Mother’s Home Cooking: Nikujaga, Japanese Meat and Potato Stew (肉じゃが)

Today, we visit mom’s kitchen for one of the most famous home-cooked meals in Japan — Nikujaga (sometimes spelled Nikujyaga). This savory beef stew is the epitome of comfort in a bowl, with large chunks of potato, noodles, and tender beef in a warm, umami-filled soup. It is simple, nutritious, filling, and a true staple in any Japanese household. Is your mouth watering yet? Ours, too! Below, we’ll dive into the history of this dish and how to make this delicious meal for yourself.

Nikujaga’s Birthplace

Nikujaga has deep roots. It was invented in the late 19th century by chefs in the Imperial Japanese Navy as a Japanese version of a British stew. This type of Japanese adaption of Western cuisine even has its own word – “yoshoku,” and nikujaga is one of the first recorded examples of Japanese “fusion” food.

The story goes that the Naval admiral Tōgō Heihachirō wanted his naval cooks to create a version of the beef stews served in the British Royal Navy, but because Western ingredients such as demi-glace were not familiar to the chefs, they made their own rendition through soy sauce and sugar. It worked! Apparently, you can still find the original recipe in Japan’s “Navy Kitchen Textbook.”

This dish was lauded for its simplicity, soothing flavor, and the high energy it fueled for the hardworking sailors. However, nikujaga was mainly a dish cooked at home by mothers until the 1970s, when there was a renewed interest in the dish and popularity skyrocketed. Now, nikujaga fans all over the world enjoy the dish for all occasions, and you can find this dish in many Japanese restaurants as well.

Nikujaga’s Ingredients, Explained

Nikujaga directly translates to “meat and potatoes. “Niku” means meat and “jagaimo” means potatoes. Easy, right? The recipe is even easier. There are four main components to the dish that bring this stew to life. Here are the main ingredients broken down:

  • Beef
    In the spirit of a true stew, you use what you have. The beef for Nikujaga can be from a variety of cuts, and some people like them chunky, and others like them thinly sliced. Just make sure to use a cut with some fat on it to keep the meat tender and juicy. Fun fact: pork is more common for this dish in eastern Japan!
  • Potatoes
    The second star of this show is the potatoes, cut in large, bite-size chunks. Other common vegetables to include are carrots and onions and colorful greens such as snow peas. You can always toss in whatever vegetables you like. The more, the merrier!
  • Noodles
    There are different types of noodles that can be used for this dish, Shirataki being the classic take. These noodles are low in calories and are often called the “miracle noodle” for their nutritional value and carb-free ingredients. You can find these at most Japanese or Asian grocery stores or even order them online!
  • Broth
    The base for Nikujaga is typically dashi, which is made from water, kombu (dried kelp), and bonito fish flakes. It has a salty and umami-packed flavor. However, this dish can also be cooked in beef stock or water. The broth is then seasoned with soy sauce, sugar, and mirin, another common combination in Japanese cooking.

Tips for Enjoying Nikujaga

  • Traditionally, this dish is served with a side of white rice and miso soup. Get those prepped as you cook this stew if you want to enjoy the full experience.
  • This dish absorbs more flavor and tastes better with time, so you can enjoy it for days. Score!
  • Have fun with it! As you make this stew, make sure to taste the broth and add in additional ingredients to shake up the flavor. You can add anything from garlic, ginger, green onions, and even tomatoes.

We have a pretty traditional Zojirushi Nikujaga recipe available on our website that you can make easily in a saucepan. Try it out, and let us know what you think!

How did your nikujaga come out? Make sure to tag Zojirushi on your photos with #zojirushi on Twitter, Facebook, or Instagram to let us know how you did!

Mom’s Cooking Blog: Ginger Pork Stir-Fry (生姜焼きShogayaki)

Today, we’re visiting mom’s kitchen to indulge in a Japanese classic – Shogayaki, or Ginger Pork. The signature ginger and soy sauce marinade transforms the thin tender pork slices into a mouthwatering entrée, served crispy over rice and cabbage. The best part? After you marinate the pork, it’s usually ready in a snap, around 10 minutes or less. It’s most popular as a lunchtime bento box or teishoku set, which includes rice, miso soup, and pickles. But in mom’s kitchen, this simple dish makes for an excellent flavor-packed meal any time of day!

Shogayaki Origins

In Japanese, ginger is shoga (生姜) and “yaki” (焼き) means grill. In other words, it directly translates to “grilled with ginger.” If you mention “shogayaki” in any place in Japan, most people will assume you’re referring to pork shogayaki, but other variations with beef also exist.

No Recipes states that this dish originated at a Tonkatsu restaurant (another famous pork dish) about 70 years ago in the city of Ginza, where the chef decided to marinade his pork in a simple ginger sauce before pan frying it golden brown.

Since then, the dish has taken off and quickly become a Japanese home staple and is the most famous pork dish in the country second only to Tonkatsu.

Breaking Down the Ingredients

Ginger

The star of this dish is most certainly ginger, where the ingredient creates a distinct warm spice and mouthwatering aroma. Ginger contains an enzyme called Zingibain, which breaks down the pork’s protein, making the meat more tender over time. Ginger also contains antimicrobial compounds that fight off the growth of pathogens, which means it keeps your meat fresher for longer, sometimes up to a week! There are also many additional health benefits from ginger alone, from reducing inflammation, protecting the immune system, and some even say that fights fatigue caused by the hot and humid weather during Japanese summers!

Soy Sauce

Soy sauce is the backbone of this dish as well as for many other sauces in Japanese cuisine. By adding saltiness to the sauce, it brings out the meat’s peak flavors, and when combined with the other ingredients it adds to the signature “umami” of this dish.

Sake

Sake may be a neutral-flavored ingredient but plays an essential role in the marinade. On top of gently adding depth and flavor to the umami of the dish, the alcohol in the sake also helps break down and tenderize the meat and also cuts any unpleasant odors from the pork.

Mirin

Mirin is a subtly sweet Japanese rice wine with a lower alcohol content than sake. It has a syrupy texture that adds sweetness and thickness to the sauce, rounding out the saltiness from the soy sauce and adding body to the sauce.

Pork

Various cuts of pork can be used for this dish, but the most popular include leg, sirloin, or shoulder. Others will even use thicker cuts, like pork collar. It’s all up to you and what meats you have available or prefer.

There are a couple of ways to prep the pork as well- either by hand-cutting it or using a meat slicer to slice it into super-thin pieces.

Pro tip: frozen meat is much easier to slice into thin pieces

When it comes to marinating the pork, some say to leave the pork for at least an hour, and others will say to let it sit overnight. Others will even say to skip the marinating process altogether and send it straight to the pan! Either way, the pork in ginger will keep for a few days, so you can continue to enjoy or share this delicious dish however you like.

Cabbage

You will almost always see a large bed of cabbage accompanying a dish of Shogayaki. It’s a simple palate cleanser that mellows out the ginger sauce, making each bite after the next equally delicious. Some will add a dressing, but traditionalists will skip it because the ginger sauce from the pork compliments the cabbage as is.

Optional

There are many variations to making this dish, and of course, we recommend that you make it the way that you enjoy it the most. Some of the most common additions to this recipe will be sliced onion, garlic, and sugar, and a few other suggestions call for green onion, sesame oil, tomato sauce, or corn starch.

Shogayaki, Zojirushi style

Are you ready to whip up some Shogayaki goodness yourself? Our recipe has a few Zojirushi twists to make this dish extra special. For example, our recipe calls for boneless pork chops and corn starch, and it also instructs you to add the ginger juice at the very end.

This recipe was developed for any of our Gourmet Sizzler® Electric Griddles and when it’s hot and ready, the pork should cook fully within a few minutes. Enjoy!

How do you make your ginger pork? Did you add any secret ingredients to make yours pop?

Let us know by sharing your story on social 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