Mother’s Home Cooking: Curry & Rice (カレーライス)

Japanese Curry & Rice (kare-raisu) is a hearty dish made with a mélange of vegetables and a protein of choice. It’s so popular in Japan that it’s considered one of the country’s national dishes, right alongside ramen. It is enjoyed by children and adults alike all year long, especially when it’s made by mom! Below, we’ll dive into what makes this dish unique, how to enjoy it, and how to make it on your own for a perfect and comforting meal. Let’s dig in.

Where Does it Come From?

Curry originally came from India and was introduced to Japan by the British navy in the late 1800s, or what’s known as the Meiji period. The word “curry” is derived from the word “kari,” from the Tamil people of India and Sri Lanka. It simply means “sauce” and has countless different forms in those regions.

By the time curry landed in Japan, it had been altered a bit by the British to better suit their palates, where it was then served to the Japanese Imperial Navy. From there, the dish continued to transform over the centuries until it became what it is commonly known as today: Japanese “kare.” What made kare’s popularity skyrocket in the last few decades, however, was when pre-made curry “roux” blocks were introduced to markets and restaurants in the 1960s, making what was once a labor-intensive process convenient and accessible to all.

What Makes Japanese Curry Japanese?

What sets Japanese curry apart is its milder and sweeter profile, and its thick viscosity that makes it more akin to a stew than a soup. Instead of a fiery spice, it is gentle, soothing, and comforting. Kind of like a mother’s hug!

Japanese curry also incorporates a variety of vegetables, most commonly onions, carrots, and potatoes, but it can include more adventurous toppings such as root vegetables, fruits, Fukujinzuke (Japanese relish), and oyster sauce. For mothers, it’s a great way to “trick” or introduce their children to vegetables.

Though many Japanese people use pre-made “roux” blocks for their curry base, they refer to “kakushiaji,” or “secret ingredients,” to make it truly their own. No Recipes uses banana, soy sauce, and cocoa powder as their kakushiaji, and others, like Chopstick Chronicles, swear by apples and honey.

So, How Should I Eat It?

If you simply refer to “kare” today in Japan, it is understood that you are looking for “kare-raisu,” or curry with rice. However, you can enjoy kare in many forms, such as over noodles, as a filling within a pastry, or as a dipping sauce for another popular Japanese dish, Katsu. The answer is: whatever suits you best!

From Scratch

We have two different versions of this dish on our website if you’d like to whip it up yourself. A Dry Curry for a shorter prep time or a more traditional Beef Curry for the slow food fans. Don’t forget to set your Zojirushi rice cooker to prep the white rice while you begin preparing your curry.

From Curry Roux Blocks

AZ Central offers a list of their “top” packaged curries that you can purchase at Japanese markets for quick meal prep. Take note that many of these come in different spice levels, from mild, medium, to hot, and can taste widely different by brand.

  • Golden Curry (S&B)
  • Java Curry (House Foods
  • Kokumaro Curry (House Foods)
  • Premium (Glico)
  • Premium Golden Curry (S&B)
  • Tasty Curry Sauce Mix (S&B)
  • Vermont Curry (House Foods)
  • Zeppin (Glico)

Let’s Just Order in!

If you’re dreaming of eating Curry & Rice pronto, find a local restaurant that specializes in this dish:

Know another place that offers the best kare-raisu? How do you enjoy yours? If you have any tips and tricks to make the best kare-raisu, let us know on social media by tagging your photos on Twitter, Facebook, or Instagram! #Zojirushi #ZoFan

 

Do More with Zojirushi Mini Food Jars: Favorite Meals To-Go

Happy March, Zo’ Fans! As the weather warms up and spring peeks around the corner, we are excited to announce the Stainless Steel Mini Food Jar (SW-EK26H), a colorful and portable delight, as our product of the month. This compact food jar is our smallest member of the Zojirushi food jar family, that can store up to 9 oz of capacity, and comes in two delightfully festive pastel colors, making them the perfect companion for your springtime adventures (even if it’s just to your work-from-home desk set up in the other room!).

If you’re looking for great pack-and-go lunch ideas, look no further – we’ve rounded up some delicious recipes here to get you started. The best part? With our mini food jars, you won’t have to concern yourself about your hot food getting cold or your cold drinks getting warm, and with its portable size and innovative design, you won’t need to worry about spills or leaks making a dent in your busy day. Just fill, pack away, and enjoy. Your mini food jar will keep your goods safe for hours (when used as directed).

Favorite Meals To-Go

Soaking in The Sun

If you’re planning to take your mini food jar outdoors for a picnic or hike, our Wild Rice Salad is a fan favorite that will be perfect as a healthy daytime snack. Using our Pressure Induction Heating Rice Cooker & Warmer (NP-NWC10/18) to cook the wild rice and a skillet to prepare the other grains, this fiber-rich and filling meal can be served either warm or cold. It will even keep in the fridge for yummy leftovers!

Expert Tip: Mind the time, March 14 is daylight savings! Don’t forget to spring forward the clocks on your appliances too. On most Zojirushi rice cookers, breadmakers, and coffee makers, pressing one of the TIME SETTING buttons will get the clock blinking, and then you can change the time.

Don’t forget to pack a drink! It’s always important to stay hydrated when venturing outdoors, and our Fresh Fruit Tea will keep you energized and satisfied all day in our mini food jar. After infusing the tea with your fruits, either fill your food jar with the hot tea or chill it in the fridge first for an ice-cold refresher.

 

Mini Feast in a Jar

Looking to sneak in something a little more decadent for your to-go meal? Our Saucy Pasta will fill your craving with delicious bacon, broccoli, and rich tomato sauce. This recipe is designed for our larger food jars, so make sure to adjust the portions (or save the extra for later!).

Expert Tip: You’ll want to preheat your food jar to make sure the inside stays piping hot. Pour hot water from your water boiler and close the lid to let it warm. Did you know? if you hold down the unlock button, you can turn off the sound or change the melody on your water boiler to a beep. For rice cookers, it’s the TIMER button, and for coffee makers, it’s the CANCEL button.

For a sweet bite to round out your mini feast, indulge in our Red Cranberry Gelatin. Made with fruit juice, fresh berries, and honey, this recipe is light, delectable, and perfect for the kids.

If you want more inspiring recipe ideas for on-the-go, visit our website for a full list of meals specifically tailored for our insulated food jars. What’ll you be making for your mini food jar?

Get to Know the Mini Food Jar (SW-EK26H)

Tiny and Mighty

With a compact design, this mini food jar measures 3 5/8” x 3 5/8” x 4 3/8” (W x D x H), weighs 10 oz, and tops off at 9 oz. Its stainless steel vacuum insulation will keep foods hot or cold for hours and can handle temperatures from 54°F to 122°F. The tight-fitted lid with gasket seals works hard to minimize leaks and maximize heat retention, and the 2-1/2” wide opening makes it easy to fill and easy to clean.

Two Colors

Our product of the month comes in two colors, Pale Orange (-DP) and Pale Blue (-AP), though small, they are bright and eye-catching. Perfect for work lunches, school lunches, family picnics, and more.

Care for Your Food Jar, and it Will Care for You

Make sure to clean your mini food jar and all of your Zojirushi appliances after use, and only use the jar as intended, to store hot or cold food items and beverages. Always be careful when handling hot water, and do not overfill the jar. Did you know you can order replacement parts from

What are your favorite meals to take on the go, and where do you plan to take your new mini food jar? Be sure to share your experience with us on social by tagging your photos on Twitter, Facebook, or Instagram! #Zojirushi #ZoFan

 

Tako-pa!

What the heck is a “tako-pa”? When I was living in Japan a lifetime ago, one thing I noticed was that they love to abbreviate, twist and abuse the Japanese language until it sounded like a secret code—and if you weren’t up on the trend, well…too bad for you. “Tako-pa” is short for Takoyaki Party, where friends can gather and cook those luscious, tongue-burning little octopus-filled dough balls. It is the quintessential street food from Osaka, and you can make them yourself at home if you have a takoyaki hot plate. Zojirushi makes one that you can get separately for your Gourmet Sizzler® Electric Griddle EA-BDC10. And they have a pretty good video that helped me a lot.

I found my recipe online—don’t worry, they’re everywhere. Here’s what I started with:

Fairly minimal right? The batter is more watery than you might expect, but don’t worry, this is takoyaki.

Don’t be afraid to spill over the little cavities in your takoyaki plate; you’re not baking muffins. Just fill each pocket with all the ingredients and the batter, and wait till the magic starts!

 

What you do next is the part that requires a little practice. All you do is use a skewer or metal pick to turn the dough over as it cooks. If you’ve oiled the pan properly, it easily releases and turns over in its hole, allowing you to cook the other side. You can literally “tuck in” the extra batter into the dough ball as you roll it over, making a nice round ball as it cooks. Holy Moly, this is amazing!

I found it better to push down the opposite side of the ball with the pick and roll it over that way, instead of trying to pick it up from the side close to me. Came out OK, right? Maybe other than the lame one in the upper corner.

The traditional dressing is katsuobushi (bonito flakes), takoyaki sauce (store bought), mayo and aonori (powdered seaweed, also store bought).

Traditional way of eating is to pop the whole thing in your mouth, but beware the heat! When I said tongue-burning I wasn’t joking.

Pepperoni Pizza Balls
One great thing about this takoyaki plate is that you can make other ball-shaped treats using this same method; just change the type of dough you use, depending on what it is. I tried stuffed Pizza Balls next, with these simple ingredients and a pizza dough batter.

Load up the takoyaki plate again.

Surprisingly, the cheese didn’t stick, thanks to the nonstick surface and the addition of the oil. I kept the same high heat as the takoyaki, but lowering it a bit may have helped me turn it over better by giving me more time. I just need more practice, I think.

Still, it didn’t turn out so bad. Next time I’ll warm up the marinara sauce so that I can dress it better. And I’ll load more pepperoni to give it more flavor.

Tasted yummy though!

Hazelnut Cocoa Pancake Balls
For dessert I tried these chocolatey treats using Japanese pancake batter. I was careful this time not to overfill, figuring this one would expand. My mistake on this one was not lowering the temperature to account for the faster cooking time. I would suggest no more than 300°F so you have time to turn it.

Came out OK though. Looks cute enough to eat?

Not bad for a first time effort…

I think with a little practice I’ll get better at using this takoyaki plste. It’s definitely fun to watch the little balls form, so that’s a different experience. Of these three, the best one was the takoyaki itself, which I guess means the traditional one is always best!

Just For Fun
Watch the pro do it. But no fair! Notice how the entire plate rocks in a circular motion? That helps keep the dough agitated so it’s easier to flip and roll into little balls!

 

All photos and videos by ©2021 Bert Tanimoto

Zojirushi products used in this post:
Takoyaki Plate
Gourmet Sizzler® Electric Griddle EA-BDC10

Please note that these recipes were not tested by Zojirushi America

 

 

 

 

 

Mother’s Home Cooking: Hamburg

What is Hamburg and Where Did it Come From?

Hambāgu or Japanese Hamburger Steak, is a hugely popular dish in Japanese cuisine that is the ultimate comfort meal. It’s a steak patty made from ground meat; however, the dish is served with rice instead of buns. The style of meat is like Salisbury Steak or a single serving of meatloaf, but of course with a Japanese twist.

This dish originated in Hamburg, Germany, where they began cooking minced meat with breadcrumbs in the 18th century. And while the dish dates to the Meiji era in Japan, believed to be first served in Yokohama, it grew in popularity in the country during the early 20th century. Hamburg became widely popular in the 1960s, as minced meat was readily available and affordable, and the variations and sauces allowed for an elevated budget meal. Since the 1980s, vacuum-packed hamburg has been sold with sauce for bento-boxes.

–Wafu (or Japanese-style) Hambagu

Hamburg Ingredients

The patty is juicy and loaded with flavor. The key ingredients include minced meat (generally beef, pork, or a combination of the two), finely chopped onions, egg, and panko breadcrumbs – and for meatier dishes, that is all that’s needed. These ingredients are mixed and molded to make a flat, circular-shaped patty that’s about 1 cm thick and 10-15 cm in diameter.

Other varieties include a range of seasonings, carrot, cabbage, spring onions, or other seasonal vegetables that are on hand, garlic and sometimes milk (or milk substitute, such as almond milk). This patty is then glazed with a sweet and savory sauce that can be made with various approaches, such as: demi-glace sauce, soy sauce based wafu sauce, tomato-based sauce (or sometimes ketchup-based sauce), teriyaki sauce, or even cheese sauce. The variety allows for the dish to be customized from household to household.

How to Enjoy Hamburg

While you can certainly eat the prepared patty alone, the conventional way to enjoy this dish is to place the glazed patty on a bed of white rice and complement it with steamed or boiled vegetables. Some households enjoy the patties alone as Hamburg Steak and then utilize the leftovers in a Japanese Hamburg lunch. Another option is to serve the patty with mashed potatoes to give the dish a western twist. Many recipes online make a large batch because the patties freeze well, encouraging home cooks to enjoy some now, and have extra on hand for a quick meal in the future.

How to Make Hamburg at Home

If you’re excited to make this this at home for yourself, take a look at this recipe from No Recipes here, or try this Mini-Hamburger recipe from the Zojirushi kitchen that you can make right in your Gourmet d’Expert® Electric Skillet (EP-RAC50)

Let us know if you make this dish at home by tagging your photos with #zojirushi on Twitter, Facebook or Instagram!

Mardi Gras!


King Cake

Even though Mardi Gras is kind of a regional holiday, celebrated mainly in New Orleans every year, it’s still fun to get on the bandwagon and eat the traditional foods because it’s so good! Mardi Gras was brought to America by the French, who first settled in Louisiana back in the mid-1600s. Cajun and Creole dishes, which are often associated with the holiday, have different roots too, It’s all a mixture of French, Spanish and West African influences. Creole cooking comes from a more aristocratic history, while Cajun was the food of people who lived off the land. One major difference between the two is that Creole recipes use a tomato base soup, while Cajun recipes do not.

So, to celebrate Mardi Gras month, I made a traditional King Cake with my breadmaker. Check it out—a party explosion in a roll! Ha! Apparently a tiny porcelain or plastic toy baby, symbolizing the baby Jesus, is usually hidden in the cake, and the person who gets it is blessed with proseperity and luck. I didn’t put a baby in mine, but I did use the required brioche dough that I made with the breadmaker. You can fill this cake with a cream cheese filling or with cinnamon sugar; I’ll take cinnamon in my pastry over cream cheese anytime.

Bake until a golden brown…

Drizzle with icing…

And decorate like Mardi Gras! The three colors of the festival signify: PURPLE for justice, GREEN for faith and GOLD for power. They were assigned back in 1892—did you know what they meant?

I can tell you exactly how this came out; just imagine a giant cinnabun glittered in green, purple and gold. Mmmm…my favorite kind of dessert! And hot out of the oven? Amazing!

Cajun Jambalaya

I wanted to see if I could do this in my rice cooker so I tried it. It was super easy, but I think I’ll be more adventurous next time and do the Creole version, which would involve tomato sauce. This was still a winner though!

Here are the ingredients. Notice the vegetables used: they form what’s called the “Cajun Trinity”, a staple in this type of cuisine known for their blend of aroma and flavor. Bell pepper, onion and celery are a favorite combination found in most Cajun recipes.

All of that went in my 5.5 cup Zojirushi without a problem, but just barely!

After about 30 minutes, I opened it up and stirred up the ingredients good. Thank goodness for cooking shrinkage!

Then I simply let the rice cooker do the rest of the work and it chimed me when it was done. I mean, I think it came out really well, don’t you? It tasted good too—I maybe miss the tomato base of the Creole style, but this was plenty flavorful as well.

And a word about this rice cooker—it’s a basic model from Zojirushi that has all the menu settings of the higher priced ones. It’s MICOM operated so it’s waaay better than the ones that don’t have computerized technology for making rice. I mean, I literally put all the ingredients in and it did the rest. Jambalaya from a rice cooker!

Happy Mardi Gras!

Just For Fun
My cool shoes that I got from my sneakerhead son for Christmas. OK, you have to be a fan to appreciate this. Ha-ha! #maytheforcebewithyou

Zojirushi products used in this post:
Micom Rice Cooker NS-WTC10
Home Bakery Maestro® BB-SSC10

Brioche bread dough recipe by Barbara Bakes
Cajun Jambalaya recipe by Cajun Cooking Recipes

All images by Bert Tanimoto, all rights reserved

Please note that these recipes were not tested by Zojirushi America