About Bert Tanimoto

Oldish father (still) of two youngish (but now young adult) kids. Zojirushi enthusiast and professional writer. California resident with roots in Hawaii and Japan. Classic rock, popcorn movies, audio books, spam, sushi and cone filtered coffee. Guilty pleasures include donuts and pop bands like ABBA and Wham! Don't laugh, you should see my vinyl collection--I give hair bands and prog equal credit.

Asian American Month

Let’s celebrate Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) Month…it feels kinda important these days. It’s a good excuse to eat Asian type foods because eating is universal, all-inclusive, joyous and loved by everyone. If you’ve been to this space before, you’ve probably seen me try to cook the local Hawaiian type favorites, but this month I wanted to try a couple of off-beat Asian-American dishes. 

Sushi Bake
Have you ever tried this? It seems like an oxymoron, I know…who bakes sushi? But believe me, this was so easy (and you know me, I love easy) and so good. It’s basically built in layers like you see above, with prepared sushi rice, furikake (rice sprinkles) and a mixture of fake crab, green onion, mayo and sriracha for some kick. The orange fish roe (masago) is added for crunchy texture.

You then bake it in your toaster oven for a bit (there are gobs of recipes online if you want to learn more) and it’s pretty much done. The point to baking this seems to neutralize the richness of the mayo mixture so that it not only warms it, it makes it more palatable and easier to eat. You could eat this cold, but I have a feeling you’d get tired of it in a few bites.

Then I added chunks of avocado and cucumber as a topping before serving. It’s basically a deconstructed California Roll in a casserole.

To eat this, all you do is get some nori (seaweed) sheets and roll your own. It makes a great communal dish to serve on your dining table. Try it—it’s pretty habit forming.

While I was thinking about AAPI Month, I remembered a story that my mother told me about our family during WWII. No, I’m not that old, but my parents’ generation goes back that far and a lot of Japanese-American history goes back that far. It seems my Aunt (mother’s side) was in Japan when the war broke out. The family lost all contact and did not know her whereabouts until the war ended. During the official surrender ceremonies, my Uncle (my aunt’s brother) who was a Japanese language expert for the U.S. military, met by sheer chance, the English expert for the Japanese Imperial Army. He was also a Japanese-American who served the Japanese when the war started.

It’s important to understand how Japanese-Amercans were living and working on both sides of the Pacific Ocean back then, and how the great War forced everyone to prove their loyalties just to survive. The two men introduced themselves and upon learning the American interpreter’s name, the Japanese officer found out that his wife in Japan and this man had the same last name, and that he was actually married to his sister. They were brothers-in-law who had never met before, and here they saw each other for the first time during Japan’s surrender to America to end World War II. The men shook hands, my Japanese uncle simply said to my American uncle, “Look me up in Japan,” and he drove off. This encounter was briefly mentioned in John Toland’s Pulitzer Prize winning book, The Rising Sun, and I’ve always found it a fascinating part of not only our family, but of Japanese-American history in general.

OK, history class dismissed—back to the tasty stuff.

Curry Chicken

I really don’t know where this recipe originates, but it’s good with rice! And it’s easy (there’s that word again).

Here’s the recipe I used in case you want to try:

CURRY MUSTARD CHICKEN
1/2 cup warmed honey
1/2 cup Dijon mustard
1/4 cup soy sauce
2 tsp curry powder
2 cloves minced garlic
Chicken legs and thighs

Mix first five ingredients and pour over chicken pieces. Bake at 375°F for 1 hour. Baste occasionally to prevent chicken drying out. 


I suggest using a disposable pan or lining yours with foil because this gets sticky.

Baste occasionally to prevent chicken drying out. 

Not bad, huh? I was actually thinking of doing Shoyu Chicken for Asian American Month, but this was a much more interesting alternative.

Earlier this year I did some typical Hawaiian local favorites, so if you’re interested you can check them out here, and celebrate Asian American Month some more!

 

source: Toland, John. The Rising Sun, The Decline and Fall of the Japanese Empire 1936-1945, Random House 1970

Products used in this post: Micom Toaster Oven ET-ZLC30

Please note that these recipes were not tested by Zojirushi America.

 

 

 

Celebrate The Ramen Noodle

April 4th is National Ramen Noodle Day! To celebrate, I made a Ramen Burger, which I’ve never eaten before. Yeah, I know it was a thing back whenever—but since I’ve never been one to chase trends, I just thought I’d try it now. I wonder if it’s even available anymore? 

I also did an instant ramen taste testing; specifically a Cup Ramen International Edition. See how I did—I’ll bet you’ve never had most of these!

In case you’re wondering, credit for the Ramen Burger should go to a NY chef named Keizo Shimamoto, who started the craze back almost 8 years ago. I guess it never caught on enough to join the mainstream, but it’s kind of a fun thing to make on your own, and an excuse to use the griddle if you’re going to fry some burgers anyway. 

Want to try? First make some instant ramen, flavor it with the packets it came with, and drain all the soup. Cool it down, and pour seasoned and beaten eggs on the noodles. The eggs will keep the noodles together in a clump so you can shape it into your burger “buns”.

Next divide up the noodles and distribute into round containers, like my take-out ones here, or use ceramic ramekins if you have them.

Cover with plastic wrap and weigh each of them down with cans or anything else that will fit the size of the containers and over the noodles. 

Then you just chill them in the fridge for about 20 min. and there are your ramen “buns”!

The ramen buns go right on the griddle along with your hamburgers.

If you look at Mr. Shimamoto’s recipe, you’ll see that he makes a special sauce (I think it’s based on ketchup and sriracha). I made my own and it worked pretty well—here’s my Ramen Burger. And my personal review? I think I’d rather have bread buns. 

With my cup ramen taste testing, I couldn’t do what most people do and compare different Japanese brands of instant ramen because I’m not allowed to show other branded products on this blog. But what I can do is talk about some of the cup ramen products from other countries. It’s surprising to see how other countries interpret ramen—it goes to show you how popular ramen has become around the world.

Korean Gomtang
Koreans really love their ramyeon too. This mild and silky version is made from beef bone broth and brings out the gomtang flavor perfectly, which is a soup made with various beef parts like ribs, oxtail, ox head and brisket. This is slow simmered on a low flame, which produces its milky color and rich taste.

Although really simple with no extra ingredients, this was one of my favorites during this taste test. I love Japanese ramen best, but for an instant cup ramen, you can’t beat gomtang for satisfaction. The deep richness of the broth is all you need for this ramyeon.

Korean Spicy Ramyeon
From the milky mild broth of gomtang to the flaming red kick-butt of Korea’s most popular instant ramen, this familiar red and black cup ramen is not for the faint hearted. You have to be able to handle your spicy food to enjoy this one.

This is the top-selling ramen in South Korea, and I can understand why. It’s generously filled with dried ingredients, like the large slivers of mushrooms that you see here. Plus it’s spicy enough to satisfy all those fans who love getting their tongues burnt. I’m getting too old for this.

Taiwanese Beef Noodle Soup
Talk about a meal in itself—if you go to a Chinese restaurant that serves this classic dish, the beef is tender and the broth has been simmered for hours to give it that deep beef stock flavor. This instant ramen version tried hard to replicate it, but turned out to be my least favorite of the bunch.

I may have put too much not water in, but there was no indicator line so I was just guessing. To me, it had a funky sort of smell that I personally didn’t like. My wife said it smelled like how beef noodle soup is supposed to, so what do I know?

There actually was beef in this. See? Look closely or you’ll miss it…

Indonesian Fried Noodles
I found an Indonesian version of the Japanese yakisoba, or stir-fry noodles. It’s prepared like all the instant fried noodles, first by pouring in hot water to reconstitute the noodles, then draining it. Then you add the flavor packets (this one came with 5 of them), and stir. Plus it had its own little fork!

An interesting explosion of flavors. Maybe too much? I mean, after no less than 5 flavor packets it came out a little salty. But it did have that sautéed after-taste to it, which surprised me. In case you’re interested, the packets were: soy sauce, chili sauce, seasoning oil, fried onion paste and seasoning powder.

Japanese Cup Noodles
This brand you all know—the company that started it all. Thanks to Mr. Momofuku Ando, who invented the original Cup Noodle, the world can have their ramen anytime, anywhere. I’m eating their Black Pepper Crab flavor, which was stocked with decently sized chunks of imitation crab and veggies. One thing to note is that of all the cup ramens that I tested, this was the only one that did not have any flavor packets. Mr. Ando’s method is to pre-load the seasoning and leave a pocket of airspace underneath the noodles. As hot water is poured, it can circulate thoroughly from the bottom, ensuring that the noodles soften evenly.

Apparently there are 17 varieties of Cup Noodle on the market in the U.S., and there are people who have tried them all. I’m not that huge of a fan, but this Black Pepper Crab version was very good. It tasted like crab! And it didn’t have any of those weird spongy egg bits that I’m not a fan of. Notice the ramen noodle itself—this was the only one that had a flat, ribbon-like shape. The better to remain al dente, perhaps?

After doing this, I realized there are so many more kinds of instant ramen from around the world. I heard there’s a Mexican Tapatío Cup Ramen too; I’ll have to try that one! Do you know others? 

I’d like to thank my partner, without whom I wouldn’t have been able to cook each one so efficiently during this test—my Zojirushi Water Boiler. Seriously, it deserves a raise. If you want to read more about my thoughts on ramen, see my past post on this great food. 

Keep on slurpin’!

 

 

 

Products used in this post: Micom Water Boiler & Warmer CD-LFC30, Gourmet Sizzler® Electric Griddle EA-DCC10

Please note that these recipes were not tested by Zojirushi America.

All images by Bert Tanimoto ©2021

 

Crispy Rice Balls

This month is special to me because my daughter was born on the 15th of March. She’s going to be 21 this year, which means (in California anyway) she can legally:
•Drink
•Gamble
•Rent a car
•Buy weed
•Adopt a child
•Buy a gun
•Buy tobacco

Yikes, no wonder I’m losing my hair so fast! Who was it that said “With great power comes great responsibility?” I think it’s been credited to a a bunch of people throughout history, but most recently I heard it from Uncle Ben (you geeks know who I’m talking about). She’s got a good head on her shoulders though, so as a parent all you can do is trust your kids to always do the right thing.

To celebrate I wanted to make her some of her favorites. She loves takoyaki and yaki-onigiri, so I got to thinking I could take out the takoyaki pan and try a few things—maybe even to interest y’all?

So I realize not everyone likes tako, or octopus, but it would be a shame to never try the creamy goodness of this dish. In the past I made a few variations of takoyaki using this pan, but they used completely different types of dough in order to match the style of the dish. To me, the best part of takoyaki is biting into these tongue-burning little morsels. I double-dare you to pop one whole into your mouth right off the griddle. Here are a few variations you can try as substitutes for octopus, so you can still enjoy the original batter.

I’ve got 3 kinds of naniyaki here. Sorry, that’s my word for “what’s-in-these-yaki”. I’m not the first one to experiment with takoyaki fillings, but I might be the first to make up my own name for it. If you guessed hot dogs, cheese and kimchi, you get the pat on the back.

Here they are before they become totally unrecognizable after being dressed with sauce, bonito flakes (katsuoboshi), and mayo.

Now, the thing about takoyaki or any other form of it, is that it tends to taste all the same once you’ve topped it this way. BUT the hot dogs, cheese and kimchi all had their own flavor once you got to the insides, so I would have to say that this is great way to enjoy takoyaki without the octopus. What I should have done is go for the ketchup and mustard on the hot dog one—maybe next time. If you want to try more recipes using this takoyaki pan, Zojirushi has their own variations on their recipe page.

The English name for onigiri is “rice ball”, and indeed it is. But what about a literal “rice ball”? I tried this with a couple of pre-rolled rice ball variations. I figured there’s no way that grilled rice forms itself into a little ball like takoyaki batter does, but if it starts out as a ball shape, then the takoyaki pan can do the rest.

Here are my rice ball fillings: corn and rice blended with some shoyu and butter on the left, and a tuna mayo mixture with cheese, nori and scallions on the right. At our house, we sometimes mix tuna out of a can like this and eat it as a topping over hot rice. Trust me, it works.

This is coming along nicely on the takoyaki pan. I’m brushing it with shoyu+mirin glaze, and turning them over periodically. One warning if you do this—it took a long time to grill. Maybe I was too careful of not burning it so the temp was too low, but I think yaki-onigiri takes a long time anyway. Have you noticed how if you order it at a restaurant, it takes a while for the order to come?

Worth the wait. Tender and fluffy rice on the inside, grilled crispness on the outside. Yaki-onigiri in bite sized balls. What should we call these? Yaki-tama? Maybe this is already a thing—I don’t know. If you’re wondering, the tuna version was very, very good. The corn version could have used more shoyu glaze, but the combination was on point. I think they turned out pretty cute, and perfect for my daughter’s birthday lunch.

 

All photos and videos by ©2021 Bert Tanimoto

Zojirushi products used in this post:
Takoyaki Plate
Gourmet Sizzler® Electric Griddle EA-BDC10

Please note that these recipes were not tested by Zojirushi America

 

 

Toast With The Most

Question of the Day: When you drop a piece of toast, why is it that it always seems to land on the buttered side? Huh? Huh? One popular theory is that you’re holding it an angle anyway, so when it falls (probably less than 6 feet), it only has distance enough to do a half-flip, landing it face down. Ugh! Let’s all celebrate National Toast Day this Feb. 24th anyway, with a few interesting ways to enjoy your toast.

Korean Street Toast What is in this wondrous creation? Only vegetables! It’s a smorgasbord of shredded cabbage, round and green onions, carrots and an egg, fried crispy and layered on thick toast—served up hot right off the griddle. Here’s what goes into this classic toast, also known as gilgeori, that’s so satisfying you’ll be amazed at the “nothing special” ingredients it starts with.

Before you drop the egg in, try massaging the cabbage mixture so it’ll fry up tender. This works, believe me. I used Maangchi’s toast recipe for this, and it’s her suggestion. Butter the slices of bread and shape the veggies into a square as you fry them on a pan.

After browning both sides, carefully flip the vegetables and lay the patty on the bread. I used my handy okonomiyaki twin spatulas for this little trick.

Underwhelming so far? Check out how we dress this thing—add a couple teaspoons of sugar and spread it on top, drizzle some ketchup and yellow mustard! This is genius, right? The sugar seems a bit over the top, but it works. Eat this hot, and I guarantee you’ll be impressed with the burst of flavor. This is a meal in itself. And it’s vegetarian! This is Korean gilgeori toast.

I should mention here that I’m using homemade bread from my breadmaker (I’m getting better at baking them taller).

I bought a neat little Bread Slicer to help me get these even thick slices just like at the Japanese bakery. The concept is different from the American ones and a lot less complicated. You lay the loaf on its side and let gravity help to keep it steady as you slice sideways. It works pretty well…

Tsukudani Nori Toast Next I tried this strange combination (at least to me) of toasted bread and nori (seaweed). Specifically I used a seasoned nori paste called tsukudani which can be bought in bottled form. This is a condiment type of spread that is usually used on hot rice, which I love. A little salty and so full of umami. But these guys from TabiEats showed how to use it on bread, so I thought I’d give it a try.

You dress it with cheese and pop it in your toaster oven. I’m not gonna lie—I was more than a little worried about what this could taste like. I mean it’s just weird to pair seaweed with bread, much less eat it with cheese. 

But surprise, surprise! It was tasty! The cheese mellows out the sharpness of the seasoned seaweed, and when it’s toasted I think it gave the bread another level of flavor. What do you think? Ready to try this?

How about some toast trivia? 
•The word “toast” comes from the Latin word “tostum”, which means to burn or scorch. Duh.
•Approximately 75 million Americans are believed to eat toast every day.
•Before the use of electricity, people used to toast slices of bread by holding it over a fire like we do with marshmallows.

Egg Toast My last contribution to National Toast Day is a popular Japanese Egg Toast made with herbs and mayo. 

This one is easy. Just make a scrambled egg mixture and season to taste with salt, pepper and parsely flakes. Create a border on your bread with the the mayo and carefully pour the egg on the bread without going over the mayo piping. This is tricky, but steady hands wins the day!

Put it in your toaster oven and bake until brown.

Egg Toast!

So what do you guys put on your toast? C’mon—get away from the jam and butter and try something different for National Toast Day! If you want to see what Zojirushi does with their toast, visit their recipes and check these out:
Mushroom Pizza Toast
Yogurt French Toast with Fruit

Products used in this post: Gourmet Sizzler® Electric Griddle EA-DCC10, Home Bakery Maestro® Breadmaker BB-SSC10 Micom Toaster Oven
ET-ZLC30

Korean Street Toast by Maangchi

Nori Tsukudani Toast by Tabi Eats

 

Please note that these recipes were not tested by Zojirushi America.

All images by Bert Tanimoto ©2021

 

 

Local Kine New Year


I’ve lived in California now for over 40 years, which I guess means I’m more from California than I am from Hawaii or Japan. But because those other places represent major milestones in my life, I’ll never forget their effect on who I am today. Hawaii is where I grew up as a kid, and went to college later on. And even though I haven’t been back in a while, that’s one place I know never changes. I mean, it’s an island, man.

Every major holiday had a designated family that would host all my relatives for a potluck dinner—and New Year’s was at my aunt’s in Honolulu. My cousin has taken over that duty since then, and she still makes her specialty, Chicken Hekka. What the heck is Chicken Hekka, you might ask? It’s Hawaiian style sukiyaki; slightly sweeter, a little lighter broth, chicken rather than beef, but otherwise similar ingredients.

Our version had Japanese aburaage (fried tofu skin) and long rice (bean thread noodles), cut into short strands for easier eating and less splashing when people are fishing them out of the pot.

The fast cooking greens go last.

My Chicken Hekka. And before you say, “Why would you want to eat a hot pot in Hawaii?” Don’t forget, when you live there and the temperature drops to the 60s at nighttime (gasp!), it feels COLD if you’re always being tropical.

How much do you know about KIng’s Hawaiian Bread®, that soft, buttery, sweet and poofy bread in the bright orange packaging you see at the market? When the original bakery and coffee shop was located on King Street in Honolulu, it was known as a place to sit down and enjoy the food and pastries. The founder is originally from the Big Island, where he started the business in the 50’s, and today you can get their famous bread almost anywhere.

Hawaiian Bread is basically Portuguese sweet bread, which you can bake in a breadmaker. Look up a recipe for that and it’ll come close, even though you may not be able to replicate that signature texture. Mine still came out softer than regular white bread though, and the sweet bread taste was spot on. I was also very happy to say it rose higher than any loaf I’ve ever baked.

I used a popular Portuguese sweet bread recipe from allrecipes.com for a 1.5 lbs. breadmaker. I reduced everything by a two-thirds for my 1 lb. breadmaker and it turned out fine. Forget other “Hawaiian” bread recipes that call for pineapple juice. This one is the real deal.

Serve with butter while still warm. We always had one of those big round loaves at my auntie’s house on New Year’s (so we could eat it with canned Vienna Sausage believe it or not). Mystery meat indeed!

Since the breadmaker was already out when I made my bread, I used it to make Butter Mochi too. All you need is mochiko, the sweet rice flour sold at most Asian markets. I added chocolate to mine and the rest was up to the breadmaker—pretty easy. Zojirushi has a recipe here.

Unlike wheat flour, rice flour is gluten-free—even mochiko, which is processed by milling a glutinous variety of short grain rice into fine powder. The sticky, chewy texture comes from the type of grain used, which replicates that snappy stretch of gluten. I’m not on a gluten-free diet, but for those that are, this is good to know. Here’s my Chocolate Butter Mochi.

So Hau’oli Makahiki Hou! to you and your family this year. Thanks for reading!

By the way, if you’re wondering what that dish is at the top of this post, that’s my wife’s excellent Chicken Long Rice, another Hawaiian favorite!

 

Products used in this post: Gourmet d’Expert® Electric Skillet EP-RAC50, Home Bakery Maestro® Breadmaker BB-SSC10

Portuguese Sweet Bread by allrecipes.com

 

Please note that these recipes were not tested by Zojirushi America.

All images by Bert Tanimoto ©2021