Winter is Ramen Time

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The more I think about the ramen culture, the more I think there’s more to it than meets the eye. On the one hand, ramen has become so trendy in America that it’s gone mainstream. Ramen restaurants seem to be springing up everywhere–from your neighborhood strip mall to urban boroughs. Yes, your styrofoam cup of noodles from your college days has grown up to become a deep, complex broth of sophisticated flavors. And the noodles? Al dente and hand made, of course.

The amazing dish in the photo above is from my recent trip to New York–IPPUDO restaurant in Manhattan, which specializes in the Hakata style tonkotsu, the broth made from boiling pork bones for as much as 15 hours. As you might expect, the salty soup is rich, deep and hearty enough to be a complete meal. Here you see it with toppings of sweetish BBQ pulled pork and takana, a Japanese mustard green.
$22 for a bowl of this ramen, thank you–and I waited outside for 45 minutes to get in.

But there’s a dark side to ramen, especially in our country where we’re quick to criticize and raise the alarm on the dangers of unhealthy and yucky instant ramen. Too much sodium, too much processing, too much MSG. Wait a minute–instant anything is fast hotwaterfood, and not meant to be eaten 3 times a day anyway! A recent 2-year long study conducted by the Journal of Nutrition found that South Korean women had a greater increase of heart disease, diabetes and even stroke, as a result of eating two or more servings of instant ramen a week.

The study caused an outrage in South Korea, where national pride was at stake for a food as popular as kimchee. Easily the highest per capita consumers of instant ramen, or ramyeon as it is known there, in the world, the study triggered some deep emotions of stubborn resistance, some mild guilt and a lot of indignation. It didn’t seem like the South Koreans were about to give up their beloved instant noodles anytime soon. And to be fair, the study couldn’t prove that other factors in the test subjects’ diets didn’t also influence the outcome. The Koreans pooh-poohed the study, saying it came from the land of cheeseburgers.

Other critics point to how instant noodles have become a dangerous go-to solution for feeding the hungry in the impoverished parts of the world. The dried food stores well, ships chineseboyeasily, and it is above all cheap. Advocates of healthier, “real food” warn us of the dangers of super-processed food, and how the answer to world hunger lies in agriculture. But this is easier said than done; many people have no choice when faced with eating to survive.

Instant ramen can be eaten healthier with the addition of vegetables and other ingredients, and maybe less of the soup base which contains all the sodium. So if you can’t beat the trend, why not try to make it just a little better for you? Especially the packaged kind, which is so tweakable to suit anyone’s taste and food culture, no wonder it’s conquered the planet.

It’s funny to me how a food that is helping to feed the world can be the bad guy too. Bet Momofuku Ando never thought his invention would cause such a stir (Google him if you’re interested).

I’ll never give up my ramen, instant or otherwise.

Chinese boy on train, photo courtesy of The Noodle Narratives, University of California Press

Where Am I?
Can you guess where I took my Zojirushi bottle? Let me know! I was there for 5 hours…

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Finding Home in the New Year!

Finding Home in the New Year!

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Happy January! With a new year and a fresh start on the horizon, the possibilities to make this year a great one are simply endless! We have countless new products, recipes and tips to share with you. From rice cookers to stainless products, we are delighted to unveil the fruits of our labor. We spend years testing recipes and fine-tuning products to ensure they are just right for you – our number one inspiration!

While our office is located in sunny Southern California, our hearts and much of our inspiration still hails from Japan. It’s amazing just how much of Japan is available locally and all around us. From Japanese farmers and nurseries that specialize in native plants and produce, to Japanese markets filled to the brim with memories of home. There always seems a way to add familiar flair to whatever it is we do.

 

This year, we would like to focus on coming home. If you’re like us and have two places that you call home, you’ll understand what we mean. Maybe it’s that jar of market jam on your turkey sandwich or east coast lobster as a special treat! We keep a tub of homemade pickled plums in the office just in case we get that little craving for a taste of home! There are so many ways to create a feeling of “home” while staying local, it is just incredible!

 

We would like to share some inspirations from our home through Japanese produce, products, and equipment. In turn, we ask that you share your favorite kitchen secret from home. Pickled shrimp? Patty melt? Fish tacos? Whatever it is, we want to know! Share your kitchen secrets and memories with us on Facebook and here on the blog.  Cheers!

 

 

Mitsuba: An Unusual Dinner Guest

Looking for a new green to add to your repertoire? Mitsuba could be just the thing to bring a little something to the table this month. Mitsuba, also known as Japanese parsley is known for its three leaves, fresh taste, and versatility. Somewhere in between shiso and celery leaf, mitsuba is bright and herbal with a fresh edge. You can eat every last bit of the plant including the stems, roots and seeds! And it’s a cinch to grow. If you have a garden box or a backyard plot, your mitsuba should be abundant in no time!

 

Enjoy mitsuba raw in a fresh salad or in your morning green machine. Garnish freshly chopped mitsuba over steamed clams and other fish dishes for a fresh finish or add to soups and stocks for an exotic edge. Mitsuba would also be great tossed in a rice salad with other fresh herbs and some lemons. Needless to say, there are many delicious options for this happy three-leafed plant!

 

Tell us how you like to use this magical little plant here on the blog. Who knows, it just might end up in one of our new recipes! Happy cooking!

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Homegrown Pickles: Using the Tsukemono Ki

No Japanese table is complete without a little pickled something. Daikon, plums, cucumbers, cabbage — you name it! We love a little salty/sour something during mealtimes. And we’ve got some good news – you can DIY your own pickles with the help of a Tsukemono Ki! Can you say it three times fast?

 

The Tsukemono Ki is a handy little tool made for pickling vegetables fast. In ancient times, pickles were made in giant wooden and ceramic tubs with large stones. This was a messy and time-consuming process that has been made more convenient over the centuries. The small and easy to store Tsukemono Ki is a little pickle pot that sits on your table, counter or in the cupboard with a lid that has a screw attached to an inner plate that applies pressure to make Tsukemono.

It will make crisp and crunchy pickles out of just about anything in a matter of hours. And they are widely available online and in Japanese markets!

 

Go ahead, experiment and mix a little bit of your home with ours. How about pickled Washington Apples? Napa Cabbage? Bell peppers? You be the judge! Pickle away and let us know what you find. Here’s to a little something sour! Cheers.

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PRODUCT OF THE MONTH – Induction Heating System Rice Cooker & Warmer NP-GBC05

We are delighted to share with you what just might be our cutest product yet…

Our little Induction Heating System Rice Cooker & Warmer is all dressed up in a beautiful new stainless dark brown color! This gem pairs the latest Zojirushi technology with streamline design to create the ultimate appliance for singles and young couples featuring…

 

  • Superior induction heating (IH) technology
  • 3 cup size ideal for singles and smaller families
  • Detachable and washable inner lid
  • Automatic keep warm
  • Made in Japan

 

http://zojirushi.com/products/npgbc

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