Japanese Street Food: Yakiimo!


“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.


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


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.


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.


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)


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.


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


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.


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


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.


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!


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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Japanese Street Food: Dango! Dango! Dango!


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

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

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


Mitarashi dango

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

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


Anko dango

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Japanese Street Food: Yaki-Tomorokoshi!


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

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

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


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

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



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

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


Essentials of Japanese Cooking:  Herbs & Spices


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

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

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


Herb negi

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

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

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



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

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


Wasabi root

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

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