National Picnic Month

August is National Picnic Month! What’s the best thing about a picnic? It’s cheap to do and everything tastes better outdoors, ha-ha! I brought some friends along from Zojirushi this month—wanna see where we went?

This park near my house is called Robert E. Ryan Community Park, unique for being right next to the 14th Hole at Los Verdes Golf Course. Back when I used to golf a lot, this was one of my favorite courses to play. There were always families picnicking at this park as we drove around in our golf carts, getting ready to tee off on this hole. This view is from the other side, with our sushi bento and drinks of ice cold mugi-cha, or barley tea. The sushi box is from a mom and pop store that’s been around since 1962; more on that later.

One night (for my birthday) we decided to pack supper and go see a show at the Hollywood Bowl®, which is what you do when you want to drink wine, eat cheese and party with friends. Since we’re not the wine and cheese type, our family brought chicken wings and salads.

This was a good idea, especially with the food jars. You don’t worry about spillage, and since it takes a while to get there from our house, you don’t worry about spoilage.

If anyone else wants to go sometime, my advice is to take advantage of the shuttles that leave from several locations nearby. They leave every 15 minutes and costs $20, plus your car is secure and the shuttle goes right up to the front gate. You can park in the lots, but be prepared that it’s “stacked parking”, which means cars block you in so there’s no early exit. We parked in the mall on Hollywood Blvd. and it was pretty painless.

If you don’t believe me about the crowds, here’s a shot of our pilgrimage, as we slowly made our way in toward the sunset.

This isn’t exactly a picnic, but since this is one our favorite burger joints we brought the mugs along so we wouldn’t have to buy sodas there. Did you know that a typical fountain soda costs the restaurant about 13 to 16 cents to make? That’s including the cup, straw and lid. How much did yours cost today? Yeah, I’d rather be spending my money on the food, thanks. Bonus points to you if you know which burger this is. Hint: as far as the ongoing debate on which one is better, this chain from the East Coast or the rival one from the West Coast, I don’t think it’s even close. I’ll take the local one every time.

My weakness for donuts is well documented. You caught me red-handed with my haul from our local shop. Let’s see—what do we have here? Chocolate Rounds (they use good chocolate that doesn’t taste cheap), the classic Glazed (great texture on the inside) and the exotic Butter Crumb Raised (they don’t always have this one). I filled my bottle with unsweetened iced black tea for this car dining experience.

You’ve probably seen this park before if you read my blog. It’s called Los Arboles, more affectionately known by us locals as Rocketship Park. It sits atop a hill above my house and I can go there for a quick sandwich during the day, or catch a great view of the city at night. I have memories of bringing my kids when they were little—I taught both of them how to ride their bikes here. It connects with an elementary school, where both of my kids went.

Let’s get back to that sushi box bento from Sakae Sushi, a family run business now in its third generation, located in Gardena, California. To any Japanese-American who grew up in this area, Sakae Sushi is an institution, a home style alternative to the high brow sushi places ubiquitous to SoCal. I think their sushi has a distinct sweetness that some people might find over-vinegared, but to me, that’s what makes me keep coming back. The sushi reflects their origins from the Kansai, or Western region of Japan.

1. Inari: Rice stuffed in seasoned deep-fried tofu pouches that we call “footballs”.

2. Date-maki: A flavorful egg omelet rolled around equally flavorful ingredients inside.

3. Ebi Hako-sushi: Pressed in a box shaped mold and topped with seasoned shrimp.

4. Saba Hako-sushi: Topped with a cured mackerel called shime saba.

5. Futo-maki: Meaning “fat roll”, the ingredients differ with the style of the region.

6. California roll: We all know this one.

Happy National Picnic Month everyone! Get out and enjoy the warm weather!

 

 

 

Products used in this post: PAC-MAN™ x ZOJIRUSHI Stainless Mug SM-SHE48PA, ZOJIRUSHI x HELLO KITTY® Stainless Mug SM-TA48KT, ZOJIRUSHI x HELLO KITTY® Stainless Steel Food Jar SW-EAE50KT

Sushi bento from Sakae Sushi

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

All images by Bert Tanimoto ©2022

 

National Grilling Month

It’s National Grilling Month alright, but it’s also National Hot Dog Month. How can you not write about hot dogs? Grilling them is one thing, but how you grill the humble hot dog is another. I took a page from some other guys who have tried this (thank you, The Kitchn) and used different methods to grill the same wiener. Which one wins? I didn’t even have to break out the charcoal because I used my Zojirushi Electric Grill.

I baked my own buns too, which wasn’t that hard if you let a Breadmaker do the dough. Here’s my homemade hot dog buns coming out of the Toaster Oven. I gotta say I’ll do better next time—they look great, but I don’t think I let the dough rise enough.

Hot Dog Cuts

I thought this was a fun way to see which way was best when grilling a hot dog. From left to right:

1. The Fish Scale Cut: Slant cuts on either side of the hot dog in an alternating pattern down its length. This is a variation on the multi-slits you normally see on a hot dog (which is the way I usually do it), that allows for faster and better cooking all the way to the inside.

2. The Cross Hatch Cut: You can’t see it, but this pattern is also done on the other side of the hot dog. I thought this was definitely the prettiest way to present the hot dog.

3. The Spiral Corkscrew: A unique way to expose the inside and the most difficult cut to execute. I think a machine can do it much nicer than I did it, but you should try it. It’s a fun way to eat a hot dog. More on how I did it later.

4. The Open Face: Obviously the best way to get char marks on the outside as well as the inside, and the best way to cook it faster. Flattening it out like this also opens the hot dog up to other ways to eat it, like a sandwich for example. I grilled two like this and laid them side-by-side, on regular bread.

5. The Classic: Just simple grilling the whole hot dog is the way to do it for the purists. It takes a bit longer and you can’t really see what’s going on inside, but it plumps up just the same. My unscientific guess is that this way might keep the internal temperature warmer longer?

Here’s how the Spiral Corkscrew is done. First skewer the hot dog right through the middle, being careful to go straight so you don’t pierce the side. Get a knife and cut through the hot dog at a slant, all the way to the stick. Turn the hot dog and skewer as you slice, staying diagonal and cutting down to the stick. It’s a bit tricky, but you can get the hang of it.

Once you remove the stick, voila! A corkscrew cut, all in one piece!

To be honest, I can’t really say which hot dog cut came out the best. They all pretty much tasted the same because, well, they’re hot dogs. But I’ll say one thing, the corkscrew hot dog does a great job of holding the condiments in between each cut, and it was as juicy as the others.Before you troll me for putting ketchup on my hot dog, I’m not a hot dog snob so anything goes. Just don’t put sauerkraut on mine.

Shrimp on the Barbie

Since a hot dog alone does not a dinner make, I also grilled some fresh veggies to make up for the “guilty pleasure” wieners. I highly recommend this way of lazy cooking. I used this seasoning blend called “Green Goddess” from Trader Joe’s (I can’t show you the bottle but you’ll find it in the store), and used it to season the shrimp in olive oil and parsley.

I had the grill a little past medium because I knew the shrimp would cook fast, and it did. But the vegetables didn’t take that much longer. I didn’t season them because I figured I could always use ponzu as a dipping sauce (that’s my favorite way to eat them anyway). So here is a really quick and easy dinner that truly tasted so good that even my wife was surprised. Aargh! This means she’s going to make me do it again!

Happy Grilling Month! And by the way, which side of the argument do you fall on? Is a Hot Dog a sandwich, or not?

Products used in this post: Micom Toaster Oven ET-ZLC30, Home Bakery Maestro® Breadmaker BB-SSC10, Indoor Electric Grill EB-DLC10

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

All images by Bert Tanimoto ©2022

It’s Donut Day!

Since I’ve already confessed to having a weakness for donuts, I won’t feel guilty about celebrating National Donut Day. Nor will I feel guilty about deep frying, since baked donuts just sound lame to me. My excuse is that I’ve never deep fried before so this will be a new experience for me—and in the interest of expanding myself…

I started by making the dough in my Zojirushi Breadmaker and used a bread machine recipe I found online. That was the easy part—the tricky task was to find a good, decently sized round cookie cutter. You can find all kinds of fancy ones, but try to find basic shapes and it’s not like they’re sold everywhere without having to go online. I know they probably have specialized donut cutters, but I found something that worked. I used this round one and pressed out the hole with a condiment cup I had lying around (I was a dedicated to bringing my lunch from home when I used to commute to work).


Whoa, this was a little scary for me—I don’t have a tolerance for hot oil. But they look good!

The other scary thing is that you have to work fast because they fry up so quick. As a novice fryer, I was trying to be too delicate with the tongs because I was afraid of ruining the donut. But I got used to just grabbing them with no major accidents.


All that was left was to dip them in cinnamon sugar for the finishing touch.

Surprisingly delicious for a first-time effort! The inside was perfectly yeasty with that pillowy soft texture and the outside was delicately fried without being greasy. Even my wife was impressed.


Then I got a little ambitious since I had my breadmaker out anyway, and I still had a big pan of oil. I wanted to try those Mochi Donuts, the ones that look like teething rings? I found a mochi dough recipe and again used my breadmaker to do the work. This one required the dough to rise for 1-1/2 hours, so I used my Zojirushi Micom Toaster Oven and used the RISE function to help.

Then it’s a matter of rolling the dough into little balls and sticking them together. Having some oil on your hands helps to manage the dough, while using some water in between the balls helps to stick them together (excuse the low quality of the pic—this is a video capture). You’ll notice they’re resting on squares of parchment paper. This makes it easy to pick them up and drop them into the oil.


Into the deep fry. The parchment paper easily falls away so you can pick them up with your tongs.

Such a nice golden brown!


Aaaand Glazed Mochi Donuts—plain and matcha flavors! Not quite like store-bought, but pretty good for homemade.

Now you deserve to learn something about donuts in America. This pink box of donuts symbolizes everything about the American dream and about how donuts saved our soldiers during World War I; seriously! See that sticker on this box?

During the war morale was so low among our troops, fighting the war in the trenches in France, that the Salvation Army decided to do something about it. Women volunteers scrounged what ingredients they could and cooked donuts for the men, serving them up near the frontlines. It was hugely popular and gave our soldiers a taste of home cooking. National Donut Day was in fact started by the Salvation Army in 1938, as a way to honor those early “doughnut lassies”, who supported our troops during the war. So there, you can have your donut and feel patriotic about it too!

And the pink box? Back in the 1970s, when Cambodian refugees came to Southern California to start new lives in a country totally foreign to them, many of them gravitated to running donut shops. The pink cardboard was cheaper than the white stock used by printers, so these early entrepreneurs started buying pink boxes to save costs rather than skimp on the ingredients. Today it’s estimated that over 80% of the independent donut shops in SoCal are still run by Cambodian American families, a generation removed from the original pioneers who came to find the American dream. I recommend seeing “The Donut King” documentary, about Ted Ngoy, an amazing American success story.

So there you have it—you can eat your donut and feel good about it. Have a delicious National Donut Day!

Products used in this post: Home Bakery Maestro® Breadmaker BB-SSC10, Micom Toaster Oven ET-ZLC30

Recipes by Art and The Kitchen and Cherree

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

All images by Bert Tanimoto ©2022

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