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

 

Product of The Month: Stainless Carry Tumbler SX-JA30/40

Believe it or not, we’re in the home stretch of Winter, and Spring is just about to grace us with its presence. And whether you’re still savoring the coziness of our current season or preparing for new upcoming adventures, our product of the month – the Zojirushi Stainless Carry Tumbler SX-JA30/40, is sure to be a handy beverage companion to meet your needs.

This product is both a reliable coffee tumbler to help you warm up in colder weather and an insulated water bottle for your next outdoor adventure – truly perfect for all four seasons and any occasion. Interested in learning why this Zojirushi stainless vacuum insulated tumbler is so unique? Let’s dive in!

A Reliable On-the-Go Drinking Experience

Available in four matte colors (Watery Green, Vintage Rose, Fog Blue, and Forest Gray), the star of the Stainless Carry Tumbler SX-JA30/40 is the leak-proof, gasket-free, one-piece lid. You will never have to worry about losing or replacing a part, nor will you ever have trouble cleaning your lid. The lid also comes with a convenient handle, so you can carry it around with you on the go or pull it out with ease whenever you need it.

Thoughtfully Designed, Inside and Out

We specifically manufactured this stainless tumbler with a special technique that rounds out the sipping area for maximum comfort when drinking. In addition, it features SlickSteel® polished stainless steel interior that minimizes odors and stains and its specially designed lid reduces condensation from forming. This stainless tumbler is portable, durable, elegant, and reliable.

Superior Temperature Retention

As always, our stainless steel vacuum insulation technology keeps your drinks hot or cold for hours. The Zojirushi Stainless Carry Tumbler SX-JA30 has an 11 oz. capacity and a heat retention of up to 133 °F after six hours. Cold drinks will stay at a cool 50 °F after 6 hours as well. The bigger SX-JA40, which carries up to 14 oz., can retain heat up to 144°F after six hours, and cold drinks at 48°F after to six hours as well.

Fill Her Up

Now that you know the ins and outs of the Zojirushi Stainless Steel Tumbler SX-JA30/40, what are you planning on filling it with? Here are some of our top recommendations:

Silky Milky Oolong Tea

  • Silky Milky Oolong Tea – This sweet and creamy tea boasts a strong flavor of oolong and will keep you warm and caffeinated.
  • Iced Matcha Creamy Latte – Carry around a boost of caffeine with a bit zen with our iced matcha creamy latte. Adjust the sweetness to your liking.

Fresh Herb Tea

  • Fresh Herb Tea – If you’re in the mood for a refreshing and comforting beverage, this herb tea will revive and replenish your spirit. A perfect way to wind down or relax.
  • Iced Green Tea – You can’t go wrong with a bright and refreshing iced green tea. Sweeten it with some honey and enjoy it as a little pick me up during the day.

What are your favorite drinks to take on the go? Be sure to share your experience with us on social by tagging your photos on Twitter, Facebook, or Instagram! #Zojirushi #ZoFan

 

 

Where Do Tea Leaves Come From? Learn How Tea Grows

Do you know what camellia sinensis is? You might have guessed, but it’s the species of evergreen shrub whose leaves and buds are used to produce the tea that we drink every day. You can distinguish the camellia sinensis bush through its small white flowers and bright yellow stamens in the center, which produce a hard green bud containing a single brown seed. Today, we’ll be learning about how these tea leaves are produced, where they come from, and how tea leaves are transformed into the loose-leaf or satchels that we instantly recognize at consumption. Let’s dive in.

Where Do Tea Leaves Come From?

The tea plant originally comes from East Asia, possibly originating from China or India, and much of the world’s tea still comes from those regions. Other countries that produce tea leaves include Kenya, Sri Lanka, Turkey, Vietnam, Japan, and Argentina. Origins date back many centuries to the Han dynasty in China, where it was possibly referenced in writing in 59 BC. If left alone, these tea bushes can grow up to a magnificent 30 feet tall, but they are pruned to small bushes so that they can continuously produce more leaves and be easily managed.

How are Tea Plants Harvested?

Today, most of the tea we drink is harvested on tea plantations or tea gardens. Tea bushes take about four years to mature and are then planted on sloping terrain to easily trap water and grow. After about five years, tea plants are finally ready to be harvested. Tea is a very labor-intensive product in which the tea plants are almost always handpicked with care.

How Tea Leaves are Processed

After the tea leaves are harvested, they undergo a drying process to remove all moisture. Then, depending on the type of tea, the dried tea leaves are rolled and fermented, which gives the tea its essential oils and distinctive aromas. The length of the fermentation also determines the type of tea that is produced: green, black, oolong, or others. Then, after being tested by tea tasters, they are blended into different varieties and packaged in bags or loose leaves.

How to Make a Perfect Brew

Now that you know how tea is harvested and processed, you might be wondering how to brew a perfect batch that will bring out the best characteristics of this wonderful beverage. First, make sure that you are sourcing high-quality tea. Good tea leaves should be smooth, light, and sturdy. They shouldn’t crumble in your hands. Another way to distinguish great tea is by taking in its aroma. One of the greatest parts of drinking tea is smelling its distinct aromas, and if you aren’t able to smell anything from it, that may indicate that the tea is old or stale.

Next, use the right temperature water to extract all of the character from your tea. Our water boilers come with different temperature settings to help you brew a wide range of teas. More delicate teas are best brewed at lower temperatures, while green tea is best brewed around 175°F. Herbal or oolong tea should be brewed at 195°F and at 208°. Be careful not to steep your tea for too long! This might make the tea overly bitter. Follow the recommendations that come with your tea.

Lastly, if you want to enjoy your hot tea for hours on end, store your tea in a Zojirushi stainless mug or tumbler to maintain its freshness and temperature.

Did you learn anything new about tea today? Let us know on social media by tagging your photos on Twitter, Facebook, or Instagram! #Zojirushi #ZoFan

 

 

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

 

 

What is Tea? Everything You Need to Know

Tea may only be thought of as an alternative to coffee in America, but it is a huge part of day-to-day life for the many parts of the rest of the world. In fact, tea is the second-most consumed beverage on the planet, surpassed only by water! The tea world is vast with a storied history that goes back centuries. Let’s dive into what tea actually is, where it comes from, and how to properly enjoy the many benefits of the beverage.

Definition of Tea

Tea is a fragrant beverage extracted from the leaves of the shrub Camellia sinensis and no other beverage can be called “tea” if they aren’t. However, different types of tea leaves are produced by the Camellia sinensis, such as black, green, white, dark, and oolong after it is processed. Another key defining factor of tea is that it carries caffeine. All other “teas” that you might be thinking of that are caffeine-free such as herbal, lemon, mint, or rooibos are actually tisane. In our visual guide to tea leaves, you can see many different types enjoyed in Japan, from green tea, houjicha, matcha, oolong, and more.

Camellia sinensis is an evergreen plant native to Asia and thrives in sub-tropical climates with high altitudes and loose soil. It’s found all over the wild and can grow in slopes, flat lands, and lower altitudes. Ancient tea farming methods include hand plucking tea leaves and buds and using bamboo trays to collect them before drying them out. It is said that tea was first discovered in China when the Chinese emperor Shen Nung happened to try an accidental infusion of leaves and boiling water that came from the Camellia sinesis.

Japanese Tea

Tea was first recorded in Japan in the 8th century after being first imported from China. While it was originally a drink for priests and monks only, tea drinking became more popularized in the 12th century after Japan started planting tea in Japan for widespread consumption. The Japanese tea ceremony was born shortly after that, around the 13th and 14th centuries, and in the 18th century, the famous Japanese green tea, sencha, was developed.

In our visual guide to tea leaves, you can see many different types enjoyed in Japan, from green tea, houjicha, matcha, oolong, and more. You will also notice that certain teas are best brewed at specific temperatures to extract the most flavor without becoming too bitter. This ranges from 160-208 °F, and steeping times will differ as well.

Tea in Japanese Culture      

Tea is a major part of Japanese culture, with tea rooms and tea ceremonies dating back to the 15th century. Tea ceremonies are still practiced today, using various utensils and tea wares to prepare and drink matcha in a traditional tearoom with a tatami floor. These ceremonies have varying degrees of formality and authenticity and are a time to provide guests hospitality in a peaceful space detached from everyday life.

Japanese tea gardens are also dedicated spaces for people to quietly reflect on the beauty of nature and the art of living in harmony and detach from the hustle and bustle of a busy world. These gardens are lined with stepping stones called roji, which gives the guest a sense of traveling deep into the mountains.

Tea at Zojirushi

At Zojirushi, tea is also a way of life that is reflected within our products. Our hot water boilers are equipped with four different temperature settings so that you can prepare your tea with precision to pull the perfect brew every time. All of our hot water boilers are designed to be easy to clean, easy to use, and always there for you when you need a cup of tea in hand.

Let us know if you have anything new about tea today by tagging Zojirushi on your photos with #zojirushi on Twitter, Facebook, or Instagram!