems to end.

If you don’t have a ramen restaurant near you, instant ramen can be a fun creative way to throw a “make your own ramen party”. Add a variety of fresh ingredients such as homemade broth, organic scallions, chard, soft boiled egg or slow roasted meat and make it gourmet! Whether you enjoy a packaged ramen, or the gourmet variety, you’ll taste a little bit of Japan in every bowl. A history rich with international flavors!

Japanese Culture – The Kimono 着物

The origin of the word Kimono means ‘clothing’ in Japanese. The first Kimono appeared during the Nara Period, around 710 AD, and many changes have been made to the style of kimono since then. As new techniques were developed, the kimono became more comfortable to wear, and suitable for all body types.

Over time, people began to wear kimonos in layers of colors. The colors were selected depending on the occasion and season. In the Kamakura Period (1192-1338), colors and patterns of kimono began to represent social status. Common people wore colors that represented their political class, and warriors dressed in colors that represented their leaders.

During the Meiji Period (1868-1912), the Japanese adopted western clothing with heavy influence from foreign cultures. Kimonos with family crests were required when worn for formal occasions.

Today kimonos can often be seen at traditional events and special occasions. They are often worn at weddings and graduation ceremonies. Some kimonos are so difficult to put on that many women use the help of their mothers, or enroll in kitsuke classes where they learn how to wear them properly.

Product of The Month: Stainless Mug with Tea Filter SM-JTE34/46

Zojirushi is featuring the Stainless Mug with Tea Filter (SM-JTE34/46) as the Product of The Month in February. This mug comes with a stainless steel vacuum insulation that keeps beverages hot or cold for hours. The Tea Leaf Filter lets you steep your tea directly inside the bottle and stops loose tealeaves from flowing out while drinking. It has a nonstick interior coating that allows for easy cleaning and comes with wide mouth that accommodates full sized ice cubes when making cold drinks. The mug is available in two colors and in an 11 oz. or 16 oz. capacity.

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Happy New Year from Zojirushi!

We hope you all had a wonderful New Year! The New Year marks a fresh start for all of us. It is a chance to trade in old habits for better ones otherwise known as resolutions. It is a path to spring cleaning, healthy eating and mending relationships. What better way to start fresh this year than at the table? If you have been meaning to make more meals at home or use more produce from your local farmers market, then go for it! Clean out the fridge, and stock up with local winter produce. Let the freshest fruits and vegetables guide your daily menu inspiration. Let us help you in the kitchen with our wonderful line of rice cookers and indoor griddles and grills. It is our firm belief that shared food creates shared memories that last a lifetime. With very best wishes for 2013, Happy Cooking!

Panko: A uniquely Japanese item

It’s surprising how many people in the US aren’t familiar with panko.  The light-as-air breadcrumbs are not your all American store-bought breadcrumbs nor are they the homemade variety of your mother’s generation. In a category all its own, panko has a light and delicate quality to it that offers the perfect airy crunch to most proteins. In the Japanese cuisine, you will find most deep-fried food such as tonkatsu, croquette and ebi furai coated with panko; it creates a deliciously crispy coating on the outside. In fact, you have probably seen the gold and flaky meat on white rice showcased in the window of your local Japanese restaurant. While panko is becoming increasingly well known across the states, we are seeking for more creative ways to put a new twist on this old favorite.

These flaky morsels are made with crustless bread making them less likely to absorb oil and grease. They are the perfect breading to achieve a light, non-greasy fry. In the states, we have seen a new wave of panko recipes with items like fried chicken, eggplant parmesan, crab cakes, cobblers and salted caramel panko shortbread. These crunchy flaky breadcrumbs can be used wherever traditional breadcrumbs are called for and more. They will add a uniquely light crunch to any meal that will be sure to impress guests and get the conversation started.

Panko can be found in the international aisle of most grocery stores as well as in your local Japanese market. Sprinkle it on top of a seasonal gratin, fruit cobbler or even as part of a crunchy pie crust. As always, be sure to share your creative use of panko with us on Facebook (facebook.com/zojirsuhiUSA) and Twitter (@ZojirushiUSA). We look forward to seeing your creations!

Japanese Traditions

The art of calligraphy, dating back to the art form introduced by China in the sixth or seventh century, is still an important element in the Japanese culture today. The brush dipped in ink is used to create an art of characters, using various shading of the ink while maintaining accurate composition of each characters.

In January a very special Japanese tradition is celebrated. On the 2nd of the month, the first calligraphy writing of the New Year called Kakizome (書初め) is held. This is when we write words or phrases that symbolize our resolutions or wishes for the year to come.

Product of The Month: Gourmet d’Expert® Electric Skillet EP-PBC10

This multi-functional electric skillet allows you to cook many things, from sautéing to stewing, and grilling as well.  The adjustable temperature setting can keep your dish at a specific temperature, so it is a must have product for parties and get-togethers. It is easy to use and easy to clean with its titanium infused ceramic cooking surface. And it is the ideal tool for a warm at-the-table dining. Let the fun of hotpot cooking begin!

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Visit Zojirushi 101 for delicious recipes and fun tips for hotpots!