An Acquired Taste of Japan – Monjayaki!

Cold weather. Short days. The perfect time for delicious warm foods and drinks, especially when they include monjayaki, our Acquired Taste selection for November.

Monjayaki, or monja for short, is a regional dish, primarily found in Tokyo. At its heart, monjayaki is a slightly ugly pancake made with a few simple ingredients. But when it comes to good food, it really hits the spot, especially when you eat it with an ice-cold beer!

Monjayaki has a long history in Japan. It is thought to have originated in the area now known as Tokyo during the Meiji Period (1868-1912) as a snack called mojiyaki. Mojiyaki, made with a simple water and flour batter, was sold at snack shops called dagashiya, which specialized in candy and snacks for children. When children would come to buy their treat, they would practice their letters in the gooey mojiyaki batter that was cooked on a griddle in front of the shop, leading to the name mojiyaki which means “grilled letters”. Around the time of World War II, the dish evolved into its modern form, monjayaki, which is similar to okonomiyaki in many ways. The base batter for monjayaki is made with dashi and wheat flour, to which is added any combination of cabbage, meat, seafood, cheese, mochi and green onions. But the way monjayaki is prepared and eaten is unique and wonderful, all on its own!

The flour and dashi are combined into a smooth, liquidy batter, and served in a large bowl. Drier toppings are layered into the bowl, starting with shredded green cabbage. Various ingredients are then added on top of the cabbage, depending on the diner’s preference. Mochimentai, a combination of mochi and spicy cod roe, is popular, as are combinations of curry powder and cheese, seafood and green onions and fatty pork and kimchi. All of the layers from the cabbage up are cooked first, usually on an oiled pan, and when eaten at a monjayaki restaurant, at a tableside teppan grill. The dry ingredients are chopped and sautéed, chopped and sautéed, chopped and sautéed, using large, sharp-edged metal spatulas, until they are cut up into very fine pieces. The cooked dry ingredients are then formed into a large donut shape on the grill, with the cooked ingredients forming a “wall” for the goodness to come. The flour and dashi batter is then poured into the empty center and allowed to boil and thicken. Once the bubbling starts, all of the ingredients are mixed together on the grill and cooked until the bottom of the monja starts to brown.

Turn down the heat, and the monja is ready to eat! RIGHT. OFF. THE. GRILL. While it’s hot and delicious. Monjayaki is eaten with tiny spatulas called hagashi, which are used to scoop up bites right off the griddle. As the monja is being eaten, the bottom level crisps up while the top remains so gooey it melts in your mouth. The okoge, or the crisped-up bottom part, is even great to crunch on while drinking beer.

So beloved is monjayaki that there is an entire street in Tokyo dedicated to monjayaki restaurants! Tsukishima Monjadori is packed with monjayaki specialty restaurants, and each restaurant carries unique menus and different variations of monjayaki so you can discover your favorite.

Have you tried it? Is it one of your favorite winter dishes? Let us know what you think in the comments below!

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

Crisp, cold, fall air. Shorter days. Holidays with family. November is such a wonderful time of year for baking! Our new flagship breadmaker—the Home Bakery Virtuoso® Plus (BB-PDC20)—brings all of the warm, comforting scents and delicious recipes into your home.

We’ve designed this full-capacity breadmaker to help any baker, from novice to advanced, make delicious breads, doughs, cakes, jams and even sourdough starter with ease and expertise.

The Home Bakery Virtuoso® Plus comes with nine pre-programmed course settings to bake breads ranging from classic White and European breads, to healthy options such as Whole Wheat, Multigrain, Gluten Free, Salt Free, Sugar Free and Vegan breads. Each course setting alters the kneading, rising and baking functions based on the type of bread to be made, and select courses allow you to control the crust from Light, Medium to Dark, so you can customize each loaf to your liking. In addition, this machine also comes with four additional courses for Dough, Sourdough Starter, Cake and Jam, making the breadmaker even more versatile.

Along with the pre-programmed course settings, the Home Bakery Virtuoso® Plus comes with a special Homemade course that allows you to input up to three of your own custom settings and store your own knead, rise, and bake times. These settings can be stored and used repeatedly, just like the pre-programmed courses, offering an easy way to consistently use your own tried-and-true recipes.

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.

The breadmaker has also been designed with superior features, including an additional heating element in the lid, which promotes even baking and browning and a removable, nonstick coated baking pan to hold all ingredients. The baking pan uses dual kneading blades to thoroughly mix ingredients for the best results. Both the pan and blades are easy to clean, and along with all surfaces that come into contact with food, 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.

The included recipe booklet has amazing recipes for the season. The Cranberry & Walnut Bread is deliciously full of sweet-tart cranberries and crunchy walnuts. Our classic Pumpernickel uses coffee and a mix of wonderful whole wheat flour, rye flour and cornmeal.  And the Rustic Herb Bread, a gorgeous European-style bread, pairs beautifully with seasonal soups and stews. This breadmaker will definitely come in handy when preparing for the holidays. Butter Rolls complete any festive meal, and Tea Cake served with a variety of teas and coffees add charm to any gathering. All of these are in the recipe booklet, along with so many others!

We hope you love these recipes and share the ones that you create in your own kitchen with us!

The Voices of Zojirushi – Peter!

We enjoyed speaking with our Administration Manager, Peter, this month and want to share the thoughtful, exuberant and diverse perspective he brings to our team.

Peter, tell us about yourself and your background.

Before working for Zojirushi, I was in fast-paced, commission-based sales. It was go, go, go! I took a break and went to Japan, where I taught high school English. I began working for Zojirushi in 2003 after returning from Japan. My plan was to continue teaching high school English, and while I applied for teaching positions, I decided to look for temporary work as a sales associate. Serendipitously, I was offered a position in Zojirushi’s Retail Sales Division, and have been with the company ever since!

I’m now the Administration Manager, and although my position does not involve sales or marketing activities where I interact directly with customers, I support those efforts by ensuring that our office operates smoothly and efficiently, by helping to recruit and retain quality employees, and by doing all I can to support our corporate philosophy of Creating a Quality of Life right here among my Zojirushi colleagues.

Zojirushi’s old offices in Gardena, CA

When you mention Creating a Quality of Life, what do you see as our company’s values and how do you believe we embody them in our products and services?

You can tell a lot about a company’s values by the way they treat their employees. When you look around our office, you see people who have been here for decades, some from when Zojirushi America opened its doors in 1987. It’s extremely rare these days to see that kind of loyalty and longevity. The company realizes that it’s strength and success is dependent upon the people who represent it.

When I look at the values of this company and how it operates, I see people who have devoted a significant part of their lives to building it up to where it is today, and I see how loyal Zojirushi has been to them. That same level of commitment and loyalty the company has to its employees is the same kind it shows to its customers. It puts them first, above profit and everything else, because the company knows that without satisfied customers, there is no company, there is no future. And it realizes that you can only earn the trust of those customers—and keep them satisfied for the long-term—by producing quality products and supporting them with the highest level of customer service.

Much of our product design focuses on practicality, quality, craftsmanship, sustainability and stylishness. Do you have a favorite Zojirushi product that you believe embodies these qualities?

My family owns a simple-to-use, single switch rice cooker and we use it several times a week. We have had that rice cooker for several years now and it has worked dependably without any problems at all. That one single rice cooker, which by the way looks great sitting on our kitchen counter, embodies all of those qualities: practicality, quality, craftsmanship, sustainability and stylishness.

A single-button conventional Zojirushi rice cooker (NS-RNC)


When you say it that way, we can see how our tagline—Inspirations from Everyday Life–imbues our product design. Do you believe Zojirushi products inspire customers?

When you produce a product that brings simple joy to a customer, you are selling much more than just convenience and utility. You’re contributing to that customer’s overall enjoyment of their normal day and enriching their life. All of our products inspire our customers by providing those simple joys throughout the day.

For example, we have technologically-advanced and aesthetically-pleasing coffee makers and hot water boilers to make coffee or tea in the morning or throughout the day. We have rice cookers for lunch and dinner. We have bread makers that bake delicious (and wonderful smelling!) breads. If you surround yourself with these types of life-enhancing products, you are, quite simply, adding more joy to your life. And that is what makes them Inspirations from Everyday Life.

So true! Any final thoughts you’d like to share with us?

When I look back at my career path with Zojirushi, I feel like I have been given the opportunity to use my strengths in really great ways, whether through my love of learning, or helping customers or educating our employees… I get to do it all here.

We hope you’ve enjoyed meeting Peter as much as we have sharing his story with you. Stay tuned for our final Voices of Zojirushi blog for 2018!

Food Memories

Do you have Food Memories? What I mean is, do you have certain foods that you can remember from your past that trigger memories of specific events or times in your life? I do. And they’re not necessarily anything fancy. In fact, most of the dishes on my list are pretty humble and might even be considered weird by some people who could never relate to how I was raised. Others might think, “Yeah, I remember that!” I’ll give you an example of something that only locals from Hawaii may or may not understand. Who knows, it could have been just my family that did this.

Hawaiian Bread & Vienna Sausages

I clearly remember when I was very young, my aunts and uncles would gather at my grandmother’s house for most holidays. My grandmother was a very good cook, so she did most of it. Other aunts would bring their specialty—beef teriyaki or macaroni salad or whatever. One of my aunts would always bring a big platter of Deviled Eggs; every single time. I suspect it was because it was the only thing she did well, and my other aunts didn’t want her attempting anything else, LOL.

What I used to love was when my uncle brought out a big loaf of Hawaiian Sweet Bread. Back then all they had was the round kind, and we would butter up a slice and eat it with canned Vienna Sausage. Yes, that Vienna Sausage. Hawaii people must have a thing for canned meats, because besides Spam, we were into those little cylindrical pieces of mystery meat that comes 7 to a can. I loved that stuff! And yes, the sausages were fried before we ate it. Don’t knock it till you’ve tried it!


I don’t know anyone who doesn’t like omurice, which is basically a ketchup flavored fried rice wrapped delicately in a thin skinned omelette, in the shape of a yellow football. Kinda bizarre when I describe it like that, isn’t it? Believe me, most Japanese kids love it, and I was no exception. I was raised partly in Japan when I was little, and my memory of this dish was my Mother bringing me to the Department Store in Tokyo and having lunch on the rooftop floor. The top floor of most hi-rise stores back then had little rides for the kids, and restaurants where the menu featured kid friendly dishes like omurice, hamburger steak and curry rice in kid portions. It always came with a tiny paper flag of Japan planted on the food somewhere.

Aji Sashimi

Years later, when I started working in Tokyo as a fresh college grad, I really learned what amazing food really tasted like. I never even liked fish much, but I discovered that it was because I’d never had good fish before. Japan opened my eyes. As the company rookie and a gullible gaijin (foreigner), my co-workers couldn’t help but to initiate me into their world. One Friday night they took me to a good sashimi place where the fish was the “freshest in Tokyo.” Sure enough, what came out was a platter of Aji (horse mackerel), nicely sliced and accompanied by 3 fish heads with their mouths still snapping open and shut because they were that fresh! Try eating with those eyes staring at you and saying, “Don’t eat me!” (I ate it though, and man, was it good!)

Zaru Soba

That summer, I realized that Tokyo gets really hot and really humid in August. Everyone kind of slows down a bit and spends a lot of time indoors in coffee shops with air conditioning, to get away from the suffocating heat. My co-workers would almost always go to eat zaru soba (buckwheat noodles) for lunch—cold, cheap, quick and refreshing. I started doing the same—and even today I get a craving for plain zaru soba. It’s the simplest, most satisfying meal that you can slurp in 15 minutes, and it’s not heavy when it’s sweltering hot. And don’t forget; it’s not complete unless you get the soba-yu to add to your cup of leftover dipping sauce. Soba-yu is the milky water that they’ve boiled the noodles in. Servers come and pour some in your cup, and you drink it as a diluted warm soup with your sauce. Ask for it next time; any authentic noodle shop probably has it, even here in the States. It’s such a nice finishing touch!


People talk about Spam Musubi all the time, but saimin is just as local as anything else. No offense to any of the restaurants on the Mainland, but you really have to go to Hawaii to get the good stuff. The staple food of 24-hour drive-ins and hungry college students who are pulling all-nighters, saimin is unlike ramen in almost every way. The broth is thinner but no less tasty, and even if the noodles are basically the same curly kind, the ingredients inside are similar but different. The classic saimin has some chopped green onions, slivers of scrambled egg (not boiled), a piece of kamaboko (fish meal), and a few slices of char-siu (pork meat Chinese style, which is drier than ones in ramen). If you can’t tell the difference between ramen and saimin, then you really haven’t had the real thing.

Did you know you can get saimin at McDonald’s® in Hawaii? It was in fact the first such “ethnic food” to break into the McDonald’s® menu at the time. It’s actually not bad and does the trick if you’re craving. I love Hawaii McDonald’s®—it’s the only place you can get rice with your Big Breakfast, along with spam and Portuguese sausage. Of course soy sauce is always available as a condiment, even at McD’s!

Too many more food memories to talk about in one post. I can’t stop once I get going. What are yours?


photo credits: saimin: Eugene Kim, zaru soba on ice: tokopedia, soba-yu: katorisi, all licensed by Creative Commons
Aji: Foods in Japan, Hawaiian Bread & Zaru Soba dinner by Bert Tanimoto