What is Rice Really?: Medium-Grain Rice

mediumgrainriceWe continue our series about rice this month with an exploration of medium-grain rice!

Medium-grain rice is classified as such because of its size, with each grain measuring two to three times longer than it is wide (or, in more scientific terms, between 5.0 – 5.99 mm in length, and possessing a grain shape with a ratio of 2.1-3.0). When cooked, medium-grain rice tends to be moist and to stick together, although the stickiness varies depending upon how it is prepared. Asia produces the largest amount of medium-grain rice, but it’s a popular crop elsewhere in the world, as well.  In the US, medium-grain rice is grown in Arkansas, California, Louisiana, Missouri and Texas.  It’s becoming an important crop in Africa and Latin America, too.

Different types of rice are suited to different types of cooking; for example, short-grain rice is the most common type used in Japanese cuisine, and long-grain rice, which we’ll talk about next month, is the most common type used in gourmet Indian and Middle Eastern dishes. Medium-grain rice also has its special uses. In Japanese cuisine, especially when made outside of Japan, medium-grain rice is often substituted for short-grain. It is also heavily consumed in parts of South India, the Caribbean, Sub-Saharan Africa, West Africa, Central America, South America and in parts of Europe—especially Italy, where it is ideal for risottos. In the US South, medium-grain rice is used in puddings and desserts.

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Fava Bean Risotto

Medium-grain rice is used in some of the most delicious recipes! You can find an excellent recipe for Fava Bean Risotto, full of savory creaminess perfect for the spring crop of fresh fava beans. We also recommend this beautiful Arroz con Pollo, where the cook’s who’ve tried the recipe prefer using medium-grain rice to long-grain rice—and how about this spicy Cajun Jambalaya created by Emeril Lagasse? Don’t forget to finish it all off with this classic British Rice Pudding!

Medium-grain rice is versatile, nutritious and perfect for so many kinds of dishes.  We hope you enjoy these recipes and please let us know how they turned out. Stay tuned for next month’s post about long-grain rice and more great recipes!

A Day In The Life

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Well, maybe it’s more than a day, but I’ve always wanted to use that title. I just thought I’d share some of my cell phone shots, which show what I’ve been doing lately. Think of it as my Instagram feed, except in blog form. I haven’t been very good about posting these days, so this is my way of catching up.

superba4On weekends we go out to eat a lot–it’s become our activity to explore places we’ve never been, to see if those Yelp or Serious Eats reviewers know what they’re talking about. SUPERBA was one of those places. I got the beet marinated salmon on artisanal bread, dressed in herbal goat cheese and topped with capers. Pretty tasty, except it shocked me at first because I couldn’t figure out where the salmon was. Then I realized–oh yeah, marinated in beets!

I think this was the day we ended up with something less frou-frou and more to my liking for dinner–Croquette Curry at COCO ICHIBANYA, my favorite Japanese style curry place. I’m a bit of a wimp. I can’t go past Spicy #2 without setting my hair on fire.

Some Saturday mornings we’ll fight the laziness and make it to the beach (we live about a mile away) and take a morning walk. The seagulls and surfers are usually already out there by the time we get there, but at least we make the effort, right? Did I tell you we drive there even though we’re only a mile away?

My weekday mornings are much earlier. Since my work commute is pretty far (70 miles), I leave when it’s still dark and I come back when it’s already dark, during the winter months when the days are short. But it’s peaceful when there’s no cars yet in the city. You can see the sun just rising as the moon above is just setting. In no time though, I’m on the freeway and hitting morning traffic. I pass my time listening to audio books on CDs and MP3 players like the one you see here. I’ve “read” so many great books now, more than I’ve ever read in my entire life. How did I ever get through college as an English major?


Guisados3Recently on another “family activity day”, we drove up to downtown Los Angeles to have lunch at GUISADOS, a Mexican place we found on Yelp, where they’re known for their soft tacos. They have this sampler dish on the menu with 6 different tacos; I’ve never bothered to remember what I’m eating, I just know they’re all muy bueno. (My daughter goes there for the horchata.)

That day since we were in the area, we decided to extend the field trip by stopping in Hollywood, where we never go–and now we know why; bad traffic, bad parking, too many tourists. But I couldn’t resist taking a picture of David Bowie’s star on the Walk of Fame–I’m a classic rock fan, remember? RIP Ziggy, you were way too young to leave us on earth.

Sometimes dinner is simple. We’ll go to In-N-Out and just bring it home. I took a shot of thein_out employees hard at work, making the best hamburgers in the West, right from the car at the drive-thru window. My son, who is going to school in Boston right now, told us that people on the East Coast think In-N-Out is the holy grail of hamburgers. Lucky we live L.A., eh? But it’s all relative…a lot of people here think Shake Shack from New York is the best. I’ve had both, they’re both good and different so it’s tough to compare, but In-N-Out is the better value for sure.

honeyOur trending dessert for us right now is an ice cream place called HONEYMEE. It’s actually a rich and creamy kind of soft-serve, with a cube of real raw honey, still in its honeycomb, sitting on top. What it reminds me of is the old days when I would stop at a gas station to get a soft-serve from those machines. Of course, this is much better–the milk is real and flavorful, without being too sweet. I can do without the honeycomb, which is basically like chewing wax.

This was fun to write…thanks for reading!

All photos by Bert Tanimoto

Japanese Street Food: Crepes

Last month we featured savory, comforting, delicious ramen.

This month… crepes!

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More specifically, Japanese-style crepes. You’ve heard of crepes from France, filled with sweet fruit compote or ham, eggs and cheese. And you’ve probably tried crepes from other countries, like rice-and-lentil-based dosa from India. But Japanese crepes are unique, interesting and quintessentially youthful!

Crepes are thin pancakes, and in Japan, they are made to be sweet. The batter, consisting of eggs, milk, water, salt, flour and butter, is poured onto a griddle, and spread very, very thin in the shape of a circle using a crepe paddle. The crepe is cooked through until golden, then transferred to a plate using a long, flat spatula.

And that’s where the specialness of this Japanese street food begins!

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Fillings and toppings range from fruit—such as strawberries and bananas, chocolate and whipped cream—to potato salad, hot dogs, tuna, pizza toppings, spaghetti, cheesecake and even frankfurter salad with lettuce, frankfurter, turkey, kidney beans and ketchup! Any and all of these fillings are rolled inside the crepe, and then served in a paper cone.

The varieties are endless, and unique to the ubiquitous crepe shops that have popped up across metropolitan areas in Japan since crepes were introduced in the 1970’s. Today, young people from middle school through college congregate at crepe shops to savor the flavors of this great street food.

Regardless of what type of crepe becomes your favorite, this iconic Japanese street food is always something we’d love to eat! Tell us about your favorite crepe… and try out one of our favorite recipes!

Stay tuned for next month’s street food showcase!

Essentials of Japanese Cooking:  Vinegar & Soy Sauce

Last month, we started our Essentials of Japanese Cooking series with the first two ingredients of ryori no sa shi su se so—sugar and salt—and how they’re used to begin preparing a simmered dish. We continue this month with the next two ingredients… vinegar and soy sauce.

Vinegar, or su, is a key ingredient in the traditional Japanese pantry. Japanese vinegar is typically made from rice and has a light, golden brown color and mild, sweet taste, without the strong acidity found in distilled or wine vinegars. Rice vinegar serves many purposes in Japanese cooking: it is a preservative used for pickling, it prevents discoloration of vegetables and rice, it tones down salty flavors and tenderizes meat, poultry and fish, and is used to prepare sushi rice and sunomono, Japanese pickled salad. As part of the ‘principle of five’, vinegar is used to marinate ingredients before they are cooked and to add to the supercharged liquids used for simmering. It’s also used to create complexity in sauces, dressings and pickles.

Sunomono

Assorted sunomono

Vinegar’s acidity is balanced by the savory taste of shoyu, or Japanese soy sauce, the se. Two types of shoyu are most predominantly used in Japanese cooking: light (usukuchi shoyu) typically used in Kansai style cooking and dark (koikuchi shoyu), traditionally used in Kanto style cooking. Both types of soy sauce are made from soy beans, wheat, rice, salt and yeast, with the ingredients fermented and aged naturally to give the resulting sauce a rich flavor.

In Japan, shoyu is both mass-produced and artisanally prepared. Traditionally, shoyu is made by combining the ingredients and fermenting them in large vats that are hand-stirred. Larger manufacturers follow a similar process, but allow machines to mix the ingredients. In either process, the sauce is aged for at least six months. Koikuchi shoyu is produced most often, and is considered the ‘standard’ type of Japanese soy sauce. It is made with equal parts soy and wheat, plus salt and yeast. This darker soy sauce is used for simmered dishes and most often in home cookery.

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Usukuchi shoyu, the second most popular soy sauce is lighter and saltier than koikuchi shoyu. It’s the preferred soy sauce for haute cuisine and recipes originating from the Kansai region of Japan, and because of its lighter color and unique flavor in dips and sauces that need to be light in color. Usukuchi shoyu is made from soy, wheat, salt and yeast, and is often flavored with fermented rice, wheat gluten or amakaze.

Tamari, Saishikomi and Shiro shoyu are specialty types of sauces, often used as dipping sauces and for flavoring specific dishes.

Shoyu is serious business in Japan, as it is one of the essential condiments used in all Japanese cuisine. The Japanese Ministry of Agriculture, Fishing and Forestry and the Japanese Soy Sauce Association both monitor the grading and labeling of shoyu. Grades include special, first grade, standard grade, extra select and ultra-extra select and labeling includes the notation of any additives, whether the ingredients were grown without pesticides or chemical fertilizers, whether the sauce was made from the whole soy bean, whether the sauce is low sodium and whether it raw and unpasteurized.

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Nimono

Simmered dishes, or nimono, rely a great deal on sa shi su se so used in a dish in a particular order, and are exemplary of the fundamental rules of Japanese cooking. Vinegar is used to tenderize or marinate meat or poultry before adding these types of tougher materials to a simmered dish, and is used to coat vegetables after quickly simmering to prevent discoloration. Shoyu is often added to simmering liquids to impart light to robust flavor and umami to foods. Each step of a nimono recipe is performed precisely in an order that enhances the qualities of each ingredient, building complexity while remaining delicate and true to the tastes of the food itself.

We have a lovely Nimono (Japanese Summer Vegetable Stew) recipe on our website that is easy for beginners and we hope you enjoy trying it!

In our next post, we’ll discuss how miso is used and how this essential of the Japanese pantry is used in many dishes. We’d love to hear back from you about your experiences as a beginner with Japanese cooking, so leave us a comment below.

 

Zojirushi’s Gourmet Sizzler® Electric Griddle – EA-DCC10

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Pancakes, pancakes, and more pancakes. It’s winter and we all want the warmth of comforting food.

Our Gourmet Sizzler® Electric Griddle (EA-DCC10) is a great appliance for everyday cooking, and while griddles are traditionally used for pancakes (and we are giving you some great recipes below!), the Gourmet Sizzler® Electric Griddle is versatile enough to use for any meal. It has an extra-large surface that allows you to cook everything from breakfast dishes like pancakes, French toast, sausage, bacon and hashbrowns, to stir-fries, gyoza, cuts of meat and poultry, and burgers. The unique lid spans the entire cooking surface, cutting down on cooking time, helping foods cook more evenly and allowing you to steam food directly on the griddle.

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The Gourmet Sizzler® Electric Griddle’s other features also make it a great appliance to add to your countertop. The heating element runs the entire width and length of the griddle for even heat distribution, which means no hot or cold spots on the cooking surface.  The cooking surface itself is made of cast aluminum, covered by dual ceramic layers, which help with heat conduction and retention, as well as a titanium enhanced nonstick, diamond-patterned surface that makes the plate durable and easy to clean.

Temperature control is easy with the Gourmet Sizzler® Electric Griddle’s temperature control plug, which can be set anywhere from a “keep warm” 175°F all the way to 425°.  The plug is removable, making the griddle plate fully immersible and easy to clean—and, when you are ready to start cooking again, the plug clicks when inserted so that you can be sure it’s securely in.

EA-DCC10 Disassembles

Fully disassemblable

All parts disassemble for cleaning and the body guard and the cooking plate can also be immersed in water.

The EA-DCC10 has been designed with safety in mind. The griddle will not heat up unless all parts have been properly installed. The body guard protects the user from scalding or burns, and the handles are heat resistant, so the griddle can be transported easily and moved around on the countertop.

This griddle is practical, versatile and easy-to-use. For more information, check out our demonstration video. And, as we promised… here are some great pancake recipes for you to try. Don’t forget to share your own recipes with other Zojirushi fans!

Blueberry Whole Wheat Pancakes

Gluten-Free Pancakes

Okonomiyaki with Shrimp, Kansai-Style

Seafood Jeon (Korean-Style Pancakes)

What is Rice Really?: Short-Grain Rice

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We’re back this month with our second blog about rice and the deep relationship we, as a human race, have with this amazing grain. Rice is grown all over the world, existing in many shapes, colors, sizes and flavors.

As we wrote last month, the rice plant is a type of grass, which produces fruit that ripens into grains of rice. When ready, the plants are harvested, dried and threshed, which results in unrefined rice grains that are separated from the plant stems and leaves. The unrefined grains go on to be cleaned, polished and packaged before they are used to create the many dishes that human societies all over the world relies on for nutrition and sustenance.

During the processing phase, rice grains are generally grouped by their origins, and then by size (short, medium or long grain), by the color of the refined grain (white, purple, red or black) and by its texture (loose or sticky). The initial de-husking removes the outer hull surrounding the rice grain, exposing the bran. The bran is either left on the rice—resulting in brown rice if the inner grain is white—or the bran is removed, which leaves the inner grain exposed for polishing, resulting in white rice. Colored rice varieties, like red and black, can be eaten with or without their bran covering.

Short grain white rice

Short grain white rice

Short-grain rice is the most common type used in Japanese cuisine, giving it the broad classification Japonica. (By contrast, long grain rice is categorized as Indica.) These grains are almost round in appearance, and typically less than 5mm long and 2.5 mm wide. These varieties require less water to cook and generally result in starchy or sticky rice. The short grain rice used in Japanese cooking is called uruchi mai, and while there are hundreds of varieties available, popular ones include koshihikari, hitomebore, akitakomachi and sasanishiki. These rice varieties have sweet, nutty flavors, ranging from sticky to loose and plump in texture, and are used to make sushi rice and served as an accompaniment to a meal. Mochi gome, also known as glutinous or sweet rice, is another type of extra-sticky, opaque, short-grain Japanese rice that is used to make mochi, a sweet delicacy with a chewy texture. All of these short grain rice varieties have been produced for decades (if not hundreds of years!) and grace the table of Japanese people across the globe.

Stay tuned for next month’s post about medium-grain rice and check out some of our favorite rice recipes online… especially this one for mochi!

Seaweed the Superfood

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Seaweed has got to be the most traditional and most futuristic food in the world, at the same time. It’s so interwoven into our culture and diet that we Japanese probably take it for granted, but as we sit here and wrap our onigiri (riceballs) in our nori (laver seaweed), there are real organizations out there that are researching seaweed as the answer to world hunger.

By the year 2050, the world population is projected to reach 9 billion. The big question is, how are we going to feed all those people without severely affecting our environment? Agriculture employs more than 28% of the world, whether it’s directly or indirectly, so we need agriculture for our global economic health. But agriculture also accounts for a major percentage of greenhouse gases, deforestation of our jungles and uses the majority of all the freshwater we take from our rivers and lakes. I don’t expect to be around in 2050, but my kids and their kids certainly will be; so this is serious business.

And being taken very seriously as a sustainable food source is the humble seaweed, familiar to many Asian countries for centuries. Today seaweed has been elevated to superfood status because of its nutritional benefits and the fact that it may save the world from starvation. And farming it requires no maintenance like weeding, fertilizingseafarm2 or watering; it leaves the environment cleaner by removing harmful excess nutrients from the water, and it doesn’t consume much in resources. Talk about the perfect crop!

Seaweed farming began in Japan as early as 1670, so as an edible food, you might say the rest of the world is just catching up. The West has only just begun to realize its importance beyond being a wrapping for sushi. Don’t forget that seaweed is a potent source of umami as well, and world class chefs are well aware of how kombu is used to make soup stock.

kombu2There are basically 6 types of commonly used seaweed varieties in Japanese cuisine.
Kombu, which I just mentioned, is probably used everyday by homemakers in Japan. A kelp loaded with umami, kombu is an important ingredient in making dashi, or soup stock, especially for miso soup. The best kombu is gathered from the shallow waters off of Hokkaido; like most seaweed, it is high in calcium, iron and iodine, which the body needs.

 

wakame2Wakame, which is more like a vegetable, is used in salads, in soups, marinated in vinegar, or simmered with other vegetables. Even though it’s bland and pretty much tasteless on its own, wakame becomes an excellent companion ingredient because of its semi-crunchy texture and its delightful, faint aroma of the sea. Wakame is probably the most popular type of seaweed in Japan.

 

 

nori2Nori, the seaweed that almost all Westerners know now as being edible and synonymous with sushi, is farmed and dried and cut into sheets like papermaking. You’ve also seen nori wrapped around riceballs, floating in bowls of ramen, and cut into little strips on top of cold soba (buckwheat) noodles. Some types are flavored with a little soy sauce and sweet mirin (rice wine), called Ajitsuke Nori, and can be eaten alone with plain white rice. You’ll see this in a classic Japanese breakfast sometimes.

 

aonori2Aonori is another kind that you may not have noticed, used to sprinkle over yakisoba (pan-fried noodles) or okonomiyaki (savory pancakes). This green, fine-flaked nori gives these dishes an added seasoning and makes an attractive presentation.

 

 

 

hijiki2Hijiki, a dark, almost blackish sea vegetable that can be found dried in stores, has been a part of the Japanese diet for centuries. Its nutritional properties and the macrobiotic movement of the seventies made it popular and more readily available in the West, where hijiki is now recognized for its culinary uses. In Japanese cuisine, hijiki can be found as a seasoned side dish, as flavoring in mixed rice, or as an added ingredient in stir frys and simmered vegetables.

 

kanten2Kanten, also known as agar-agar, is a popular diet food because it contains no calories, yet its fiber content helps the body as an intestinal regulator–it’s been taken seriously in obesity studies. Basically a vegetable gelatin with no flavor on its own, kanten is popular in Japan for its versatility and used in sweet desserts like puddings, custards and cakes, or eaten like Jello.

 

 

mozuku2Mozuku, produced mainly in Okinawa and popular all over Japan, may be the most foreign to Westerners. It has a stringy, slimy quality that might need some getting used to, but the refreshing taste, especially when marinated with a sweet vinegar, can be habit forming. You might say it most resembles a seaweed that you fished right out of the ocean, but it is surprisingly mild and not as briny as you might think. Take a leap of faith and try this one.

 

So if seaweed has the potential to save mankind from future starvation, why hasn’t it advanced beyond “ethnic food” status? Like any kind of food you haven’t grown up with, it takes time to acquire the taste. But researchers and chefs are working together these days, who really believe in the future of seaweed. After all, we’re eating vegetables that grow in dirt aren’t we? Seaweed just happens to grow in the oceans.

Credits: World Resources Report
Seaweed Farm by Adam Broadbent for Scubazoo
Seaweed salad by Steven Depolo
Kombu & Wakame by Robin
Ramen nori by Michael T.
Aonori by Alpha
Hijiki by TokyoViews
Kanten dessert by Alex
Mozuku by Pablo

Japanese Street Food:  Ramen

ramen01Yum.

Street food.

All over the world, cities are famous for iconic foods served on sidewalks, along canals, at festivals and in parks. With a reputation for providing excellent, cheap, fast food, street food vendors unite people across all cultures—from hot dogs in New York City to pav bhaji in Mumbai to coxinha in Sao Paolo. Japan offers a rich street food culture with many vendors, called yatai, setting up their two-wheeled carts during meal times to serve savory, sweet and flavorful dishes to customers.

One of the most popular street food dishes in Japan is ramen. While most people think of ramen as a quintessentially Japanese dish, it was originally brought to Japan from China in the mid-1800s. Made of wheat flour, salt, plain water and kansui (a type of alkaline water which gives the noodles their bounciness and yellow hue), ramen noodles became a staple in Japan following their introduction and were especially ubiquitous following World War II, as wheat flour from the United States became readily available. Over time, ramen specialties emerged, with regional variations being created with unique local flavors, preparation techniques and consumption habits.

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Miso ramen

There are various types of ramen, and they are distinguished by their heaviness, the broth base, and the seasoning sauce added to the base broth to give it its distinctive flavor, or tare. The noodles and toppings also vary regionally and aficionados develop cult followings to their unique concoctions. The most popular types of ramen are miso ramen, shoyu ramen and tonkotsu ramen.

Sapporo is the birthplace of miso ramen, in which the broth base is made using fermented soybean paste. According to legend, miso ramen was created in a small ramen shop by a customer, who requested noodles in his miso and pork broth soup. The kotteri heaviness of this ramen, because of the added fats and butter, results in an opaque broth. Add in thick noodles and toppings such as garlic, ginger, bean sprouts, bamboo shoots, corn, scallions, and minced roasted pork and you have one of the most popular forms of ramen!

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Shoyu ramen

Shoyu ramen is one of the most traditional types of ramen, and the broth is simmered for hours, resulting in a complex blend of pork, chicken, vegetables, seaweed and dried fish. The broth is then mixed with soy sauce to complete the flavor. Shoyu ramen, somewhere in the middle of the heaviness scale, is generally served with thin, wavy noodles and topped with scallions, nori, roasted pork, naruto and bamboo shoots.

Tonkotsu ramen

Tonkotsu ramen

Tonkotsu ramen is another type of ramen from Japan and it has recently experienced a surge in popularity in the United States.  Tonkotsu ramen is made from a rich bone broth, boiled for days, to which thin straight noodles and spicy condiments such as mustard greens, ginger and even chili oil are added. Originating from the Fukuoka area, where yatai are hugely popular, tonkotsu ramen is usually served with all-you-can-eat noodles, making it extra filling and hearty.

Regardless of what type of ramen becomes your favorite, this noodle soup dish is perfect for any season, for lunch or dinner, and any place where savory, soothing and filling food is on order! Tell us about your favorite ramen… and stay tuned for next month’s street food showcase!

 

Essentials of Japanese Cooking:  Sugar & Salt

Japanese cooking is rich in tradition and precise technique. Whether creating obanzai-style meals at home or high-kaiseki cuisine at the finest restaurant, Japanese cooking tradition, or washoku, is based on five sets of thoughtful principles–five colors, five flavors, five senses, five methods, and five viewpoints. As we begin 2016, we’re introducing the five ingredients of Japanese cooking that serve as the foundation for these principles: sugar, salt, vinegar, soy sauce and miso. satou

These five ingredients, known collectively as ryori sa shi su se so, are stocked in almost every Japanese kitchen pantry and are added to foods in this precise order. Herbs and other light seasonings are used to enhance the flavors of these essentials, creating light and tasty dishes. The technique for adding seasoning to food is based on the type of preparation method used for the component of the meal, which traditionally includes rice, soup, broiled fish, poultry or meat, simmered vegetables, a salad and pickles.

In a simmered dish of vegetables, the ingredients are cooked in a liquid that infuses them with savory umami, enhancing and drawing out the natural taste of the vegetables. The vegetables are placed in a pot, water or stock is added, and the sa shi su se so ingredients are added one at a time, building a mixture that is rich, yet delicate.  The first ingredient to be used during cooking is sugar, or sato, as its molecules are larger than those found in salt. Adding sugar before any other ingredient allows the sugar molecules to infuse the food, creating a base upon which all other flavors are balanced.sukiyaki

Once sugar is added to the simmering liquid, salt, or shio, is added to temper the sweetness of the sugar and to build complexity on the palate. Salt is a preservative, and prevents chlorophyll from breaking down, keeping green vegetables green during cooking. Salt begins the process of osmosis, allowing bitter liquids to drain out of ingredients. When used in the correct proportion, salt satisfies the palate.

Sugar and salt are only the beginning in Japanese cooking, and with the addition of vinegar, soy sauce and miso, a Japanese dish truly blossoms. In our next post, we’ll discuss how vinegar and soy sauce are used… and how our simmered vegetables continue to develop! We’d love to hear back from you about your experiences as a beginner with Japanese cooking, so leave us a comment below.

 

Zojirushi’s New Stainless Steel Food Jar–SW-GCE36

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Our new food jar is here!

Now available in Cherry Red and Nut Brown colors, the new SW-GCE36 stainless steel food jar is vacuum-insulated to keep foods hot or cold for a long time, and an electro-polished SlickSteel® interior to repel foreign substances and prevent odors. The wide mouth and easy-to-disassemble lid make eating and cleaning simple.  The lid is specially designed with your everyday use in mind:  A tightly-fitted lid seal minimizes leaks, and a valve gasket mechanism allows you to release pressure from heat buildup for effortless lid removal.

This food jar makes it easy to enjoy breakfast, lunch or any meal right out of the container. Oatmeal mixed with hot water becomes perfectly cooked on the way to work. Soup stays warm and delicious.  The SW-GCE36 is perfect for the winter months!