B-kyu Gurume: Kushikatsu from Shinsekai, Osaka

(source: Just One Cookbook)

Have you ever tried Kushikatsu?  Kushikatsu, also known as Kushiage, is a famous and delicious Japanese dish of deep-fried meat and vegetables served on a skewer. In fact, kushi actually refers to the bamboo skewers used to assemble this dish and katsu refers to the deep-fried cutlets.

The dish is most commonly made with chicken, pork, seafood and a variety of seasonal vegetables. The ingredients are dipped in egg and flour, and breaded with panko then deep-fried to be golden brown.

Kushikatsu is said to have originated in downtown Osaka in Shinsekai in 1929, and was primarily made for blue-collar workers. The skewers made the dish a fast food of sorts and were both inexpensive and filling for the locals of the region. While skewers are popular across Japan, the Osaka region’s Kushiage is particular in a few ways.

First, they offer one type of ingredient per skewer, whereas other regions might interchange their meats with vegetables, or place more than one type of meat per skewer. Secondly, the Shinsekai skewers are generally a bit smaller than other regions, because it is customary to order several for each meal. Lastly, in Osaka, the skewers are served standalone and are usually dipped in a shared pot of sauce before eating, to thinly coat the skewer (double-dipping is strictly prohibited). Other regions are known to instead serve the skewers with ginger, sauces, or other meats on the side of the skewer.

Some places in Japan offer Kushikatsu as a fondue-style meal, where you dip and prepare your own skewers at the table. If that sounds fun to you and you are ready to make this famous dish at home, here is a great video with the recipe for you to learn the ropes.

If you’re visiting Osaka and are looking for the best places to find Kushikatsu, give these a try!

  • Daruma Shinsekai Sohonten is known as one of the most popular places to grab Kushikatsu in Osaka. There are 14 of these across the region, so it will be easy for you to access on your trip.
  • Ueshima is located in Amemura, and they have no menu or price listed. The master chef will prepare the freshest ingredients they were able to find for the guests. When you are full, make sure to inform them!  It is advised to tell the chef your budget in advance if that might be a concern, so he knows how to keep the experience in your budget.
  • Rokkakutei Kuromon Honten is a more high-end Kushikatsu restaurant, with one-Michelin star. Similar to Ueshima there is no menu or price, and the day’s freshest ingredients are featured in the meal.

Let us know if you try (or make) any of these dishes by tagging Zojirushi on your photos with #zojirushiamerica on Twitter, Facebook or Instagram!

 

B-kyu Gurume: Okinawa Soba from Okinawa, Japan

Welcome to our last summer B-Kyu Gurume blog post of the year, Zo fans!  Today, we’re going to introduce you to Okinawa Soba.

Okinawa is Japan’s southernmost prefecture, comprised of 160 islands, and the name of the largest island in the geographical collection. If you’re planning a visit to Japan in the future, you definitely want to try and visit this subtropical climate known for its white sand, magnificent beaches, undersea life and tropical jungles. After snorkeling amongst an amazing array of coral, we recommend ending your day by grabbing a delicious bowl of Okinawa Soba.

In this region, there is a saying that translates as, “One who eats plain food is healthy”. Fun fact: Okinawa’s residents live to be some of the oldest people in the world! One of the reasons for this is their tendency to consume low-calorie, high carbohydrate food such as the soba they are so famous for. Japanese soba is made with buckwheat flour while Okinawan soba is made with wheat flour. The flat, broad and wavy noodles are paired with an assortment of proteins, such as tofu, pork, and/or vegetables, all served in a flavorful broth topped with green onions, fish cakes, fish paste, pickled ginger, and egg.

The first recorded mention of the dish was in 1902, but it was not popularized until the 1960s. What might have once been considered street food is now enjoyed across all classes and in all communities of the city, served in a traditional pot and eaten with chopsticks. Okinawa Soba is ultimate Japanese soul food, a noodle soup packed with umami goodness.

If you’re curious on how you might be able to make this famous dish at home, here is a great recipe for you to learn the ropes:

 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Y3gjNdnRSAs&feature=emb_title

And if you’re visiting Japan, here are three places where you can eat Okinawa Soba when you’re in town:

  • Doraemon is a five-minute walk from the Kenchomae station’s monorail. They have a hint of dashi broth and are known for simple and authentic soba.
  • Shuri Horikawa is famous for their elegant presentation, which is a departure from what people think of when they think of this comfort food. The noodles are cooked right after they are ordered, so they take a little longer to make than other establishments but are said to be worth the wait.
  • Yanbaru Soba is about fifteen minutes from Okinawa’s famous Churaumi Aquarium. Their exterior is incredibly plain with no frills, but there is generally a line to experience their famous dish.

Let us know if you try (or make) any of these dishes by tagging Zojirushi on your photos with #zojirushiamerica on Twitter, Facebook or Instagram!

B-kyu Gurume: Morioka Reimen from Morioka City, Iwate

Happy July, Zo fans!  We’re so surprised by how fast this year has gone by already.  We hope that you all are continuing to stay safe and healthy!

One of our favorite ways to plan any trip is to research the food that each destination is famous for. We love traveling to try new cuisine!  Do you do this, too?  If so, when planning your trip to Morioka in Iwate, you’ll quickly learn the city is famous for their noodles.

In fact, they are actually known for not one type of noodle, but rather for the “Three Great Noodles of Morioka.” These noodles are Wanko Soba, Morioka Jajamen, and Morioka Reimen.

photo link: https://img.japankuru.com/prg_img/img/img2020042016423097652000.jpg

When you order Wanko Soba in Iwate, you are given a small bowl of soba with toppings like sesame seeds or green onions. But don’t worry about the size of the dish, because you get to eat as much as you want! It’s such a novel experience, really. Each time you finish your bowl, a server that’s standing right next to you will say “hai, janjan” and refills your dish. This repeats until you cover the bowl with a lid, to signal you have eaten to your heart’s content. Establishments even hold contests to see who can eat the most, with records as high as 500 bowls consumed!  Would you be up for this challenge, Zo fans?

Next up is Morioka Jajamen.  Morioka Jajamen is an udon dish topped with ground meat, or Nikumiso. This topping is prepared with ginger and other spices, and stewed in miso and sugar. After the noodles are consumed, most customers mix the remaining meat with the broth and an egg to transform the remainder into a second-course soup dish.  It’s so filling and delicious.

The final of the three great noodles is Morioka Reimen. Fun fact: rei means cold, and men means noodles.

Morioka’s cold noodles are served in a spicy soup, generally topped with Kimchi, watermelon, hard-boiled eggs, sesame seeds, beef, and fresh vegetables. The unique combination of ingredients with the cold broth makes it perfect for eating during warm summer days.

You might be wondering “Kimchi? Am I in the right country?” You absolutely are! This dish actually originated in Korea, and was made popular by a Korean-born resident of the city who opened a restaurant featuring the flavors from his childhood. This origin story and spice-level makes the cold noodle dish unique from the reimen consumed in other parts of Japan (which are not known for their spice).

Most Morioka Reimen restaurants offer 5 or more levels of kimchi spiciness for your order. If you’d like more control of the spice of the reimen at your own discretion, you are able to order the betsu-kara option, which provides the kimchi on the side. The cold soup dish is said to taste even better if you add a dash of vinegar to it before consuming.

There are over 30 noodle eateries located just in the city of Morioka. Some of the most popular destinations for where you can try this Reimen (and other noodle dishes mentioned) are:

Seirokaku, a famous noodle restaurant ranked amongst the top restaurants in the area.  Seirokaku is located across the JP Morioka Station, which makes it easy to access!

Another popular restaurant we recommend is Pyonpyonsha, Morioka Ekimae.  This restaurant is one of the most popular places to try these dishes, but space is limited so reservations are recommended!

Photo link: http://japanold.com/2018/05/16/1705/

And if you’re in the mood to learn how to make your own reimen from scratch, you can visit Morioka Handi Works Square to take a traditional cooking class to making your very own version of this regional delicacy.

Let us know if you try (or make) any of these dishes by tagging Zojirushi on your photos with #zojirushi on Twitter, Facebook or Instagram!

B-kyu gurume: Turkish Rice from Nagasaki!

For this month’s (virtual) Japan tour, we are bringing all of you along with us to Nagasaki and introducing you all to one of our favorite indulgences from the region: Turkish Rice.

This dish features three staple components: Neapolitan spaghetti, rice, and meat cutlets. Turkish Rice can typically be customized to satisfy and meet each individual customer’s ideal comfort food order. For example, instead of spaghetti, you can have meat sauce or cream; the rice might be curried pilaf, chicken rice, or even dry; and the cutlets can be pork, chicken, steak, or even hamburger patties (to name a few options).

With so many options available, no wonder it’s considered a “must-eat” when visiting Nagasaki!

At first introduction, it might seem like this recipe would have some roots associated with Turkey, but a closer look into this dish’s origin (and ingredients) confirms that the meal is a total Nagasaki original. In fact, where the name comes from is a mystery to this day, but here are some fun theories we found about its naming.  One theory that attributes the name to historical roots is during Japan’s sakoku period of isolation.  During this time period, the people of Nagasaki were only allowed to trade from Europe through the Dutch. This theory suggested that elements of the dish were brought over during this time period and misattributed to Turkey, which no one has corrected since.  Another theory suggests the three ingredients and their three colors brings the tri-color lunch together to resemble the flag of Turkey, giving the dish its name, as well.  The last theory suggests the root is in geography: with the pilaf origination in India and the Neapolitan in Italy, Turkey’s location in the middle bridges the ingredients together and creates the namesake dish beloved by the region.  How interesting, right?

Whatever the origin, it’s a dish that’s certainly one of our favorite b-kyu gurume recommendations, and one that we hope you definitely indulge in on your next trip to Japan.

If you’re in the middle of planning a trip to Nagasaki right now and want recommendations on where you can try some yourself, here are some places you might want to stop by to order some Turkish Rice for yourself:

The first is Kyushu’s oldest café, Tsuruchan.  Opened in 1925, bask in the historically rich ambience of Tsuruchan and enjoy a plate of Turkish Rice!

What’s your favorite way to eat Turkish Rice? Let us know by sharing your story on social by tagging #Zojirushi on your photos with #zojirushi on Twitter, Facebook or Instagram!

B-kyu Gurume: Akumaki from Kagoshima!

Hi there, Zo fans!  We hope that you’ve all been well and staying safe and healthy!  We’re back with another B-kyu Gurume post.

We think that after all of the savory goodness we’ve been enjoying, it’s time for a bit of sweetness!

We’re excited to introduce akumaki this month, a unique dish from Kagoshima Prefecture in Kyushu.

Akumaki is truly unique! It’s made of soaked or steamed mochigome – the glutinous rice used to make mochi – wrapped in bamboo leaves that are tied into packets with palm leaf strings.

The packets are boiled in lye, which is a mixture of water and charcoal ash. After a few hours, the rice inside the packets is cooked to a smooth, brown, chewy consistency, the perfect base for eating.

The akumaki is drizzled with sweet syrup, regular or brown sugar, or even kinako, a roasted soybean flour that has a pleasantly sweet taste and powdery texture. It usually takes two days to make akumaki, with the first day focused on preparing the ingredients and leaves, and the second day actually cooking the packets. The end result is worth it!

Amazing, right?

Many Asian cultures have dishes boiled or steamed in leaves, such as Indian panki or Thai-style baked fish, and this Japanese dish is part of that tradition albeit with a unique twist.  Unlike the mentioned Indian and Thai dishes, Akumaki, is more sweet as opposed to savory.

Traditionally, the two leaves used to make this dish are bamboo, for cooking, and palm for tying.  Today, akumaki is still made with palm leaves, but modern conveniences like cooking string or twine are easier to use for tying the packets.

Even more interesting than the ingredients is the legend surrounding the origins of akumaki. Legend says that akumaki was given to boys who were training to be samurai soldiers during the 16th century. The boys were treated to these sweets which were easy to make, transport and preserve. Lovely how something sweet was given to warriors!

Today, akumaki isn’t usually made at home but it’s still part of a culture treating children to sweetly delicious goodies. Most often, it is served as part of the Children’s Day tradition, which used to be celebrated as Boys Day, in May. As a regional delicacy, it’s definitely part of our favorite B-kyu gurume lineup!

Have you had akumaki before? If so, share your story with us and be sure to tag us using our hashtag #zojirushiamerica on Instagram!