Local Kine New Year

I’ve lived in California now for over 40 years, which I guess means I’m more from California than I am from Hawaii or Japan. But because those other places represent major milestones in my life, I’ll never forget their effect on who I am today. Hawaii is where I grew up as a kid, and went to college later on. And even though I haven’t been back in a while, that’s one place I know never changes. I mean, it’s an island, man.

Every major holiday had a designated family that would host all my relatives for a potluck dinner—and New Year’s was at my aunt’s in Honolulu. My cousin has taken over that duty since then, and she still makes her specialty, Chicken Hekka. What the heck is Chicken Hekka, you might ask? It’s Hawaiian style sukiyaki; slightly sweeter, a little lighter broth, chicken rather than beef, but otherwise similar ingredients.

Our version had Japanese aburaage (fried tofu skin) and long rice (bean thread noodles), cut into short strands for easier eating and less splashing when people are fishing them out of the pot.

The fast cooking greens go last.

My Chicken Hekka. And before you say, “Why would you want to eat a hot pot in Hawaii?” Don’t forget, when you live there and the temperature drops to the 60s at nighttime (gasp!), it feels COLD if you’re always being tropical.

How much do you know about KIng’s Hawaiian Bread®, that soft, buttery, sweet and poofy bread in the bright orange packaging you see at the market? When the original bakery and coffee shop was located on King Street in Honolulu, it was known as a place to sit down and enjoy the food and pastries. The founder is originally from the Big Island, where he started the business in the 50’s, and today you can get their famous bread almost anywhere.

Hawaiian Bread is basically Portuguese sweet bread, which you can bake in a breadmaker. Look up a recipe for that and it’ll come close, even though you may not be able to replicate that signature texture. Mine still came out softer than regular white bread though, and the sweet bread taste was spot on. I was also very happy to say it rose higher than any loaf I’ve ever baked.

I used a popular Portuguese sweet bread recipe from allrecipes.com for a 1.5 lbs. breadmaker. I reduced everything by a two-thirds for my 1 lb. breadmaker and it turned out fine. Forget other “Hawaiian” bread recipes that call for pineapple juice. This one is the real deal.

Serve with butter while still warm. We always had one of those big round loaves at my auntie’s house on New Year’s (so we could eat it with canned Vienna Sausage believe it or not). Mystery meat indeed!

Since the breadmaker was already out when I made my bread, I used it to make Butter Mochi too. All you need is mochiko, the sweet rice flour sold at most Asian markets. I added chocolate to mine and the rest was up to the breadmaker—pretty easy. Zojirushi has a recipe here.

Unlike wheat flour, rice flour is gluten-free—even mochiko, which is processed by milling a glutinous variety of short grain rice into fine powder. The sticky, chewy texture comes from the type of grain used, which replicates that snappy stretch of gluten. I’m not on a gluten-free diet, but for those that are, this is good to know. Here’s my Chocolate Butter Mochi.

So Hau’oli Makahiki Hou! to you and your family this year. Thanks for reading!

By the way, if you’re wondering what that dish is at the top of this post, that’s my wife’s excellent Chicken Long Rice, another Hawaiian favorite!


Products used in this post: Gourmet d’Expert® Electric Skillet EP-RAC50, Home Bakery Maestro® Breadmaker BB-SSC10

Portuguese Sweet Bread by allrecipes.com


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

All images by Bert Tanimoto ©2021





Bert-san’s Year in Review

Wow! Did 2021 go by in the blink of an eye for you? It did for me; if it weren’t for this blog to keep me regularly contributing each month, I’d probably spin into a vacuum. What the heck did I do all year? Now that I think about it—a lot.

Even though we weren’t very sociable because of COVID, we did our share of hot pots at home just because it’s good for cold weather and we love it. There’s a Taiwanese hot pot restaurant near us that’s always crowded because people love to hang out, spend money and take pictures of what they eat. We’ve been there and it’s alright, but I prefer my hot pots to be simpler than the Taiwanese kind. Japanese nabe style hot pots let you taste all the ingredients without all the heat, in my opinion.

But being that we’re a Japanese/Korean household, and democratic, we can’t have one kind of cooking without the other. I like this army stew because it combines both Korean and Hawaiian cultures into one down-to-earth dish that isn’t just about pretty ingredients or food writers’ taste buds. I mean, the stars of this hot pot are hot dogs and SPAM®! Yeah, it’s basically glorified spicy instant ramen, but it’s good!

If you own a Zojirushi Electric Griddle, one of the most fun and worth it optional accessories you can buy for it is the Takoyaki Plate. Host a “tako-pa” or takoyaki party at your house and everybody can take turns rolling octopus dough balls in the plate. Super fun activity and you get to eat hot takoyaki right off the griddle.

What’s brilliant about this accessory is all the other creative things you can cook on it by rolling them into ball shapes. A search online was eye-opening, seeing all the appetizers and desserts people figured out how to make, like Nutella® Pancake Balls.

For college kids, classes were still taught online this spring, which meant our daughter was living with us at home. As much as I’m sure it frustrated her because she lost her independence, I loved having her around. I know we’re not going to have her that much longer if she moves out permanently one day, so I cherish these days until she graduates and moves on. We were still able to do the local things as a family though, like hike near our home near the bluffs of Palos Verdes. I feel lucky we live near the coast.

Oh by the way, if you never saw my recipe for Brandy Iced Tea, check it out in the post. This will be a treat, I promise. And don’t worry—it’s alcoholic, but not really, you know what I mean?

If you own the BIG Zojirushi Electric Griddle, you can spend all morning doing pancake art, like I did with mine on Japanese Children’s Day. I was so into creating the pancakes, I really didn’t get a chance to eat them; and I don’t have the little kids anymore who would have appreciated it. Too bad! If you do, try this and I guarantee they’ll love it. I’ve seen guys do this using food coloring in the batter, so they can really go all out with their “art”. But then they’re no longer pancakes, and who wants to eat them anymore?

This summer our local Korean restaurants still weren’t open completely, so we had to do Korean BBQ at home. Not quite the same, but not bad if you have the equipment to do it right. I mean, it’s still all-you-can-eat, right? I have a Zojirushi Electric Grill that did the job so well, that it satisfied our cravings until all the restaurants were able to open again.

This is my deliciously beautiful grilled corn, basted with soy sauce Japanese style, called Yaki Tomorokoshi. So good!

Also around this time we started having our squirrel problem. At first I thought the critter was kinda cute, trying to steal a whole peach through a hole he chewed in my screen.

But it got old really fast when he got so nervy he was regularly invading the house.

And even though I managed to trap one, I was never convinced I had caught the right one—the one that came into our house in the first place. So I kept setting the trap and kept on catching squirrels! Every time I caught one, the very next day I would see the first squirrel come right up to the screen again, ready to sneak in. Do you think he told his friends where the best food was?

My Zojirushi Electric Skillet, the one that I used to do hot pots this year, also comes with a shallower pan. This is what I used to make my Pepper Rice for National Rice Month. Of all my Zojirushi appliances, this is the one I use most often because it can cook almost anything—and the two pans make it even more useful. A couple weeks ago we went back to the restaurant that specializes in this, now that everything is back for dining again. They do theirs on personal cast iron skillets and serve them to you like that.

Aaand if you missed my latest review, I tested the Zojirushi NL-GAC10/18 Rice Cooker for its “umami”, “steam” and “sweet rice” settings, just to see how they would do with my limited cooking skills. My big takeaways? UMAMI really does exist, steaming in a rice cooker is brilliant if you can cook your rice at the same time, and for a medium price cooker, this model will do a great job.

So how was your year? Restaurants are opening, traffic is back with a vengeance and we’re gradually going back to work. Let’s go!!




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

All images by Bert Tanimoto ©2021





Bert-san’s Take–Umami Rice Cooker

Aren’t you curious? Can a rice cooker bring out umami in rice? I wanted to know more, yes I did, so I took the Zojirushi NL-GAC10/18 for a workout and tried not to get overly ambitious while testing some of its features. Our family cooker is the IH (induction heating) model so it’s in a higher price range, but I was surprised to see how well this cooker did, especially with that umami setting.

Bear in mind the umami setting takes over an hour to cook rice, so time your dinner accordingly. Believe me, it’ll be worth the wait. I was using the bigger 10-cup version, so the first thing I wanted to try was the minimum amount of rice. Can it still cook rice perfectly with only 2 cups? Yes it did, and it did it well.

The rice really was “sweeter” and cooked with perfect texture through each grain. Not soft-mushy, not hard with too much bite, but firm and still fluffy. Umami is hard to describe, but it brought out a certain flavor to the rice that you can taste. If you buy good quality rice, this is the way to cook it!

I’m assuming the extra time on this setting is to allow the raw grain to soak up the water longer, and after it’s done, to allow for extra steaming. The other thing I tried was to cook a larger amount of rice (5 cups) to make sure the results were the same. Again, it cooked consistently all the way to the bottom of the cooking pan. If you’re one of those people who believe rice is tasteless and has to be drizzled with soy sauce, try making a tasty entree and eat it with good, plain white rice. Give your taste buds some credit, man.

Another unique feature of this rice cooker is the steam setting and the steaming basket that comes with it. My larger 10-cup was ideal for this because the basket is large enough for almost any meal. It can be used as a “set it and forget it” stand alone steamer, but lazy me—I thought, what’s the point unless I can make rice at the same time? So my genius move was to cook fish using foil, which takes longer and can be steamed on the same timeline as a pot of rice.

My black cod (a meatier thicker fish is better; at least an inch thick) goes into the foil, elevated off the bottom with scallions.

Here’s proof I did both at the same time. I made 2 cups of rice on the “Quick” setting, which took about 30 minutes. The fish in a foil packet takes longer than when it’s open-faced, so I’m calculating that the 30 minutes is about right to cook both without over-steaming the fish.

Whoa! Better than I thought! The fish looked tender.

Since this is Chinese style, I made the sauce with soy sauce, sugar, oil, ginger and green onions. I heated it on the stove until boiling and poured it on my fish like a chef. Ha!

(I think it was supposed to sizzle, but mine was a little lame.)

But it still came out pretty tasty and it was so dang easy! Plus I had the rice already cooked to eat it with—that’s an A+ way to use this rice cooker in my mind.

My last test was the Sweet/Sushi rice setting that I thought sounded interesting. I made a traditional Japanese dessert called ohagi, also known as botamochi depending on the season. If you live near an Asian market, you might be able to find sweet rice (mochigome) and canned adzuki bean paste (or you can make it from scratch if you want). Wash the rice good and fill the water to the “Sweet” line on the cooking pan; choose the Sweet/Sushi menu and let the rice cooker do the rest.

Once the mochi rice is cooked, you need to mash it up just enough to still see shapes of the rice grains. I used the bottom of a mug as a masher and it worked fine.

See? Looks like mochi, right?

You can make 2 kinds of ohagi easily. Prepare some adzuki bean paste balls using a cookie dropper and get your kinako ready. Kinako is finely powdered soy bean flour that you mix with sugar to create Japanese style desserts.

Now all you’re doing is molding them into balls with the adzuki. If you use plastic wrap it isn’t that hard. For the ones coated with adzuki on the outside, just get a bit of rice and drop it into the middle and form into balls. The plastic wrap will keep your hands from getting sticky. For the kinako kind, you just do the opposite, then roll the rice ball on a bed of kinako powder.

Boom! You’re done. Mine aren’t very cute—I’m sure you can do better. But if you love mochi, this goes great with green tea!

There are a lot more menu settings on this rice cooker that I didn’t try, so maybe someone else can try those. Good luck if you do!



Products used in this post: Umami® Micom Rice Cooker & Warmer NL-GAC10/18

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

All images by Bert Tanimoto ©2021







What’s In Your Toaster Oven?

One day I decided to see what I could make in my toaster oven, from breakfast to dinner. Since I don’t cook, they all had to be easy to make—I found out that baking is a pretty easy way to cook. And toaster ovens don’t get as hot as a regular oven, they’re right on the counter, and they’re big enough for mostly anything (mine is anyway).

First up was my breakfast. Egg toast with cheese. Have you ever tried this? Just put a dent in the middle of a piece of bread and drop an egg in it. Spread some cheese around the top and leave the egg exposed. Then you just pop it in the oven for like 12 to 15 minutes at around 375°F until you see the cheese turn brown.

I used the bottom of a glass to make the cavity, which was easy because you notice I used very thick bread! This is the Japanese shoku pan style bread that you can find at most Asian supermarkets. These slices came from a 340 gram (3/4 lb.) loaf that had 6 slices. You can find varying thicknesses too, sometimes the really thick ones have only 4 slices! If you’ve never tried this kind of bread I would recommend doing so immediately—it’s got a texture that is unbelievably soft (but not squishy), a crust that isn’t hard at all, and a satisfying milky taste. Even with the thinner slices, shoku pan toasts beautifully on the surface while still staying fluffy on the inside.


Gotta say I went a little long with the baking on this one. I prefer my yolks runny. Oh well, next time… One great way to eat it though, is to add some Japanese mayo as a topping. The tang of the mayo really compliments the cheese and egg combination nicely.

Kale Chips

Since when did people start eating kale and making it a thing anyway? Didn’t we just ignore it when restaurants used to use it as a decoration on your plate, eventually destined for the busboy to clear off after you were done with the real food? Nobody actually ate it because it tasted horrible! Well, I got news for you, to some of us it still tastes horrible, ha-ha! But somehow they found out it was good for you and kale became the darling of salads. My wife loves kale—I do not. But Kale Chips? OK, I gotta admit they’re pretty good! This is easy—just coat with olive oil (not too much), salt and pepper, and bake it for 10 or 15 minutes at 350°F. Try to brown but not burn it.

One thing; make sure you cut the kale into large enough pieces. It shrinks considerably. Otherwise, it makes a good snack. believe it or not.

My own version of a snack. Mix it with popcorn. Doesn’t this look more like I’m justifying eating this stuff?

Foil Packet Chicken

Sorry, I can’t take the credit for this one—my wife helped me out because she didn’t want me to ruin dinner! But this was easy too. The sauce is made from olive oil, Dijon mustard, herbs you would have around the house and lemons. There are a bunch of similar recipes you can look up online, but the real benefit of cooking with foil is that everything steams inside at the same time, even the potatoes. Took about 30 minutes at 375°F. One thing we forgot was to slice the potatoes in half, which would have helped bake them faster—I would recommend not skipping this step. Otherwise, you get half-baked potatoes.

Dinner is served! No pan to clean—just toss the foil after cooking, or serve it like that and pretend you’re outdoors camping. There’s a whole library of foil cooking recipes out there; just remember it’s not just for camping. It’s great for oven baking too.

My dirty little secret: our regular oven doesn’t work really well, which is the real reason we’ve been using a toaster oven ever since it went on the blink. But you know what—we don’t really miss it. As long as you don’t need to bake for a crowd or have multiple baking pans or cookie sheets you have to do at the same time, you don’t really need a big oven. As long as your toaster oven is a high quality larger capacity one, you’ll find it’s well worth the counter space!

Just For Fun

This guy actually broke into our house by chewing the screen!

The same one on a raid. He came repeatedly for weeks and weeks. We tried hot pepper on the screen, taping it shut, etc.

Finally had to call an exterminator. Sorry guys, squirrels are cute but not when they start invading. He even brought a buddy one day. That was the last straw for me!



Products used in this post: Micom Toaster Oven ET-ZLC30

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

All images by Bert Tanimoto ©2021





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