Foreign Foods in Japan –
Hanbāgu!

“Haan-baa-ghu”.

It’s delicious. It’s uniquely Japanese. And it’s not a hamburger!

Hanbāgu!

Our Foreign Food this month is a delicious Japanized version of steak, with similarities to Salisbury Steak, Steak Tartare and the Hamburg steak from Germany. Hanbāgu is a ground meat patty made from beef and pork, served like a steak, topped with a sauce and typically accompanied by rice and vegetables. This type of chopped meat steak became popular in the United States in the late 1800s, when German immigrants from Hamburg came to live in American cities like Chicago and New York. They made a “steak” with chopped beef mixed with onions, garlic, salt and pepper and cooked until tender and juicy.

Eventually, these steak patties were adapted to be eaten between two pieces of bread, creating the modern American hamburger, and both the chopped beef steak and hamburger were brought to Japan during World War II with the influx of foreign soldiers into the country.

Hanbāgu patties

Hanbāgā evolved to become Japanese hamburgers – beef patties served with various toppings served in a bun. Hanbāgu evolved as a rich and savory steak dish, cooked by countless Japanese home cooks, becoming a favorite dish among children and adults.

Hanbāgu is made with a blend of beef and pork called aibiki. This mixture is commonly mixed at a ratio of 7:3 and is typically found prepackaged at Japanese stores. Into the meat are added sautéed onions, egg, panko breadcrumbs, milk, salt, pepper and nutmeg. The mixture is mixed by hand into a gruel-like consistency and formed into patties. The Japanese technique of forming the patties adds a special touch to the meat. The patties are tossed back and forth in the hands, removing air pockets and then indented on the middle to foster even cooking. The patties are also rested in the refrigerator prior to cooking, allowing the slow absorption of flavor from the seasonings.

Pan frying some Hanbāgu!

Once the patties are ready to cook, they are pan fried, instead of grilled, similar to a steak. Red wine or another liquid can be added to the par-cooked patties, and they’re finished covered, having absorbed the liquid for extra flavor.

Traditionally, hanbāgu is served topped with a demi-glace sauce, but a red wine reduction or other savory sauce is also commonly served along with rice and vegetable accompaniments.

Mini Hanbāgu are perfect for bento!

Hanbāgu is such a cultural staple and easy to make using our electric skillets. Try our Mini Hamburger recipe for your bentos, and share your favorite way of enjoying hanbāgu!

Product Inspirations –
Mr. Bento® Stainless Lunch Jar!

Back to school, back to college, back to autumn routines with work and family and friends!

September is here and we’re excited to make creative meals that we can take to school and work in our Mr. Bento® Stainless Lunch Jar (SL-JBE14). Our Mr. Bento® as a lunch jar, is full of convenient features that allow you to customize your to-go meal experience.

SL-JBE with Carry Bag

This lunch jar has five main components: an Outer Container and four Inner Bowls. The Outer Container provides insulation for 2 of the Inner Bowls and is made using our superior vacuum insulation technology. As with our other stainless products, the vacuum insulation keeps the food inside the Inner Bowls hot or cold for hours.

The four Inner Bowls consist of a Soup Bowl that holds up to 9 oz., a Main Bowl that holds up to 15 oz., a Small Side Bowl that holds up to 7 oz. and a Large Side Bowl that holds up to 10 oz. In total, the bowls can hold up to 41 oz. of food!

The bowls are meant to be stacked in a particular order inside the Outer Container. The Soup Bowl rests at the bottom of the Outer Container. The Main Bowl sits on top of the Soup Bowl and comes with an insulated lid that prevents heat from transferring through, keeping the content of the two bottom bowls at ideal temperature. The two Side bowls sit on top of the Main Bowl, keeping food at room temperature.

Each bowl is microwaveable making it convenient to fill them ahead of time and reheat the food before putting them in the Outer Container. All areas that come into contact with foods are BPA-free.

Once all of the bowls have been placed correctly, the outer lid clips easily into place and keeps all bowls intact.

This lunch jar’s large capacity and multiple Inner Bowls allow you to pack inspired meals! A traditional Japanese ichiju sansai meal, which means “one soup, three dishes” fits perfectly into the Inner Bowls. Western dishes, such as soup, Pasta A’la Zo, salad and dessert also work great, and since September is National Bento Month, kyraben or character bento are ideal!

The Mr. Bento® comes in 4 stunning colors – Plum, Blueberry, Carbon Black and Stainless Steel –and comes with a Forked Spoon and a Carry Bag.

In 4 colors – Plum, Blueberry, Carbon Black and Stainless Steel

Add the Mr. Bento® Stainless Lunch Jar (SL-JBE14) to your lunch box collection and enjoy hot, fresh meals all season long. And be sure to share how you fill your lunch jar…we love the creative ideas you all have!

The Voices of Zojirushi – Andrew!

It’s December and our final Voices of Zojirushi post. We hope you’ve enjoyed getting to know our employees this year and sharing in our centennial anniversary!

Andrew, one of our Sales Executives, shares his inspirations and hopes for Zojirushi as we go into the new year. Andrew was born in Japan and raised in the United States, enjoying both Japanese and American cultures, food and lifestyles. He began his career working in a Japanese restaurant, and through his exposure to Asian foods vendors, began to work in sales.

Andrew, you have such an interesting background. Tell us a bit about your career at Zojirushi.

I had always had an interest in sales. I wanted to sell products I had confidence in—and, now I do, because I work for Zojirushi, selling the finest quality small appliances in the industry. Zojirushi prides itself on bringing only the highest quality products to market. They also keep keen focus on what the consumer is looking for—for example, the new Stainless Mug (SM-TA36/48/60) has a smooth, rounded finish on the opening of the bottle so that it is more comfortable to drink out of and clean. It may be a small thing, but that’s the type of small detail that consumers really appreciate. I like being a part of that.

The Stainless Mug’s smooth and rounded bottle opening

Zojirushi has always cared about their customers, and our corporate slogan Inspirations from Everyday Life, reflects that. How do you see everyday inspirations in Zojirushi products?

Every new product we develop is inspired for everyday use. When a new rice cooker comes out there is always something new that was not on the previous model. For example, when the NS-LAC05 (3 cup capacity) was discontinued it was replaced by two models, the NS-LHC05 and the NS-LGC05. Although nearly identical in appearance and function, the NS-LHC05 and the NS-LGC05 have different settings, adapted to the different preferences of consumers. The NS-LHC05 has special porridge setting for making rice porridge and a jasmine rice setting geared towards some Asian consumers, while the NS-LGC05 has a steel cut oatmeal and long grain white rice setting created to capture the general market consumer. Paying attention to the needs of different types of customers is what keeps Zojirushi on top.

Our corporate philosophy is “Creating a Quality of Life for our customers. How do you believe your job at Zojirushi supports our customers?

We recently started a new project as a company, with a focus on incentive and corporate gifts, since a lot of companies like to give their employees or customers a gift with their company logo on it. Putting company logos on mugs and bottles is nothing new to the industry, but usually the bottles are cheap. Our product, on the other hand, is double or sometimes triple that dollar amount; but, with more customer awareness of the high quality of our brand, more inquiries are coming in—from small establishments like coffee shops, to big corporations like Google and Facebook. I am happy to see that more customers prefer quality over price.

The Gourmet Sizzler® Electric Griddle (EA-BDC10)

Since you sell so many products for Zojirushi, you must have your own favorite! What do you like cooking?

I have fond memories of visiting Japan every summer as a kid. I think that it was there I first tried monjayaki, a traditional Japanese meal or snack that is cooked on a hot plate. Since then I have missed eating monjayaki but I’ve been able to enjoy it again thanks to the use of our Gourmet Sizzler® Electric Griddle (EA-BDC10). And my wife made Paella using our griddle. She used fresh clams, shrimp and mussels, as well as chicken and sausage—it turned our great, and was very easy to make!

We’re grateful to Andrew for sharing his thoughts with us and wish you all a very happy holiday season!

The Voices of Zojirushi – Peter!

We enjoyed speaking with our Administration Manager, Peter, this month and want to share the thoughtful, exuberant and diverse perspective he brings to our team.

Peter, tell us about yourself and your background.

Before working for Zojirushi, I was in fast-paced, commission-based sales. It was go, go, go! I took a break and went to Japan, where I taught high school English. I began working for Zojirushi in 2003 after returning from Japan. My plan was to continue teaching high school English, and while I applied for teaching positions, I decided to look for temporary work as a sales associate. Serendipitously, I was offered a position in Zojirushi’s Retail Sales Division, and have been with the company ever since!

I’m now the Administration Manager, and although my position does not involve sales or marketing activities where I interact directly with customers, I support those efforts by ensuring that our office operates smoothly and efficiently, by helping to recruit and retain quality employees, and by doing all I can to support our corporate philosophy of Creating a Quality of Life right here among my Zojirushi colleagues.

Zojirushi’s old offices in Gardena, CA

When you mention Creating a Quality of Life, what do you see as our company’s values and how do you believe we embody them in our products and services?

You can tell a lot about a company’s values by the way they treat their employees. When you look around our office, you see people who have been here for decades, some from when Zojirushi America opened its doors in 1987. It’s extremely rare these days to see that kind of loyalty and longevity. The company realizes that it’s strength and success is dependent upon the people who represent it.

When I look at the values of this company and how it operates, I see people who have devoted a significant part of their lives to building it up to where it is today, and I see how loyal Zojirushi has been to them. That same level of commitment and loyalty the company has to its employees is the same kind it shows to its customers. It puts them first, above profit and everything else, because the company knows that without satisfied customers, there is no company, there is no future. And it realizes that you can only earn the trust of those customers—and keep them satisfied for the long-term—by producing quality products and supporting them with the highest level of customer service.

Much of our product design focuses on practicality, quality, craftsmanship, sustainability and stylishness. Do you have a favorite Zojirushi product that you believe embodies these qualities?

My family owns a simple-to-use, single switch rice cooker and we use it several times a week. We have had that rice cooker for several years now and it has worked dependably without any problems at all. That one single rice cooker, which by the way looks great sitting on our kitchen counter, embodies all of those qualities: practicality, quality, craftsmanship, sustainability and stylishness.

A single-button conventional Zojirushi rice cooker (NS-RNC)

 

When you say it that way, we can see how our tagline—Inspirations from Everyday Life–imbues our product design. Do you believe Zojirushi products inspire customers?

When you produce a product that brings simple joy to a customer, you are selling much more than just convenience and utility. You’re contributing to that customer’s overall enjoyment of their normal day and enriching their life. All of our products inspire our customers by providing those simple joys throughout the day.

For example, we have technologically-advanced and aesthetically-pleasing coffee makers and hot water boilers to make coffee or tea in the morning or throughout the day. We have rice cookers for lunch and dinner. We have bread makers that bake delicious (and wonderful smelling!) breads. If you surround yourself with these types of life-enhancing products, you are, quite simply, adding more joy to your life. And that is what makes them Inspirations from Everyday Life.

So true! Any final thoughts you’d like to share with us?

When I look back at my career path with Zojirushi, I feel like I have been given the opportunity to use my strengths in really great ways, whether through my love of learning, or helping customers or educating our employees… I get to do it all here.

We hope you’ve enjoyed meeting Peter as much as we have sharing his story with you. Stay tuned for our final Voices of Zojirushi blog for 2018!

The Voices of Zojirushi – Koji!

We begin the last quarter of this year with a conversation with Koji, the Senior Sales Manager who has been with Zojirushi America Corporation for 13 years! Koji works with Zojirushi’s network of distributors and retailers to get the products customers love into both brick-and-mortar and online stores. Originally from Japan, Koji moved to the United States, after which he joined Zojirushi.

Koji, tell us what inspired you to work at Zojirushi.

Zojirushi is a well-established and respected brand in Japan and around the Asia. I wanted to challenge myself to see if I could be part of its history, to establish the same reputation in the North America. I also like the company’s stability. Zojirushi had been in business for 87 years at the time that I started. 13 years later, Zojirushi Corporation is celebrating its 100th anniversary. I believe that a company surviving for 100 years makes a strong statement, and when you add in brand value to the stability of the company, it really was the right place for me.

It’s wonderful how passionate you are about Zojirushi! Our corporate tagline is “Inspirations from Everyday Life” and your feelings fit right in.

So true! The attention to detail that goes into each product for everyday use reflects our tagline of Inspirations From Everyday Life. For example, the lid of our travel mug disassembles in parts for easy cleaning. This design may not seem much, but if you clean it every single day it makes a huge difference in the usability of the product. You really get this sense the more you use each of our products.

Your job is to be a sort of ambassador for the company, and with your interest in all of the products, are you able to pick one as a favorite?

As Senior Sales Manager for Zojirushi America Corporation, it is my duty to spread the “love” of Zojirushi products to as many people as I can! When I saw someone at the airport enjoying a beverage out of our travel mug it made me so happy. Especially since my favorite product is our Stainless Steel Travel Mug (SM-YAE48). I use it every single day. I also love the entire SM-KHE series, because the quality of the heat retention is by far the best in the industry. I have been using my black, 12 oz. SM-KHE every day for the last 6 years in my office for my morning coffee. It keeps the coffee hot to my liking for the entire day.

That’s such a great story! Since you like our mugs so much, what other product would you like to see as the next great thing from Zojirushi?

I would love to expand our product assortments so that they’re more geared toward Western consumers. We have been selling breadmakers and coffee makers for a number of years and that’s working out great. In the upcoming months, we will come out with a multicooker, which is an impressive unit. I’m very excited to put this product into the marketplace and get it into the hands of the customers.

Oden

Your perspective is such a wonderful blend of Japanese and American thinking. Our readers would love to hear your thoughts about Japan and the things you love about it.

I often go back to Japan for business and personal reasons. Every time I go, I’m always amazed by the selection and quality of the food at convenience stores in Japan. When I go back to Japan in the winter, oden is my favorite food at the convenience store and you can’t forget about all the sweets they have as well—especially the seasonal sweets that are different every year. And when I’m here, I feel like cooking keeps me connected to my roots. I cook GABA brown rice in my IH rice cooker every week and it comes out perfect every time, as expected. It makes the texture of the brown rice softer to eat due to the cooking cycle of 3-1/2 hours. But most importantly, the health benefits are the BEST—GABA is said to be helpful in lowering blood pressure, improving kidney function and in relieving stress.

Thank you so much for sharing your perspective with us, Koji! And stay tuned for next month’s visit!