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!

Mother’s Home Cooking in Japan: Miso Soup

It’s a new year and a new series of posts on the Zojirushi blog! In our “Mother’s Home Cooking in Japan” series, we explore Japanese foods that moms often cook at home, beloved by young and old alike. For our past series such as “Japanese Street Food” and “B-kyu Gurume”, click on the categories on the right!

When you think of Japanese comfort food, it is natural to think of miso soup. Warm and delicious, and as nutritious as it is delicious – a staple dish prepared by moms across Japan – that can now be found all over the world. Today we take a closer look at miso soup and consider its origins, the traditional way to eat it, and how to make it at home.

The Origins of Miso Soup

Miso soup is said to be originated during the Kamakura period (1185-1333), serving as a daily meal for samurais. The soup has low calories, is high in protein, and is easy to make with an instant paste, so military commanders were able to enjoy it without much preparation while they were on the move.

The Ingredients of Miso Soup

The instant paste that is used in miso soup is from a fish stock called Dashi, made from dried sardines, dried kelp seaweed, and smoked bonito or shitake mushrooms. The paste also includes fermenting grain and the longer this paste ages, the richer the flavor profile of the soup. Miso paste can also be found in different colors and deepness in flavor (based on the fermenting process). There are also variations of this paste that are not made with any fish, suitable for vegetarians to enjoy.

This paste is the umami core of the dish, providing the bowl most of its flavor. Many chefs or home cooks work to layer in additional flavors, textures, or ingredients to update the dish or customize it to their preference. Some options of these customizations include: sliced onions, tofu, spinach, mushrooms, egg, or various fish.

How to Enjoy the Soup

Once prepared, miso soup is prepared in a small portion as a side dish to complement a meal. Common main dishes might be rice, sashimi, steak, and other meal options. While some restaurants and households enjoy the side dish with a soup spoon, traditionally miso soup is consumed by lifting the small bowl directly to your mouth. Miso soup is enjoyed throughout the day, as breakfast, lunch, dinner or even a snack.

Making Miso Soup at Home

If you love miso soup and want to make this dish at home yourself, take a look at this recipe from Japanese Cooking 101 here, or try this Vegetarian Miso Nabe recipe that you can make right in your Gourmet d’Expert® Electric Skillet (EP-PBC10)!

You can also make miso soup right in your food jar to take for a warm lunch, or give this savory Tonjiru, aka pork miso soup packed with tons of veggies a try!

To learn more about miso, also see our blog post “Essentials of Japanese Cooking: Miso.”

Let us know if you try any of these recipes at home by tagging Zojirushi on your photos with #zojirushi on Twitter, Facebook or Instagram!

B-kyu Gurume: Tebasaki Karaage from Nagoya

Nagoya is famous for many types of street foods, including hitsumabushi (grilled eel on rice) and various udon and flat noodles, as well as a delicious fried chicken dish called Tebasaki Karaage.

If you’re familiar with Japanese dishes, you might be familiar with a version of karaage that is bite-sized pieces of marinated chicken. Tebasaki karaage however, uses the whole chicken wing, bone and all, and each piece is deep-fried before a sweet, sticky glaze finishes off the dish. Tebasaki translates to “wingtips”, which refers to the cut and the name of the dish. If you love chicken wings, this Japanese style of the famous dish satisfies that same meaty craving.

The dish is said to have originated in the 1960’s at the restaurant bar “Furaibo” when there was a shortage of the usual karaage meat, and wings were offered instead. Believe it or not, the wings were originally discarded as livestock feed, but this happy accident turned the dish into a fan-favorite at many eateries across Nagoya, as well as all over Japan.

Each wing is deep fried without batter and coated in a sweet and salty sauce. Even though the dish is not breaded and has no formal crust, the wings are usually double dipped into the fryer and the skin fries to a crisp. Once coated, it is finished with spices and sesame seeds resulting in a crispy and juicy dish.  Sounds delicious right?

The sauce is similar to a teriyaki sauce, but flavored with ginger and garlic. This mixture is simmered until it is rich and sticky to coat the deep-fried chicken. It is recommended to dip the chicken wings as soon as they are removed from the hot oil. This method allows the sauce to caramelize without making the wing soggy.

The wings retain their crisp for a half hour, and many people will fry the chicken once and wait for the second deep-fry until they are closer to eating the meal. Serve with a cold beer, cabbage leaves, veggies, cucumbers, or celery sticks.

If you’re looking to make this dish at home, check out this video from No Recipes:

Where You Can Find Tebasaki Karaage

  • Furaibo: considered to be the creators of this dish
  • Torikai Sohonke Meieki Minami Branch: This branch uses one of the top kinds of chicken in Japan and a unique red wine-based sauce.
  • Sekai no Yamachan: Known for being heavily seasoned and for their large portions

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

B-kyu Gurume: Sobameshi from Hyogo

Image link: https://www.chopstickchronicles.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/03/Sobameshi-11.jpg

When you think of street food in Japan, you probably think of noodles or fried rice. But, have you ever heard of Sobameshi?  Sobameshi derives from the words for both noodles and rice: yakisoba and yakimeshi – coming together to make the ultimate street food, comfort dish.

This delicious meal is said to have originated in Hyogo in 1957, when a customer brought cold rice from their lunch box to a shop and asked the owner to heat it up for him. The owner then added the rice to the soba dish that was in the middle of being prepared, and voilà! This shop is believed to be Aomori located in Nagata ward, Kobe City, which is still serving their delicious creation to this date.

Another story suggests that the dish was invented by women factory workers, who mixed the rice and noodles they brought for lunch with sauces on grills at okonomiyaki restaurants close to their work.

Whatever the origin, the dish has become a fan favorite across the country. The main ingredients? Rice, noodles, and beef – with many variations available at each establishment.

The meal is generally prepared by placing a bowl of rice on top of the grill, along with a pile of noodles. Next, there is a sweet and salty mixture of meat, some cabbage, and then a delicious sauce. All ingredients are chopped and grilled. The dish is finished with more sauce that was used to cook the dish, and sometimes other sauces are offered as options (from mild to spicy, depending on your taste preferences).

Sobameshi is often considered to be a must-eat when visiting Kobe, renowned as the most famous cheap-and-easy local dish in a town known for its many gourmet dishes. You can find the dish at okonomiyaki restaurants or grill-it-yourself (or grilled live in front of you) dine-ins. Dining in this type of eatery is often a social affair, where regulars and new patrons sit at the counter and socialize while they enjoy their meals. In front of the guests is a large griddle where everything is cooked and served. It’s a sight to watch the ingredients being chopped and prepared in front of you, and an enjoyable scene to see the community of people enjoy their meal together.

If you’re looking to make the dish at home, take a look at this easy-to-follow recipe on YouTube, with English and Japanese subtitles:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4ZV_hdjy87A

Where You Can Find Sobameshi

  • Aomori: Considered to be the creators of this dish.
  • Kobe Entrecote (Teppanyaki): Menu available in English, where sobameshi is available as a side to the fine tenderloin steaks they’re known for.
  • Nagata Tank Suji: Known for their sobameshi, which features many sauce options to pair with and top the dish.

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