About Bert Tanimoto

Oldish father (still) of two youngish (but now young adult) kids. Zojirushi enthusiast and professional writer. California resident with roots in Hawaii and Japan. Classic rock, popcorn movies, audio books, spam, sushi and cone filtered coffee. Guilty pleasures include donuts and pop bands like ABBA and Wham! Don't laugh, you should see my vinyl collection--I give hair bands and prog equal credit.

September is National Rice Month


Pepper Rice

In celebration of National Rice Month, we should all learn something about our favorite carb! Did you know that out of the 4 main types of Asian rice, the Japonica short grain, commonly known as the sticky rice that we use for sushi, is responsible for only 5 to 6 percent* of the global rice trade? Since I mainly eat this kind, I sometimes forget that there are tens of thousands of other varieties that come from other southeast Asian countries, like Indica, Aromatic and Glutinous rice; not to mention all the African types. It’s the primary staple for more than half of the world’s population, and it’s grown on every continent except Antarctica. Wow.
*source: USDA 2018

This is my version of Pepper Rice at home using my Zojirushi Electric Skillet. Have you ever tried this? There is a Japanese chain called Pepper Lunch® that does this on cast iron skillets and it comes sizzling to your table. I followed a copycat recipe that I found online and replicated it pretty good. The real star here is the electric skillet, that did a really good job of searing the meat and browning the rice to give it that crispy skin. FYI, the temp was set at 400°F, which was perfect.

After you stir it up, it’s done without much trouble at all. If I do this again, I’m adding more corn and more ground pepper. A lot more. 

Some people make a big deal out of the herb butter that you’re supposed to use, but I just made do with high quality regular butter. I feel what’s most important is using a good grade of thin sliced sukiyaki meat.

Doesn’t this look good? I added some cheese to this so there’s an additional layer of texture. Eh, I can take that or leave it. But the seared bits of meat and rice is what made my Pepper Rice extra-extra!

Another rice dish that you can make right in your rice cooker is takikomi gohan (mixed rice). If you have a “mixed rice” setting on your rice cooker that’s even better. I mean, they literally sell mixed rice kits at the Asian supermarkets if you’re lucky enough to live near one, so all you do is wash rice, add the broth and ingredients from the kit into the pot, and push the button! This one was made using Japanese salmon fillets, fresh mushrooms and a broth recipe from a soy sauce company.

I love salmon so I can appreciate it when I’ve got big chunks of it in my rice and not just little bits. I could have added hot green tea to this bowl and eaten it that way!

If you want to try this, Zojirushi has their own recipe on their page here. It’s a pretty foolproof dish as long as you’re using a good rice cooker.

Hopefully this got you in the mood for rice. TBH, if it’s between National Bread Month and National Rice Month, I’m choosing rice every time. Ha!

 

 

 

Products used in this post: Gourmet d’Expert® Electric Skillet EP-RAC50, Rice Cooker & Warmer NP-HCC10

Please note that these recipes were not tested by Zojirushi America.

All images by Bert Tanimoto ©2021

 

 

 

Food Jar Fun

Being that August is National Picnic Month, this is the perfect time to break out your food jars and actually go on that hike you’ve been talking about—let’s all lose that extra poundage from sitting around the house! Well, I’m speaking for myself, anyway.

So here’s my thought on food jars and what they’re good for—to be honest, I’m not likely to cook something on my stove just to bring in my jar. Eh…not enough benefits for me, and I can’t see the point. BUT using raw ingredients and having my jar do the cooking? That to me is brilliant. I thought I’d try experimenting one weekend and was surprised to see how much fun I had.

I got these two recipes from the Zojirushi site; the ones for oatmeal:

And the one for rice porridge (called okayu in Japanese):

These are both made just by filling the jar with the raw, uncooked rice and oats, then filling with boiling water and letting it sit for a couple of hours. Both of these were impressive. If you haven’t yet tried this you’ll be amazed. The oatmeal was plenty warm enough to eat after a couple of hours—I could totally see myself bringing it to work and having it for breakfast. Especially since my commute used to be an hour-and-a-half!

The rice porridge blew me away. Even after what was probably over 4 hours, it was so hot you had to blow on it! It was amazing to me how you could get fully cooked rice from hard, raw grains without doing anything except to let it sit. Make your own adjustments—if you like it more soupy, use less rice and more hot water. And be sure to wash the rice good before you put it in the jar; it’ll keep it from getting too gluey at the bottom.

This led me to trying other things with these jars and here’s what I found out. It might seem obvious, but if you have a vacuum drink bottle to hold the hot water, you can make an Instant Ramen Kit to take anywhere. I have a 17oz. size food jar which was big enough to hold a full pack of ramen, the soup packet, some leftover chicken, corn, green onions and a pat of butter.

Bring your Ramen Kit on a picnic and pour the hot water from your bottle into the food jar. Let it sit for the normal amount of cooking time (around 5 min).

Done and delicious! You might need to make adjustments to the broth. Mine was a little salty so I simply thinned it some more with the extra hot water from my bottle. (Next time I’ll use less soup powder.)

Here’s my Korean style instant ramyeon, with shredded cheese added. My tip for this one: although delicious, don’t use cheese unless you’re OK with cleaning it out of your food jar afterward. Don’t get me wrong, the non-stick surface works great, but you will need to be able to scrub a little.

Here’s one I made up myself. Since the rice porridge was so successful, I decided to make my own version of a Lemon Rice Soup, based on the Greek avgolemono. It’s a lighter version because I didn’t want to put eggs or cream in it, but good idea, right?

I have to declare this a success as well! Very refreshing, ha-ha! The big difference between this soup and the rice porridge is that it uses hot broth stock instead of water to cook in the jar. But it made no difference—after a couple hours, it was ready to eat!

So that’s my report from my food jar lab. I think with more experimentation I could do even more with them. You should try too; thermal cooking is like science!

Products used in this post: Stainless Steel Food Jar SW-EAE35/50

Please note that these recipes were not tested by Zojirushi America.

All images by Bert Tanimoto ©2021

 

 

 

 

 

KBBQ

I’m not much of a grill guy. We don’t have a big grill outside and I don’t do backyard hotdogs while guzzling beer, but I do cook steaks sometimes, squatting near my small Weber® on the patio and trying not to overcook ‘em. Can you draw this picture inside your head? If you can, don’t do it. What we love to do is go to the AYCE KBBQ (All You Can Eat Korean Barbecue), and we’re looking forward to doing that again real soon. In the meantime, I busted out my Zojirushi Grill and we had a mini version inside.

Here’s a couple things I noticed about this grill. It gets plenty hot enough fast; and because it’s electric you can stay on top of the temperature and make quick adjustments, unlike my charcoal one. The surface area was large enough for our family of 3, and probably good enough for even 4. We haven’t tried it with more than this, so I can’t say… Bonus Points: it makes really nice char lines!

If you do this at home, make sure you have some essential tools. Tongs of course, and a pair of kitchen shears to cut up the galbi. If you want to impress your friends but drive them crazy, make them eat with a pair of authentic Korean flat metal chopsticks (jeotgarek). Not as difficult to use as the Chinese ones, but harder than the wooden Japanese ones. Why are they metal anyway? The origins go back to the Baekje Kingdom (18 B.C to 660 A.D.) when silver chopsticks were used by the royalty to detect poison in their food, because the silver chopsticks were thought to change color if there was poison. Metal ones are also more durable and hygienic, and they won’t burn when used on a hot grill. That makes a ton of sense, right? If you’re interested in chopsticks, here’s a past blog you can read!

Check the simplicity of this mouthful that I’m about to scarf. And so healthy looking too! Leafy lettuce, perilla, gochujang, raw garlic and jalapeño. People get the impression that KBBQ is all about meat, which it is, but there’s so much more to the ingredients involved. And I haven’t even discussed the banchan, all the side dishes that you can serve with it. That’s a whole other chapter.

Just in case you’re wondering how to clean this grill, it’s non-stick so it cleans pretty easily, But to get a head start, I would suggest getting a wet paper towel and going over it while it’s still hot. Most of the major gunk came right off. Good luck with your own KBBQ!

Grilled Corn

I found another great use for my grill that you really can’t do in the oven or in a frying pan. Grilled corn! I tried Mexican Street Corn (elotes) and Japanese Street Corn (yaki tomorokoshi), and both came out spectacularly.

All you do for the Mexican Corn is make a batch of that famous creamy dressing using mayo, cotija cheese and chile powder. You can find recipes for it everywhere; slather it on the grilled corn to get that excellently hard-core street food flavor. How can plain grilled corn look so good?

The only way to get more “street” than this is to go to the street to get it. Or in this case go to Silver Lake where these vendors have figured out a way to grill on a shopping cart.

Japanese Corn, which can commonly be found at festivals during summers in Japan, is also easy. Make a mixture of soy sauce and mirin and brush it on while the corn is still grilling. Keep basting until that amazing smell of cooking shoyu fills the room and the corn gets tender.

Yaki Tomorokoshi is my favorite way to eat corn. Grilled corn can take a long time to cook, so to speed up the process you might want to parboil them first by boiling them in water for 2 or 3 minutes before grilling. I simply microwaved mine—works just as good. Check it out—maybe a little overcooked cuz you can see some wrinkling, but still delicious.

Just For Fun
We got a squirrel problem and he’s a messy eater. This guy is bold enough to chew through our screen, grab a peach and have breakfast, but too lazy to take it with him.

 

Zojirushi products used in this post: Indoor Electric Grill EB-DLC10
All images by Bert Tanimoto ©2021
Please note that these recipes were not tested by Zojirushi America

 

 

 

 

Sum-sum-summertime!

OMG! It’s finally getting warmer. There’s still June gloom to get over with here in SoCal, but at least we can say summer is finally here. I, for one, look forward to being able to wear flip-flops outside. When I lived in Japan I actually owned a pair of geta and I loved wearing those because they made me a llttle taller. Ha-ha! My car won’t have condensation from a cold morning outside, so that means it’ll stay cleaner longer after a carwash. And I won’t have to wait so dang long for the hot water to circulate from our pipes and come out the faucet. Yeah, I know…first world problems. But I love the summertime. What about you?

June is Father’s Day
Yay! The day we get some props. So I thought I’d share what I predict is going to happen at our house. My family is going to say, “What do you want to do today, Dad?” And I’m going to think, well, whatever we do it’s going to cost me money, so I’d be better off staying at home as long as possible. Which means NOT going out for breakfast, which means making my own breakfast, which means I can just use my Zojirushi stuff and have some fun while I do it. Here’s the bread I made with my breadmaker:

And this is French Toast on my Zojirushi Griddle, with bacon and eggs! Lookit all that room! Here’s a surprise—I was kinda worried that the bacon would splatter and leave me a lot of cleanup on the table, but amazingly that didn’t happen. It was pretty much contained within the griddle pan, so it wasn’t messy at all. Maybe it was the high walls of the pan? Or maybe it was the temperature control? I had it set pretty low because it heats up fast and I didn’t want to burn my toast.

Ta-dah! Father’s Day at my house. I make my own breakfast, LOL.

Father’s Day is also the Summer Solstice
This year the longest day of the year and the official start of summer falls on Father’s Day too. The reason it’s the longest day is because the earth’s axis points us at the maximum tilt toward the sun, which means we’re getting the sun at the most direct angle and highest point in the sky. In the Northern Hemisphere, we’ll get the longest period of sunlight hours, directly opposite of the Southern Hemisphere, which will be the shortest. If you go outside when the sun is at its highest point during the day (the “solar noon”, not noon on the clock), your shadow will be the shortest it’ll be all year. In our area in Los Angeles, that will be 12:54pm on June 20th. Try it in your area and you’ll see virtually no shadow!

Lunch at the beach
We went to the pier at Manhattan Beach, CA for lunch one day and I decided to pack a healthy (by my standards anyway) meal of Chilled Avocado-Cucumber soup, a Cobb Salad and ice cream for dessert. This cold soup is pretty easy to make in a blender. Just toss in avocado, cucumber, green onion, some chicken broth and lemon juice. Pretty good on a hot day…

Got a chance to use my Food Jar.

I packed my ice cream in my other one. Here’s a tip: underneath the ice cream I also loaded a bed of ice cubes, which helped to keep it cold and hard until I was ready to eat it. I’m sure my Zojirushi Food Jar would have done a great job anyway, but it never hurts to go extra. And I was right—the ice cream was totally delicious, not melty at all!

My lunchtime meal on the pier!

Got any plans for the summer? I guess we’ll be busy just being at home this year. This month my daughter’s college roommate is flying in from Seattle to stay with us for a week, and in August my son’s coming in from Washington D.C. to attend a friend’s wedding, so he’s staying with us for his vacation. Time to get out and smell the air, guys!

Just For Fun
The Shave Ice Test: As long as I had my Food Jars out, I thought I’d give them a temp endurance test so we could all see how they perform. First, I bought some shave ice at a place nearby.

In it goes into the Food Jar.

I peeked inside at the 2.5 hour mark. Pretty good! You can see how the shave ice is still holding its shape and consistency. It even looks pretty much the same as when it was put in. I’m going to say this might be the best time to eat it, if you still want it at its best. Mind you, I didn’t have this in the fridge or freezer, just out on my table at room temperature. Of course, I didn’t have it out in a hot car either.

This is it after 5 hours. At this point it’s pretty liquefied as you can see. But we still had it for dessert after dinner! I think this would have lasted a bit longer if I hadn’t opened the jar after 2.5 hours to look inside. So 5 hours is pretty impressive!

Try this at home if you’ve got a Zojirushi Food Jar, and let me know how you did!

 

 

Products used in this post: Home Bakery Maestro® Breadmaker BB-SSC10, Gourmet Sizzler® Electric Griddle EA-BDC10, Stainless Steel Food Jar SW-FCE75

All images by Bert Tanimoto ©2021

 

 

Happy May Holidays!

Children’s Day
I think May is becoming my favorite month for holidays. I didn’t realize there were so many reasons to celebrate all the things I love this month, until I looked them up. A big one when my kids were growing up was May 5th, Children’s Day in Japan—a tradition that I tried to instill by flying the koinobori (carp) on a flagpole for them every year. This was the last one I put up in 2015, when my oldest turned 18. I hope they remember these traditions when they have kids of their own.

In honor of Children’s Day this month, I thought I’d take a shot at some pancake art to celebrate. Remember when this was a minor thing? Mine aren’t that great, but they’re not bad! Here’s how it’s done—do your outline first on a hot griddle (set at about 300°F). I used a batter mix right out of the box that only required water. You need a consistency that’s not too thick but smooth enough for a squeeze bottle. You could mix your own batter too, as long as you get the right thickness.

Let it cook for a while like a regular pancake; until the batter bubbles and gets firm. Then fill in all the spaces and cook the rest of it.

Then you flip it over to finish cooking the other side, and Ta-Dah! Pancake art that you can get carried away with, like I did! Ha!

And don’t forget, you’re flipping these over, so everything you “draw” in pancake batter needs to be a mirror image of what you want your result to be. Which is what I did with the “Ko-do-mo-no-hi” (Children’s Day) characters at the top of this post. Sheesh! My Japanese writing skills are pretty limited, much less trying to write backwards!

Watch pancake art in action!

Cinco de Mayo
Living here in California, most people celebrate May 5th for one of the best food holidays of the year…I’m talking about Cinco de Mayo of course, because who doesn’t love Mexican food? We did a quesadilla night to celebrate. So colorful and so good!

Don’t just scarf on Cinco de Mayo without knowing that it actually does commemorate an historic Mexican event—the Mexican Army’s victory over the French Empire in the Battle of Puebla in 1862. And don’t get it confused with Mexico’s Independence Day on September 16, their most important holiday that remembers the country’s freedom from Spain. Cinco de Mayo is mainly a celebration of Mexican-American culture here in the U.S. Today, Cinco de Mayo beer sales rival the Super Bowl—wow! All I know is, we love this day in California!

Have a quesadilla party at your house! Store bought corn (or flour) tortillas, cheese and whatever else you want in it. We used cooked pulled pork from the market. You may want to heat and season it before bringing it to the griddle. Set your griddle on the lowest heat possible; it cooks fast. The nice part is the nonstick surface; even melted cheese did not stick.

Don’t these look great?

Serve with your favorite toppings. We had pico de gallo, guacamole, red and green salsa.
Also in case you were wondering, quesadillas are a uniquely Mexican dish, dating back to the 16th Century. They’re easier to eat than a taco…have a bite!

More in May
Remember I said May was full of my favorite holidays? Check these out:
•Mother’s Day, May 9th this year. Cook your Mom some breakfast; how about pancakes and quesadillas?
•Can’t forget Star Wars Day on May the 4th (“May the fourth be with you”)
•National Hamburger Day is on May 28th; here’s an excuse to grab a burger!
•Memorial Day is May 31st; remember your history—this was originally started to memorialize our soldiers from the American Civil War.
•May 27th is my son’s birthday—he turns 24 this year; wish him luck on his continued journey!
•May is Asian/Pacific American Heritage Month . You can celebrate all month by going out for boba tea and spam musubi, ha!

Have a great month of May!!

 

 

Photo credits: all images by Bert Tanimoto
Zojirushi products used in this post: Gourmet Sizzler Electric Griddle EA-DCC10
Please note that these recipes were not tested by Zojirushi America