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!

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!

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!