Mother’s Home Cooking: 炊き込みご飯 (Takikomi-gohan)

Today we’re taking a trip to mom’s kitchen to learn about Takikomi-Gohan, or seasoned Japanese mixed rice. This savory, gluten-free recipe is very popular in Japan and uses seasonal ingredients to celebrate the country’s many micro-seasons and local vegetables. Not only is it savory and comforting, but it’s very healthy and so simple to make! After getting all your ingredients together, you add everything to your rice cooker and press “start.” For busy mothers, this dish is a beloved secret for a quick and delicious dinner for any night of the week, and a fan-favorite for children and adults alike.

Where does it come from?

At its core, Takikomi-gohan comes from humble beginnings and has been a vital part of Japanese culture for many centuries. Takikomi-gohan was created during the Nara period, around 710-784 AD. During this time, Japanese people had a lot of difficulty growing and harvesting rice to feed everybody, so they mixed rice with millet. Then, people started mixing this rice and millet combination with a variety of vegetables, such as weeds and yams. This early version of Takikomi-gohan is called Katemeshi.

Later on, during the Muromachi period, Japanese people made a similar dish to Katemeshi called Kawarimeshi. Kawarimeshi is similar to Katemeshi, but uses quality ingredients such as barley, beans, and vegetables, as well as more seasonal ingredients to maximize flavor.

Today, there are several varieties of Takikomi-gohan depending on where you go in Japan. In the Kansai region, it is called Kayaku-gohan, and in Okinawa it is called Jushi. It can also be called Gomoku Gohan. Another relative to this dish, Maze Gohan which mixes ingredients such as vegetables and protein with rice after the rice is cooked, rather than with the rice as it’s cooking.                                                                                         

Star Ingredients

  • Because this dish relies on seasonal ingredients, the star ingredients will depend on when you’re making this dish! Generally, the ideal makeup of this dish consists of vegetables, proteins, dashi, soy sauce, mirin, sugar, and short-grain rice.
  • This dish is especially popular during the fall, a very popular ingredient to include is shiitake mushrooms.
  • Other ingredients to consider include bamboo shoots, chestnuts, hijiki seaweed, peas, and sweet potatoes.

Rice Cooker Tips & Tricks

  • If you have it on your rice cooker, use the “mixed’ setting since it will adjust the menu setting for the added ingredients and condiments.
  • Add condiments BEFORE measuring the water, then add water to the corresponding water line. Then mix well from the bottom of the pan.
  • Add additional ingredients like veggies and proteins on top of the rice, and don’t mix in with rice.
  • After cooking has completed, open the lid and turn the rice and ingredients to mix so that they will spread evenly. It also allows any excess moisture to evaporate to prevent making the rice soggy.
  • ​The recommended amount of ingredients should be about 30-50% of the volume of rice.

  • Here’s a vegan version by Okonomi Kitchen that has us drooling. It features lots of veggies, mushrooms, and tofu for protein.
  • We have a classic Zojirushi recipe that you can make 100% in your rice cooker, and is a traditional take on this beloved dish.

Have you tried Takikomi-gohan before? What are your favorite ingredients to add to this dish? Let us know if you try (or make) Takikomi-gohan by tagging Zojirushi on your photos with #zojirushi on Twitter, Facebook or Instagram!

Mom’s Home Cooked 唐揚げ (Karaage): Japanese Fried Chicken

Japanese Fried Chicken (karaage) is one of the nation’s most celebrated dishes, found in restaurants, markets, and convenience stores all over the country. The dish is so important that there’s even a dedicated karaage association that issues standards and ratings for it!

Karaage fanatics will say that this is the best fried chicken in the world, and their love for the dish most likely started right at home, prepared by mom. Below, we’ll dive into why this crispy-on-the-outside, juicy-on-the-inside, bite-sized fried chicken is the ultimate comfort food and how to prepare this dish right in your own kitchen.

Karaage’s History

Karaage (pronounced kara-ah-gay) historically refers to any dish that is coated in potato starch and deep-fried without seasoning. Because karaage refers to the method of preparing a fried dish, it can also refer to fried fish and vegetables. However, it is most commonly made with chicken- specifically boneless chicken thighs.

The word “karaage” translates to “Chinese Fried,” so it is believed this method was learned from the Chinese around 300 years ago and then adapted to Japanese cuisine. However, the dish really took off when it was popularized in the 1920s after WWII, when chicken was scarce.

Tatsutaage is a very similar dish that is used interchangeably with Karaage. Technically, what we know as Japanese fried chicken is in fact Tatsutaage. Why? Karaage refers to food only coated in starch and fried, while Tatsutaage refers to food being marinated, coated in starch, and fried. While all Karaage is Tatsutaage, not all Tatsutaage is Karaage. Tatsutaage is strictly meant to be made with soy sauce, while Karaage can be made with a variety of ingredients.

Tips and Tricks

Karaage is uniquely Japanese because it is marinated in soy sauce, sake and ginger. After the sauce sets, the chicken is coated with potato starch and fried until golden brown and crispy. To make the most flavorful karaage at home, traditionally or with your own twist, follow the tips and tricks below:

Chicken

  • Use fresh chicken over frozen
  • Keep the chicken skin on for a more crunchy texture
  • Cut the chicken into smaller pieces for crispier chicken, slightly larger for juicier chicken
  • Poke holes in the chicken with a fork for extra crispiness

Marinade

  • Marinate for at least 20 minutes
  • Add garlic for extra flavor and kick
  • No Recipes likes to marinate in salt brine, curry powder, chili powder, or even fish sauce
  • Just One Cookbook also suggests marinating in sesame oil, mirin, oyster sauce, egg yolk, or Japanese mayonnaise

Coating

  • For the starch, some will use a 50:50 ratio of potato starch and rice flour, but The Chopstick Chronicles swears that 100% potato starch results in a crispier chicken
  • You can also use flour or corn starch
  • For convenience, you can also use ready-made fry mixes sold at your local market

Frying

  • You can fry in an electric deep fryer or a pan
  • Fry twice for extra crispiness, fry once for extra juiciness. If frying twice, fry the first time at a lower temperature and then fry at a higher temperature the second time to lock in crispiness
  • Expert fryers will be able to know when the chicken is ready by looking at the bubble sizes, but it is recommended to use a thermometer to read the heat to know when it is ready (160 °F internal temp)

Enjoy

  • Enjoy with a generous squeeze of lemon and a side salad or rice if you’re preparing a bento box
  • A popular dipping sauce is Japanese Kewpie Mayonnaise
  • An extra perk is that it is delicious served hot and cold

From the Zojirushi Kitchen: Are you ready to make your own karaage? Here is our recipe with our Zojirushi twist. We add dark sesame oil and suggest you marinate the chicken in a plastic bag to lock in all of the flavor.

Want to learn about another karaage variation? Last year, in our B-kyu Gurume series, we explored Tebasaki Karaage from Nagoya. Take a look at that piece on our blog to learn more about a different variation on this fan-favorite dish – that’s more like a Japanese style of chicken wings instead of fried chicken.

How did your karaage come out? Do you have any special recipes or tips to share with us? Let us know on social media by tagging your photos on Twitter, Facebook, or Instagram! #Zojirushi #ZoFan

 

Mother’s Home Cooking: オムライス Rice Omelet (Omu-rice)

The Japanese Rice Omelet (omurice) is a Western-influenced dish that was invented at the turn of the 20th century. It blends the two English words “omelet” and “rice” for a clever combination that rolls off your tongue – omurice. Omurice is basically an egg omelet filled with a flavorful fried rice center and drizzled (or drenched!) in ketchup. This dish is especially a hit with children, and schools will often serve it as a lunchtime meal. For the adults and the rest of the family craving this dish, it typically takes only 20 minutes to cook, so it’s a win-win for everyone!

History
Omurice is said to have been invented at a Western-inspired restaurant in Tokyo’s Ginza district when Western-style cafes were becoming widespread. It was so popular that it quickly spread to Korea and Taiwan, and today, different versions of the dish can be found in restaurants all over Asia and in the US.

This type of fusion cuisine that marries Japanese cuisine with influence from the west is referred to as “yōshoku,” and omurice is just one example. As food blog, Pickled Plum says, “An oversimplification of yōshoku is that it is food containing some Western ingredients and flavors, prepared in a style that appeals to the Japanese palate.”

Because of this dish’s high demand, there are some restaurants solely dedicated to making this one dish, and you can find mainstream restaurants in Japan like Denny’s serving this dish as well.

How to Make the Perfect Omurice

The great thing about omurice is that it is completely customizable. There are many ways to make omurice to suit you or your child’s palate. Some suggestions:

Rice:

  • One popular method is to flavor the fried rice with ketchup, which gives the dish a red tinge and a mixture of sweet and savory flavors
  • Chicken rice is the widely accepted filling for this dish, but others can make a vegetarian option if they prefer. The most common veggies include carrots, peas, mushrooms, and onions. Feel free to add other vegetables for a more nutrient-rich meal

Sauce:

  • There are no limitations when it comes to sauce for this dish. Though ketchup is the most commonly used sauce, our recipe calls for some Worcestershire, and soy sauce is another popular addition. For those who love a spicy kick, a squirt of Sriracha or Tabasco will do the trick!
  • No Recipes mentions other sauce alternatives, like the “flavorful sauce from Hayashi Rice(Omuhayashi – オムハヤシ) or Japanese Curry (Omukare – オムカレー), or Meat Sauce (Omumeato – オムミート). For the last one, you could even do away with the rice and add spaghetti, which turns it into Omusupa (オムスパ).”
  • A very common practice is to decorate the omelet with the sauce, making fun shapes and messages using a ketchup squeeze bottle. What will you write on yours?

Omelet:

  • Some say that the omelet is the trickiest part of this dish. In our recipe, we recommend that you make the omelet after making the rice and also suggest adding some milk to add a creamy texture to the egg
  • Others recommend adding some cheese to the egg mixture for more flavor
  • Not an omelet pro? Instead of making an omelet to wrap the rice, you can also just top the dish with fluffy scrambled eggs

 So, are you ready to make your own omurice? Here’s our Zojirushi version of the dish:

Rice Omelet (Japanese Omu-Rice)

Did you enjoy our recipe? How did you customize yours? Let us know on social media by tagging your photos on Twitter, Facebook, or Instagram! #Zojirushi #ZoFan

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

 

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!