Passport to Yum – Zojirushi’s Favorite Rice Desserts & Snacks

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We’ve loved all of the rice dishes we’ve tried this year, whether from Asia, South America, the United States or Europe! But we can’t end the year without discussing the myriad desserts and snacks that are made from rice.

Just like those dishes that use rice in its grain or noodle form, many cultures have used this ancient grain in sweet desserts and savory snacks.

The ever-popular rice cracker is a sophisticated snack when made Japanese-style. There are two types of rice crackers most commonly made: senbei and okaki (seen in top photo). Senbei crackers, which originated in China, are made with Japanese short grain rice called uruchi mai and okaki are made with sweet, glutinous rice.  These rice crackers come in various shapes, including square, rectangular, round and as balls, and they can be made by baking, charcoal grilling or deep frying them. We love making this relatively easy okaki-style rice cracker at home, called kakimochi. Try them out and tell us what you think!

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Chakli (photo by Milindb05)

Indian food also has a rich tradition of creating savory rice crackers, one of which is chakli. Chakli is made using rice flour mixed with gram flour, lots of spices such as turmeric, ajwain, cumin, chili and clarified butter, or ghee. The batter is poured through a chakli maker into hot oil, and fried until crispy. Whenever you’re in the mood for a spicy rice snack, try making chakli.

Desserts made from rice are just as popular as snacks, starting with rice pudding! Rice pudding is made across the globe, from Southeast Asian kheer to South American arroz con leche. Arroz con Leche Colombiano is sweet and redolent of cinnamon. Long-grain rice is cooked in a mixture of milk, condensed milk, water, sugar, vanilla, cinnamon and butter. The final product is cooled until thick and creamy… just perfect for a holiday occasion.

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Mango sticky rice (photo by Dennis Wong)

Another well-known rice dessert is mango sticky rice, found in many Thai restaurants across the United States and in beach cities across Thailand. Soaked sticky rice is cooked and then simmered in coconut milk, sugar and salt, and topped with peeled Thai mangoes. It’s a refreshing way to end a Thai meal!

Rice desserts can be simple or more colorful and intricate, like the traditional Chinese Ba Bao Fan and the Korean gyeongdan. Ba Bao Fan or “Eight Treasure Rice Pudding” is a traditional dessert served for Chinese New Year in China. This dessert is made by layering eight “treasures” or special ingredients such as sugar-glazed fruit or and sweetened beans onto a base of glutinous rice and sugar. It gets its name from the belief that the number eight is a lucky number for Chinese people because of the similarity of the sound of “ba” (eight) and “fa” which means wealth and prosperity.

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Ba Bao Fan (photo by kawanet)

Gyeongdan is a rice cake made using glutinous rice powder and hot water. The paste is formed into round balls which are coated with multicolored sweet bean powders.

No matter what you’re in the mood for… rice desserts, rice snacks, rice, rice noodles, rice paper, rice dumplings… this amazing food can satisfy all your cravings! We hope you make a lovely dish for your New Year celebrations and that you share them with us!

Japanese Street Food: Winter Oden

oden02With the cold months of winter beginning, it’s time for oden.

Oden is a one-pot dish full of vegetables, fish cakes, tofu, eggs and konnyaku, all simmered in seasoned dashi broth. It’s pure comfort food, full of savory ingredients that have soaked up hot seasoned broth, perfect for the cold months of winter.

Oden is enjoyed by everyone in Japan, from children on their way home from school to homeward bound working professionals stopping at street vendors for oden and sake. When made at home, oden includes special ingredients loved by each family member. One of the characteristic ingredient is konnyaku, a jellied yam cake. Those who enjoy oden choose the ingredients to add to their bowl, sometimes adding chikuwa (fish cake), ground fish balls, kinchaku (fried tofu pouches), daikon radish, boiled eggs or vegetables like cabbage and potatoes. Oden is best when garnished with hot Japanese mustard.

Oden is a cross between a nimono, or simmered dish, and nabemono, or hot pot. The name oden is derived from dengaku, which refers to pieces of tofu and konnyaku skewered, basted with miso paste and grilled. Dengaku was typically served during colder months, and around the time of the Muromachi Period (1336 – 1573), the dish was modified to be simmered in seasoned broth.

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A shop advertises oden

Oden is prepared with variations depending on the region in Japan. In Tokyo and its environs, the broth is made from dashi and koikuchi shoyu, or dark soy sauce, and is typically salty in flavor. In the Osaka area, broth is made from dashi and usukuchi shoyu, or light soy sauce, with hints of sweetness. Oden from the Kyoto area has a sharp and sweet taste and in Nagoya, the broth is miso-based.

No matter what style of broth oden is made with, the warmth and savoriness of the ingredients characterize comfort during the coming winter. Oden can be found at street vendors, izakaya restaurants, and even at convenience stores where the clerks will either assemble your oden for you or let you make your own creation at the self-service counters.

One of our favorite oden recipes can be found here, and we hope you will try it out during this winter season.

Until next time, stay warm and don’t forget to look out for our last post about Japanese street food for 2016!

Essentials of Japanese Cooking: Wagashi

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Throughout the year, we’ve focused on the essentials of Japanese cooking, from basic pantry items to the principles of washoku, Japan’s culinary tradition. From the basic ingredients of sa shi su se so (sugar, salt, vinegar, soy sauce and miso) to the more complex creation of dashi and umami tastes, we’ve explored how to prepare appetizers, soups, pickles and main dishes. This month, our post focuses on wagashi, or traditional Japanese sweets.

Wagashi, which literally means “Japanese sweet snack”, are bite-sized confections. They are traditionally made with simple, plant-based ingredients. The simplicity of the ingredients, however, is deceptive, as wagashi are created based on washoku principles of the Five Tastes and the Five Senses and take into account the seasonality of the natural world.

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Dorayaki, or sweet pancakes filled with red bean paste

Wagashi is said to have originated in Japan during the time Japanese emissaries returned to the country from visiting China in the 8th century.  The first truly Japanese form of wagashi was a mochi and azuki bean dumpling sweetened with the juice of various vines. As this delicacy became more popular and spread to cities influenced by the aristocracy along the west coast of Japan, such as Matsue and Kanazawa, wagashi creation and design flourished. In the 12th century, wagashi became part of formal tea ceremonies and was paired with bitter matcha tea. When sugar was introduced to Japan in the 16th century, wagashi became easier and less expensive to produce, making it available to the general population.

The variety of wagashi is vast, and it is classified using a few criteria: formal vs. every day, production method, moisture content and shape.

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Girl’s day wagashi

Formal wagashi are served at tea ceremonies or special events and are sculpted to represent a seasonal motif for the particular event, such as cherry blossoms in the spring to celebrate Girl’s Day. Every day wagashi are found at street vendors and shops and come in the form of dumplings or cakes or specialized shapes, with various fillings and toppings, usually made in the morning to be eaten that day.

Some of the formal wagashi are crafted based on the seasons. Their base flavors include the five tastes–sweet, salty, sour, bitter and spicy–with a particular taste emphasized according to what is seasonally available. For example, in the spring, when people gravitate towards sour flavors, wagashi are flavored with oranges. Each piece is also crafted to appeal to the five senses, from the seasonal motifs of each shape, to the fragrance of the ingredients, to the taste, to the texture to the sounds of nature that are evoked when eating a piece.

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Mizuyoukan, or soft sweet bean jelly

Making wagashi is considered a craft, and wagashi makers can be awarded the title of “Contemporary Master Craftsman”. Wagashi craftsmen take pride in creating confections that balance seasonal flavors and motifs, from traditional cherry blossoms to modern Santa Clauses, appealing to the tastes of all generations. Going to a wagashi shop will make you anticipate the season or special event or festival to come!

Modern wagashi are made with eggs, milk and chocolate, and also come in beautiful shapes and colors.

One type of wagashi commonly found in the United States is called daifuku, which can be made at home. Pair it with Matcha Tea and you have your own homemade snack break!

We’d love to hear about your wagashi experiences, so be sure to leave us a photo and a note in the comments below!

Gourmet Sizzler® Electric Griddle (EA-BDC10)

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We’re excited to introduce our new Gourmet Sizzler® Electric Griddle (EA-BDC10)!

This new Gourmet Sizzler® model comes with user-centric features, including an easy-to-handle size, a convenient lid that allows speedy cooking, a long power cord, and an optional takoyaki plate accessory (EA-YBC01, sold separately).

The removable cooking plate features a titanium and ceramic enhanced triple-layer nonstick coating which is protected by a diamond pattern cooking surface. This innovative combination helps to keep foods from sticking.

This new griddle also has a temperature control plug that lets you choose between a keep warm temperature of 176°F to a high-heat temperature of 400°F. This variable temperature makes it convenient to cook a range of foods, from breakfast dishes like eggs, bacon, sausage and pancakes to filling dinners like okonomiyaki, noodles and meat.eabdctakoyaki

The optional takoyaki plate accessory (EA-YBC01), which can be purchased separately, makes this griddle even more multipurpose, letting you make 26 large, savory takoyaki at a time… you can even cook sweet mini-cakes! If you’d like to learn how to make takoyaki, check out our video on YouTube!

The convenient lid makes preparing gyoza (dumplings), vegetables and tender stir-fries easier, since all parts of the cooking process happen on the griddle–steaming, sautéing and pan-cooking. The lid also prevents oil splatters or spills.

This griddle is great for at-the-table cooking and dining with friends and family, thanks to the 6.6 foot long power cord.

We know cooking should be safe as well as creative and the Gourmet Sizzler® Electric Griddle comes with numerous safety features. The cooking plate and heater sit inside the body guard to protect against scalding. The plate won’t heat unless correctly installed, and the unit won’t turn on if the temperature control plug and power cord aren’t properly clicked into place.

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Assembling and disassembling are easy and keeping the griddle clean is a breeze. The cooking plate and body guard can be fully immersed in water for cleaning, with the nonstick surface of the plate requiring only gentle scrubbing. The heat shield plate simply needs to be wiped down before storage.

The Zojirushi Gourmet Sizzler® Electric Griddle brings your recipes to life and is the perfect addition to any kitchen. Share your recipes with us below! And don’t forget pictures!

Passport to Yum – Zojirushi’s Favorite International Rice Recipes

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Have you made perfectly delicious rice yet? Now that you know all about rice, we want to share our favorite recipes for this versatile and nutritious grain… not just from Japan, but also from across the globe!

Rice is an ancient food, and many cultures have created sophisticated, comforting dishes using local ingredients to satisfy regional tastes. We start with rice dishes from Asia, including Japan, China, India and Pakistan.

Takikomi-Gohan (seen above) is a popular rice dish that emphasizes the classic Japanese culinary tradition of using seasonal ingredients. At Zojirushi, we’ve created a recipe full of flavorful vegetables, konnyaku, tofu, chicken and dashi. This preparation can easily be made in one of our rice cookers, and makes great leftovers—make a large batch and refrigerate for no-brainer lunches throughout the week.

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Chinese rice porridge, or congee

China is famous for comforting rice dishes, too, including the classic rice porridge, also known as congee or okayu. Rice porridge is mild and filling, and is often had for breakfast or during an illness, as it is easily digested and soothing to the stomach. Japanese, Indian, Burmese, Korean and Indonesian cultures made a version of it, and we love this classic rice porridge recipe that you can make in our food jars.

India and Pakistan share a classic rice dish called biryani. Biryani is made by layering ingredients such as chicken, lamb and vegetables with long-grain basmati rice, and seasoning it with milk and a complex combination of spices like saffron, chili, cardamom, turmeric, ginger and garlic. The dish is slow, slow, slow cooked, until all of the ingredients are tender and have soaked up the seasonings. It’s not to be missed!

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Zojirushi’s Fava Bean Risotto

Europeans, both from the western and eastern parts of the continent, savor rice as well. The classic risotto is popular in Italy and around the world. The most basic risotto is made with medium-grain Arborio rice, slowly cooked in wine and broth until it becomes creamy. Popular variations add mushrooms and peas, and we love this recipe for Fava Bean Risotto. Italy’s neighbor Spain is famous for its paella, and we love this classic version with shrimp, mussels and clams.

Eastern European rice dishes are heavily influenced by the spices of Asia and the Middle East, and Uzbek plov is a prime example of the blending of these cultures. Plov is made using long-grain rice, mutton, carrots, onions, oil and water, mixed and cooked in an open cauldron for hours until the aroma of the dish is utterly mouth-watering. Plov is often served with chickpeas, raisins and eggs, depending on the time of day it is eaten. Plov also has an interesting history, and it is said to have been made for Alexander the Great and his army.

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Crawfish etouffee (photo by jeffreyw)

The Americas have their own special rice dishes which are consumed with as much gusto as their friends on other continents. Crawfish etoufee is an elaborate and spicy dish consisting of shellfish and spices “smothering” the rice and braised in a large sauté pan. Arroz de lisa is a distinctive Colombian dish prepared with mullet rice, cooked cassava melon, costeño cheese and a piquant sour cream sauce. The rice is served in a bijao leaf and often eaten as street food.

Rice as a whole grain isn’t the only way it’s eaten across the world. Rice in the form of noodles is incredibly popular, and some of our favorites are Singapore Noodles, redolent with curry, onions and bell peppers, along with spicy, coconut-infused laksa from Malaysia, pho from Vietnam and the ever-popular wok’d chow fun with Chinese broccoli.

Rice, rice noodles, rice paper, rice dumplings… the variety is endless! We hope you try some of these recipes… and as always, share your creations with us in the comments below.

Japanese Street Food: Yakiimo!

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“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.

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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

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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.

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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.

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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)

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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.

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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

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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.

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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

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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.

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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!