B-kyu Gurume: Hachinohe Senbei-jiru

Did you all enjoy our previous B-kyu Gurume post?  Well, luckily for you we’re exploring more B-kyu gurume specialties this month, and we know you’ll love our featured dish — Hachinohe senbei-jiru!

For those who read last month’s blog post, you’ll know that B-kyu gurume cuisine is a uniquely Japanese style of gourmet food that uses regionally-sourced, inexpensive, and down-to-earth ingredients.  These dishes are often prepared at mom and pop-type restaurants and izakaya.  While the food is delicious and appetizing, it is considered “B-class” gourmet, or “B-kyu gurume“, because of its humble origins.

Hachinohe senbei-jiru originates from the city of Hachinohe in Aomori Prefecture in the northern part of Honshu, Japan’s mainland.

It is a hot soup dish that’s perfect for the area’s cold and windy climate.  It consists of a hot soy sauce based broth prepared with fish, meat, or vegetables and Nanbu senbei, hard wheat crackers, which are broken into pieced and then boiled in the broth.  Once finished, the soup is topped with chopped scallions before serving.  This dish is simple, yet so delicious and warm for the soul!

Senbei-jiru is considered B-kyu gurume because of its simple ingredients and interesting regional history.  Meat from chub, pheasant, hare, and crab were traditionally used when preparing the broth for this dish, but today chicken, pork, fish such as cod or canned mackerel, and mushrooms are more commonly used.  The Nanbu senbei cracker is made of wheat or buckwheat, which is unique to this region, and then added to the hot broth.  Vegetables or mushrooms are also added to the final product, and senbei-jiru becomes a complete, hearty, filling meal.

Nanbu senbei crackers have an interesting and iconic history in this part of Japan, known as the Hachinohe Domain.  The Hachinohe region during the Edo Period (1603-1868 AD) was home to this dish.  Today, this region is comprised of Hachinohe City and the Nanbu area.  During this period, this area had experienced harsh, cold winds blowing in from the Pacific Ocean which devastated rice crops.  The lack of rice crops led to many experiencing famines.  Because of this, farmers began growing heartier grains such as wheat and buckwheat, which could withstand the weather.  Foods made from wheat and buckwheat in this area created a regional cuisine culture called “konamon“, with Nanbu senbei being one of the most famous products.

Nanbu senbei were made with wheat flour and water, then baked in a round mold until crispy and hard.  When eaten as a snack, Nanbu senbei were flavored with seeds and nuts, but when used for senbei-jiru, the crackers were made with just flour, salt, and water.  Once baked, the round cracker is broken into large pieces and added to the broth to make senbei-jiru.

We love this unique dish, especially at this time of year.  We also have a delicious recipe for a rice-based cracker, Cheese Senbei on our website. 

Enjoy them as a snack and then get the authentic ingredients to make your own senbei-jiru.

Product of the Month –
Micom Rice Cooker & Warmer (NL-BAC05)

Hello and happy February Zojirushi fans!  We are so excited to announce that our Product of the Month is the Micom Rice Cooker & Warmer (NL-BAC05)!

Why?  Because it is such an all-around versatile rice cooker!

This rice cooker and warmer works best for individuals, as well as small families because of its compact cooking capacity.  It can make as little as a half cup of uncooked rice or other grains, which is great for an individual serving, and as much as three cups for multiple portions.  The Micom Rice Cooker & Warmer ensures perfectly cooked rice and grains every time.  How?  It comes with a rice measuring cup and an inner cooking pan with water level markings which make it easy to measure out the correct amount of ingredients.  Long gone are the days of inconsistent measuring and guessing; we made is simple, so you can have the best meal.

This rice cooker and warmer is also intelligently designed.  It comes with a black, nonstick inner cooking pan that is 2.5 mm thick, allowing for even heat distribution for better cooking.

It also features a triple heater with extra-large heating elements that heats the food from the bottom, side, and top.  In order to prevent messy overflows during high temperature cooking, the rice cooker also includes a removable Steam Vent Cap.  Lastly, another notable feature is its removable Inner Lid to aid in cooking an an easy-to-use LCD Control Panel from which you can program the rice cooker and warmer.

With all these useful features, its no wonder that this rice cooker and warmer is able to prepare more than just rice.  As we mentioned previously, this rice cooker has dedicated menu settings for rice and other grains.  When cooking rice, the settings for White/Sushi, Quick, Brown, and Long Grain White allows you to cook short, medium, and long-grain white rice, short and medium brown rice, as well as white rice with the germ, germinated brown rice and semi-brown rice.  The menu settings for Quinoa and Steel Cut Oatmeal lets you prepare white, black and red quinoa, steel cut oats, as well as rice mixed with barley.  And the rice cooker’s microcomputer uses advanced fuzzy logic technology to ensure perfect results every time by making fine adjustments to cooking time and temperature.

We love how our Quinoa and Chicken Super Salad (pictured below) and Thai Oatmeal Salad with Eggplant turn out in this rice cooker, along with how the long-grain white rice for Jambalaya is made.  Check out other recipes on our website for more inspiration!

Oh, and did we mention that it makes cake?!  The “Cake” menu setting lets you make various types of cakes such as sponge-type cakes and cheesecakes, by pouring in the prepared batter, selecting the “Cake” menu setting, and programming in the cooking time.  How simple is that?

Cooking is just one of the rice cooker’s function.  This rice cooker can automatically keep cooked food warm with the “Keep Warm” setting and can do that for an extended period of time with the “Extended Keep Warm” setting, which maintains a low temperature so the food doesn’t dry out.  The Timer function lets you set when you’d like cooked rice, quinoa, or steel cut oats to be finished cooking.  Two timers can be preset, which is great if you know you will need rice ready for dinner or oats ready for breakfast.  And you’ll know when your food is ready because the rice cooker’s melody or beep will play.

As with our other products, the retractable power cord and sturdy handle makes this machine simple to store, and all surfaces that come in contact with food are BPA-free.  Accessories include a spatula and a measuring cup.

We hope you love this awesome rice cooker and warmer as much as we do.  Make sure to share all your delicious recipes with us and don’t forget to tag your photos with #ZOJIRUSHI on Instagram!

Shrimp Fajitas on the Griddle

So let me explain something—by the time this post gets published, we (our family) will probably be into over 30 days of being vegetarian. We started around the 2nd or 3rd of January for our New Year’s resolution, and for the most part, all of us have been pretty good at sticking to it. We’ve also had some experience with being vegetarian before; we did it for 40 days a couple of years ago, and let me tell you, it’s hard—for a bunch of meat eaters!

How come I did shrimp fajitas, you say? Cuz we’re chill vegetarians, LOL! To be fair, we only got sidetracked about 3 or 4 times the last time we did this, and we didn’t eat meat at all—only fish. So count the fajita as one of our cheatin’ pescatarian days, and keep it a secret, OK?

Obviously, I’m not the cook in our house, but fajitas are so easy anyone can do them. And it helps to have a big cooking surface like our Zojirushi Electric Griddle where I can do everything at once. The last time I used this, it was for soufflé pancakes and they came out pretty good.

Here’s the ingredients I used. The marinate sauce is store-bought.

The marinating process. I learned not to keep the shrimp in it too long, because it will start cooking the shrimp; so marinate for only twenty minutes tops. (I didn’t know that! I love it when I learn something new…)

Cooking time! See how all of it fits on this griddle?

And done! Doesn’t this look beautiful? So healthy too; full of fresh veggies and flavor. I didn’t feel guilty at all, since it was shrimp. Ha! This was actually enough for our family of four…

Add salsa and guac and lay it on a flour tortilla; what could be easier than that. I feel it’s much easier to stay disciplined about eating healthy if you aren’t so strict about it—that’s when it starts to become a chore. It’s also easier staying vegetarian when you cook at home. Eating out is tough after a while, as the choices are limited and it starts to get so expensive.

But plant-based foods are so popular these days that you can find it everywhere. A recent trend is the meatless hamburger, which is moving into the mainstream from the gourmet vegan restaurants to the fast food industry. Burger King® and Carl’s Jr.® have them on their menu, and of course McDonald’s® will too, soon enough. We had one from an artisanal burger restaurant in Los Angeles called Monty’s®, which serves a completely vegan hamburger that tasted just like the real thing—honest! Don’t you think it even looks like the real thing? They even use beets to give the “beef” a pinkish color inside, just like a medium rare hamburger!

I’m sure we’ll go back to eating meat again eventually, like we did last time. It’s too restrictive, to be honest. But in the meantime, I have to admit I’m feeling “lighter” and I think I’ve got a bit more energy. At least I’m hoping I’ll eat less meat after this is done!

Side note: See “Game Changers” on Netflix® if you get the chance. Amazing documentary on professional athletes who have gone completely vegan and how it’s made them perform better!


All images by Bert Tanimoto