About Bert Tanimoto

Oldish father of two youngish 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!.

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

 

 

 

 

 

Lucky We Live California


When I was living in Hawaii as a kid, the newscasters would end every show by saying, “Lucky you live Hawaii” before signing off. And I used to think, “Yeah, I guess they don’t call this paradise for nothing.” But since coming to California, I’m pretty sure there’s no better place on earth than sunny SoCal. Hawaii is OK, but let’s face it, you’re living on a rock and there’s no place to go. Here, even in my own backyard, I can get a shot like this almost any day of the week. This is sunset at Torrance Beach, California.

We live near a luxury resort called Terranea, which draws a lot of tourists to our little corner of the world. I’ve never stayed here, but the grounds are very nice and accessible to anyone who wants to walk around. I played the golf course when it first opened; it was very challenging and designed to be like a smaller version of Pebble Beach, for those of you who are familiar.

If you take the trail down to the coastline, you’ll come across a section of the beach where an artist built a monolith out on the rocks. I have no idea who did it and what it signifies, but it’s eye catching. On very clear days like today, you can see all the way to Catalina Island. I’ve never been there—to be honest it doesn’t interest me because I used to live in Hawaii. What do I need to see another island for? LOL.

The Point Vicente Lighthouse was built in 1926 to warn vessels of the rocky shores off of the Palos Verdes Peninsula. It’s over 6 stories high and still throws a bright beam of light 24 miles out to sea that ships can see today, as it flashes twice every 20 seconds so they can navigate the coastline. There’s something romantic about a lighthouse, don’t you think? It’s been featured in many movies over the years, not to mention photographed, sketched and painted. The lonely lighthouse keepers have been replaced by electronic sensors that illuminate it and activate the foghorns.

My daughter went hiking to Eaton Canyon, which is in the foothills of the San Gabriel Mountains north of Pasadena, only an hour’s drive from us. I think she wanted to get away from us for a while with her BFF, and breathe some fresh air for a change, instead of being stuck in her room!

I don’t think they made it to the Eaton Canyon Falls, where they could have seen a 50ft. waterfall, but the creek still seems so beautifully peaceful, doesn’t it?

These days our entertainment on weekends consists of driving for miles, looking for new and interesting foodie places to eat. It’s become a regular activity for us—the occasional gem that we find is our reward for being so adventurous! It may not be the same as hiking the great outdoors like my daughter, but it’s still exploring. Once in a while you come across some urban artwork as well—this stairway mural is in Silverlake, a hipster area in East L.A. That’s me hiking, city style.

And of course, our lunchtime catch of the day—this is a Hot Catfish Sandwich from a place known for their unusual sandwiches. Until they open indoor seating again, our dining room is our car, and takeout is the way to go. Sorry, tents are too restrictive for me; why bother? If you can balance a takeout container on your knee and you have a cupholder, what more do you need—it’s air-conditioned, too. How many of you guys do the same thing?

Stay safe everybody!

Just For Fun
Years ago, when I lived in Japan, I was introduced to the most amazing iced tea ever—a taste I never experienced in the States. And it was on the regular menu in any coffee shop in Tokyo. It’s called Brandy Tea and it’s a simple drink made with black tea and a dash of brandy. The alcohol is barely there at all, but noticeable enough to give this iced tea a fragrant accent. Here’s my recipe for it; feel free to strengthen or weaken, but remember, it’s not meant to be an alcoholic drink. I used Earl Grey tea which refines the flavor, but sometimes I think ordinary tea bags give it a better body. It also doesn’t hurt to use the good stuff like a cognac.

Bert’s Brandy Iced Tea
1000ml. water (about 4.25 cups)
2 tea bags
4 Tbsp sugar
2 tsp brandy
Brew sun tea in a pitcher of water to desired strength. Take out tea bags and stir in the sugar. Add brandy, stir and pour over ice. That’s it!

Try this in your Zojirushi mug and take it with you. 😎

 

Photo credits: all images by Bert Tanimoto
Zojirushi products used in this post: Flip-and-Go SM-QHE48/60, SM-SG48

 

 

 

 

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 EA-BDC10. 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 plate; 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 plate 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 plate 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 plste. 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 Plate
Gourmet Sizzler® Electric Griddle EA-BDC10

Please note that these recipes were not tested by Zojirushi America

 

 

 

 

 

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

 

Asian Hot Pot Month!

When the weather outside is frightful (sorry, not sorry—I live in SoCal), there are still ways to stay warm inside; and the best way might be a hot pot dinner. Hey, it still gets plenty cold enough for me around here, relatively speaking. I made two hot pots already this month that I’d like to share, and they’re both pretty interesting…

This is a classic Japanese nabe called Mille-Feuille (pronounced “meel-foy” in French), that gets its name from the famous French pastry. You’ve seen this kind before, right? It’s a cake made with layers of puff pastry and a custard cream. It might be easier to find a Napoleon, which is similar but slightly different in the type of cream that’s used. These are both Napoleons, but you get the idea.

“Mille feuille” literally means “thousand leaves”; can you guess why this hotpot is so popular in Japan? I cannot tell a lie—this beautiful creation was my wife’s skill, but I did help! The main prep was getting thin sliced pork and stuffing it in between the leaves of the napa cabbage.

Then you layer it in your pot like a fan (probably from the outside-in is best), and pack it in tight! The cabbage will shrink as it cooks, so you don’t want it to fall apart. Part of this dish uses enoki mushrooms, so if you end of with empty space you can always use that to fill it up. The broth is a basic dashi stock with ginger, soy sauce and sake—there are plenty of recipes online and it seems like everyone has their own style.
I’m using the smaller skillet from Zojirushi this time (EP-PBC10), which was plenty big enough for our little family. We had leftovers. Be warned that you don’t want to overcook this, and the Zojirushi skillet heats up fast as soon as you cover it.

Within less than 10 minutes, it was done and ready to dig in!

If you want to understand Japanese cuisine, this is the kind of dish that is typical. Much like shabu-shabu, you get to taste the ingredients for what they are—not over flavored or spiced up to beyond recognition. Simple in visual presentation but so elegant and tasteful. And so hearty by itself it doesn’t require any side dishes if you don’t have any. Our dipping sauces were just store bought bottles of ponzu and sesame salad dressing! We finished with udon in the broth, although a lot of people like to use rice instead.

The second Asian hot pot I did was a Korean one called Budae Jjigae, also known as “Army Stew”.

My father-in-law, who was a Hawaiian man married to a Korean lady (whom he met in Korea when he was in the army), loved this stew. Can you guess why? I mean, take a look at the ingredients—Spam®, hot dogs and kimchi. What’s not to like? And yes, I know there’s a lot of people out there that are repulsed by Spam®, but try to keep an open mind. Granted, this dish wouldn’t win any healthy eating awards, but it originated during the post-Korean War era, when food was scarce. Many Koreans, who lived near the Army bases, supplemented their diet with canned processed foods that they could get from the soldiers. This was how Budae Jjigae (literally “army base stew”) was born. The slices of American cheese are a nice touch, aren’t they?

Army Stew assembled! There’s a lot going on here—including the tofu, enoki mushrooms and Korean dduk (a very firm rice cake, compared to the softer Japanese mochi).

All done and ready to eat! Some would say that this hot pot is really just a glorified Korean instant ramyeon (ramen). And in fact, I threw the flavor packets that came with the ramyeon into the stew as well—everything goes in!

So there you go—two very different hot pots. Stay warm!

Just For Fun
Vandalism at it’s sweetest.

Products used for these recipes:
Gourmet d’Expert® Electric Skillet EA-BDC10

 

All photos by Bert Tanimoto