Foreign Foods in Japan – Tenshindon

Tenshindon is a yummy crab omelet served over rice and topped with a salty-sweet sauce and chopped scallions. Sounds like a simple dish, doesn’t it?

But tenshindon has some fun historical and pop-culture stories associated with it and we’re excited to share not only the recipe for tenshindon, but also the interesting facts about this Japanized Chinese dish!

During the 1800s and 1900s, Japan opened its borders to commercial, intellectual, and cultural exchange with Asian countries and Western nations. China was a major center for this type of exchange, and the city of Tianjin became a treaty port for interested parties. Many Japanese traveled to Tianjin, establishing a significant population there. With this exchange, Japanese travelers who returned from the city brought back new knowledge, culture, goods, and foods, which became part of day-to-day Japanese life. One such dish was tenshindon – which combines the Japanized word for Tianjin, “tenshin,” with the Japanese word for rice, “don.” Fumiyoshi Yokota, a professor of Chinese cuisine, researched tenshindon in the book titled The Research of Chinese Food Culture: Tianjjin, and found that there were strong ties to the food found in Tianjin. First, the use of salty soy sauce was common in Tianjin; Tenshindon also features a salty, soy-based gravy. Second, when Chinese people had to eat frugally, they would fish for crabs and prawns off the coast of the port city. Tenshindon features a crab omelet. Lastly, rice was popular in both cities.

Along with the historical connections, legend has it that after the numerous wars of that period, starving customers would come into a Chinese-owned restaurant called Taishoken in Osaka and order the quickest, cheapest item they could get – a Tianjin-inspired crab meat omelet served over rice and topped with a salty sauce.

Competing stories credit Tokyo as the birthplace of tenshindon, at the restaurant Rai Rai Ken, where shoyu-based ramen was popularized, when a customer who was in a hurry to eat was served the dish topped with the sauce used for sweet and sour pork. The owner of Rai Rai Ken called the dish tenshindon, in honor of the Japanese soldiers stationed in Tianjin.

More recently, tenshindon has become more popular at Chinese restaurants in Japan because of the reference to Tenshinhan, a character in the hugely popular Dragon Ball anime series. “Han,” which means rice in Chinese, is a play on don, a food-related pun that Dragon Ball creator Akira Toriyama often adds to his characters’ names.

Regardless of how tenshindon came to be, it is an ultimately fantastic comfort food and easy to make over white rice. Have you tried it before? If so, share your love of this dish with us below!

Product Inspirations – Micom Rice Cooker & Warmer (NL-AAC10/18)

At Zojirushi, we’re inspired by everyday cooking, at home, in any kind of kitchen, and for large and small families. We design our small appliances to meet your day-to-day needs, and our Micom Rice Cooker & Warmer (NL-AAC10/18) is one of the best examples of the effortless practicality and stylish functionality that guides our product design.

This is made in Japan and comes in 5.5 and 10 cup capacities. It’s also smartly multifunctional. At its core, it cooks rice and rice mixed with grains, such as barley and adzuki beans. But this rice cooker also features a Steam function, which allows you to cook vegetables, fish, scallops, prawns, chicken, meat-filled potstickers, or dumplings.

Rice is cooked using one of six pre-programmed settings: White/Sushi Rice, Mixed Rice, Porridge, Sweet Rice, Brown Rice, and Quick Cooking. Each of these settings, along with the one for Steaming, are accessed on the easy-to-read LCD control panel. Once the desired setting is selected, the rice cooker uses fuzzy logic technology – which cleverly directs the appliance’s microcomputer to make fine adjustments to cooking time and temperature – to make perfect rice every time.

White Rice and Brown Rice are easy to make; simply select the White/Sushi or Brown Rice setting. But this rice cooker also allows you to make mixed rice, such as rice with barley or Shiitake-Gohan (Shiitake Mushroom Rice), by adding stock, seasonings and vegetables directly into the rice cooker along with the rice. The instruction manual that comes with the rice cooker has smart tips on how to get the best results for all kinds of dishes, including the correct proportion of rice to other grains, how to rinse rice for the best results, and how to season rice for cooking.

The black inner pan is ideal for helping you with assembling and cooking your dish. Markings on the inside of the pan serve as a guide for how much water to use and the heating element evenly heats the ingredients. Once the dishes are cooked, the rice cooker will either make a beeping sound or play a melody, and will keep the food warm using the Automatic Keep Warm setting or the Extended Keep Warm setting. We use this feature along with the Delay Timer, which allows you to program when you would like the rice to be finished cooking. We often fill the inner cooking pan with rinsed rice and water in the morning, set the timer for the evening, and leave for the day to come home to cooked, fresh rice. The rice cooker will automatically keep it warm, and when we come home, we simply open the lid to eat or add ingredients for dishes like Green Tea Rice.

The Steaming function is another ideal feature in this rice cooker. To steam your favorite foods, fill the inner cooking pan with the appropriate amount of water, insert the steaming basket securely into the inner cooking pan, then place your foods into the basket. Select the Steam setting from the LCD panel and set the cooking time. Before you know it, your food will be prepared and ready to eat!

A rice measuring cup, rice spatula, and the steaming basket accessories come with the rice cooker.

Maintaining this rice cooker is also simple and practical. The inner lid, which covers the cooking pan, is detachable and washable, as are the removable inner cooking pan, steamer basket, and spatula. Simply wipe the inner and outer surfaces of the machine to clean them. And when storing the rice cooker, remove the detachable power cord and fold it up neatly next to the machine.

We hope you try out the great recipes found on pages 18-21 of the instruction manual, and try out some of our favorites from Zojirushi.com. As always, be sure to share your favorite dishes with us!

Design Explained – Our Superior Vacuum Insulation

Zojirushi has been in the vacuum insulation business for over 100 years! The company opened its doors in Osaka as the Ichikawa Brothers Trading Company in 1918 manufacturing vacuum liners, and began manufacturing vacuum bottles in 1948. We’ve been designing vacuum insulated products since then!

Vacuum insulation is a specific type of insulation that uses a man-made vacuum between two panels of materials, such as glass or stainless steel, so that the temperature of the fluids or gases on either side of the panels are isolated and don’t affect each other. The concept of a vacuum insulated flask was originally developed in the West in 1892 by James Dewar, a scientist who was interested in cryogenics and in developing supercooled substances like liquid hydrogen. Dewar needed a way to keep the liquid hydrogen cool, so that it wouldn’t evaporate, and came up with a vacuum insulated flask made of two walls of glass. Vacuum insulated glass containers were at the heart of Zojirushi’s technology, until 1981, when we created our TUFFBOY line and patented the process to make vacuum insulated stainless steel containers.

Vacuum insulation has many benefits, which we’ve incorporated into our bottles, mugs, food jars, and lunch jars since the first vacuum bottle. The first benefit is the superior insulation. Vacuum insulation prevents heat loss through conduction. Since the air which is a conductor  – is removed between the inner and outer layers of stainless steel, heat isn’t transferred. In fact, a gap as small as 1 mm for the air can insulate the food or drink inside your container!

If you remember from your school days, there are 2 other ways heat can transfer: radiation and convection. In a Zojirushi bottle, heat transfer is also prevented by insulating against radiant heat transfer. A thin sheet of aluminum or copper is wrapped around the outer surface of the inner layer to help reflect radiant heat.

And finally, heat transfer through convection is blocked by tightly sealing the lids on each of the products. For bottles, mugs, and food jars, the lid itself is equipped with a gasket to seal it onto the container, whereas lunch jars use a foam-insulated inner lid. Each of these three ways keeps food and beverages hot or cold for hours.

Along with managing heat transfer, using vacuum insulation makes all of our products lighter. Many thermal vessels use polystyrene foam or the addition of other materials to insulate, adding weight and bulk. Our vacuum insulation makes our products lighter and more compact.

Our superior vacuum insulation makes it easy to choose your favorite bottle, mug, food jar, or lunch jar. Pick between a non-stick coated or SlickSteel® interior. Choose the right size and capacity. And select your favorite color. Check out our full line up in the Products section, and be sure to comment with any questions you might have.

Tell a Story Day

April 27th is National Tell a Story Day. Libraries around the country actually participate in National Tell a Story Day by holding special storytelling times for children. Storytelling is the ancient practice of handing down knowledge from one generation to the next—over thousands of years. It encourages creativity, communication and the lost art of listening. So in honor of National Tell a Story Day, our new Zojirushi drink mug (seen above) is going to flip its top, spout off, and tell the tale of How Rice Saved The Great Wall of China. 😂

Thousands of years ago, around 220 BC, in the great kingdom of China, the Emperor Qin Shi Huang decided to start building a wall to keep the Mongol barbarians of the north from invading his country. In order to accomplish this monumental task, he captured and enlisted over 300,000 soldiers and forced them to labor. The Emperor would never live to see his creation become reality, but the massive project was kept alive for almost 2000 years, as governments came and went over the ages. During the Ming Dynasty, when the wall construction was at its peak, there lived the brothers Huang, who were a family of commoners indentured in servitude to build the Great Wall of China.

The eldest brother, Shang, was a hard drinker who always wanted to forget his troubles with several cups of wine even before he made it all the way home. He had lost so many friends to mudslides and the freezing storms, as they carried heavy boulders up the mountain, day and night. Indeed, many men lost their lives building the wall and were simply laid to rest near it, being too poor to have a proper burial at their hometowns. It is said the Great Wall is also the world’s longest cemetery.

The middle brother, Zhou, was a kind and gentle man who loved his parents and tried to help them with their rice farm whenever he could, working in the rice paddies when he wasn’t at the wall. The problem was that there were so many rice farmers, the Emperor’s traders didn’t really have to buy from the smaller farms. Zhou’s parents struggled to compete with the larger rice brokers. But Zhou worked tirelessly to keep the farm alive, and Shang respected and loved his younger brother for his dedication, even against seemingly hopeless odds.

The youngest brother, Meng, was the most practical and the smartest of the three. He too, had to slave at the wall, but he was always trying to figure out a way to become free of this burden and to make a better life for himself. He looked up to his older brothers, but he never could understand the point of trying to keep the family rice farm going, “Why do you work so hard when you know Mother and Father are going to lose this farm?” he always asked Zhou. And he worried about Shang, who was always drinking too much.

Then during one particularly terrible monsoon season, after it had rained for what seemed like weeks straight, a huge mudslide came crashing down on one section of the wall, burying hundreds of laborers alive under the mud. Zhou was right in the middle of it. He would surely have been killed, if Shang had not kept his brother’s head above the mud and saved him from drowning, The heavy rocks, however, crushed his legs and he had to be sent back home, never to be able to work at the wall or his rice fields ever again.

Shang was furious that day and nearly attacked the guard who was keeping watch on the workers. “Why hasn’t the Emperor done anything to make it safer for us?” he screamed. “Doesn’t he see what is happening here?” Luckily, Meng was right there to hold his brother back from swinging his shovel at the guard. But he couldn’t help but wonder what would have happened if Zhou had been killed.

Meng took over for Zhou at the rice farm after that. He didn’t want to see him get more depressed as he sat helplessly in his chair while his parents gradually lost their farm. After a year of working the fields though, Meng started to understand why Zhou loved farming so much. He came to appreciate the feel of the cool water of the paddies and why Zhou lovingly picked each stalk of rice during harvest time. Each grain of rice became precious to Meng as he gratefully ate his one bowl of rice a day. Meng never wasted his rice. Even old rice was put to good use, to make rice milk, rice bread, rice wine, and RICE GLUE. Meng had discovered that the sticky rice made a wonderful paste that he could use to mend all kinds of things around the house. And that was when he got his amazing inspiration.

Meng made a huge batch of sticky rice glue and brought it to his brother Shang at the wall. Together they started packing the rice in between the stones as they built their section of the wall, to see if it held together better when the next big rains came. Luckily, they had several days of dry weather ahead for the rice to completely bond the rocks, and when the summer storm came, the wall was ready. It worked perfectly. Other sections of the wall started to crumble from the rain, but their section stayed firm. Excited, Meng and Shang brought their discovery to the guard, who had become Meng’s friend after the day he had stopped Shang from doing something reckless. He agreed to tell the Emperor about the rice glue that held the wall together.

Thanks to the Huang brothers, and a lot of sticky rice, building the Great Wall of China became safer for everyone, and this also pleased the Emperor. He rewarded the Huangs by giving them a lifetime contract to produce as much rice as their little farm could handle, so they would never have to worry about losing their farm again.

The End 😊

Images: Great Wall illustration William Alexander rice field by muffinn rice plant by U. Leone

Creative Commons license