Tako-pa!

What the heck is a “tako-pa”? When I was living in Japan a lifetime ago, one thing I noticed was that they love to abbreviate, twist and abuse the Japanese language until it sounded like a secret code—and if you weren’t up on the trend, well…too bad for you. “Tako-pa” is short for Takoyaki Party, where friends can gather and cook those luscious, tongue-burning little octopus-filled dough balls. It is the quintessential street food from Osaka, and you can make them yourself at home if you have a takoyaki hot plate. Zojirushi makes one that you can get separately for your Gourmet Sizzler® Electric Griddle. And they have a pretty good video that helped me a lot.

I found my recipe online—don’t worry, they’re everywhere. Here’s what I started with:

Fairly minimal right? The batter is more watery than you might expect, but don’t worry, this is takoyaki.

Don’t be afraid to spill over the little cavities in your takoyaki pan; you’re not baking muffins. Just fill each pocket with all the ingredients and the batter, and wait till the magic starts!

 

What you do next is the part that requires a little practice. All you do is use a skewer or metal pick to turn the dough over as it cooks. If you’ve oiled the pan properly, it easily releases and turns over in its hole, allowing you to cook the other side. You can literally “tuck in” the extra batter into the dough ball as you roll it over, making a nice round ball as it cooks. Holy Moly, this is amazing!

I found it better to push down the opposite side of the ball with the pick and roll it over that way, instead of trying to pick it up from the side close to me. Came out OK, right? Maybe other than the lame one in the upper corner.

The traditional dressing is katsuobushi (bonito flakes), takoyaki sauce (store bought), mayo and aonori (powdered seaweed, also store bought).

Traditional way of eating is to pop the whole thing in your mouth, but beware the heat! When I said tongue-burning I wasn’t joking.

Pepperoni Pizza Balls
One great thing about this takoyaki pan is that you can make other ball-shaped treats using this same method; just change the type of dough you use, depending on what it is. I tried stuffed Pizza Balls next, with these simple ingredients and a pizza dough batter.

Load up the takoyaki pan again.

Surprisingly, the cheese didn’t stick, thanks to the nonstick surface and the addition of the oil. I kept the same high heat as the takoyaki, but lowering it a bit may have helped me turn it over better by giving me more time. I just need more practice, I think.

Still, it didn’t turn out so bad. Next time I’ll warm up the marinara sauce so that I can dress it better. And I’ll load more pepperoni to give it more flavor.

Tasted yummy though!

Hazelnut Cocoa Pancake Balls
For dessert I tried these chocolatey treats using Japanese pancake batter. I was careful this time not to overfill, figuring this one would expand. My mistake on this one was not lowering the temperature to account for the faster cooking time. I would suggest no more than 300°F so you have time to turn it.

Came out OK though. Looks cute enough to eat?

Not bad for a first time effort…

I think with a little practice I’ll get better at using this takoyaki pan. It’s definitely fun to watch the little balls form, so that’s a different experience. Of these three, the best one was the takoyaki itself, which I guess means the traditional one is always best!

Just For Fun
Watch the pro do it. But no fair! Notice how the entire plate rocks in a circular motion? That helps keep the dough agitated so it’s easier to flip and roll into little balls!

 

All photos and videos by ©2021 Bert Tanimoto

Zojirushi products used in this post:
Takoyaki Pan
Gourmet Sizzler® Electric Griddle

Please note that these recipes were not tested by Zojirushi America

 

 

 

 

 

Mother’s Home Cooking: Hamburg

What is Hamburg and Where Did it Come From?

Hambāgu or Japanese Hamburger Steak, is a hugely popular dish in Japanese cuisine that is the ultimate comfort meal. It’s a steak patty made from ground meat; however, the dish is served with rice instead of buns. The style of meat is like Salisbury Steak or a single serving of meatloaf, but of course with a Japanese twist.

This dish originated in Hamburg, Germany, where they began cooking minced meat with breadcrumbs in the 18th century. And while the dish dates to the Meiji era in Japan, believed to be first served in Yokohama, it grew in popularity in the country during the early 20th century. Hamburg became widely popular in the 1960s, as minced meat was readily available and affordable, and the variations and sauces allowed for an elevated budget meal. Since the 1980s, vacuum-packed hamburg has been sold with sauce for bento-boxes.

–Wafu (or Japanese-style) Hambagu

Hamburg Ingredients

The patty is juicy and loaded with flavor. The key ingredients include minced meat (generally beef, pork, or a combination of the two), finely chopped onions, egg, and panko breadcrumbs – and for meatier dishes, that is all that’s needed. These ingredients are mixed and molded to make a flat, circular-shaped patty that’s about 1 cm thick and 10-15 cm in diameter.

Other varieties include a range of seasonings, carrot, cabbage, spring onions, or other seasonal vegetables that are on hand, garlic and sometimes milk (or milk substitute, such as almond milk). This patty is then glazed with a sweet and savory sauce that can be made with various approaches, such as: demi-glace sauce, soy sauce based wafu sauce, tomato-based sauce (or sometimes ketchup-based sauce), teriyaki sauce, or even cheese sauce. The variety allows for the dish to be customized from household to household.

How to Enjoy Hamburg

While you can certainly eat the prepared patty alone, the conventional way to enjoy this dish is to place the glazed patty on a bed of white rice and complement it with steamed or boiled vegetables. Some households enjoy the patties alone as Hamburg Steak and then utilize the leftovers in a Japanese Hamburg lunch. Another option is to serve the patty with mashed potatoes to give the dish a western twist. Many recipes online make a large batch because the patties freeze well, encouraging home cooks to enjoy some now, and have extra on hand for a quick meal in the future.

How to Make Hamburg at Home

If you’re excited to make this this at home for yourself, take a look at this recipe from No Recipes here, or try this Mini-Hamburger recipe from the Zojirushi kitchen that you can make right in your Gourmet d’Expert® Electric Skillet (EP-RAC50)

Let us know if you make this dish at home by tagging your photos with #zojirushi on Twitter, Facebook or Instagram!

Mardi Gras!


King Cake

Even though Mardi Gras is kind of a regional holiday, celebrated mainly in New Orleans every year, it’s still fun to get on the bandwagon and eat the traditional foods because it’s so good! Mardi Gras was brought to America by the French, who first settled in Louisiana back in the mid-1600s. Cajun and Creole dishes, which are often associated with the holiday, have different roots too, It’s all a mixture of French, Spanish and West African influences. Creole cooking comes from a more aristocratic history, while Cajun was the food of people who lived off the land. One major difference between the two is that Creole recipes use a tomato base soup, while Cajun recipes do not.

So, to celebrate Mardi Gras month, I made a traditional King Cake with my breadmaker. Check it out—a party explosion in a roll! Ha! Apparently a tiny porcelain or plastic toy baby, symbolizing the baby Jesus, is usually hidden in the cake, and the person who gets it is blessed with proseperity and luck. I didn’t put a baby in mine, but I did use the required brioche dough that I made with the breadmaker. You can fill this cake with a cream cheese filling or with cinnamon sugar; I’ll take cinnamon in my pastry over cream cheese anytime.

Bake until a golden brown…

Drizzle with icing…

And decorate like Mardi Gras! The three colors of the festival signify: PURPLE for justice, GREEN for faith and GOLD for power. They were assigned back in 1892—did you know what they meant?

I can tell you exactly how this came out; just imagine a giant cinnabun glittered in green, purple and gold. Mmmm…my favorite kind of dessert! And hot out of the oven? Amazing!

Cajun Jambalaya

I wanted to see if I could do this in my rice cooker so I tried it. It was super easy, but I think I’ll be more adventurous next time and do the Creole version, which would involve tomato sauce. This was still a winner though!

Here are the ingredients. Notice the vegetables used: they form what’s called the “Cajun Trinity”, a staple in this type of cuisine known for their blend of aroma and flavor. Bell pepper, onion and celery are a favorite combination found in most Cajun recipes.

All of that went in my 5.5 cup Zojirushi without a problem, but just barely!

After about 30 minutes, I opened it up and stirred up the ingredients good. Thank goodness for cooking shrinkage!

Then I simply let the rice cooker do the rest of the work and it chimed me when it was done. I mean, I think it came out really well, don’t you? It tasted good too—I maybe miss the tomato base of the Creole style, but this was plenty flavorful as well.

And a word about this rice cooker—it’s a basic model from Zojirushi that has all the menu settings of the higher priced ones. It’s MICOM operated so it’s waaay better than the ones that don’t have computerized technology for making rice. I mean, I literally put all the ingredients in and it did the rest. Jambalaya from a rice cooker!

Happy Mardi Gras!

Just For Fun
My cool shoes that I got from my sneakerhead son for Christmas. OK, you have to be a fan to appreciate this. Ha-ha! #maytheforcebewithyou

Zojirushi products used in this post:
Micom Rice Cooker NS-WTC10
Home Bakery Maestro® BB-SSC10

Brioche bread dough recipe by Barbara Bakes
Cajun Jambalaya recipe by Cajun Cooking Recipes

All images by Bert Tanimoto, all rights reserved

Please note that these recipes were not tested by Zojirushi America

 

Easy and Delicious Valentine’s Day Dinner Ideas

Welcome to the Month of Love, Zo-fans – a time to celebrate your partner, especially on Valentine’s Day. While many couples decide to have a date night out, some may opt for a more intimate and romantic night in with a homecooked meal. Making dinner at home is a great gesture, but it can also be overwhelming to make a dish that’s more elevated than an everyday dinner, while not being too complicated to make or add hours to clean-up.

We’ve rounded up some ideas to help you prepare a dinner that’s delicious and sure to impress with our best tips for simple prep and clean-up.

Delicious Appetizer

Tomato & Basil Appetizer Style Thin Crust Pizza: Use your Zojirushi Breadmaker to make a homemade pizza appetizer, with fresh tomatoes, prosciutto, and cheese. Simple, yet refined. A wonderful beginning to any meal.

Side Dishes to Pair with Your Meal

Caprese Rice Salad: Use your Zojirushi rice cooker to make this twist on a caprese salad, with a rice base. Featuring pine nuts and herbs, this dish is tasty and can be prepared in advance and refrigerated for 12 hours before serving.

Green Peas and Asparagus Doria: Similar to French gratin, this Japanese dish is made with buttered rice with vegetables, meat or fish, soaked in a bechamel sauce and topped with cheese.

Okra, Asparagus, and Cherry Tomato Salad: This side dish is easy to prepare in minutes, by blanching vegetables with hot water from your Zojirushi water boiler.

Entrée Options

Rolled Stuffed Turkey Breast: Faster than roasting a whole turkey but just as festive. This dish has a delicious stuffing and can be made in our product of the month, the Multicooker (EL-CAC60).

Baked Risotto Lasagna Style: This variation of lasagna is baked to perfection with layers of meat sauce and rice (instead of pasta).

Roasted Chicken and Porcini Mushroom Ravioli with Sherry Sauce: Luxurious porcini mushrooms are the star of this tasty ravioli dish, easy to make using your Zojirushi breadmaker.

Ending on a Sweet Note

Layered Trifle Tower: Not sure about baking? No problem! The batter is baked in your Zojirushi rice cooker. Just layer with custard, whipped cream and fruit!

Chocolate Raspberry Tofu Pie: If you’re looking for a non-dairy but luxe dessert to enjoy, try this pie with a smooth raspberry chocolate filling made with tofu.

Do More with Your Multicooker

You can use your Zojirushi Multicooker (EL-CAC60) to help with a variety of meals for your Valentine’s Day dinner. Nine convenient menu settings include: sauté, simmer, slow cook, steam, rice cooker, quinoa, yogurt, and keep warm. The appliance has 4 temperatures for slow cooking, and preprogrammed grain and yogurt settings that automatically adjust cooking time and temperature to make white rice, brown rice, quinoa and yogurt. The machine also comes with a full color recipe book to continue to make easy and delicious meals to enjoy with your partner. Learn more here:

Easy to Make, Easy to Clean

The best part about Zojirushi appliances is their thoughtful construction, not only for cooking but also for clean-up. Here are some tips to clean and maintain the rice cooker used for your Valentine’s Day meal:

Remove & Clean Inner Lid: During the boiling process, starchy foam will adhere to the inner lid and become dirty. The inner lid is designed so it can be removed and washed thoroughly. Especially if you add any ingredients other than rice (such as condiments) when cooking, wash thoroughly to prevent odors.

Remove & Clean Steam Vent Cap: The steam vent cap is there to catch any foam that forms during cooking. Make sure you remove and clean it after each use to prevent from clogging.

Tips to Keep Inner Pan Scratch Free: The inner pan is nonstick coated for easy cleaning (rice is very sticky). When cleaning or washing, don’t put forks, knives or other cooking utensils in the inner pan. The pan should be hand washed with a soft sponge and a mild dishwashing liquid. Please only use the rice spatula that came with your rice cooker to keep the pan from scratching and deteriorating.

What are your favorite meals to make for your significant other? Are you planning on trying any of the recipes or tips we shared today? Be sure to share your experience with us on social by tagging your photos on Twitter, Facebook or Instagram! #Zojirushi #ZoFan

Mother’s Home Cooking in Japan: Miso Soup

It’s a new year and a new series of posts on the Zojirushi blog! In our “Mother’s Home Cooking in Japan” series, we explore Japanese foods that moms often cook at home, beloved by young and old alike. For our past series such as “Japanese Street Food” and “B-kyu Gurume”, click on the categories on the right!

When you think of Japanese comfort food, it is natural to think of miso soup. Warm and delicious, and as nutritious as it is delicious – a staple dish prepared by moms across Japan – that can now be found all over the world. Today we take a closer look at miso soup and consider its origins, the traditional way to eat it, and how to make it at home.

The Origins of Miso Soup

Miso soup is said to be originated during the Kamakura period (1185-1333), serving as a daily meal for samurais. The soup has low calories, is high in protein and is easy to make with an instant paste, so military commanders were able to enjoy it without much preparation while they were on the move.

The Ingredients of Miso Soup

The instant paste that is used in miso soup is from a fish stock called Dashi, made from dried sardines, dried kelp seaweed, and smoked bonito or shitake mushrooms. The paste also includes fermenting grain and the longer this paste ages, the richer the flavor profile of the soup. Miso paste can also be found in different colors and deepness in flavor (based on the fermenting process). There are also variations of this paste that are not made with any fish, suitable for vegetarians to enjoy.

This paste is the umami core of the dish, providing the bowl most of its flavor. Many chefs or home cooks work to layer in additional flavors, textures, or ingredients to update the dish or customize it to their preference. Some options of these customizations include: sliced onions, tofu, spinach, mushrooms, egg, or various fish.

How to Enjoy the Soup

 

Once prepared, miso soup is prepared in a small portion as a side dish to complement a meal. Common main dishes might be rice, sashimi, steak, and other meal options. While some restaurants and households enjoy the side dish with a soup spoon, traditionally miso soup is consumed by lifting the small bowl directly to your mouth. Miso soup is enjoyed throughout the day, as breakfast, lunch, dinner or even a snack.

Making Miso Soup at Home

If you love miso soup and want to make this dish at home yourself, take a look at this recipe from Japanese Cooking 101 here, or try this Vegetarian Miso Nabe recipe that you can make right in your Gourmet d’Expert® Electric Skillet (EP-PBC10)!

You can also make miso soup right in your food jar to take for a warm lunch, or give this savory Tonjiru, aka pork miso soup packed with tons of veggies a try!

To learn more about miso, also see our blog post “Essentials of Japanese Cooking: Miso.”

Let us know if you try any of these recipes at home by tagging Zojirushi on your photos with #zojirushi on Twitter, Facebook or Instagram!