About Zojirushi America Corporation

Inspirations from Everyday Life.

Japanese Street Food: Yakiimo!

yakiimo01

“Ishi yaaaaaakiiiiimooooo! Ishi yaaaaaakiiiiimooooo!”

Anyone who has spent autumn or winter in Japan knows how exciting it is to hear the sound of the “yakiimo man” driving through their neighborhood in his mini-truck. His iconic call to come enjoy a hot sweet potato has children eager and adults nostalgic for the days when they ran out into the cold to get these stone-baked treats. Whether the yakiimo man sings his own melancholy song or broadcasts it from the loudspeaker mounted on his truck, the wintery tune brings smiles even in the coldest weather.

Yakiimo is a sweet potato, most typically of the satsumaimo variety found in southern Japan. These sweet potatoes were brought to Japan from Central America by way of China in the late 16th century. Their cultivation was limited to the subtropical southern region of Kagoshima Prefecture for many years, until a widespread rice famine struck the country in the mid-18th century. In heavily populated areas, especially near modern-day Tokyo, crop failures led to major food shortages, starvation and civil unrest.  Konyo Aoki, a local scholar, experimented with growing satsumaimo in the Kanto region in order to help feed the hungry Japanese people. This colder northern area was traditionally thought to be inhospitable to growing satsumaimo, but Konyo was able to help them flourish, and their popularity soon spread.

yakiimo03

Satsumaimo have reddish-purple skin and cream colored flesh, starchy and sweet. The yakiimo man bakes them in hot stones placed inside a propane-powered, steel stove in the back of his mini-truck. He bakes the sweet potatoes until their skin is browned and wrinkled and the insides are soft, giving them to hungry people wrapped in paper. You might hear those same hungry people say “Achi! Achi!”, or “Hot! Hot!” as they hold the fresh sweet potatoes.

Yakiimo can now be found in many convenience stores, but nothing replaces the experience of breaking them open and taking the first savory-sweet bite from the one purchased directly from the yakiimo man.

Until next time, stay warm and don’t forget to look out for next month’s post about Japanese street food!

 

Essentials of Japanese Cooking: Kaiseki Ryori & Shojin Ryori

kaiseki01

Refined, delicate, purposeful, seasonal, healthy, flexible… all of these words describe the essence of Japanese cuisine, or washoku. As part of our exploration of the essentials of Japanese cooking, we’ve learned about the ingredients and foundational foods at the core of this cuisine. This month, we explore the principles of the washoku tradition that guide kaiseki ryori and shojin ryori.

Washoku is often translated to mean harmony (“wa”) and food (“shoku”). According to Elizabeth Andoh, one of Japan’s premier chefs, in her book Washoku: Recipes from the Japanese Home Kitchen, “washoku, or the “harmony of food” is a way of thinking about how we eat and how [food] can nourish us. The term describes both a culinary philosophy and the simple, nutritionally balanced food prepared in that spirit.”

This philosophy is best illustrated by an ichiju sansai meal, which consists of a bowl of rice, a bowl of soup and three side dishes, typically comprised of a piece of grilled fish or meat or tofu, pickles and simmered vegetables. An ichiju sansai meal is the typical meal served at lunch and dinner in Japanese households and is loosely translated to mean “well-balanced meal”. Both kaiseki ryori, Japanese haute cuisine, and shojin ryori, Japanese temple food, rely on this framework.

ichijusansai

An example of ichiju sansai

Kaiseki ryori (as seen in the title image) offers a richer, more elaborate but no less balanced version of an ichiju sansai meal. Kaiseki meals were originally prepared as part of formal Japanese tea ceremonies, and were later served to nobles as a sign of wealth and class. A kaiseki meal consists of four courses or “sets” offered in a prescribed sequence. The starters set includes an aperitif course (skokuzen-shu) in which a small cup of sake or wine is served, followed by an appetizer course, consisting of decoratively prepared bite-sized appetizers served on a long dish called a hassun. The starters are followed by the main set, which consists of a soup course (suimono), a sashimi course (otsukuri), a simmered dish (nimono), a grilled dish (yakimono), a deep fried dish (agemono), a steamed dish (mushimono) and a pickled dish (sunomono). The third set, called a shokuji set, includes a bowl of white rice, miso soup, and pickles (tsukemono). Finally, the meal is concluded with a small dessert of fruit, confections, sorbet or ice cream.

Though there are many dishes in a kaiseki meal, each dish is served in small proportions, slowly and with great attention to detail, and with the utmost in hospitality. Even seating, tables, flowers, quiet and privacy are considered in the preparation of a kaiseki meal! Today, kaiseki meals are served in Michelin-starred and fancy Japanese-style restaurants and high-end ryokan, or Japanese-style inns.

shoujinryori

Shojin ryori

Devotional or temple cooking, known as shojin ryori, hones the concept of “harmony of food” into a set of offerings that are based on Buddhism’s inherent respect for living a life that eschews doing harm. This type of cuisine became popular in the early 11th century when Buddhist monks used this way of “earnest commitment” to procure, prepare, serve and eat their meals. At its most fundamental nature, shojin ryori is vegan, consisting of no animal products, uses gentle seasonings and reduces waste as much as possible. A typical meal consists of a few vegetables such that all parts are used, the leaf, the root, the skins, prepared using simple techniques like blanching, simmering and braising, along with rice, soup, pickles, beans, legumes and tofu. Each item is prepared simply, without strong tastes such as garlic, chilies or wasabi. The entire meal is prepared with quiet thoughtfulness and eaten with reverence. Restaurants that serve shojin ryori meals offer more creative versions of this honest, simple food and are becoming more popular as people are gravitating towards a plant-based diet.

Both kaiseki ryori and shojin ryori style meals make a conscious effort to use seasonal ingredients, taking care to respect when foods are most fresh and full of their inherent flavor. These two styles of cuisine are also deeply concerned with how food is presented, including how ingredients are cut, arranged, plated and served.

The utter refinement of washoku in these cooking styles shows you the wonderful variety of Japanese cuisine. Which ones have you tried? Which one is your favorite? Let us know in the comments below!

 

Micom Water Boiler & Warmer (CD-WCC30/40)

cdwcc

The Zojirushi Micom Water Boiler & Warmer (CD-WCC30/40) is one of our newest water boilers, and it’s a great addition to your home or office!

Designed to heat water quickly and maintain it at the selected temperature, this water boiler helps you have hot water available for brewing tea or coffee, or preparing foods like oatmeal, instant noodles or blanched vegetables throughout the day.

The CD-WCC Micom Water Boiler & Warmer is available in 3- and 4-liter sizes and comes with non-stick coated stainless steel interior, and water contact zones that are BPA free. It has an easy-to-read water level gauge, a swivel base and a sturdy handle for safe portability.

Brewing tea becomes an art when using this water boiler. Delicate teas such as gyokuro green tea are best brewed at 160°F, while 175°F is the ideal brewing temperature for Sencha green teas. Oolong tea is best brewed at 195°F, and at 208°F, the hot water is great for brewing black teas and herbal teas. The Zojirushi Micom Water Boiler & Warmer maintains water temperature perfect for brewing teas by letting you select one of four keep warm temperature settings from the LCD display on the main panel.

This Micom Water Boiler & Warmer also comes with an optional QUICK TEMP MODE, a great feature for those who use filtered water or who need to quickly heat water to 160°, 175° or 195° without first bringing it to a boil.

This water boiler also makes dispensing hot water clean and safe by using an electric dispensing system. Once your cup has been placed under the spout, press the UNLOCK button, then press the dispense button. The additional Café Drip Dispensing feature even allows you to brew Café Drip coffee by decreasing the amount of water to 60% of the normal dispensing mode.

cdwccdispense

Electric dispensing is safe and easy

The LCD panel shows the actual water temperature at all times, and the convenient delay timer function saves energy by shutting off electricity to the heater until it’s time to heat water again.

This water boiler also comes with multiple safety features including auto shut-off, which turns off the machine when there is no water in the inner container, an automatic dispense lock and a removable magnetic power cord which easily detaches from the machine to prevent scalding and other accidents.

We hope you love this water boiler as much as we do! Share your favorite recipes with us in the comments!

 

Zojirushi’s Secrets for Delicious Rice: Cooking with a Zojirushi Rice Cooker

hotrice

By now you know how to store, measure and wash rice so that it’s ready to be cooked. This month, we get to it! We share our secret for cooking perfectly delicious rice in our Zojirushi rice cookers.

Rice requires the correct ratio of grains to water, even heat and controlled pressure to cook well. Along with being easy to use and stylish, Zojirushi rice cookers are designed with these requirements in mind. A variety of features, including water level lines on the inner cooking pan, pre-programmed menu settings and temperature control give you perfectly cooked rice every time.

There are three main categories of rice cookers, with each representing a different level of rice ‘deliciousness’.  Micom rice cookers use a microcomputer, or “micom”, chip to control the way rice is cooked. The microcomputer programs in soaking time, and adjusts cooking temperature and time according to readings from internal sensors. In addition, most Micom rice cookers have three heaters surrounding the inner pan—one at the bottom, one at the top and one surrounding the inner pan from the sides—for even heat distribution to ensure fluffy rice.

Zojirushi Micom Rice Cooker & Warmer NS-ZCC10/18

Zojirushi Micom Rice Cooker & Warmer NS-ZCC10/18

Building on micom technology, Zojirushi’s IH + Micom rice cookers utilize sophisticated induction heating technology, which allows the inner pan to become hot very quickly using a magnetic field. The magnetic field also allows the heat to turn off very quickly, as opposed to an electrical heating element, to lower the temperature as quickly as possible when needed. This enables the rice cooker to make finer temperature adjustments for precise heating.

Zojirushi Micom + IH Rice Cooker & Warmer NP-HCC10/18

Zojirushi IH + Micom Rice Cooker & Warmer NP-HCC10/18

Zojirushi also has a rice cooker that adds pressure cooking to the induction heating and micom technologies, called a Pressure + IH + Micom rice cooker. Cooking with pressure and high heat brings out the rice’s best characteristics. A pressurized system alters the structure of starch within each grain of rice, converting the indigestible beta starch into a softer, palatable alpha starch. Pressure cooked rice is fluffier, has superior texture and a pleasing mouthfeel.

npnvc

Zojirushi Pressure + IH + Micom Rice Cooker & Warmer NP-NVC10/18

Whether you use a Micom rice cooker, an IH + Micom rice cooker or the most sophisticated Pressure + IH + Micom rice cooker, make sure to follow the steps for correctly storing, measuring and washing your rice, and you’ll have delicious rice, hot and ready to eat, every time!

We hope you’ve enjoyed this series. Rice is truly a universal food, spanning cultures, cuisines and geographies, and we bring our passion about this grain to all that we do.

Essentials of Japanese Cooking:  Making Delicious Miso Soup

miso02

Miso soup is a vital, versatile part of Japanese cuisine. It can be served for breakfast, mixed with a bit of tofu and wakame seaweed. It can be part of a complete ichiju-sansai meal, served as the soup course. It can be served as part of a fancy meal, with crab legs and clams, or it can be served just by itself.

No matter how it is served, it is part of the soul of Japanese food.

Tofu Misoshiru is one of the most common forms of miso soup found in Japan and abroad. It is made by heating dashi stock with ingredients such as tofu and green onions, until the soup comes to a simmer. While the soup is simmering, a small amount of miso paste is dissolved in a separate bowl using a small amount of the warmed dashi. Once the dashi, tofu and green onions are cooked, the heat is turned off and the miso mixture is added into the soup, imparting protein, probiotics, umami and a lovely flavor. Dried, cut wakame seaweed is added at the end, just before serving, to round out the soup.

Making miso soup is deceptively simple, however, creating a truly delicious soup requires sensitive attention to the quality of ingredients and how the soup is prepared. As Rochelle Bilow, a writer for Bon Apetit, states, “With a soup that requires so few ingredients, the quality of each one really matters.” Using subpar miso paste and instant dashi detracts from the richness of a well-made miso soup. Similarly, using firm tofu in the soup detracts from the texture and mouthfeel of the soup. When adding vegetables, such as daikon or carrots or mushrooms to the soup, it’s important to slice them thinly and in small pieces and let them cook to tenderness in the soup’s liquid. Similarly, it’s important to balance the “heavy” ingredients, such as potatoes and tofu, with the “light” ingredients, such as scallions and seaweed, in the soup. Too much of one or the other affects the pleasure of eating the soup.

miso01

Dissolving the miso in broth to remove lumps

How the miso is added to the soup mixture is one of the most important aspects of making delicious miso soup. Miso is made from fermented soybeans, and through the fermentation process, becomes full of beneficial bacteria and active cultures. Adding miso paste to the soup mixture while it is on the flame may kill these good bacteria and cultures and diminishes umami. Miso should be dissolved in a bit of broth first to remove any lumps and then added to the soup once the other ingredients have cooked. Then just before the soup returns to a simmer, turn off the heat.

Following these rules is the best way to make miso soup. But as with many Japanese foods, miso soup is versatile and adaptable. You can use different types of miso paste, from white, yellow, to red. A variety of vegetables can be added to the soup, including chard, carrots, radishes, mushrooms, sea vegetables, onions and potatoes. A variety of seafood can be added to the soup, including fish and crustaceans. Even noodles, such as udon, can be also be added to the soup.

Whatever way it’s made, miso soup is a staple in Japanese cuisine. Tell us how you make it!