Japanese Drinks – Shochu!

Vodka. Whiskey. Gin. Tequila. Rum. Shochu.

Some of the most famous liquors in the world are the distilled alcohols of fermented grains, vegetables and herbs.

And Japan’s shochu is easily one of the most enjoyable and drinkable of the list.

Shochu is a distilled beverage made from water, koji, yeast and other ingredients such as rice, barley, sweet potatoes, brown sugar or buckwheat. Enjoyed throughout Japan, shochu, like sake, has become increasingly popular all over the world. And while shochu is a quintessentially Japanese drink, its origins are international.

The production of shochu in Japan has been documented to the 16th century. Historical information indicates that shochu was introduced to the area known as Ryukyu, or modern-day Okinawa, by traders from Siam, or modern-day Thailand. That drink was called arrack, the origin of which has been traced to ancient Middle Eastern and Mediterranean civilizations where an anise-flavored liquor called arak was made from the distillation of fermented cereal grains.

Rice mold, or koji

The Okinawan style of shochu, called awamori, is still made today, although the more popular honkaku shochu is considered the most authentic Japanese shochu and is primarily produced in Kyushu region. Honkaku shochu production became varied and robust during the Meiji Period (1868-1912) in Japan. The process begins similar to sake production, in that steamed short-grain japonica variety rice is inoculated with black or white aspergillius oryzae mold, or koji. Once the rice has been broken down into starch, amino acids and citric acid, yeast and water is added to complete the koji. Left to ferment for approximately one week, the resulting mixture, or moromi mash, is the initial source of alcohol for the shochu. A base ingredient, such as more rice, sweet potatoes, brown sugar, barley or buckwheat, is added to the mix. The base ingredient gives the final shochu its distinctive flavor. This mixture produces the second moromi mash, which is let to ferment for two weeks before it is heated and cooled in a traditional distillation apparatus. The distillation process retains the characteristic flavor of the base ingredient, which is mellowed and refined while the shochu is aged from several months to a few years in stainless steel, wooden or ceramic vessels. Once the shochu is aged, it is diluted with water to the appropriate alcohol content of either 20%, 25% or 30% and then bottled and shipped.

Honkaku shochu

Awamori shochu is produced using long-grain Thai indica variety rice and only black koji. While honkaku shochu goes through two mixing stages, awamori is made using only one mixing stage, going quickly into the fermentation step and after distillation, it is aged for a minimum of three years. Awamori shochu, because of its long ageing stage, has a characteristic vanilla flavor and much higher alcohol content – 43%!

Drinking shochu is a pleasure, especially at Japanese bars called izakaya in southern Japan. Beginners typically drink a rice-based shochu, called kome shochu, or a fruity cocktail called chuhai. The simplest way to drink shochu is neat, simply poured into a glass at room temperature. But shochu can be enjoyed over ice or mizuwari-style, that is, diluted with a small amount of cool water to round out the edges of the alcohol. Oyuwari-style, or diluted with warm water, is ideal during cold weather and enhances the depth, flavor and aromas of the shochu and purists often enjoy shochu warm, without any added water.

With the cold winter months coming up, we hope you’ll try some shochu at your local Japanese izakaya or restaurant. And as always, don’t forget to share your favorites with us!

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!

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!

Product Inspirations – Mr. Bento® Stainless Lunch Jar (SL-JAE14)

Our classic Mr. Bento® Stainless Lunch Jar gives you a great way to carry delicious food with you to work, school or wherever you’re on the go!

The Mr. Bento® Stainless Lunch Jar comes with a vacuum insulated outer container that holds four inner bowls, which can keep both hot or cold items fresh and ready to eat. The outer container uses double-walled stainless steel construction with Zojirushi’s superior vacuum insulation technology. The soup bowl and the main bowl fit inside the insulated part of the container, and the two side bowls fit above, keeping food at room temperature at the top of the container.

The soup bowl holds up to 9 ounces, the main bowl up to 15 ounces, the large side bowl up to 10 ounces and the small side bowl up to 7 ounces, perfect for a snack! Each of the inner bowls are microwaveable once the lids are removed and BPA-free.

When placed inside the outer container, the inner bowls present several options for storing various types of foods and keeping them hot or cold for hours. The soup bowl can hold liquids, such as broths, stews and soups. The gasket inside the lid creates a tight seal on the bowl, minimizing leaks. The valve on the top of the lid allows you to release pressure that might have built up from hot liquids and foods, making the lid easier to remove. The main bowl’s large interior holds your entree, such as meat, noodles, rice or whatever else you’re craving. It comes with an insulated lid that prevents heat or cold from radiating to the side bowls. The side bowls are perfect for foods kept at room temperature, like fruits, nuts or crackers, making it easy to take food for the entire day!

The vacuum insulated outer container is made of two layers of durable stainless steel. The air between these layers has been removed to create an airtight insulation. And the interior of the container is nonstick coated, making it easy to clean. The inner bowls are easy to clean as well… just use mild dish detergent and warm water. Once all of the bowls are inserted into the outer container, just snap the lid onto the outer container and you have a single unit that’s easy to take to work, school, or… wherever!

The Mr. Bento® Stainless Lunch Jar also comes with a covered forked spoon and a stylish carrying bag.

Get creative with cold lunch

The Mr. Bento® lunch jar is perfect for well… bentos! With four inner bowls of varying sizes, the options are limitless, so we construct our bento the way we’d stack the bowls. We start with a Green Pea Soup, garnished with a bright splash of red bell pepper in the soup bowl. White rice fills the main bowl, which stacks on top of the soup bowl in the outer container. In the large sides bowl, we add crudité vegetables topped with a Tofu Hamburger. We cap the entire meal off with some fresh fruits and nuts, the perfect dessert to store in the small side bowl. Creating our bento makes us hungry… and we hope it stimulates your appetite, too!

Try out the Mr. Bento® lunch jar for your next meal, and let us know how you fill it in the comments below.

 

Product Inspirations – Micom Rice Cooker & Warmer (NS-LGC05)

We love one of our newest rice cookers, the Micom Rice Cooker & Warmer (NS-LGC05)!

This rice cooker is ideal for small families or couples, as it can cook as little as a half cup of rice or oats and up to three cups of rice. Whether you’re making an individual portion or enough for a small family, this compact rice cooker is versatile as well as stylish, with a clear coated stainless steel exterior that looks sleek and modern on any kitchen countertop.

The Micom Rice Cooker & Warmer comes equipped with a microcomputer that uses advanced fuzzy logic technology to make fine adjustments to cooking time and temperature, ensuring rice is cooked to perfection every time. It also comes with menu settings to make white rice, sushi rice, brown rice, long grain white rice and special menu settings for steel cut oatmeal and GABA brown rice. GABA, or gamma-aminobutyric acid, is said to help lower blood pressure and relieve stress. Using the GABA Brown Rice setting activates the GABA in the brown rice by soaking it for two hours at 104°F before cooking.

Hot and delicious steel cut oatmeal

Cooking in this rice cooker is stress-free. The nonstick inner pan comes with high-contrast water level lines that make it easy to see how much water to put into the pan for the desired amount of rice. The pan is easy to insert into the machine and rice is cooked evenly using the triple heaters on the bottom, sides and lid. The easy-to-read LCD control panel is used to select the menu setting, and once set, the rice cooker will automatically presoak, cook and steam the rice to perfection. With the clock and delay timer functions, you can set rice to cook for dinner before you leave in the morning or set oatmeal to be ready for breakfast before you go to bed! Once rice is cooked, the machine automatically switches to Keep Warm mode, and rice can be reheated to serving temperature using the Reheat function just before eating.

This model features a convenient detachable inner lid for easy cleaning and a fully-washable inner cooking pan. The retractable power cord and sturdy fold-down handle make this machine simple to store and easy to transport. It also has a removable steam vent cap which allows for high-temperature cooking without messy overflows. Accessories include a nonstick rice spatula, spatula holder and a measuring cup.

Buttered Lobster Rice

With superior technology, design and performance, this Micom Rice Cooker & Warmer is great for your cooking needs. And to get you started, we wanted to share some of our favorite recipes that work beautifully in this rice cooker. Making the basics well is at the core of using this rice cooker, so why not first try making white rice, brown rice and steel cut oatmeal. When making white rice, make sure to rinse and wash the grains well prior to cooking and to use the right amount of water for the desired amount of rice. (We’ve even created a video that shows you how to properly wash rice!) Stir and loosen rice immediately after cooking, so that excess moisture is released and rice has a fluffy texture.

Once you’ve mastered these recipes, try making Takikomi Gohan, or Mixed Rice. This delicious recipe combines chicken, fried tofu, vegetables, mushrooms and seasonings with rice, all directly in the rice cooker. And if you’re in the mood for something richer, try Buttered Lobster Rice, where delicately seasoned rice is topped with rich, buttery lobster and a spritz of lemon.

No matter what you make with this rice cooker, it’s sure to turn out beautifully. Check out our product video below for more details, and as always, let us know how you do in the comments below.