B-kyu Gurume: Akumaki from Kagoshima!

Hi there, Zo fans!  We hope that you’ve all been well and staying safe and healthy!  We’re back with another B-kyu Gurume post.

We think that after all of the savory goodness we’ve been enjoying, it’s time for a bit of sweetness!

We’re excited to introduce akumaki this month, a unique dish from Kagoshima Prefecture in Kyushu.

Akumaki is truly unique! It’s made of soaked or steamed mochigome – the glutinous rice used to make mochi – wrapped in bamboo leaves that are tied into packets with palm leaf strings.

The packets are boiled in lye, which is a mixture of water and charcoal ash. After a few hours, the rice inside the packets is cooked to a smooth, brown, chewy consistency, the perfect base for eating.

The akumaki is drizzled with sweet syrup, regular or brown sugar, or even kinako, a roasted soybean flour that has a pleasantly sweet taste and powdery texture. It usually takes two days to make akumaki, with the first day focused on preparing the ingredients and leaves, and the second day actually cooking the packets. The end result is worth it!

Amazing, right?

Many Asian cultures have dishes boiled or steamed in leaves, such as Indian panki or Thai-style baked fish, and this Japanese dish is part of that tradition albeit with a unique twist.  Unlike the mentioned Indian and Thai dishes, Akumaki, is more sweet as opposed to savory.

Traditionally, the two leaves used to make this dish are bamboo, for cooking, and palm for tying.  Today, akumaki is still made with palm leaves, but modern conveniences like cooking string or twine are easier to use for tying the packets.

Even more interesting than the ingredients is the legend surrounding the origins of akumaki. Legend says that akumaki was given to boys who were training to be samurai soldiers during the 16th century. The boys were treated to these sweets which were easy to make, transport and preserve. Lovely how something sweet was given to warriors!

Today, akumaki isn’t usually made at home but it’s still part of a culture treating children to sweetly delicious goodies. Most often, it is served as part of the Children’s Day tradition, which used to be celebrated as Boys Day, in May. As a regional delicacy, it’s definitely part of our favorite B-kyu gurume lineup!

Have you had akumaki before? If so, share your story with us and be sure to tag us using our hashtag #zojirushiamerica on Instagram!

Product of the Month – Fresh Brew Plus Thermal Carafe Coffee Maker (EC-YTC100)

Happy May, Zo fans!

We’re enjoying the time we’re spending in the kitchen cooking with our close family and roommates. Whether baking or cooking, often our time is spent with a cup of tea or coffee, and guess what? We’re getting really good at making excellent coffee with our Fresh Brew Plus Thermal Carafe Coffee Maker!  This Fresh Brew Plus Thermal Carafe Coffee Maker (EC-YTC100) is perfect for our #stayhome lives.

The more we use this coffee maker, the more we appreciate its unique and innovative features. It brews two types of coffee – hot or cold. Perfect for those chilly work-from-home mornings, and during the afternoon when you need a cool pick-me-up drink.  It has two brewing modes – Regular or Time Saver. And it has an automatic Pre-Infusion Cycle that really brings out the flavor of ground coffee.

The Fresh Brew Plus can brew up to 10 cups of delicious hot coffee or 5 cups of iced coffee using the same machine and carafe. Let us show you how it works.

When brewing hot coffee, preheat the vacuum insulated thermal carafe with a small amount of hot water for approximately one minute. While the carafe is heating, fill the coffee maker’s water tank with fresh, cold water to the level corresponding to the desired number of cups. Use the level markings for HOT on the water tank. Then, add the corresponding amount of ground coffee to the basket. Empty the thermal carafe and place it in the machine. Select the brew mode, press start and your coffee is good to go!

When brewing iced coffee, the key is to prevent the coffee from being diluted by ice by brewing a concentrated pot. Fill the water tank using the second set of level markings for ICED. This time, don’t preheat the thermal carafe before placing it in the machine. The rest of the steps are the same – add in coffee grounds, select the brew mode and turn it on. Once the coffee is brewed, fill the carafe with enough 1-inch ice cubes so that there is at least ½ inch of space is under the curve in the carafe. The ice cubes will flash-chill the coffee for iced coffee that’s not diluted. We guarantee that not only will pouring be much easier, but your iced coffee will be d-e-licious!

Regardless of whether you’re brewing hot or iced coffee, the Pre-Infusion Cycle helps produce the most flavorful coffee. This feature uses the internal shower head to evenly wet coffee grounds, infusing them before brewing at an ideal temperature of 200°F, allowing them to bloom for perfect extraction of flavor and aroma.

Since the thermal carafe is part of the smart design that lets you brew either hot or cold coffee, we’ve ensured that it features Zojirushi’s superior vacuum insulation technology.

Vacuum insulation technology prevents heat loss and keeps the brewed coffee hot or cold for hours. The Fresh Brew Plus doesn’t use a hot plate to keep coffee warm, which in turn prevents coffee from tasting bitter or burnt.  Yes to great-tasting coffee!

 

 

 

The Fresh Brew Plus also has multiple convenience features, including a reusable permanent gold mesh coffee filter, a 24-hour programmable timer with digital clock and a sound signal that can be switched to Mute for quiet operation. The sleek stainless steel thermal carafe has a tapered design and thumb-activated pouring that makes serving smooth. The water tank, swing basket, filter basket and carafe are easy to clean, and the machine’s exterior can be wiped down with a damp cloth.

These amazing features aside, the best thing about the Fresh Brew Plus Thermal Carafe Coffee Maker is that it makes delicious tasting coffee! We love it prepared simply, but also in this super yummy Banana Coffee Smoothie!  

Because warm weather calls for smoothies, and what better way to cool down and stay motivated during WFH than with this recipe!  Try it out and let us know what you think! And don’t forget to share your favorites with us, because we want to know the ultimate question: are you a hot coffee person or an iced coffee person?  Let us know in the comments,

Follow us on Instagram and tag your photos with #zojirushiamerica so that we can show some love on your post! Stay safe, everyone!

Grilled Cheesy

Do you like grilled cheese sandwiches? I love ‘em because they’re easy to make, ha-ha. I’m kinda late on these though—I found out Grilled Cheese Month was in April. But that’s OK. It’s never too late for a cheesy grilled cheese sandwich! And it also gave me an excuse to use my Zojirushi electric griddle. The last time I used it was to make my soufflé pancakes, and that came out pretty good, so I figured why not take it out again. I found out a couple things about the griddle when making grilled cheese—want to know what they are? (keep reading)

Here’s what I started with; note the thin sliced Japanese bread—the best for sandwiches IMHO! The bottle in back is supermarket bottled pesto (not gonna say whose brand, but it was underwhelming). I used 2 kinds of cheddar, mozzarella and Parmesan for my cheese

So here’s the first thing I found. You can get 6 slices of bread comfortably on this griddle! That’s pro!

Yessss…melting nicely.

And here’s the second thing I found—set the temperature at the lowest setting on this griddle. It’s plenty hot enough and the sandwiches won’t grill too fast. I burned the first batch setting it too high, and it wasn’t pretty. To get the cheese to melt like you want it before the bread grills too fast, use the griddle cover—that worked perfectly.

First up is the mozzarella pesto grilled cheese. Let’s face it, this is pretty easy to make if you’re using bottled pesto. But I would have done better to make my own—I mean, I had the basil already. That’ll teach me to get lazy. Still looks good, but could’ve been a whole lot better.

Garden tomato and basil grilled cheese. This is the one I was looking forward to making, and it didn’t disappoint. Look at those fresh heirloom tomatoes for color!

I used the grated cheddar for this one and spread some Japanese mayo on the inside. This was definitely the tastiest grilled cheese of the lot.

And finally, the very classic, very American grilled cheese sandwich. My one regret on this one—don’t get too cute and use cheddar cheese like I did. Just use American cheese; this sandwich deserves it! The melted Parmesan on the outside is a nice touch though, and it did add another dimension to the flavor.

Lunch time! Nothing like tomato basil soup to go with a grilled cheese sandwich. The best way to eat this? You dip the sandwich into the soup, of course!

Just For Fun
I hope you feel like toasting some grilled cheese sandwiches now—it’s so easy and quick! But have some tomato soup ready too; even if you’re not a fan, having it with a grilled cheese sandwich might change your mind—trust me!

So who else has been going for a lot of walks lately? I never used to, but these days I walk our dog everyday just to get some sun, you know what I mean? Remember the guy who used to yell, “Get off of my lawn!” when we were kids? Well, turns out they moved to our neighborhood. Sheesh!

 

Recipe credits: Garden Tomato Grilled Cheese

All photos by Bert Tanimoto

 

 

B-kyu Gurume: Suttate Udon from Kawajima!

Are you still craving Utsunomiya gyoza  from our B-kyu gurume post last month? Well, don’t worry because we’ve got an amazing new dish this month – suttate udon – and after you read all about it, you’ll be craving this dish, too!

Suttate udon hails from Kawajima in Saitama Prefecture, an area just north of Tokyo.

Kawajima is a fertile plain banded by the Ichino, Arakawa, Iruma and Toki Rivers. It’s known for its beautiful landscape and rice, tea and sesame farms. In this area, each season is exaggerated – cold weather is icy, rains are torrential and hot weather is sweltering.

It’s during the hot weather months that Kawajima’s signature B-kyu gurume dish – suttate udon – is popular. The dish consists of fresh, bouncy udon noodles dipped into a suttate dipping sauce. The sauce is what makes it special! Suttate sauce is made with freshly ground ingredients, often prepared at the table. Sesame seeds are ground in a suribachi using a surikogi, or a Japanese-style mortar and pestle. Once the sesame seeds are finely ground and fragrant, miso , thinly sliced cucumbers, finely chopped onions, aromatics and herbs such as ginger and shiso leaves are added to the mix and pounded to form a paste. And to the paste… cold, cold water…perfectly ready to dip in udon noodles!

Hungry yet?

Suttate udon has a beloved history in the Kawajima region. The wheat for the udon noodles and sesame for the sauce were locally cultivated. The nutrients in the ingredients were replenishing. And the cold dish was eaten during the hot summer months by local farmers to beat heat exhaustion from their labor. Inexpensive and locally-produced, suttate udon was almost exclusively prepared at home, with the sauce originally made with just cold water, miso and ground sesame. Even the name is local term, a slurred form of suritate, which means “freshly mashed.”

In 2008, the Kawajima Chamber of Commerce wanted to enter suttate udon in the 4th Annual Saitama Local Street Food Championship. They asked a local chef and restauranteur, Koji Adachi, to come up a new recipe. And his recipe for using dashi in the sauce instead of cold water made all the difference. The dish won fourth place in the competition, becoming an established B-kyu gurume favorite!

After the competition, word of suttate udon spread around Saitama Prefecture and of course, to the rest of Japan.

We love udon noodles, and make the dough in our breadmakers. They’re so wonderful to eat and we hope you try them with homemade suttate sauce!

And as always, share your photos with us on Instagram!

Product of the Month – The Flip-and-Go Stainless Mug (SM-QHE48/60)

Happy April, Zo fans!  It’s finally here! You’ve been asking for it and we designed it! Introducing our new Flip-and-Go Stainless Mug (SM-QHE48/60)!

 

This new mug features a flip-up handle and includes our superior vacuum insulation. It comes in two sizes – 16 ounces and 20 ounces – and in four AMAZINGLY beautiful colors – Cobalt Blue, Teal, Hibiscus Red and Purple Dusk. (Trust us when we say that we’re ready to get them in all colors!).

This mug has so many of our smart design ideas built into it. The solid flip-up handle flips up when needed and folds down when not in use. When it’s up, the handle can be used to hold or hang the mug and when it’s folded down, the handle conforms to the curves of the mug so it doesn’t get in the way when you’re drinking.

Along with the new handle, the flip-open lid also keeps the sip area covered, clean and easy to sip from. The lid also features a two-step lid release which prevents excess condensation on the stopper from splashing when you open the lid.

By using a special manufacturing technique to round the bottle opening so that it’s smooth to the touch, we’ve made this mug even more versatile because you can drink directly from it without the lid! No scraped lips (or hands when you’re cleaning it!).

Our new Flip-and-Go Stainless Mug also comes with our classic vacuum insulation technology. In addition to keeping beverages hot or cold for hours, the vacuum insulation also prevents condensation from gathering on the exterior of the mug, keeping it clean and easy to hold.

The SlickSteel® polished stainless steel interior resists corrosion and repels stains and overall, the mug is lightweight, compact and oh-so-portable! Like our other mugs, the 1 5/8” wide mouth opening accommodates full-size ice cubes, making it easy to fill and clean.

The stopper also disassembles for thorough cleaning.

Of course, like all Zojirushi products, we designed our Flip-and-Go Stainless Mug to be safe. All areas that come into contact with food and beverages are BPA-free. An air vent in the mouthpiece allows beverages to flow out smoothly without gushing and overflowing. Perfect for hot drinks! And a safety lock prevents the lid from accidentally opening. Yay! No spills.

Our Flip-and-Go Stainless Mug (SM-QHE48/60) is perfect for your every day, wherever you may go! We hope you love it. Don’t forget to tag your photos with #zojirushi on Instagram!