B-kyu Gurume: Hachinohe Senbei-jiru

Did you all enjoy our previous B-kyu Gurume post?  Well, luckily for you we’re exploring more B-kyu gurume specialties this month, and we know you’ll love our featured dish — Hachinohe senbei-jiru!

For those who read last month’s blog post, you’ll know that B-kyu gurume cuisine is a uniquely Japanese style of gourmet food that uses regionally-sourced, inexpensive, and down-to-earth ingredients.  These dishes are often prepared at mom and pop-type restaurants and izakaya.  While the food is delicious and appetizing, it is considered “B-class” gourmet, or “B-kyu gurume“, because of its humble origins.

Hachinohe senbei-jiru originates from the city of Hachinohe in Aomori Prefecture in the northern part of Honshu, Japan’s mainland.

It is a hot soup dish that’s perfect for the area’s cold and windy climate.  It consists of a hot soy sauce based broth prepared with fish, meat, or vegetables and Nanbu senbei, hard wheat crackers, which are broken into pieced and then boiled in the broth.  Once finished, the soup is topped with chopped scallions before serving.  This dish is simple, yet so delicious and warm for the soul!

Senbei-jiru is considered B-kyu gurume because of its simple ingredients and interesting regional history.  Meat from chub, pheasant, hare, and crab were traditionally used when preparing the broth for this dish, but today chicken, pork, fish such as cod or canned mackerel, and mushrooms are more commonly used.  The Nanbu senbei cracker is made of wheat or buckwheat, which is unique to this region, and then added to the hot broth.  Vegetables or mushrooms are also added to the final product, and senbei-jiru becomes a complete, hearty, filling meal.

Nanbu senbei crackers have an interesting and iconic history in this part of Japan, known as the Hachinohe Domain.  The Hachinohe region during the Edo Period (1603-1868 AD) was home to this dish.  Today, this region is comprised of Hachinohe City and the Nanbu area.  During this period, this area had experienced harsh, cold winds blowing in from the Pacific Ocean which devastated rice crops.  The lack of rice crops led to many experiencing famines.  Because of this, farmers began growing heartier grains such as wheat and buckwheat, which could withstand the weather.  Foods made from wheat and buckwheat in this area created a regional cuisine culture called “konamon“, with Nanbu senbei being one of the most famous products.

Nanbu senbei were made with wheat flour and water, then baked in a round mold until crispy and hard.  When eaten as a snack, Nanbu senbei were flavored with seeds and nuts, but when used for senbei-jiru, the crackers were made with just flour, salt, and water.  Once baked, the round cracker is broken into large pieces and added to the broth to make senbei-jiru.

We love this unique dish, especially at this time of year.  We also have a delicious recipe for a rice-based cracker, Cheese Senbei on our website. 

Enjoy them as a snack and then get the authentic ingredients to make your own senbei-jiru.

Product of the Month –
Micom Rice Cooker & Warmer (NL-BAC05)

Hello and happy February Zojirushi fans!  We are so excited to announce that our Product of the Month is the Micom Rice Cooker & Warmer (NL-BAC05)!

Why?  Because it is such an all-around versatile rice cooker!

This rice cooker and warmer works best for individuals, as well as small families because of its compact cooking capacity.  It can make as little as a half cup of uncooked rice or other grains, which is great for an individual serving, and as much as three cups for multiple portions.  The Micom Rice Cooker & Warmer ensures perfectly cooked rice and grains every time.  How?  It comes with a rice measuring cup and an inner cooking pan with water level markings which make it easy to measure out the correct amount of ingredients.  Long gone are the days of inconsistent measuring and guessing; we made is simple, so you can have the best meal.

This rice cooker and warmer is also intelligently designed.  It comes with a black, nonstick inner cooking pan that is 2.5 mm thick, allowing for even heat distribution for better cooking.

It also features a triple heater with extra-large heating elements that heats the food from the bottom, side, and top.  In order to prevent messy overflows during high temperature cooking, the rice cooker also includes a removable Steam Vent Cap.  Lastly, another notable feature is its removable Inner Lid to aid in cooking an an easy-to-use LCD Control Panel from which you can program the rice cooker and warmer.

With all these useful features, its no wonder that this rice cooker and warmer is able to prepare more than just rice.  As we mentioned previously, this rice cooker has dedicated menu settings for rice and other grains.  When cooking rice, the settings for White/Sushi, Quick, Brown, and Long Grain White allows you to cook short, medium, and long-grain white rice, short and medium brown rice, as well as white rice with the germ, germinated brown rice and semi-brown rice.  The menu settings for Quinoa and Steel Cut Oatmeal lets you prepare white, black and red quinoa, steel cut oats, as well as rice mixed with barley.  And the rice cooker’s microcomputer uses advanced fuzzy logic technology to ensure perfect results every time by making fine adjustments to cooking time and temperature.

We love how our Quinoa and Chicken Super Salad (pictured below) and Thai Oatmeal Salad with Eggplant turn out in this rice cooker, along with how the long-grain white rice for Jambalaya is made.  Check out other recipes on our website for more inspiration!

Oh, and did we mention that it makes cake?!  The “Cake” menu setting lets you make various types of cakes such as sponge-type cakes and cheesecakes, by pouring in the prepared batter, selecting the “Cake” menu setting, and programming in the cooking time.  How simple is that?

Cooking is just one of the rice cooker’s function.  This rice cooker can automatically keep cooked food warm with the “Keep Warm” setting and can do that for an extended period of time with the “Extended Keep Warm” setting, which maintains a low temperature so the food doesn’t dry out.  The Timer function lets you set when you’d like cooked rice, quinoa, or steel cut oats to be finished cooking.  Two timers can be preset, which is great if you know you will need rice ready for dinner or oats ready for breakfast.  And you’ll know when your food is ready because the rice cooker’s melody or beep will play.

As with our other products, the retractable power cord and sturdy handle makes this machine simple to store, and all surfaces that come in contact with food are BPA-free.  Accessories include a spatula and a measuring cup.

We hope you love this awesome rice cooker and warmer as much as we do.  Make sure to share all your delicious recipes with us and don’t forget to tag your photos with #ZOJIRUSHI on Instagram!

Shrimp Fajitas on the Griddle

So let me explain something—by the time this post gets published, we (our family) will probably be into over 30 days of being vegetarian. We started around the 2nd or 3rd of January for our New Year’s resolution, and for the most part, all of us have been pretty good at sticking to it. We’ve also had some experience with being vegetarian before; we did it for 40 days a couple of years ago, and let me tell you, it’s hard—for a bunch of meat eaters!

How come I did shrimp fajitas, you say? Cuz we’re chill vegetarians, LOL! To be fair, we only got sidetracked about 3 or 4 times the last time we did this, and we didn’t eat meat at all—only fish. So count the fajita as one of our cheatin’ pescatarian days, and keep it a secret, OK?

Obviously, I’m not the cook in our house, but fajitas are so easy anyone can do them. And it helps to have a big cooking surface like our Zojirushi Electric Griddle where I can do everything at once. The last time I used this, it was for soufflé pancakes and they came out pretty good.

Here’s the ingredients I used. The marinate sauce is store-bought.

The marinating process. I learned not to keep the shrimp in it too long, because it will start cooking the shrimp; so marinate for only twenty minutes tops. (I didn’t know that! I love it when I learn something new…)

Cooking time! See how all of it fits on this griddle?

And done! Doesn’t this look beautiful? So healthy too; full of fresh veggies and flavor. I didn’t feel guilty at all, since it was shrimp. Ha! This was actually enough for our family of four…

Add salsa and guac and lay it on a flour tortilla; what could be easier than that. I feel it’s much easier to stay disciplined about eating healthy if you aren’t so strict about it—that’s when it starts to become a chore. It’s also easier staying vegetarian when you cook at home. Eating out is tough after a while, as the choices are limited and it starts to get so expensive.

But plant-based foods are so popular these days that you can find it everywhere. A recent trend is the meatless hamburger, which is moving into the mainstream from the gourmet vegan restaurants to the fast food industry. Burger King® and Carl’s Jr.® have them on their menu, and of course McDonald’s® will too, soon enough. We had one from an artisanal burger restaurant in Los Angeles called Monty’s®, which serves a completely vegan hamburger that tasted just like the real thing—honest! Don’t you think it even looks like the real thing? They even use beets to give the “beef” a pinkish color inside, just like a medium rare hamburger!

I’m sure we’ll go back to eating meat again eventually, like we did last time. It’s too restrictive, to be honest. But in the meantime, I have to admit I’m feeling “lighter” and I think I’ve got a bit more energy. At least I’m hoping I’ll eat less meat after this is done!

Side note: See “Game Changers” on Netflix® if you get the chance. Amazing documentary on professional athletes who have gone completely vegan and how it’s made them perform better!

 

All images by Bert Tanimoto

 

 

 

 

B-kyu Gurume – Delicious Eats in Japan

We’re ready for the new year, we’re ready to eat some delicious Japanese food!

We’re starting this new year by talking about B-kyu gurume!  Have you all heard of this Japanese cuisine before?

B-kyu gurume is a uniquely Japanese style of “B-class” gourmet food that’s typically prepared in small restaurants, using inexpensive and local ingredients.  It’s typically hearty, filling, and delicious!

B-kyu gurume food is familiar to many people who enjoy Japanese food.  Dishes such as yakisoba, monjayaki (pictured below), and kushikatsu are common B-kyu gurume foods.  B-kyu gurume cuisine uses regionally-sourced, inexpensive, and humble, down-to-earth ingredients.  Dishes are often prepared at mom and pop-type restaurants and izakaya.  The result of these dishes are comforting, filling, and tasty!

The concept of “B-class” gourmet food originated during the 1980’s in Japan.  With economies booming all over the world, Japanese residents and tourists started to enjoy expensive meals at high-end restaurants.  Meals found at local izakaya were considered second rate, earning them a “B-class” rating.  Not so surprisingly, the food was so delicious and appealing to all, that it became considered as gourmet.  When global economies slowed down a decade later, what was considered “B-class” became mainstream.

B-kyu gurume cuisine is also highly regional.  Because of the flagging economic situation during the cuisine’s inception, restaurateurs created dishes that were based on regional tastes using local ingredients to attract diners, eventually popularizing this type of cuisine.

One of the most iconic B-kyu gurume dishes is motsunabe.  Motsunabe is a hotpot dish made of cow or pig offal cooked in a broth flavored with leeks, garlic, chili peppers, and other seasonings.  It is a popular local dish in and around the cities of Fukuoka and Shimonoseki in southern Japan. Motsunabe is exemplary of B-kyu gurume cuisine because it is filling, made from local, inexpensive ingredients, and is highly regional.

Yakisoba, especially in the style found in Fujinomiya in Shizuoka Prefecture, is another flagship B-kyu gurume dish.  Fujinomiya yakisoba is made with chewy lo mien-style noodles, which are made using inexpensive wheat and local spring water from Mt. Fuji, nikukasu, a meat residue left after processing lard, bonito flakes, and dried mackeral or herring powder.  Along with Fujinomiya yakisoba, senbei-jiru — a soy-flavored rice cracker soup from Hachinohe in Aomori Prefecture is also a favorite B-kyu gurume food.

Many varieties of Ramen, okonomiyaki, takoyaki and Fukagawa meshi, or clams with miso broth, are also among the list of B-kyu gurume dishes, and you’re sure to find any number of localized, specialty dishes across Japan.

We hope you’ve had B-kyu gurume dishes before…and if not, we wish you delicious eating as you find some of these dishes in Japan and in the U.S.  Enjoy!

 

Product of the Month –
Gourmet d’Expert® Electric Skillet (EP-PBC10)

Happy New Year, Zojirushi fans!  We hope that this new decade helps bring you success and happiness!

What are some of your goals for 2020?

We are excited to start this year by introducing you to one of our favorite products and our Product of the Month– the Gourmet d’Expert®  Electric Skillet (EP-PBC10)!

This Electric Skillet is not like any other– this versatile product is packed with so many ingenious features that we’re sure you’ll love.

Let’s start with the basics– how it works.  This skillet is composed of a main body with heating surface, a cooking pan, a lid and a power cord.  Once out of the box, you just simply wash the cooking pan and lid before the first use, place the cooking pan in the main body, attach the removable power cord and you’re ready…how simple is that?!

The cooking pan is 2 1/4 inches deep with a diameter of 10 1/2 inches, and it features a titanium and ceramic nonstick coating.  The size of the cooking pan, as well as the nonstick coating makes it ideal for sauteing ingredients, braising vegetables, simmering stews, cooking risottos, grilling meat or gyoza, and even for making fondue and pasta!  It’s the perfect addition for family nights and for impressing your guests at any potluck event.

Once the cooking pan is set in the main body, which houses the heating element, dishes can be prepared on various temperatures, ranging from 280°F to 430°F.  The skillet can also be set to Keep Warm.  This Electric Skillet can also be used on a gas stovetop burner to help precook ingredients for stews or other dishes simmered in liquids.

Along with the cooking pan, the tempered glass lid is a cook’s best friend.  Not only does this lid let you safely monitor cooking, and of course, prevent splatters, but it helps foods and liquids cook faster.

And that is how this great skillet works!  Even better, this skillet is built with safety in mind, just like our other products.  First, the power cord easily detaches in case it’s accidentally tugged.  Second, the handles on the cooking pan stay cool, preventing burns when transferring the pan.

And of course, each component of the skillet is easy to maintain.  Simply wipe the main body and heating element with a damp cloth, wash the pan and lid with warm water and mild dish detergent and let everything dry thoroughly.

Ok, now that we’re done talking about the awesome features, we really need to get to the food!

WHAT. DOES. THIS. SKILLET. COOK?

Well, we love the traditional Japanese dishes that we make in this skillet.  Everything from Japanese-Style Teriyaki Chicken and Chanko-Nabe to Sukiyaki and Salmon Kobumaki Kelp Rolls, served during the New Year festivities!  We also love the Western savories that cook up beautifully in this skillet, like like Fava Bean Risotto and Chicken Breast Cacciatore.  But we really go for the unexpected dishes that we make in this skillet like Chocolate Crème Brulee and Thick Style Matcha Hotcakes

Chocolate Creme Brulee

Chocolate Crème Brulee

You’ve got to try all of the recipes on our website (and don’t forget to tag your photos with #zojirushi on Instagram)!

Don’t forget to follow us on our blog and Instagram to keep up on all of our delicious Japanese and Western recipes and how to cook them with all of our amazing products!