Product Inspirations – Stainless Steel Food Jar (SW-GCE36)

Our Stainless Steel Food Jar (SW-GCE36) is a great way to pack a fresh meal that you can take with, wherever you go!

It comes in a 12 ounce capacity and two gorgeous colors–Nut Brown and Cherry Red. The modern design is both functional and beautiful, and takes up minimal space while maximizing capacity.

This food jar is made using our superior double-walled vacuum insulation technology, where the air between the outer and inner layers of stainless steel is removed, so that heat is prevented from passing through. Your food stays at an optimal temperature, hot or cold, until it’s time to eat.

Foods stay fresh in the Stainless Steel Food Jar. The interior is made with sanitary electro-polished SlickSteel® stainless steel, which resists odors and corrosion. And the food jar is easy to fill with a 3 ¼ inch wide opening, and a flat interior that makes it ideal to eat and drink from. This food jar also has a unique removable plastic mouth ring which fits around the rim of the jar for comfort. The food jar and the lid are both easy to clean, and the lid completely disassembles, making it even easier.

We love this food jar for its great features… but mostly for the kinds of foods you can eat from it! Traditional classics like Bean Medley Soup and Total Tonjiru Soup are easily eaten from the food jar. A Stacked Pasta Salad works beautifully in the food jar, easily layered with lots of fresh veggies, pasta and dressing. Bring a snack or dessert, like Red Cranberry Gelatin with Mixed Berries. Even breakfast is easy to make in our food jar! You can make Steel Cut Oatmeal To-Go in the jar with this recipe:

  1. Preheat the food jar by pouring boiling water in it so that it is thoroughly warmed. Keep the water in there for 5 minutes and discard after the jar is preheated.*
  2. Place ¼ cup steel-cut oats and 2/3 cups boiling water into the jar.
  3. Close the lid tightly and shake gently.
  4. Let the oatmeal sit for an hour, and then shake the jar again. Let sit for another hour.
  5. When the oatmeal is ready, carefully open the jar and add sugar and fruit to taste. (May we recommend bananas and chocolate chips, or strawberries and honey?)

* Wasn’t that a great tip? You can preheat and precool the food jars so they keep food as close to the original temperature even more efficiently!

No matter what you bring in your food jar, it’s sure to be fresh and delicious! Find out more about this food jar on our website and as always, tell us about your favorite food jar recipe!

Japanese Drinks – Sake!

Pronounced “sah-keh”, this alcoholic beverage is famous around the world. Sake is brewed from the fermentation of four base ingredients—rice, koji, water and yeast–and the unique qualities of each of these ingredients is what gives sake its subtle taste, pleasing aroma and alcoholic kick.

Finding pure, clean, fresh water is the first task in making sake. Japan’s air, rain and volcanic soil is ideally suited to creating water that is full of the minerals that lend themselves to brewing sake. Saka-mai is a short-grain, large-kernel rice that is specially cultivated and harvested for sake. This rice is heavily polished, sometimes to less than half of its original kernel size, in order to produce a sake that is not contaminated with the proteins from the rice bran. The saka-mai is steamed and sprinkled with koji. These three ingredients are mixed with water, more steamed rice and yeast, and the resulting mash is stored in tanks, where it undergoes a process called “multiple parallel fermentation”, which is unique to sake. During fermentation, the carbohydrates in the rice are converted into sugar and alcohol at the same time as the yeast produces carbon dioxide, and low heat is added to pasteurize the mixture. Once the mixture is ready, it is poured into bags, the liquid pressed out, filtered and bottled. Nowhere else in the world has a traditional fermented beverage been developed that attains such a high level of alcohol content. This entire process is expertly managed by a sake master, the toji.

Sake brewing mash

And with that, we have sake.

Sake is said to have first been brewed approximately 2,500 years ago. Originally, sake was brewed to propitiate the deities, thanking them for a bountiful harvest and asking them for prosperity and bumper crops in the future. Sake’s popularity grew and it began to be served in the Imperial Court. But sake brewing truly exploded and became available to the masses from the 12th-15th centuries. Today, sake is brewed all over Japan in modern breweries, and it is estimated at up to 15,000 varieties are created by large and micro-breweries.

Drinking sake can be as casual as a quick tipple before a meal and as formal as a religious ritual. Every year in January, the sake season starts when breweries hang a ball made of cedar needles outside their front door. This signals that the sake is ready! Casks of sake are ceremonially breached, with the round lids symbolizing good fortune and harmony. Sake is famously drunk at traditional wedding ceremonies, at New Years and during festivals each season.

A ball made of cedar needles hangs from the eve of a sake brewery

Outside of these special times for drinking sake, people throughout Japan and the world enjoy it on a daily basis. Sake can be drunk either warmed or cold, as the temperature brings out different characteristics in the beverage. The flavor and aroma vary from light and fruity, with a sweet, delicate taste to a more mature, umami-based, acidic one. Sake can be light-bodied or full-bodied, dry or soft, flavored or unadulterated, aged and mellowed over time. In general, sake contains 20% alcohol, but water can be extracted from the beverage to increase the alcohol content, if preferred.

Pairing sake with food is one of the best ways to enjoy it. Light, fruity sake pairs well with vegetables and flaky, white fish. Light and smooth sake pairs well with sashimi, matured sake with cheese and dishes basted with savory soy sauce, and full-bodied sake with red meats and yakitori.

Tokkuri sake serving set

Trying the different varieties of sake is an adventure! Sake is categorized as either junmaishu, where the only ingredients are water, rice, koji, and yeast, or honjozoshu, where distilled alcohol is added to the other four ingredients. Along with these two categorizations, sake is further be graded based on the polish ratio of the rice used. Ginjoshu is made with rice that has approximately 40% of its outer layer polished off, resulting in a light and fruity flavor, and a smooth mouthfeel. Daiginjoshu uses rice polished to 50%, which results in more refined and pure tasting sake. Junmai-daiginjoshu is considered to be the highest grade sake, as it uses the purest most refined ingredients: water, koji, yeast, and well polished rice.

Each of these types of sake are poured from small ceramic flasks called tokkuri. The tokkuri is placed in hot water when sake is to be warmed, or in an ice bath when served chilled. Sake can be served in an ichigo-masu, a square box traditionally made of cypress wood that holds 180ml of liquid, or small porcelain glasses. When serving sake, the polite way to pour is with both hands, just as the courteous way to receive the cup is with both hands, taking a sip before placing it back on the table. But the most fun part is probably toasting with a cup of sake…”KAMPAI!”

Don’t forget to share your photos with us!

Boiling Water is a Science

If you’re one of those people who are ashamed to admit that you’re “such a bad cook, you can’t even boil water,” you shouldn’t feel so bad. Boiling water is more complicated than you may think. First of all, did you know there are 4 degrees of boiling water that are commonly found in recipes—SIMMER, SLOW BOIL, FULL BOIL and ROLLING BOIL. And let me preface that by saying the differences are kinda minute, so they may very well blend into each other. On the other hand, Chinese tea aficionados have an additional stage and have 5 degrees of boiling—all the better to be more precise, when you’re fussy about brewing your tea.

Boiling is boiling, you say? Ah, not so fast, grasshopper! The longer you boil, the hotter the water—the hotter the water, the more your food cooks, and the more it cooks, the more it changes; in texture, in flavor, and even in chemical makeup. This explains why controlling the boil is critical in cooking, and why recipes are specific to what kind of boiling water should be used. When it comes to tea, the leaves are delicate. Water that is too hot will scorch it, and you won’t be getting the full, true flavor of the tea. So if you’re a true tea drinker, either master the Chinese way of boiling water, or get a water boiler like the kind Zojirushi makes, and you’ll never have to worry. More on that later…

The Simmer

As in a “simmering feud”, at this stage, tiny bubbles have formed at the bottom of your pot, but they aren’t really large enough yet to rise to the top and break the surface of the water. Temperature is roughly 140°F to 170°F at this point, which makes it ideal for gently poaching meats, fish and eggs—keeping them tender and delicately preventing any harsh movement that could cause them to break apart in the pot.

The Slow Boil

AKA the “lazy boil”, the water agitation is kept to a minimum and bubbles are rising and popping but kind of in isolated areas on the surface. The temperature is roughly 170°F to 195°F, usually the range used to make soup stock or slow-cooking stews. When meats are added to the stock, the lower temperature keeps the proteins from emulsifying into the liquid, keeping the stock clear—the created scum simply settles to the bottom of the pot.

The Full Boil

Now we’re at close to the boiling point, which is 195°F to 212°F; smaller bubbles are breaking over the surface everywhere and there’s all kinds of constant action. This kind of boil is best used for reducing sauces, which is a controlled way of evaporating the liquid in an open pot in order to thicken and intensify the flavor. The steam is also good for cooking tender vegetables in a basket placed above the boiling water.

The Rolling Boil

At the max temperature of 212°F, the water cannot get any hotter than this. Large bubbles are violently breaking over the surface and you’re in full agitation mode—so many bubbles that you can no longer cause any kind of break in the action by stirring. But because the heat is highest and constant now, the rolling boil is perfect for blanching vegetables or cooking pasta.

With blanching, vegetables like asparagus or broccoli are scalded for a couple of minutes, then quickly removed and dropped into ice water. The sudden temp change shocks and stops the cooking process—preserving the color, flavor and texture. It also cleanses the surface of dirt and organisms, and helps to slow the loss of vitamins.

Boiling pasta at this temperature has a couple of benefits. Al dente pasta usually requires a precise cooking time. Since the water is already at its highest, any drop in temperature when you put the pasta in, is minimal and won’t affect the cooking time—so you can be accurate. Plus the extreme agitation helps to keep the pasta from sticking together.

Tea Temp Talk

My Zojirushi Water Boiler has 4 temp settings that allow me to choose the best hot water for my tea. We drink a lot of Japanese tea around my house, so having one of these has become indispensable. To be honest, I’m probably not as critical about my water temperature as I could be, but the kids need it to be hot enough for the occasional cup of instant noodles—and you don’t need to be picky about that. I use it for instant oatmeal sometimes too.

It’s interesting to hear how some older generation Chinese measured their boiling water by describing the bubbles and the water with colorful phrases. From simmer to boil, the bubbles grow from “Shrimp Eyes” to “Crab Eyes” to “Fish Eyes”. Then the action in the water starts to look like a “Rope of Pearls”, until finally the churning and swirling is like a “Raging Torrent”. So there you go—5 degrees of boiling water. I love those descriptions!

If you want to get more precise with your hot water and brewing your tea, you can read about it here on the Zojirushi site.

 

 

credits: Chinese tea brewing knowledge by Golden Moon Tea blog
“Boiling water” by Ervins Strauhmanis is licensed under cc by 2.0
all other images by Bert Tanimoto

 

 

A Food Lover’s Tour of Japan – Tacorice in Multicultural Okinawa Prefecture

Sun, sea, nature, culture… Okinawa is the southernmost prefecture in Japan, and our destination this month as we continue our Food Lover’s Tour of Japan!

Comprised of 160 islands, 49 of which are inhabited, Okinawa was the ancestral home of the Ryukyu Kingdom and is a modern epicenter of Japanese tourism, trade and arts. Okinawa has been at the crossroads of trade with China, mainland Japan and other parts of Southeast Asia since the 15th century. From that time until the 19th century, Okinawa was known as the independent Kingdom of Ryukyu, where arts, crafts, architecture, food, culture and trade flourished.

Okinawa Prefecture consists of large islands and smaller archipelagos, including the largest and main island called Okinawa, the Yaeyama Archipelago, the Miyako Archipelago, Kerama Island and the closest inhabited islands surrounding the main island of Okinawa.

Shuri Castle in Naha City

Naha City is the largest city in Okinawa, and is located in the southern part of the main island. This city is where the ancient seat of the Kingdom of Ryukyu was based at Shuri Castle. Designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site, Shuri Castle, along with Shikina-en, the residence of the royal family, the Enkaku-ji Temple and Tamaudon, the royal mausoleum, are well worth visiting. Today, Naha City is the economic, political and transportation hub of Okinawa, and tourists can enjoy visiting the cultural sites as well as Kokusai Street. Considered “the kitchen of Okinawa”, Kokusai Street is a bustling place full of shops and restaurants and the Makishi Public Market, where grandmothers called “obaa” work at the food stalls. Naha City is also the port town from where one can travel to other parts of the prefecture.

For those wishing to stay on the main island, the northern and northwestern parts of the island offer numerous and varied experiences. In the far north, the famous Okinawa Churaumi Aquarium displays abundant marine life, like whale sharks, tropical fish, rays and corals in some of the largest tanks in the world. The aquarium works to protect endangered species and cultivates approximately 800 colonies of coral from nearby waters. The waters themselves are crystalline blue, and beaches stretching from the north all the way down the western coast are home to luxurious resorts and deep sea water spas. Hiking trails that frequently run within streams along mountains and fruit plantations are also abundant in this area.

Okinawa’s famous Churaumi AquariumThe southern part of Okinawa Island lends itself to agriculture, especially the cultivation of sugarcane, and to cave exploration, especially in the Gyokusendo Caves. In ancient times, this area was the religious center of the Ryukyu Kingdom and in present time, is home to peace memorial parks and museums dedicated to those who lost their lives during World War II. The Cornerstone of Peace, located at the Okinawa Prefectural Peace Memorial Park, lists the names of all who were lost, regardless of nationality and age, in the hopes that today’s generations work to prevent war.

The central part of Okinawa Island is the most multicultural of all. The United States still maintains military bases there, and trade with China and Southeast Asia continues in the region. The culture here is “chanpuru” or mixed, and the cities showcase shops, restaurants, movie theaters and entertainment complexes with signs in English as well as in Japanese. Central Okinawa is also said to be the birthplace of karate, and many martial arts dojos are open for extensive training. Eisa dancing, sanshin music, and traditional architecture also flourish in this part of the island. One of the most unique things about Okinawa, especially in this region is its signature dish–taco rice.

Zojirushi’s Taco Rice Bowl

Legend has it that taco rice was invented for American military men when restaurants in Okinawa didn’t have the wherewithal to make taco shells. They sautéed ground beef with taco seasonings and piled it on top of cooked Japanese white rice. Toppings such as cheese, lettuce, tomatoes and rarely salsa, completed the dish. Matsuzo Gibo is credited with the invention of the dish, and founded two restaurants–King Taco and Parlor Senri–both of which claim ownership of the dish. Original taco rice may be hard to find in the US, but our recipe of preparing it at home is easy. Check out the simple way to make a Taco Rice Bowl, Zojirushi-style. All you need is ground beef, seasonings, rice and toppings!

We hope you enjoyed reading about Okinawa Prefecture and as always, share your comments and photos below!

Product Inspirations – Micom Rice Cooker & Warmer (NL-BAC05)

Introducing our new Micom Rice Cooker & Warmer (NL-BAC05)!

We love this compact rice cooker. It’s packed with features and is an ideal size for couples and small families. With this 3-cup rice cooker, you can make as little as ½ a cup of rice or grains, allowing you to have the flexibility of making a small dish or a hearty meal.

This rice cooker uses some of our best features, like a nonstick coated, 2.5mm thick black inner pan which allows for even heat distribution and easy cleaning, as well as a triple heater with an extra-large heating element that heats the inner pan from the bottom, sides and top. The onboard microcomputer employs advanced fuzzy logic technology to ensure perfect results every time by making fine adjustments to cooking time and temperature.

This rice cooker also has new healthy menu settings such as Steel Cut Oatmeal and Quinoa, as well as the other settings like White/Sushi rice, Brown rice, Long Grain White rice, Quick cooking, and even Cake which can all be found on the easy-to-use LCD control panel. The machine chimes with a melody feature when cooking is complete, so you can enjoy your food hot and fresh. Two keep warm settings–Automatic Keep Warm and Extended Keep Warm–keep rice at the perfect serving temperature.

One of the great benefits of using a rice cooker is having your rice or grains prepared when you’re ready to eat it. The Delay Timer function on this rice cooker sets the machine to finish cooking rice by a specific time, so you can program it to cook while you’re at work or out running errands, and have rice ready when you return. And convenience features like a removable Steam Vent Cap allows for high temperature cooking without messy overflows. The retractable power cord and sturdy fold-down handle make this machine simple to store, and all surfaces that come into contact with food are BPA-free. Plus it comes with a spatula and measuring cup.

We hope you try out our delicious recipes like this Quinoa and Chicken Super Salad or or fresh and fruity Tropical Long Grain Salad!

Find out more about the Micom Rice Cooker & Warmer on our website and as always, we’d love to hear about your favorite recipes!