An Acquired Taste of Japan – Shirako

Shirako, called milt in English, are the seminal vessels typically harvested from cod, and sometimes from anglerfish, salmon, squid and pufferfish. The harvested sperm sacs are tube-like in shape, usually white or light pink in color, with the layout and consistency of brains. Shirako translates into “white children” in Japanese.

It’s served in multiple ways, raw, fried, steamed, and as a topping in other dishes. When served raw, the shirako is doused in ponzu and garnished with grated daikon, shiso or finely chopped scallions. In this form, the shirako has a mild, creamy texture with a taste like the freshest seafood from the ocean. Shirako is also served steamed, sometimes incorporated into chawanmushi, an egg and seafood custard, and other times served on its own. More popular ways to eat shirako include tempura-fried, pan-fried or grilled yakimono style. When cooked in these ways, the shirako becomes firm and defined on the outside and custard-like on the inside. Shirako can also be added to nabe, or hotpots, and as part of gunkanmaki, or battleship sushi, where it fills a depression created on rice with a nori wrap.

Gunkanmaki sushi with shirako

Shirako is harvested in winter along the cold waters of the Sea of Japan. It’s typically enjoyed as pub food at izakaya and sushi bars, with an alcoholic beverage. It can also be found at street food stalls in major markets around Japan, like the Tsukiji Market in Tokyo. A popular version of shirako is when it’s served as part of a seafood mix, raw or barely charred, on the half-shell!

As an acquired taste, shirako is probably more easily tried than some of the other foods we’ve explored! But for those who love caviar or Russian moloka, shirako is a great variation on these kinds of foods.

Have you had shirako before? If so, tell us about your experience!

Product Inspirations – Induction Heating System Rice Cooker & Warmer (NP-HCC10/18)

Rice cookers are our flagship product, and over the years, we’ve created rice cookers with superior technology married with practical features and stylish design. Our Induction Heating System Rice Cooker & Warmer (NP-HCC10/18) beautifully combines these three elements to prepare perfect rice, every time.

The Induction Heating System Rice Cooker & Warmer comes with nine menu settings, including White Rice, Jasmine, Mixed, Sushi, Porridge, Sweet, Brown, GABA Brown and Quick. Additionally, the White Rice menu setting can be customized by selecting from three textures, including regular, softer and harder. For each of these menu settings, the triple heater surrounds the thick inner pan on the bottom, sides and in the lid, evenly cooking the rice.

Along with the triple heater, this rice cooker utilizes induction heating (“IH”) technology. Unseen beneath the surface of the rice cooker, coils create a magnetic field which helps rapidly heat the thick inner cooking pan. Because of this structure, an IH rice cooker responds quicker and can heat faster than a non-IH, allowing more precise temperature control.

These fine adjustments during the cooking process are also what makes this rice cooker perfect for cooking GABA brown rice. GABA, which stands for gamma aminobutyric acid, is a beneficial nutrient that is activated when brown rice is soaked and warmed prior to cooking. This Induction Heating System Rice Cooker & Warmer’s GABA Brown setting takes care of heating and soaking the rice for longer lengths of time and at a low temperature to activate the rice before cooking it. Whether you’re cooking GABA brown rice or traditional brown rice, we love this Brown Rice recipe for the delicious and fluffy result.

Cooking white rice is also an art in this rice cooker. Our classic White Rice recipe ensures a perfect result every time. Be sure to correctly measure and wash the rice prior to cooking, following our easy instructions.

Preparing sushi is also easier when starting with this rice cooker, as the Sushi setting results in no-fail rice each time. Once the sushi rice is ready, simply mix it with the ingredients in our recipe and use for rolls or chirashi bowls. Tofu Jasmine Fragrant Rice is also ideally prepared in this rice cooker, as the aroma and length of the grains of the jasmine rice is wonderfully preserved during cooking. And for a really authentic taste of Japan, Sweet Rice Cooked with Adzuki Beans is beautifully started in this rice cooker. Even unique dishes such as Dijon Shrimp and Tomato Rice are a joy to make with rice cooked in the Induction Heating System Rice Cooker & Warmer. Really, there are so many recipes that are easy to cook with this rice cooker!

The rice cooker comes in two sizes, 5.5 cups or 10 cups, and features an easy-to-read LCD control panel and a stylish stainless steel body with an easy-to-clean clearcoat finish. The nonstick inner pan and inner lid are removable and fully washable, making them both easy to clean with mild dish detergent and warm water. The machine comes with a delay timer that lets you have rice ready when needed. For example, you can set the program in the morning and come home to hot rice, just prepared. And the Keep Warm and Extended Keep Warm settings keep the cooked rice warm until it’s ready to serve.

The Induction Heating System Rice Cooker & Warmer is made in Japan and comes with a rice measuring cup, spatula and spatula holder.

We know you’ll love this rice cooker! Let us know about your favorite recipe in the comments below!

National Hamburger Month

May is National Hamburger Month! And May 28th has been declared National Hamburger Day (at least here in the U.S., where the hamburger is king). Who knows how these holidays get started? I had a hard time even trying to figure out who invented the hamburger. After doing some research online, the only thing that seems certain is that there are conflicting stories and several people are taking credit. But the consensus seems to be that the city of Hamburg, Germany, wasn’t really the origin of the hamburger sandwich—rather, it was where we got the hamburger steak.

OK, once I start hearing everybody claiming to be the inventor of something, I lose interest. But the best story I read was that Genghis Khan can actually take credit for ground beef. He apparently had to figure out a way to feed his troops while they pillaged and conquered as a mobile army on horseback, so he packed wrapped slices of raw meat under the saddles of his men. Eww! The meat would crumble under the pressure and movement as they rode, and the friction would mince the meat—how about that; a successful raid and a ground beef patty at the same time! I’m not sure whether they ate it raw or not.

And here’s something else you may not know, unless you’re Japanese. When I first started working in Tokyo, I found out there is a difference between a “hambahgah and a “hambahgu, with the emphasis on that last syllable. Our beloved All-American sandwich is a “hambahgah; considered to be a distinctly foreign food by the Japanese. The “hambahgu is really a traditional hamburger steak, introduced to the world by the Germans and adapted to Japanese tastes. These are the subtleties you’ve got to learn!

American “Hambahgah

We sure know how to make ‘em, don’t we?

Japanese “Hambahgu

Note the sauce, a rich demi glace that is the heart and soul of this dish, in my opinion. The patty is usually a combination of ground beef and ground pork, with a bread crumb filler to make the ingredients go further. I love it this way—it’s a similar texture to our American meatloaf. Served with a plate of plain white rice on the side, the hambahgu is one of my favorite childhood memories, and one of the best dishes you can eat with rice (see last month’s Zojirushi 101 for more). Although I prefer the classic demi glace on mine, you can find hambahgu at restaurants served with tomato sauce, ponzu with grated daikon, and/or topped with a fried egg or melted cheese.

More Hamburger Fun Facts:

•During WWI, hamburgers were known as “Liberty Sandwiches” because we wanted to avoid using any reference to Germany, which was considered the main instigator of the war.
•Current eating champion Sonya Thomas (aka Lee Sun-kyung), who holds records in over 25 eating competitions, once ate a 9-pound cheeseburger in 27 minutes. She is known as the “Black Widow” because she continually defeats men 4 to 5 times her size in eating contests. Sonya is 5 feet tall and weighs 98 pounds. LOL.
•In the 70s, a Big Mac® advertising campaign became very popular when a catchy jingle was nothing more than naming all the ingredients in the hamburger. Everyone would try to memorize it and sing it. Even if you’re too young to remember this commercial, can you name the ingredients in a Big Mac?
•In 2003, animal rights group PETA offered the city of Hamburg, NY, $15,000 to change the name of their town to Veggieburg. They said the city’s name “conjured up visions of unhealthy patties of ground up dead cows.” Hamburg declined the offer.

GUESS THE BURGER

Try to guess the name of the fast-food burger just by looking at the picture. For the answer, read my post for more hamburger fun. There are hints everywhere!

HUNGRY YET?

Try these hamburger recipes from Zojirushi—it’s another excuse to use your griddle or grill while you celebrate National Hamburger Month!

photo credits: Media News, sasaq
creative commons license
other photos by @ironchefmom

“Two all-beef patties, special sauce, lettuce, cheese, pickles, onions—on a sesame seed bun.”

 

 

 

The Voices of Zojirushi – Amy, Social Media Manager!

We have a wonderful treat this month – a chance to get to know Amy, Zojirushi’s Social Media Manager!

Amy started at Zojirushi as a Customer Service Representative and then became part of the Marketing Team managing the Zojirushi social media accounts on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter. Amy’s multifaceted passion for connecting with Zojirushi customers and fans is just one of reasons we’re excited to share her with you!

Amy, you’ve been with Zojirushi for a while now, and have a unique perspective about the products, customers and company goals. What do you see as Zojirushi’s corporate values and how do you believe they’re embody in the products and services?

It’s all about dedication to the customer experience. We know you can’t see it, but Zojirushi products are R&D’d to within an inch of their lives! Our commitment to creating innovative products manufactured to the highest standards is our lifeblood. We are always striving to exceed the expectations of our customers, because we want Zojirushi products to be a reliable part of their owners’ lives. We think that the quality of the products produced by this madness is evident. It’s always a pleasure when customers tell us they are still happily using a rice cooker or breadmaker we produced in the 80s!

There’s still a lot of these breadmakers kicking around!

How do you see your position at Zojirushi create a better quality of life for our customers, which is part of Zojirushi’s mission?

The Zojirushi experience doesn’t end when the customer exits the retailer’s door. Our social media presence is an opportunity for us to continue educating the customer about the product, and supply fun and useful things like recipes that let them find new ways to enjoy it. It’s also an invaluable tool for connecting with customers, because reaching out to us is so easy and instant—no phone call required.

Our corporate tagline is Inspirations from Everyday Life. How do you believe Zojirushi products inspire customers?

Just ask our customers and Zojirushi evangelists! The quality and functionality of our products inspire fans—we’ve heard many times that customers feel like they’ve stumbled upon something really unique and different, and they love to share that discovery with others. Not all customers find our brand the same way; for instance, someone who purchases and loves our Stainless Mug may not know that we also manufacture world-class rice cookers. But because our commitment to manufacturing products only at the highest standards, customers know that no matter what they’re eyeballing in our catalog, it will be made and function with Zojirushi quality.

Beef tataki

You must have been inspired by something yourself to feel so passionate about Zojirushi! Was it a trip to Japan or something about Japanese food or culture that you love?

I’ve been to Japan twice, once when I was 18 for a month-and-a-half to participate in a Japanese language-learning program, and once last year for a handful of days to visit Zojirushi Corporation headquarters in Osaka, where I had the opportunity to tour the factory and learn a little more about how our water boilers and rice cookers are assembled. The most interesting experience I have had while in Japan was visiting the onsen (hot springs) in Odaiba, because communal bathing is not a typical American experience. As for food, I love all types of Japanese food—sushi, ramen, soba, takoyaki, okonomiyaki, sukiyaki, yakitori, gyudon… neatly individually-wrapped portions of various wagashi—but there’s something about really fresh, perfectly seared cold beef tataki served with a bright and refreshing citrus sauce that always hits the spot. (Shout out to izakaya-style restaurant Kappo Honda in Fountain Valley, CA, whose beef tataki is on point!)

If you could tell people one great thing about Zojirushi, what would it be?

We are a relatively small company, and the ties between employees are close. Many employees have been with Zojirushi America since we opened our office here in 1987 (or maybe even before then) and have shared a lot of history together. Our company president, Mr. Yamasaki, is right up the hall—if an employee wants to chat with him, he’s available to listen. Our staff is also a diverse one that speaks many languages—Japanese and English, of course, but also Spanish, Tagalog, and Vietnamese—and boasts a variety of personalities. Zojirushi America is full of incredible people, and it’s a big part of what makes working here a pleasure.

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We love working with Amy, and we hope you’ve enjoyed getting to know her this month. Stay tuned for our next Voice of Zojirushi!

An Acquired Taste of Japan – Shiokara

Did you enjoy our post last month? If not, this month’s exploration about an Acquired Taste of Japan might be more appetizing for us less adventurous eaters!

We’re diving into one of Japan’s traditional foods, shiokara. It’s known as “chinmi” or “a rare taste”, and once you learn more about it, you’ll be intrigued as well. Shiokara are seafood fermented in their own viscera, salted and seasoned. The most common shiokara, called ika no shiokara, is made from small squid that are plentifully available off the coast of Japan. Shiokara can also be made from tuna (“shuto”), crab (“ganzuke”), salmon (“mefun”) and sweetfish (“uruka”). Each type is a mix of salt, viscera found in the main body cavity such as the liver or intestines, and more fleshy tissue. Depending on the cook’s preferences, shichimi pepper, wasabi, mirin or grated yuzu peel are also added to the mixture for zest and flavor. But traditional shiokara is simply salt and seafood.

Ika no shiokara

Shiokara, especially ika no shiokara, is said to have become a popular dish in the 11th century as a source of protein, fats and vitamin D during winter months when food was scarce. The entire fermentation process took between a week to ten days, so shiokara could be replenished easily. Primarily eaten with rice, a small but complete meal could be had.

In modern times, shiokara is served at many izakaya or Japanese pubs. A small bite of ika no shiokara makes sake taste great! And the saltiness definitely makes you want to drink more of it!

Making ika no shiokara is straightforward, although it does require quite a few steps. We found this recipe requiring nothing by salt and squid. If you try it out, let us know how your preparation tastes! And if you don’t feel like making it yourself, then definitely give it a go at your nearest Japanese pub.