Zojirushi’s Secrets for Delicious Rice: Storing & Measuring Rice



Nutritious, cultivated all over the globe, enjoyed as part of global cuisines–rice is truly a universal food. Delicious rice begins with high-quality seeds and careful cultivation, and ends with fastidious storage, measurement, washing and cooking.

Over the next few months, we’re sharing our secrets for preparing delicious short-grain Japanese rice. Our first post focuses on how to correctly store and measure short-grain rice so that it’s ready for cooking in our rice cookers.

Purchasing the freshest, highest-quality rice possible is the first step in preparing delicious rice. Buying rice in smaller quantities means it will be used quickly, with less chance of spoiling. Rice is typically packaged in breathable bags, in sizes ranging from as little as two pounds to larger 15-pound bags, and at Zojirushi, we recommend buying the amount of rice you can consume within a month or so.

Once the rice is brought home from the market, it’s important to store it in such a way as to preserve its freshness. Rice should be stored in dry, airtight containers with the milling date, if available, noted on the container. Storing rice in airtight containers helps prevent the fatty acids in the rice from oxidizing and keeps it free of other contaminants. Rice should also be protected from humidity and high temperatures. Rice stored in cold pantries or refrigerators will stay fresh longer, as high temperatures speed up the degradation of the rice grains. Keeping rice in low-humidity environments protects it from the growth of molds and mildew.


Measure accurately by leveling off each cup

Knowing how to measure rice correctly is the next key to preparing delicious rice. Each type of rice uses a specific rice-to-water ratio, and using too much or too little water causes the rice to cook too hard or too soft. In Zojirushi’s rice cookers, the amount of water needed to cook rice is easy to figure out, but the rice needs to be measured accurately first. The key to accurately measuring rice is to use the “overfill and level off” method. Using the rice measuring cup that comes with each Zojirushi rice cooker, scoop rice out of its container. Overfill the cup to above the brim, and then remove the excess by gently leveling off the top of the cup. Shaking excess rice off the cup or pressing rice into the cup could change the amount of rice that fits in the cup, affecting the way the rice cooks, and ultimately, its taste and texture.

Many other cultures have their own methods of buying, storing and measuring rice. How do you do it? Let us know in the comments below!

Japanese Street Food:  Chukaman


It might be summer, but we’re feeling nostalgic for the cooler days of autumn and winter, and thinking fondly of eating chukaman!

Chukaman are soft, steamed buns filled with sweet or savory ingredients. These buns were introduced into Japanese cuisine by Chinese immigrants, and over time, have become part of the food culture of Japan. “Chuka” loosely translates to “Japanese-style Chinese cuisine” and “man” means “steamed bun”.

Most people who’ve grown up in Japan fondly remember eating these steamed buns on cold winter days, buying them piping hot from local convenience stores like 7-Eleven and Circle K on the way home from school or work. Popular food bloggers and writers publish recipes about how to make homemade chukaman, from fresh ingredients and using expert wrapping techniques.

But the best part of eating chukaman is choosing which filling to get!



In Japan, chukaman come in many varieties. Nikuman are the most commonly available savory buns, filled with seasoned minced pork, scallions and ginger. Anman are the most popular sweet buns, filled with red azuki bean paste. Pizaman and kareman are filled with pizza sauce with cheese and curried vegetables and meat, respectively.

Regardless of which filling is selected, the softness of the bun is what makes chukaman addictive. There are various recipes for the dough, but it is usually made using flour, yeast, sugar, salt, baking powder, oil and water. The dough is mixed, kneaded and allowed to rise, infusing it with air bubbles that makes it soft and light. The dough is then formed into discs and stuffed with the filling. Each disc is pulled into the shape of a small pouch and twisted at the top to seal it. Once the filled buns are formed, they’re steamed and ready to eat!

Everyone has their own favorite way of eating chukaman but the easiest way to eat them is hot out of the steamer, without any extra seasoning or sauce. Really, there isn’t time to wait once you have a bun in your hand!

Have you eaten chukaman? Share your “steamed bun” stories with us and don’t forget to look out for next month’s post about Japanese street food!


Essentials of Japanese Cooking:  Unlock Umami-Rich Dashi


“Dashi is a subtle broth with the capacity to enhance and intensify the flavor of those foods with which it is cooked or blended. That ability is locked within kombu (kelp) and katsuo bushi (smoky bonito fish flakes), the two ingredients used to make this basic sea stock: Both are both rich in water-soluble glutamates.” – Elizabeth Andoh, author of Washoku and Kansha, and leading expert on Japanese cuisine

If umami represents the soul of Japanese cooking, then dashi certainly represents the heart, enhancing and harmonizing the flavors in many Japanese dishes. This month, we continue our series about umami with a tutorial about how to make dashi. We also feature recipes that use dashi, showcasing the breadth of dishes that rely on this essential ingredient.

In classical Japanese cooking, dashi is commonly made with water, kelp (konbu) and the shavings of dried, smoked skipjack tuna (bonito flakes or katsuobushi). Two types of dashi can be prepared from one batch of ingredients: ichiban dashi and niban dashi. Ichiban dashi is the first extraction of umami from the konbu and katsuobushi, resulting in a pale, clear and delicately fragrant broth. Niban dashi is the second extraction of umami from the leftover konbu and katsuobushi used to make ichiban dashi and results in bolder flavor. Japanese cooks use both types of dashi to flavor specific types of dishes and to fully utilize the ingredients without waste.


Ichiban dashi is simple to make, as long as a few techniques are followed with precision. To extract the full flavor-enhancing properties of the glutamate-rich ingredients, start with cold water. Place the water in a saucepan, along with a square piece of konbu. Heat the water over medium heat until just before it boils, when bubbles start to appear along the bottom and sides of the pan. Remove the konbu, and let the water come to a full boil. Removing the konbu at this precise time prevents the glutamates extracted from the seaweed from becoming bitter due to prolonged exposure to high heat. Remove the pan from the heat and allow the liquid to cool. Then, add the katsuobushi to the saucepan and heat the mixture again until it reaches a boil. Turn the heat off and let the bonito flakes steep in the liquid. Finally, strain the liquid through several layers of paper towel or cheesecloth, into a clean glass container, so that no small pieces of fish or seaweed are left in the broth to muddle the flavor.

This step-by-step recipe for Ichiban Dashi notes the actual proportions, temperatures and cooking times…and we know you’ll find it enjoyable to make!

Niban dashi is made using the already-cooked seaweed and fish left over from preparing ichiban dashi. Add both ingredients back into the saucepan, add a few cups of water, simmer the mixture for several minutes over low heat, then strain.

In the case of both ichiban and niban dashi, the keys to creating the best dashi lie in extracting and preserving the glutamates from the konbu and katsuobushi. Prolonged cooking, excessively high heat and inadequate straining can result in a dull and fishy broth that sullies, rather than enhances, the dishes that rely on dashi to infuse them with umami.

Ichiban dashi is used in many types of dishes, from soups to appetizers to salads. We have some great recipes that use ichiban dashi on our website, like Tofu Misoshiru, Shrimp Ball Broth, Hiyashi Chawanmushi and Crab & Cucumber Sunomono.

Bringing out the flavor of fresh, high-quality ingredients using umami-rich dashi is at the core of Japanese culinary tradition. We encourage you to make your own dashi, and as always, would love to hear about your experience!

Zojirushi’s Fresh Brew Plus 12-Cup Coffee Maker (EC-YGC120)

EC-YGC02 (small)

Is one of your favorite experiences waking up to the aroma of freshly brewed coffee? Or sharing a glass of iced coffee with a friend on a hot afternoon? We love our coffee here at Zojirushi, and are excited to share the new Fresh Brew Plus 12-Cup Coffee Maker (EC-YGC120) with special features for brewing iced coffee with you!

This stylish coffee maker brews up to 12 cups of hot coffee, or up to  6 cups of iced coffee! Ideally, coffee should be brewed at 200°F, and our coffee maker quickly heats water to this temperature to maximize the flavor of your coffee. For hot coffee, open the easy-access swing basket and fill the filter basket with your desired amount of ground coffee.  Then, fill the removable water tank with fresh water corresponding to the amount of coffee you’re brewing using the clearly-marked ‘HOT’ water measure lines as a guide. Press START. Your coffee is all set to brew!

The heating plate that the glass carafe sits on has four keep warm settings–HI, MED, LOW, OFF–and keeps the brewed coffee warm at the temperature you like. When the carafe is removed, the machine inhibits messes with the drip prevention mechanism, and the clean spout design of the glass carafe makes pouring smooth and easy, helping to avoid dribbles and dripping.

If you prefer your brew iced, the Fresh Brew Plus makes brewing complex and bright iced coffee a cinch. Fill the Ice Basket in the glass carafe with ice, add water to the water to the level line on the water tank marked “ICED”, put your ground coffee into the filter basket, then turn the heating plate keep warm setting to OFF. Press START to brew your coffee. The coffee is instantly chilled as it brews, locking in delicious flavor and aroma… ready to drink!

Our Fresh Brew Plus 12-Cup Coffee Maker is easy to clean and maintain, just like our other products. A Clean Indicator illuminates when cleaning is recommended, and the filter basket and swing basket are easily removed for washing in the sink.

We’ve even added a few other great features to this new coffee maker:  a convenient clock timer that can be set at night so you can wake up to the enticing aroma of freshly brewed coffee, a measuring spoon that works perfectly with our coffee maker to make filling the filter basket easy, and sample filters, so you know exactly what fits!  All food contact zones are BPA-free.

We know you’ll love this new coffee maker as much as we do, and you’ll be able to purchase it from our great retail partners this month! As always, we’d love to hear from you, so be sure to leave a comment below.

What Is Rice Really?: Delicious and Nutritious!


We’ve been writing all year about rice–how it’s cultivated, harvested, consumed. But at the end of the day, it’s all about eating it! Rice is one of the most delicious and nutritious foods eaten by people all over the world.

Rice is packed with nutrition. Nutritionally classified as a carbohydrate, rice provides sustaining energy. It depends on the type, but generally rice is a good source of calcium, thiamine, pantothenic acid, folate and vitamin E. Red rice provides additional levels of iron and zinc, and black rice is rich in anthocyanins, which are powerful antioxidants. And rice that hasn’t had the bran polished off provides high levels of fiber and small amounts of protein.


Raw black rice

Because rice is eaten around the world, it is a key crop used to help reduce or prevent hunger and malnutrition. As a source of readily-absorbed energy, eating rice mitigates starvation. Genetically-modified rice such as Golden Rice, “iron-clad” rice and “high zinc-uptake” rice are new varieties that help to provide vitamin A, iron and zinc to people whose diets severely lack these necessary nutrients.

So, rice is good for you… but people really love rice because of how it tastes.

Rice is considered a delicious food across numerous cultures, whether it is served plain or highly seasoned. While different types of rice are preferred in Southeast Asian, Indian, Latin American and Western cultures, Japanese people typically find short-grain rice to be the most delicious.


Short-grain white rice in a Japanese bento

Rice is composed of two types of starch molecules: amylose and amylopectin. Amylose is a long-chain starch molecule that keeps rice firm and prevents it from gelatinizing. Long-grain rice has a high amylose content and will cook up defined and fluffy grains that won’t stick together. Amylopectin is a short-chain, branched starch molecule and rice that has a high amylopectin content will cook up sticky, soft, and creamy depending on the amount of water added to cook.

When rice cooks, the heat and cooking liquid break down the starch molecules and activate them, so the grains become soft to eat. Short-grain rice is higher in amylopectin than in amylose, so when it is cooked, the rice grains will plump up and stick together. Many Japanese people prefer the texture and the taste of this type of rice because it is the perfect complement to delicately flavored Japanese dishes.

What kind of rice is your favorite? Let us know in the comments below!

Japanese Street Food:  Korokke!


Warning: korokke is addictive!

If you’ve never had this Japanese dish, you’re in for a treat! Korokke, or croquette in English, is a satisfying mixture of potatoes, meat and spices, coated with panko breadcrumbs, fried up into patties or balls and often eaten with piquant tonkatsu sauce. (Is your mouth watering yet?)

Butchers in Japan prepare korokke in their shops, where they have the ingredients needed to make these fried patties on hand. Children would buy one or two korokke patties on their way home from school or sports, and Japanese mothers would be famous for making their own family recipes as snacks and dinner favorites.

Korokke, at its most essential, is a fried patty made of simple, easy-to-find and inexpensive ingredients. Like American hamburgers, they’re ubiquitously available and can be found at many street festival or corner convenience store… even Seven Eleven! Korokke are generally made using cooked ground beef, smashed boiled potatoes, sautéed minced onions, salt and pepper, all mixed together. The mixture is formed into a palm-sized patty, coated with flour, eggs and panko breadcrumbs and then deep fried. Adventurous cooks add curry or cheese or make them vegetarian by replacing the beef with carrots and other vegetables! McDonald’s in Japan even introduced their own seasonal version of korokke and made a burger out of it, called the “Gracoro Burger”, although their recipe deviates quite a bit from traditional korokke.


Korokke patties are even better in sandwiches, called korokke pan. These sandwiches, made with a korokke patty stuffed into either a sesame seed bun or dinner roll along with finely shredded cabbage and tonkatsu sauce, can be found at bakeries and sandwich shops across Japan. Korokke pan are perfect for packing into a bag or taking on a trip, and are great when you’re on the go. Convenience stores sell them packaged and sometimes warmed, so even if you don’t make them at home or aren’t near a specialty shop, you can find them easily when traveling around Japan.

If you’re ready to try korokke, check out this recipe using rice on our website, or try out a patty or sandwich from your local Japanese grocery store.

Stay tuned for our continuing series about Japanese street food!

Essentials of Japanese Cooking:  Umami and Dashi


Last month we began our exploration of umami, the “delicious taste” discovered by Dr. Kikunae Ikeda in 1908. Umami is the rich flavor imparted from foods that contain high levels of glutamates, a type of amino acid that, when ingested, tells the brain that the food the body is about to receive is savory, desirable and full of protein.

Umami is at the heart of a Japanese cooking liquid called dashi, which was studied by Dr. Ikeda and which forms the foundation of many Japanese dishes. Dashi is an all-purpose, light stock made simply from an umami-rich ingredient and water. Its role in Japanese cuisine can’t be overemphasized, as it is used to season simmered and steamed dishes, flavor soups and create a base for marinades.

While preparing dashi is simple, it requires a meticulous attention to detail.


Top left, shaved Bonito flakes; bottom, konbu

When made from scratch, dashi is made from clean, soft water. Various ingredients are added to the water to give it flavor and to impart umami. The classic way to prepare dashi is to make ichibandashi, which typically consists of simmering shaved bonito flakes—dried, smoked skipjack tuna—and dried konbu kelp in water. While this type of dashi is used to prepare many Japanese dishes, many cooks also use variations of the classic dashi in modern Japanese cooking. Dashi made from dried shiitake mushrooms, dried baby anchovies or sardines, dried scallops, or even just konbu or only bonito flakes have become common additions to the Japanese cook’s dashi repertoire.

When making dashi at home, it’s important to use high-quality ingredients that have been air dried, avoiding frozen ones, as freezing alters the flavor and aroma of the ingredients. The best quality bonito comes in stick form and is approximately six-to-eight inches in length. Bonito sticks look like dense, brown hunks of wood that have an ash-white coating. The sticks are made by filleting skipjack tuna, boiling the fillets, then removing the skin and bones from the fish. The fish is smoked multiple times to dry it and to preserve the richness in the fish’s flavor. After, the dried fish is cultured to continue its preservation, and then finally, dried in the open air. When two sticks of bonito are struck together, they should make a hollow sound, like musical instruments! Dried bonito sticks are then shaved using an appliance similar to a mandoline, called a katsuobushi kezuri, and result in pink curls of fish.


Konbu harvesting

Vegetarian dashi is commonly made using dried konbu or shiitake mushrooms, again with both ingredients of the highest quality. The most prized type of konbu is harvested from the cold waters off of the northern coast of Hokkaido. These giant kelp have wide, thick leaves and a rich amber color. They are harvested, rinsed in sea water and hung out to air dry. Once dried, the konbu will have a distinctive whitish coat, made up of natural sea salts and minerals, which holds much of the seaweed’s flavor. The dried konbu is simply wiped with a damp cloth and then it’s ready to use in making dashi. Simmering dried shiitake mushrooms also makes a vegetarian version of dashi, one with a darker color and more intense flavor.

Cooks often make their dashi from scratch, but when pressed for time, flavorful, high-quality instant, dashi products can be found at Japanese or Asian grocery stores. Modern cooks often keep both as staples in their pantries, giving them versatile options for this foundational ingredient in Japanese cooking.

We’ll share recipes about how to make dashi in our next blog post, so stay tuned! And as always, we’d love to hear how you’ve made dashi, so leave us a comment.

Zojirushi’s Home Bakery Virtuoso® Breadmaker (BB-PAC20)


Making bread at home may not sound easy, but it’s a simple, satisfying process when using our Home Bakery Virtuoso® Breadmaker (BB-PAC20). An art form that requires high-quality ingredients, superior equipment and a careful, artisan process, bread-making is a craft that can surprisingly be accomplished by both a novice and an expert.

We’ve designed the Home Bakery Virtuoso® Breadmaker to take the guesswork out of bread baking, without sacrificing any of the nuanced steps that create delicious loaves. The basic process for making bread in our breadmaker is straightforward: put in wet ingredients, put in dry ingredients, add yeast into a small well on the top, choose the setting and let the machine go to work. This simple process takes the age-old know-how for making classic loaves and streamlines it so that anyone can make bread. One of the key features of the machine is the dual kneading blades. These blades mix the ingredients evenly, thoroughly combining the flours, liquids, yeasts and seasonings into a smooth dough. The breadmaker keeps the dough at the correct temperature for rising, then bakes the bread on all sides, including the top, thanks to the built in lid heater.

BBPAC_Open Lid_Small

The Home Bakery Virtuoso® Breadmaker has three inspired and innovative settings that make it the choice of bakers. The quick baking setting makes bread in a little over two hours. The exclusive Home Made setting allows expert bakers to set their own knead, rise and bake time—and the gluten free setting adjusts the time and temperature to make flavorful gluten free bread with a perfect crust. This versatile breadmaker can even make quick breads, pizza dough, sourdough starter, even jam and meatloaf!

As with all of our products, we’ve made it easy to use with a large LCD display, a big window on the lid so you can watch every part of the bread making process, and a measuring cup and spoon accessory. The machine is easy to clean, as the nonstick inner pan can be removed for washing. And best of all, we’ve included an instructional DVD and over 100 recipes in the breadmaker booklet, so you can quickly get started.


Breadmaker makes a traditional 2-lb. horizontal loaf

You’ll find many recipes on our website, and one of our favorite bakers, gfJules, has expert tips on using our machine. Our owners love our Home Bakery Virtuoso® Breadmaker, too. Over 1100 reviewers have given this machine a compiled 4.5 stars on Amazon.com!

We know you’ll love this breadmaker as much as we do… and look forward to your comments below!

What Is Rice Really?: The Tradition of Growing Short-Grain Rice


Growing short-grain rice in Japan is critical to feeding the people of the country and feeding the spirit of its traditions. We continue our series from last month about growing short-grain rice with a look at how it is harvested and the traditions that embody the hopes of the Japanese people as they cultivate this important crop.

As we discussed in our previous post, rice is cultivated in four stages: sprouting, planting, growing and harvesting. Once rice is mature, usually at the end of summer, rice fields are allowed to dry in the sun or are drained. Harvesting machines, such as combines, gather and thresh the mature rice, so that rice seeds can be transported to drying facilities. Once at the drying facilities, warm air is forced through the rice to remove moisture so it can be stored and further processed. The dried rice is sent to mills where it is cleaned and dehulled, leaving the nutritious bran layer intact, resulting in brown rice. The brown rice is then packaged and sent to market or further polished to remove the bran layer, resulting in white rice. This short-grain white rice is also packaged and sent to market, where it is purchased by home cooks and chefs alike. By the time the rice reaches a person’s plate, it has been touched by many hands and by many days in the sun, water and wind!

Growing rice is a very important part of Japanese culture, and Japanese people participate in rich traditions that celebrate the entire process from initial planting to the harvest.

During the planting season in spring, the people of Sumiyoshi, in Osaka, believe that an auspicious beginning to the season will help the rice grow. To create a happy atmosphere that fosters good energy for the year’s crop, the community asks eight ceremonial maidens, called ue-me, to sanctify the rice seedlings at the local shrine. These blessed seedlings are given to the shimo ue-me, another group of women who participate in the festival, to plant them in the rice field to begin the season.

This elaborate and beautiful play is a delight to watch:

Planting leads to growing, and growing rice depends on abundant rain, fertile soil and lack of disease and pests. The people of Tsurugashima gather for a tradition called the Suneori Amagoi, during which they supplicate their water-loving snake god for abundant rain to help grow their rice crops. They build a giant decorative snake from bamboo and straw, imbue it with symbolic sacred charms, and parade it through the town to Kandachi Pond, where it is symbolically brought to its sacred home.

…and we mean giant snake:

During the summer months, pests can become a problem in the fields, so the people of Yata celebrate a tradition called Yata-no Mushi Okuri. During this festival, the people build a straw effigy of Saito Sanemori, a warrior from the Taira clan, who became angry when he was defeated in battle and whose grudge was transformed into an insect. They parade this effigy through the rice fields, with the goal of burning it at the end of the procession. The burning effigy is said to attract and kill the insects and pests in the area, and by doing so, release the crop from the warrior’s grudge.

As the summer turns into autumn, and the rice crops mature, rice-growing communities pray for an abundant harvest, giving thanks upon the season’s conclusion, when the land and the people can rest.

While traditions may vary from region to region, each of the seasons at the rice fields are beautiful, and if you’ve traveled to Japan to see them, we’d love to hear your stories.

Japanese Street Food:  Grilled Ayu and Squid


It’s almost that time of year! Festivals are starting in Japan and street food flavors are out in full force! Spring festivals kick off the season with the biggest festivals happening in the thick of summer. Japanese festivals are unique in that fireworks, music, dance and games are all enjoyed by festivalgoers who really come for the delicious varieties of street food!

One of the most loved street food dishes is anything on skewers, especially grilled ayu, or sweetfish, and ika, or squid.

Ayu are small fish in the salmon family, and when heavily salted, skewered and grilled over an open charcoal fire, they are considered a delicacy reminiscent of summertime, camping and festivals. The fish are generally available from June through September in Japan, and at street food stalls, you’ll see the small, whole fish skewered through the center and arranged in a circle around a hot fire, where they are shaped into an undulating wave and barbequed at low heat until crispy on the outside and tender on the inside. Ayu can be eaten whole–head, fins, tail, bones and innards–and the white-fleshed river fish tastes great served with a special sour and peppery dip called tadesu which helps bring out the delicate aroma and the flavor of the fish.



Ika, or squid, are also wonderful barbequed over an open fire. The squid are skewered through the body in a way similar to grilled ayu—sometimes whole and sometimes in choice pieces—salted and lightly brushed with soy sauce, and then grilled until juicy and flavorful. The dish, called Ikayaki, is often served simply and eaten directly off the stick.

If you can’t find grilled ayu or ikayaki at a festival, be sure to ask for it at an izakaya pub, where often these skewered delicacies are available to accompany a crisp beer!

Have you ever had grilled ayu or grilled squid? Share your stories with us below! And don’t forget to stay tuned for next month’s street food showcase!