I’ll Shoyu!

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OK, old joke, I know…sorry, but I always get a kick out of puns that cross international language barriers. Shoyu is the Japanese word for soy sauce, the most awesome condiment in the history of Asian cuisine. And since I could totally sustain myself on Japanese cooking exclusively, I just love shoyu.

I pretty much drizzle it on anything if I’m having a dish with white rice–but I do not dump it on the rice! First of all, that would be way too much sodium for me, but it’s just the purist in me that wants to eat white rice the way it was meant to be eaten–as an accompaniment to your entreé, not as a side dish. I still wince when I see people do this, but hey, I get it–rice has no flavor on its own. But the flavor comes from the foods you eat with the rice. Here’s a hint if you travel to Japan: refrain from doing it because it’s just bad form–let’s keep the white rice white, people!

Having said that, I am guilty of overusing shoyu and probably season my food when it

Hiyayakko--cold tofu

Hiyayakko–cold tofu

doesn’t really need it. But my argument is that good quality shoyu enhances the flavor of grilled fish, pan-fried steak, boiled vegetables, even fried eggs. And it absolutely belongs on cold tofu and boiled spinach.

So where does soy sauce come from, and who discovered it? All soy sauce is made from fermented soybeans, but there are many variations, ranging from the thicker, inky black sauces to the more transparent, reddish ones. Taste, color and texture is controlled by intricate differences in the brewing and fermentation process, and by the aging process as well, much like the way fine wine is made. I won’t get into too much technical detail here, but when purchasing soy sauce, just avoid the ones made by chemical processes. The best ones are naturally brewed.

Ohitashi--boiled spinach

Ohitashi–boiled spinach

The Chinese, of course, discovered soy sauce more than 2500 years ago, which makes it one of man’s oldest condiments. But the Japanese didn’t start their version until about 500 AD., when a Zen priest is said to have brought it back from China and started modifying its ingredients and brewing technique. The Kikkoman® company first introduced their soy sauce to America back in the 1800s, and they have been producing shoyu locally from Walworth, Wisconsin since 1972.

Soy sauce is widely used today by both professional chefs and home cooks. I’ve heard of shoyu being the secret ingredient in curry dishes and tomato based beef stews, so it’s obviously not being used just to bring the salt flavor out. Much of it has to do with the inherent umami in soy sauce, too. The Kikkoman® company even recommends sprinkling it on ice cream because it “draws out the flavor and gives it a delicious caramel-like aroma.” Whaaa? I haven’t tried this one yet–I think I’ll keep my Haagen-Dazs® the way it is.

Credits: Hiyayakko by pixelatedcrumb, Ohitashi by otakufood

Where Am I?
Can you guess where I took my Zojirushi bottle? Let me know! I go here almost every other week…

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December Is The Month of Celebration

We are so happy to be celebrating the holiday season with you again! This time of year is always special as families come together, gifts start piling up under the tree, holiday parties are in full effect, and the colder weather makes warm recipes that much more delicious!

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Food, however, is not the only thing ringing through our senses this season. Since 1925, Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony has been the song playing throughout theatres, malls, and radio stations during the month of December. This is also a time when people are running around buying gifts and putting together grocery lists.  Although it is a busy season, don’t forget to take a moment, relax with a cup of something warm and soothing, and enjoy life! Soak in this holiday season with everything that makes it special.

Toshikoshi, The Year End Soba Noodle

Soba is not as well known as Ramen is in the States, but it is a delicious and widely available noodle made from buckwheat flour. Often served cold with a chilled dipping sauce, you will find soba noodles everywhere from convenience stores and train stations, to specialty restaurants and food courts in Japan. The cut and texture of the noodles, as well as the temperature and flavor of the broth all depend on how and where you are eating soba. New Year’s soba have their own distinct flavor and name that is as fun to say as they are to slurp – Toshikoshi Soba!

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Toshikoshi Soba is the year end noodle dish eaten on New Year’s Eve. They have a distinct flavor and way of preparation, but what it symbolizes is what matters most. The tradition of eating soba noodles on New Year’s Eve dates all the way back to before the start of the Edo era, between 1603 and 1868. Back then, the act of eating long noodles symbolized a long life ahead. Buckwheat is a strong and resilient plant that can survive harsh weather, and therefore, this symbol of strength is another reason we enjoy soba during this time of year. Buckwheat noodles are also a symbol of letting go of hardships because they are so easy to cut while eating! Overall, Toshikoshi Soba is a way to offer good luck for the year ahead.

Toshikoshi Soba is served warm in a hot broth made of dashi, mirin, and soy sauce. This dish is often garnished with fresh cut spring onions and fish cake. If you are intrigued, keep in mind that you can enjoy soba all year round. Buckwheat noodles are delicious and lower in calories than whole-wheat pasta! They are rich in Magnesium, B vitamins and can act as a powerful antioxidant. Did we mention that they are also delicious?

So, what are you waiting for? Check the imported food aisle in your local grocer, and start experimenting with this wonderful noodle variety! Happy hunting!

Hyakunin Isshu – A Popular Game For This Season

If you have ever been in Japan around this time of year, you may have seen some people playing a unique card game based off of 100 ancient Japanese waka poems. Each poem has been written in a specific rhythm accompanied by an intricate drawing. These pictures and poems serve as an anthology of Japanese history.

Today, there are two variations of the card games used with these Ogura Hyakunin Isshu. One is called Karuta asobi and is similar to a matching game where you need to identify two matching cards. The other game is called Bozu mekuri and it utilizes the images on the cards. The object of that game is to gather as many cards as possible by the end of the deck.

Product of The Month: VE® Hybrid Water Boiler & Warmer (CV-DCC40/50)

This month, we would like to introduce our brand new Water Boiler, the Zojirushi VE® Water Boiler & Warmer (CV-DCC). What a great product for us to feature this month, as it would be the perfect gift for that special someone who loves freshly brewed tea each day. The newest in our magnificent line of appliances features…

  • Super VE technology that allows for excellent heat retention.
  • 4 temperature settings that offers micro computerized control
  • Quick Temp setting that lets you keep water warm without boiling
  • Auto Shut-Off, a safety function to prevent damage from overheating

For more information and specific product details visit our site.

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

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