A Food Lover’s Tour of Japan – Maki Sushi in Chiba

We’re so excited that winter will end soon and our third location on our Food Lover’s Tour of Japan is the perfect place to enjoy the upcoming beauty of spring… Chiba!

Chiba Prefecture is located in the southeast part of Kanto Region of Japan, a large, fertile plain that is unique in a country predominantly defined by mountains.  Some part of it is also situated on the Boso-hanto Peninsula, with Tokyo Bay on the west and the Pacific Ocean on the east. This peninsula is sheltered and temperate, even during the cold months of winter, and has been densely populated for centuries due to its climate, fertile farmland, rich fishing zones and famous floriculture.

Chiba’s signature dish is futomaki sushi… and as we learn more about this beautiful area of Japan, you’ll understand why this dish is such a great characterization of this region.

On the west coast of the prefecture, situated alongside Tokyo Bay and within commuting distance of Tokyo, you’ll find Chiba City. Chiba City is the governmental and business hub of the prefecture, home to one of Asia’s biggest convention centers, the Makuhari Messe, and to the Chiba Lotte Marines baseball team. Many businesses and shops are in the city, and for leisure activities, locals and visitors both appreciate the cute port area called Chiba Port Park, where they can enjoy the beach, viewing tower, boat rides and cycling.

Not far from Chiba City, to the northeast, is Narita. Many of us know Narita as gateway to Japan, since this city is the location of Narita International Airport. But Narita is also a great spot to experience traditional Japanese culture. The famous Narita-san Shinsho-ji Temple attracts over 13 million visitors a year and has been a time-honored place of worship since 940 AD. During the spring, one of the largest drum festivals is held in Narita. 200 drummers participate and the thunder of their drumming can be heard throughout the city! Early summer is time for the Narita Gion Matsuri, where the Shinto object of worship from the temple is paraded around the city along with floats.

Tulips bloom in Chiba

History also abounds in the neighboring cities of Sawara and Sakura City. In these cities, visitors come to experience the atmosphere of Edo period through well-preserved architecture, shops, homes, samurai residences and classic streets. The National Museum of Japanese History, Chiba Prefectural Boso-no-Mura Museum and the Museum of Aeronautical Sciences are well-worth the visit.

The beaches in this prefecture are stunning. Kujukuri Beach, along the Pacific Ocean, is 41 miles long with a long straight coastline without reefs. It extends from Cape Gyobu in Iioka Town to Cape Daito in Misaki Town and is a pristine area for swimming, surfing, water sports and sport fishing. At the north end of the beach is Cape Inubo-saki, a raised marine abrasion where dramatic cliffs, rough waves and blasts of wind contrast strongly with the more serene beach towards the south. There is a lighthouse at the cape, where if you go up to the observation deck to view the panorama of the Pacific Ocean, you’ll be able to see the curvature of the Earth and if you’re lucky, dolphins! Not far from the cape, the Byobu-ga-ura Cliffs rise 131-164 feet high, and are fondly called the Dover of the Orient, due to their sparkling white façade.

Because of Chiba Prefecture’s temperate climate, flowers grow abundantly throughout the peninsula. The natural landscape and rich flora inspires Chiba’s signature dish: futomaki sushi. Chiba Prefecture’s futomaki sushi are artfully crafted, thick sushi rolls, made with colorful vegetables, rice decorated with food dyes, eggs and seafood. The traditional rolling techniques, learned in from a young age, and designs unique to each family, result in patterns that show through the cross-cuts made in the rolls when they’re sliced. Flowers in the shape of ume blossoms and roses are common motifs, but the variety of designs is as endless as the number of families rolling the sushi.

Futomaki sushi is thicker than basic maki sushi, or sushi roll. While futomaki sushi is traditionally made for special occasions, people enjoy simpler maki sushi throughout the year. Just like futomaki suhi, maki sushi can be made with fresh, colorful fillings, such as tamago (sweetened omelet), carrots, gourd, mitsuba, shiitake mushrooms, pickled ginger, shiso leaves, cucumber, eel, shrimp and tuna. Whether or not the rolling technique results in a patterned design, the ingredients are balanced so that no one flavor overpowers the other.

Making Chiba Prefecture’s futomaki sushi is an art practiced over years, so preparing simpler maki sushi is a great way to get started. Try out our recipe for a basic maki sushi and as always, let us know about your travels to Chiba and your adventures in rolling sushi!

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.