An Acquired Taste of Japan – Narezushi!

Nigiri or maki?

Your choice or omakase?

Sushi is a favorite Japanese food the world over, but where does it really come from?

Narezushi, or fermented fish sushi, is considered by many to be the progenitor of modern-day sushi. According to historians, narezushi was a dish that was brought to Western Japan from Southeast and South Asia in the 4th Century BC. These regions experienced heavy monsoons and intense heat, and the people of these regions devised a way to ferment and preserve local fish, supplying necessary food and nutrients during harsh seasons. By the 8th Century (Nara Period), artefacts indicate that narezushi was being made in Chikuzen, present-day Fukuoka Prefecture.

So, what is narezushi?

Narezushi is made of three components—fish, salt and rice.  Various fish can be used for narezushi including fish from the carp family—such as dace, loach and three-lips—as well as sweetfish and salmon. Today, narezushi is not as commonly made as it used to be, but in Shiga Prefecture, a type of narezushi called funazushi can still be found. Funazushi is made using nigorobuna, a type of carp native to nearby Lake Biwa. The fish is caught in spring, just as lake waters warm up from winter. Upon catching, the fish are descaled and gutted, and their gills are removed. The gill cavity is then stuffed with large amounts of high-quality salt. The salted fish are placed into containers, typically wooden barrels, and then weighted with tsukemonoishi, or pickling stones. The salted fish are left for about six months, during which time the salt destroys harmful bacteria, softens the fish bones and causes excess water to be released. Once the fish has gone through the salt preservation, it is rigorously rinsed, dried and then put back into a container along with cooked rice for at least a year to ferment. Some funazushi artisans further ferment the fish by pickling it with a second batch of fresh cooked rice. The double fermentation is said to remove any pickling odors from the fish and augment its flavor. Once finished, the rice used to ferment the fish is discarded and the narezushi is served simply, without cooked rice or condiments.

The process for making narezushi hasn’t materially changed since ancient times. Because of the intense effort it took to produce narezushi, it became custom in the Muromachi Period (1333-1568 AD) to give it as a gift to samurai and the aristocracy. Narezushi was also offered to the gods during older Japanese times in the hopes of good harvests. In Shiga Prefecture, you can still attend festivals where funazushi are ceremonially sliced in a ritual called Sushikiri Jinji.

Narezushi isn’t as commonly eaten today as it used to be. Lack of a bountiful carp harvest and palettes that prefer the modern-Edo Period-version of sushi have limited its popularity. But as a traditional food, it is still enjoyed widely throughout Japan.

If you get a chance to try narezushi, be sure to savor it and don’t forget to share your experience of narezushi with us!

Product Inspirations – Home Bakery Virtuoso® Plus Breadmaker (BB-PDC20)

We have a new breadmaker and IT. IS. AMAZING!

The Home Bakery Virtuoso® Plus is our latest breadmaker and it is equipped to make anyone a great home baker.

It makes traditional 2-lb. loaves as well as a variety of other foods. It features 14 pre-programmed course settings that alter the kneading, rising and baking functions based on the type of bread to be made. The course options allow you to make classic breads such as White, Rapid White, Whole Wheat, Rapid Whole Wheat and European-style breads that have a lovely crumb. The course options also include health-conscious choices such as Multigrain, Gluten Free, Salt Free, Sugar Free, and Vegan. And finally, this appliance is also great for making pizza dough, pasta dough, sourdough starter, cake and jam!

Along with the pre-programmed course settings, the Home Bakery Virtuoso® Plus comes with a special Homemade course, which allows you to input up to three custom recipes that you’ve developed, storing your own knead, rise, and bake times in the system. This great feature is perfect for keeping your favorite bread and other recipes ready to make at the touch of a finger.

And since this appliance is specifically designed to bake excellent bread, you can set the Crust Control to the crust color of your choice, and features a heating element in the lid which promotes even baking and browning. The Ham & Mayo Roll that we’ve developed for this breadmaker is savory and delicious and the roll was easy to make using the Dough course. And if you’re in the mood for pasta, then try making the pasta from scratch! We love our Prosciutto and Avocado Cold Pasta recipe!

Like many of Zojirushi’s breadmakers, the Home Bakery Virtuoso® Plus Breadmaker uses a removable, nonstick coated baking pan to hold all the ingredients and dual kneading blades to thoroughly mix ingredients for superior results. The simplified LCD control panel and convenient key code make it simple to choose the course setting as well as select the crust color and set the optional 13-hour delay timer.

We’ve created how-to videos to get you started with this breadmaker. The ideal place to start is by measuring ingredients correctly. Making bread is straightforward, as is programming the Homemade Course. And finally, check out our helpful hints, in case you need a few tips.

Both the pan and blades are easy to clean and are BPA-free. Accessories include a full color recipe booklet with 50 delicious recipes, nested measuring cups for dry ingredients, a liquid measuring cup and a measuring spoon.

We love our new premium breadmaker and know you will too! Share how you use it in the comments below!

The Voices of Zojirushi – Marilyn!

We hope you’re enjoying our Voices of Zojirushi series. We’ve enjoyed sharing perspectives from Jesse, Seitaro, Saori, Nao, Amy and Manny with you.

This month, we visit with Marilyn, our North American Marketing Manager. She works closely with the Vice President of Marketing on everything from product research and development to campaigns and promotions to advertising and public relations.

Marilyn’s unique background–born in Los Angeles, moved to Tokyo when she was eight years old, and returned to Southern California as an adult–gives us such interesting insight into her career at Zojirushi.

Marilyn, start off by telling us what inspired you to work at Zojirushi?

As with most Japanese Americans, I grew up using Zojirushi products and was familiar with their reputation, so it was a no-brainer for me. What keeps me at Zojirushi though, is knowing that the products I help develop bring joy and convenience to others. I love it when new people I meet can’t wait to tell me how much they love their Zojirushi products!

Marilyn’s Tuff Mug has been through the ringer, but still works like a  champ

That’s got to be the best feeling. Since you help to develop and market Zojirushi products, how do you believe our corporate philosophy of Creating a Quality of Life influences you?

When developing products or creating marketing materials, I think of our customers a lot. How would this product benefit our customers? How can I make this product better, so it’s easier to use, easier to clean, or more useful? What would our customers like to read in our newsletters or on our website? By thinking of these Hows, Whats and Whys, I hope to make the lives of everybody who interact with us and our products in any way, better.

For example, as a manufacturer of household appliances, safety is one of the most important qualities at Zojirushi. How can we design the cord so the unit isn’t pulled off the counter accidentally? What can we do to prevent burns? How can we make it child-proof? What happens when someone struggles to open a lid or cook something better? These are the questions asked every day at Zojirushi and implemented into our products.

Since you’re so close to the products, tell us about your favorite product and one you’d like to see created in the future?

My favorite Zojirushi product is the Tuff Mug I’ve been using since I started working for Zojirushi in 2002. It’s scratched, beat-up and dented, but still works amazingly well. Newer mugs have better design features like a disassembling lid and are much lighter, but there’s something about this mug that I just can’t get rid of it (including the lipstick stain on the lid because the lid doesn’t disassemble)!

And as someone working in product R&D, I have lots of great ideas under my sleeve, but I wouldn’t mind taking a step backwards and having a glass-lined vacuum bottle in our lineup. I remember a day in elementary school when I dropped my glass-lined vacuum bottle and it shattered, spilling barley tea all over the place, but glass is so much easier to clean and keep sanitary.

Marilyn enjoys cooking takoyaki with friends who join her in turning batter into balls

We do love our Zojirushi bottles! We know barley tea was your drink of choice in elementary school, but what can you tell us about your favorite dish now, especially one that’s made using a Zojirushi appliance?

Takoyaki. Growing up in Tokyo, I would’ve never thought of making takoyaki at home (it’s more of a Western Japan thing), but it’s so fun to make when we have guests over. I also enjoy using the griddle to make French toast and hash browns on Sundays.

Thank you, Marilyn, for sharing your thoughts with us today. Any last thoughts?

If there’s one thing about Zojirushi I would say, it’s this: Dedication. The dedication each employee has for this brand always amazes me. Everybody works hard to make the best product they can think of, help customers as much as possible, or try to provide the best Zojirushi experience for every single customer. It keeps us fresh and inspired!


We hope you enjoyed meeting Marilyn, and stay tuned for our next voice, next month!

It’s National Ice Cream Month!

How can I not write stuff about ice cream on National Ice Cream month? As usual though, I like to explore the side roads, so here’s a few things you may not know:

Häagen-Dazs® isn’t European. Sorry to burst your bubble if you didn’t already know this, but I thought for sure my favorite brand of ice cream was from Germany. I mean, when it first came out it was unlike anything else out there, you know? The company was founded in the 60s by Reuben Mattus, a native New Yorker from the Bronx. He wanted to give his ice cream a Danish sounding name because he thought it would convey an image of old world tradition and craftsmanship. He thought right, didnt he? And by the way, he added that ä (called an umlaut) to make the product stand out, even though the punctuation mark doesn’t even exist in the Danish language! I think it’s marketing genius.

How did the ice cream cone happen? As usual with inventions, there are conflicting stories as to who actually came up with the original idea. Although a couple of patents for edible cones had been filed earlier, it took a big event like the 1904 St. Louis Exposition to bring it to everyone’s attention. The story is that at the fair, an ice cream vendor by the name of Arnold Fornachou enlisted the aid of a waffle maker named Ernest Hamwi, who sold him waffles when Fornachou ran out of paper cups for his ice creams. He started rolling the waffles into cones to hold the scoops, and this was how the ice cream cone went mainstream!

Japanese ice cream sandwiches are da bomb. No, they’re not sandwiched between two cookies or two biscuits. It’s more like a wafer cone that’s been shaped into a hollow brick, so the ice cream can be loaded into it. When you think about it, it’s so elegantly Japanese! It’s like an ice cream cone without the mess—self contained, easy to eat, easy to transport and with a longer melting time! The wafers are called monaka, and they’ve been around for ages. Today there are dozens of flavors and fillings to make them more exciting than just plain vanilla. The one you see here is filled with matcha ice cream and lined with milk chocolate. Yummy! And check out the way they’re indented into segments—so you can break them into smaller portions to share with your friends!

Make your own ice cream. You really don’t need an ice cream maker, you know. There are many recipes out there for homemade ice cream that you can make by blending ingredients and freezing. This gelato from Zojirushi uses rice as a base, which gives it the type of texture and flavor that only rice can provide. Try it, and let me know how you like it. If you’re a rice fan like me, I’m sure it’ll be outstanding.

This is another one from their site that blends in coffee. This looks easy too, with just a few ingredients mixed with a blender and frozen. And who doesn’t love coffee ice cream? Here’s a tip though—use really good coffee.

Why do we get brain freeze? Ha-ha! Aren’t you curious? Why does this happen sometimes when we eat ice cream? Actually, it happens when we eat or drink anything that’s really cold too fast. The blood vessels in the roof of the mouth constrict when sudden cold contacts it, causing the sensitive nerves in your palate to trigger a headache. So one solution is to push your tongue to the roof of your mouth to warm it up, and your headache will gradually disappear. Another is the drink warm water. The best way to avoid brain freeze though, is to not scarf your ice cream! As much as we love it, don’t stuff your mouth with so much so fast!

Enjoy National Ice Cream Month! (but not too fast)



Scoops by Jen, Cone by Stephanie, Monaka by @ironchefmom, Ice Rice Gelato & Coffee Ice Cream by Zojirushi, Lego Headache by Matt Brown

Above used with permission by Creative Commons license