Zojirushi Blog

Mom’s Home Cooking: ポテトサラダ (Japanese Potato Salad)

When you think of Japan, you may not think of side dishes like potato salad at first. But, Japanese Potato Salad, or “potesara,” has actually been around in Japanese cuisine for over 100 years! During the Meiji restoration, Western dishes began widely influencing Japanese cuisine, and Japan’s colorful potesara is thought to have originated sometime during that period. Today, this dish is widely enjoyed across the country as a delicious side to lunch and dinner all year round. Take a look for yourself, and consider making this dish as a fun and flavorful addition to any of your holiday meals.

Origins

Like many storied dishes, the exact origin of this dish can be disputed, but Japanese people believe that this dish was influenced by the Russian Olivier salad, which was first made by a Belgian chef in Russia. Sources date the first version of this Japanese take on the Olivier salad back to 1896, and the dish has evolved to its current colorful version over the years.

Star Ingredients

There are a few reasons why Japanese potato salad is so distinct from its Western counterparts. First, it is almost completely mashed, so it has a smoother consistency and texture. Second, some of the ingredients are uniquely Japanese, which lend to its great flavor. Last but not least, this dish features an array of colorful vegetables and deli meat, which makes you able to spot this dish from a mile away. Here are some of the most notable star ingredients:

  • Kewpie Mayonnaise: This crowd pleaser may be eye-catching for its bright colors, but is largely celebrated due to its rich, tangy flavor. This is accomplished through ingredients like Japanese mayo, such as the Kewpie brand, which is higher in vinegar and tangier in flavor.
  • Vegetables: Japanese people get very creative with their potato salads, and these versions tend to be very healthy due to the generous amounts of nutritious vegetables they add in. Popular veggies include carrots, peas, cucumber, onion, and broccoli, though you can really add in whatever you like!

  • Japanese mustard: Karashi mustard is a hot Japanese mustard made from a mixture of mustard seeds and horseradish. It is very spicy and comes in both powder and paste forms.

 

 

Make the Best Japanese Potato Salad

Thinking about whipping up this dish for your next dinner party, or just for yourself? Here are some tips to make sure your potato salad comes out delicious:

  • Make sure not to overcook the potatoes. You want to let the potatoes boil in water, and then at a simmer. Overcooking will result in a texture that falls apart instead of staying creamy.
  • Remove excess moisture from ingredients. This extra step will make sure that your salad does not get too watery and will also mellow out the spices from ingredients such as onions.
  • Salt your vegetables. Adding a pinch of salt to your carrots or cucumbers will keep them crunchy, which will balance the smooth texture from the potatoes.
  • Get creative with your garnishes. Finish off your dish with some fresh cracked pepper, sesame, or even parmesan cheese if you want to make the dish look and taste extra appetizing.
  • Chill before serving. Chilling your salad will give your salad time to settle, and absorb all of the yummy flavors you just incorporated. Chill at least one hour before serving in an airtight container.

Let us know if you tried to make this dish at home, or have your own secret recipe by tagging Zojirushi on your photos with #zojirushi on Twitter, Facebook, or Instagram!

Mom’s Home Cooking: Pumpkin Nimono かぼちゃの煮付け(Japanese Boiled Pumpkin)

Japanese simmered pumpkin, which is slowly cooked to a soft, melt-in-your-mouth dish, is one of the most popular home-cooked dishes enjoyed throughout the fall and winter. It’s made with kabocha, a Japanese winter squash that is much sweeter than American pumpkin. You’re sure to think of mom’s home cooking when you try this dish, and it is an easy and nutritious addition that you can add to any meal. And the best part? This dish can be prepared in about 30 minutes and has an incredibly long shelf life. Let’s learn more about this delicious dish below.

Kabocha is a Japanese squash that is similar in texture to pumpkin and sweet potato. The color is usually a dull deep green with white stripes. An average kabocha weighs about 2-3 lbs.

Kabocha continues growing even after it is harvested! It takes a long time to become ready to consume. After harvest, kabocha needs to be ripened in a warm environment for up to 13 days to let the starches develop into sugar. Then, it’s stored in a cool place to increase carb content. This process can take up to 3 months.

It is much harder to cut than other pumpkin varieties when it comes to the rind, but once cooked, the rind is edible too. The flesh is a deep, reddish-yellow, and turns orange when cooked. In addition to being boiled and seasoned, kabocha can be prepared as tempura, croquettes, desserts, pastries, and even lattes!

How to prepare this dishThis dish is traditionally prepared with dashi, sake, mirin, and sugar, and can be prepared in just about 30 minutes. You can prepare this dish in your Gourmet d’Expert® Electric Skillet EP-RAC50.

  • First, cut the kabocha: The rind is very tough, so be careful when cutting. Use a large knife and cut slowly. Another option is to let it microwave for a few minutes to get it soft.
  • Remove the seeds: Use a spoon to scoop the seeds and then discard.
  • Cut into smaller pieces: Make sure the pieces are cut into roughly the same size so they can cook evenly.
  • Prepare the broth: Place the cut kabocha skin side down and pour dashi on top in a skillet.
  • Stir in the sauce: Once the broth has softened the squash, add the other ingredients and let it simmer for 20-30 minutes.
  • Serve hot or cold: You’ll know this dish is done cooking when you can easily poke a hole into the kabocha. Sprinkle some sesame seeds on top and serve either hot or cold.

So, what do you think about this dish? Let us know if you tried making this dish at home or used our Electric Skillet by tagging Zojirushi on your photos with #zojirushi on Twitter, Facebook or Instagram!

 

Mom’s Home Cooking: Japanese Hot Pot (鍋 / Nabe)

Nabemono, or Nabe for short, is a hearty Japanese dish that was traditionally prepared in clay pots. “Nabe” actually translates to “cooking pot,” and “mono” translates to “thing.” This popular dish can be prepared in many different ways depending on which region of Japan you’re in, but is typically made with vegetables, flavored broth, mushrooms, and meat. As a staple dish that reminds of mom’s cooking, we know that most moms will add a festive touch by preparing flavorful dipping sauces and colorful accoutrements. Nabe is a delicious dish that brings families and friends together, as it is a social event where the meal is cooked right at the table and enjoyed collectively.

History of Nabe

Nabemono is said to be as old as Japanese earthenware, dating back to a thousand years ago. It was traditionally enjoyed during the fall and winter seasons over a sunken fireplace, or “irori,” which was typically built at the center of Japanese homes.

As time progressed, nabe was moved over to charcoal stoves, and became portable with the invention of the “shichirin” clay stove. Today, nabe can be made at any time of year thanks to modern portable stoves.

Preparing nabe can be ceremonial as well — the family nominates a “nabe bugyo,” who is in charge of deciding which ingredients are cooked and in which order.

Types of Nabe

There is a dizzying number of ways nabe is enjoyed throughout Japan. Depending on the region, exotic ingredients such as pufferfish and wild boar can be used! Here are some of the most common styles of nabe you can keep an eye out for the next time you’re looking to enjoy Japanese hot pot:

  • Yose-nabe is the most common and type of nabe, made with a mix of vegetables, mushrooms, meats and seafoods. Often, raw eggs and cooked rice are added to the condensed broth to end the meal with a thick rice porridge.
  • Sukiyaki features thinly sliced beef or pork simmered with vegetables in a mix of soy sauce, mirin, sugar, and water. Ingredients are usually dipped in raw egg before eating.
  • Shabu Shabu often has a lightly flavored broth, made with kombu and dashi. Vegetables are added to the pot, and meat is added last. The thinly sliced meat only needs a few moments to cook before it is removed and dipped in a ponzu or sesame sauce before enjoying
  • Oden broth is often simmered for hours, and includes ingredients such as fish cakes and potatoes. You can find oden ready-to-eat at many Japanese convenience stores.
  • Chanko is a type of Japanese nabe that is eaten in huge quantities by sumo wrestlers as they attempt to gain or maintain their fighting weights in Japan. The broth is usually made from dashi and/or chicken, sake, and mirin. Fun fact: sumo wrestlers will not use beef and pork for soup base because being on four legs represents a loss in sumo wrestling.

How to Enjoy Nabe

The great thing about nabe is that you can truly make it your own. There are some basic guidelines, however, that can help make your nabe experience more enjoyable (and tasty!). Here are some of our favorite tips on how to enjoy nabe:

  • Set the table. Each person should have a small personal bowl in which they can ladle their ingredients into. Additionally, each person should have personal condiments and dipping sauces nearby for when the ingredients are ready to eat.
  • Prep the sauces. Depending on what kind of nabe you are having, you can have different condiments such as ponzu, grated daikon, yuzu kosho, and mustard. Feel free to mix and match the sauces, or even try something completely new!
  • Make the most of it. Near the end of the meal, make the most of your leftover broth by adding rice or noodles to it. Or, save the broth for the next day and simply add water to dilute and enjoy with rice or noodles.

Make Nabe at Home

Zojirushi’s Vegetarian Miso Nabe

Ready to show off your nabe-making chops to your loved ones? Zojirushi has nabe recipes that you can make in the comfort of your own home using your Gourmet d’Expert® Electric Skillet EP-PBC10 or EP-RAC50. Which one will you be making tonight?

Let us know if you try (or make) any of these dishes by tagging Zojirushi on your photos with #zojirushi on Twitter, Facebook or Instagram!

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!

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