Product Inspirations – Travel Mug (SM-YAE48)

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It’s National Hot Tea Month, and we love our vacuum-insulated Travel Mug (SM-YAE48) for keeping our freshly brewed green tea hot and delicious!

The Travel Mug (SM-YAE48) is stylish, versatile and convenient. It rests securely in most car cup holders, taking up minimal space while maximizing the capacity of the mug, which can hold up to 16 ounces. The leak-proof design makes it ideal for carrying in a bag, backpack or purse. And the unique lid is designed to flip open completely using a two-step process that minimizes spatters. The drinking area is designed to comfortably fit the contours of your face and the air vent in the spout is designed to let beverages flow out smoothly.

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The Travel Mug fits in most car cup holders

The Travel Mug also features Zojirushi’s superior vacuum-insulation technology for outstanding heat and cold retention along with the hygienic electro-polished SlickSteel® interior, which repels odors and stains. The wide mouth opening makes it easy to fill and clean, and the entire mug can be washed in warm water and mild dish detergent.

These features make the Travel Mug perfect for taking beverages with you where you might be going. Morning coffee and tea stays hot during your commute. Cold drinks such as flavored waters retain their temperature and taste throughout the day in the Travel Mug.

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Brewing sencha tea with a Zojirushi Water Boiler & Warmer

We particularly love this mug for drinking hot Japanese Sencha green tea. To make Sencha green tea, start with water heated to 175°F. Our water boilers are great for heating water to the exact temperature, but heating in a kettle on the stovetop works as well. When the water is at the right temperature, place the tea leaves in a pot or large cup. Be careful not to brew the tea with water at too high of a temperature, as the tea will become bitter. Pour the hot water over the tea leaves and let them steep for one to two minutes. While the tea is brewing, swish hot water in the Travel Mug to preheat the inside. This little trick will help the mug to keep your drink hot longer. When the tea leaves have finished steeping, pour the strained tea into the Travel Mug, and you’re ready to go!

Our favorite recipe for brewing Sencha is on our website so feel free to check out.

The Travel Mug comes in four beautiful colors: Lime Green, Cherry Red, Dark Cocoa and Stainless and can be purchased on Amazon.com or at your favorite specialty retailer.

We hope you enjoy using it as much as we do. And don’t forget to pin a photo of your travel mug with #ZoGo!

Japanese Bentos – Onigiri

Classically Built Onigiri

Happy 2017, Zojirushi fans! We kick off the new year with a new series about bento, or the Japanese lunch box. Japanese bentos are not only nutritious but creative and beautiful! We’re going to spend some time learning about the special foods and dishes that are found in bento boxes. Stick with us, and you’ll be making your own complete bento in no time!

We begin with one of Japanese cuisine’s beloved comfort foods, onigiri.

Onigiri, also known as omusubi, is a portable, filling convenience food that is nutritious and fun! The purest form of onigiri is made from high-quality cooked white rice that is shaped into either a ball, triangle or cylinder while it’s still hot. During the shaping process, the cook will coat their damp hands with salt to coat the rice with the seasoning.

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Onigiri bento

Onigiri is said to have come into existence after uruchimai, or everyday short-grain white rice, came to be widely used in the 11th to 12th centuries. It became popular as a convenience food before modern refrigeration, as the addition of salt or a sour ingredient helped to preserve the cooked rice and enable people to take food with them when they left home.

Onigiri is a popular bento item because it keeps well, is highly portable and can be formed into lovely shapes. It can be found in elaborately festive bentos as well as in homemade bentos, and unlike sushi or inari, which are made using rice seasoned with vinegar, onigiri can simply be made with white rice and just a touch of salt.

So how many types of onigiri are there?

So many! From the traditional triangular, spherical and cylindrical shapes to adorably cute, molded shapes of popular characters in manga and anime, onigiri takes many forms. Onigiri is often wrapped in thin sheets of dried nori seaweed.  It also can be sprinkled with sesame seeds or furikake such as ground shiso leaf. When grilled over an open flame on a wire rack, yaki-onigiri, or grilled onigiri, can be basted with a glaze like miso butter. Mixing up the type of rice used in onigiri is also a popular way to make it. Short-grain japonica white rice is traditionally used, but brown rice and rice mixed with barley, wild rice, green peas and other grains also make delicious variations. New forms of onigiri, called onigirazu, are like little rice sandwiches wrapped in seaweed.

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Kyaraben, or character bento

Making onigiri is like many Japanese activities… deceptively simple. Start with freshly cooked rice that has cooled to the point where it can be handled, not gotten cold. Moisten hands with water and rub a pinch of salt into hands. Scoop about ½ cup of rice into hands, and mold the rice into the desired shape. If using a mold, then press the rice into the mold. And you now have the most basic onigiri!

Try making our Rice Sprinkles Onigiri, which uses a wonderful vegetable furikake, as well as our Yaki-Onigiri, which results in a crispy outside and soft and savory inside. You’ll love them both!

Stay tuned for our next Japanese Bentos post in which we will be discussing about the different types of fillings for onigiri!

Also, don’t forget to share your favorite onigiri recipe with us in the comments!

 

Have a Mochi New Year!

mainI can actually remember visiting my grandfather during New Year’s when I lived in Japan, and watching him make mochi the old fashioned way—by pounding the heck out of it. He was a strawberry farmer in rural Hiroshima, so maybe he did a lot of things the old fashioned way. But sometimes tradition beats technology every time, and even though you can buy mochi anywhere these days, you can’t celebrate the New Year without it if you’re Japanese.

Mochi is for good luck, a long life and is the symbol of an auspicious new beginning to a fresh calendar year. Yikes! With 2016 trashed, we need all the help we can get this year—yoroshiku onegai shimasu, mochi! The stack of mochi you see above is called kagami mochi, which you’ll find adorning most households during the New Year. Usually two flattened mochi cakes topped with a mandarin orange, this is an offering to the Gods to bring good fortune and protection to the household. The orange is supposed to be of a variety called daidai, a bitter orange that, once its tree bears fruit, doesn’t drop for 2 or 3 years; hence representing long life. Sometimes the decoration is trimmed with dried sea kelp (konbu), dried persimmons, folded ornamental paper and set on a wooden stand, like you see below. The display is usually set up at the family altar in the house, a Buddhist shrine that honors the deceased.kagami

Mochi appears in so many ways during New Year’s—one of my favorites was my mother’s ozoni, a hot soup made of clear dashi stock, sometimes with miso depending on the regional recipe, and all kinds of possible ingredients including Chinese cabbage, carrots, spinach, fishcakes, etc., but always, always with mochi. The best ozoni IMHO, is the one on the morning of January 1st. You’ve had the one on New Year’s Eve when it’s just been cooked, then the following morning all the mochi is soft and gooey and the soup is thick and tasty! On a cold winter morning, it doesn’t get any better!ozoni

There are variations of simple grilled mochi cakes called yakimochi, where lightly charred pieces are dipped in soy sauce, or topped with grated daikon radish and soy sauce, or boiled and dusted with kinako, a sweet roasted soybean flour. The best part of grilling mochi? Watching it heat up until it magically expands, swells, and breaks open with a puff of steam as the insides burst out in a bubble. That’s when it’s done! Check out this excellent video by the ladies of Japanese Cooking 101 as they explain how to yakimochi.yakimochi

And there’s dessert! The warming, sweet soup of oshiruko, a red bean and mochi dish, is a New Year treat that is a favorite of the girls and anybody with a very sweet tooth. The red bean paste (anko) can be either koshi-an (completely smooth) or tsubu-an (partially mashed) and the mochi is often toasted or grilled before adding it to the oshiruko soup. It’s a very simple, comfort food that is easily made these days just by diluting canned red bean paste in hot water. Mochi is what makes it a New Year!oshiruko

One thing about Japanese culture—it’s always been about the old and the new. Pop culture co-exists everyday alongside traditions that are literally centuries old. But the New Year seems to be the one time of year where everyone, young and old alike, gets together to celebrate what it really means to be Japanese. For your entertainment, if you haven’t seen this video yet, is the world’s fastest mochi pounding man ever.bigstory

photo credits: Matcha Magazine, Rakuten Travel, Japanese Cooking 101, Xin Li’s Journal, The Great Big Story

Japanese Street Food: Tachigui Soba!

tachigui02What’s better than slurping hot soba noodles when you’re out in the cold? Slurping them when they’re hot, fresh, cheap and at a tachigui-style restaurant!

Tachigui, which means “eating standing up”, is a popular style of eating in Japan, especially for quick meals while traveling, commuting or going out for the evening. Tachigui-style eating was first introduced in what is now Tokyo during the Edo Period (1603-1868). During that time, restaurant owners catered to laborers and working class people who needed inexpensive yet nutritious, fresh and flavorful food… the perfect setting for serving soba noodles in soup broth. To minimize costs for space and service, tachigui shops offered standing areas for people to just eat and go.

This style of eating spread across Japan and in modern day cities, tachigui-style restaurants can be found in close proximity to rail stations and commuter areas. Soba noodles in hot soup broth are still the most popular dishes served at tachigui restaurants, but hungry people can also find sushi, barbeque and takoyaki at tachigui stalls.

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Customers eat at a tachigui soba shop in a train station (photo by Nesnad)

Dining at tachigui restaurants is an experience. Since many are located at or near train stations, they offer only counter space for diners. Diners purchase meal tickets called shokken for the type of dish they want from vending machines located at the stall. Meals range from the barebones noodles and soup to various toppings such as tempura, kakiage, eggs, fish cake and more. Once a diner purchases a ticket, they hand that to the server, and wait a few minutes for their bowl to be delivered. Tea and condiments are served freely on the counter.

Meals are inexpensive yet incredibly fresh. Soba noodles are parboiled and freshened before being served to patrons. Basic soba soups start at around 250 yen or $2.50 and soups with many toppings won’t cost more than 500-700 yen or $5.00-7.00. Regardless of price, people from all walks of life and economic circumstances eat at tachigui stalls.

Soba noodles are the perfect dish for a cold December going into the New Year and whether you’re eating tachigui-style soba noodles or toshikoshi soba, we hope you stay warm and have a great New Year!

Stainless Mug (SM-LA36/48/60)

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We love our elegant new Stainless Mug (SM-LA36/48/60)!

These sleek mugs are ultra-lightweight and are perfect for carrying in a bag or purse, no matter where you’re going. They come in 12, 16 and 20 ounce capacities so you can take as little as one-and-a-half cups to as much as two-and-a-half cups of your favorite beverage with you.

We’ve designed these mugs to be sophisticated and versatile. They come in four colors—Deep Cherry, Rose Gold, Turquoise Blue and Navy—to suit any style, and can be used for both hot and cold beverages. A one-and-a-half-inch wide mouth accommodates full-sized ice cubes and ensures that the mug can be filled easily.

We’ve also designed these mugs to be durable, using high-quality 18/8 stainless steel and Zojirushi’s superior vacuum insulation technology. By removing the air between the outer and inner layers of the stainless steel, heat is blocked from transferring through it, greatly minimizing the temperature change of your beverage. Your drinks stay hot or cold for hours.

The interior features an easy-to-clean nonstick coating and all areas that come into contact with beverages are BPA-free, ensuring that these mugs are safe and hygienic.

The twist-open lid covers the sipping area to maintain cleanliness and the removable plastic mouth ring makes for a more comfortable drinking experience.

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Two special gaskets secure the lid on the top and the bottom so that liquids don’t seep out. The lid only assembles when the stopper gasket has been attached correctly, which ensures no accidental leaks and helps to prevent the loss of parts. Cleaning is just as simple, as all pieces can be hand washed in mild dish detergent and warm water.

Elegant, lightweight and practical, the Zojirushi Stainless Mug is perfect for every day and every need.

We hope you enjoy using it as much as we enjoyed creating it! Share your comments and photos with us below!