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Let’s start the year off with a strong foundation—always a good idea, wouldn’t you agree? This month’s recipes all use some ingredients that are basic to Japanese cooking, which if you learn how to use them, can become the foundation for expanding your knowledge of our cuisine. Don’t be shy to experiment—after all, we wouldn’t have California Rolls if people were afraid to be creative with sushi.
There are some ingredients that are essentially Japanese. These dishes use traditional ingredients to make some traditional recipes. Try these out to taste the real flavors of Japan!
This style of wrapping in kelp, or kombu, is often seen in New Year’s feasts, although it is also commonly seen in bento boxes. The kelp is soaked in water to make it soft and tender to eat, and is full of umami flavor.
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A sweet and sour type of sauce is glazed over grilled chicken, making this dish extremely flavorful and tangy when powered by the mirin, a sweet rice wine, and some rice vinegar that adds the snap.You’ve not had teriyaki until you’ve tried this one!
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Kabayaki is a Japanese grilling technique that uses a sweetened soy sauce that is basted onto what is usually eel, before being grilled. The sweet smelling aroma that fills the air when cooking is absolutely irresistible. Try this vegetarian version with eggplant!
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If you decide to try any of our recipes this month, you’ll probably recognize how some of the dishes have the same ingredients in common. Much of traditional Japanese cooking uses the same basic ingredients, spices and seasonings to create the vast tastes and textures you can achieve, and yet still be distinctly Japanese.
The main staple is rice, of course, and it cannot be emphasized enough how important it is to start with quality rice. This doesn’t mean you need to go out and buy the most expensive brand. What it means, is that with plain white rice often being the main companion to your entrée, having a perfectly steamed, fluffy and not mushy or dry portion of rice is extremely important. Think about it—you wouldn’t make a sandwich out of stale bread, would you? When you have tasted a mouthful of glistening, hot rice done well, you will taste a sweetness and experience the texture. Good rice is not as bland as people may think. Follow these links to see how to make delicious WHITE or BROWN rice; whichever you prefer.
The Salmon Kobumaki from this month’s recipes features the fish wrapped in kombu, or kelp. Kombu is one of the ingredients used to make Japanese dashi, a soup stock that is used to make all kinds of dishes, from ramen to miso soup. Learn how to make this simple vegetarian stock here and it can be the basis for hundreds of Japanese dishes.
Other common types of dashi stock are Niboshi Dashi, a stock made from baby dried sardines or anchovies. This stock is fishier than the others, but is common in the Eastern (Kanto) region of Japan where flavors tend to be bolder.
Shiitake Dashi is made from dried shiitake mushrooms. Savory umami flavor is released by the mushrooms in a thin, dark brown broth. Many people like to combine the shiitake with kombu for an even greater depth of flavor.
The last type of dashi stock is katsuo dashi (dried bonito flakes), often combined with kombu as well, for a deep and complex soup stock called Awase Dashi. This is probably the most commonly used dashi, but these days most people simply use a powdered version that you can easily get from the store, rather than to make it from scratch. Learn how to make Awase Dashi (Ichiban Dashi) from Zojirushi here.
You’ve no doubt also noticed there are a few seasonings that are needed for this month’s recipes, which might be useful to keep in your kitchen. Here’s a quick rundown of some essentials:
Shoyu (soy sauce)—no explanation really necessary, you’re going to need this no matter what. Your only decision might be to opt for low sodium vs. regular. We suggest you stick with Japanese brands for best results with Japanese cooking. The brewing process is more thorough for deeper flavor and no artificial coloring is used.
Rice Vinegar is milder and sweeter than Western vinegar, which makes it ideal for Japanese side dishes (sunomono), pickling, dressings and of course, sushi rice. Learn how to make sushi rice from Zojirushi here.
Mirin is a sweet rice wine that’s often used in place of sugar to make teriyaki sauce, marinades, sukiyaki sauce and dipping sauces for soba noodles and tempura.
Miso isn’t exactly a seasoning, but it’s still an essential basic ingredient to have. What can you say about miso? No Japanese kitchen would be without it, considering miso soup virtually makes an appearance any time of day, even for breakfast. It’s also used in salad dressings, to marinade meat and fish and to flavor ramen broth.
The Multicooker features 9 convenient menu settings for a variety of cooking possibilities. The heavy duty 6 qt. capacity tri-ply 18/8 stainless steel cooking pot with resin handles resists corrosion and rusting, and its 10" diameter accommodates large cuts of meat.
Tempered glass self-standing lid: clear lid allows you to view the cooking process and the large resin handle can be used to stand the lid vertically to save space and prevent messes.
Tri-ply stainless steel cooking pot with convenient resin handles holds and distributes heat evenly while its 18/8 stainless steel interior resists corrosion and rusting.
6 qt. capacity.  
9 convenient menu settings include: Sauté/Sear, Simmer, Low/Slow Cook, Steam, White Rice, Brown Rice, Quinoa, Yogurt and Keep Warm.
Unique Low/Slow Cook menu has 4 temperature settings from 140°F to 200°F for slow cooking, tofu making, and other low temperature cooking.
Your Zojirushi Rice Cooker has a white rice and sushi rice menu setting. While the white rice setting will make perfectly fluffy short or medium grain rice, the primary type of grain that is used in most Japanese cooking, some of our cookers are also equipped with a sushi setting. The sushi setting will adjust the cooking process to yield a slightly firmer rice, to compensate for the additon of rice vinegar to it when making sushi rice. The short grain will still be sticky enough to form into sushi, but not too mushy as to clump together.
  Short Grain White Rice:
The grain is short and round. It becomes sticky when cooked so it is suited for sushi and onigiri (rice balls). Mochigome (sweet rice) is another type of short grain white rice.
  Medium Grain White Rice:
The grain is longer than short grain white rice. Texture and taste is very similar to short grain white rice. This type of grain is widely consumed in the US.
  Cooking rice in your Zojirushi rice cooker is easy as 1-2-3. No stirring, watching or worrying about your rice. No more boiling-over, burning or scorching. No more soggy, mushy rice. Just perfect rice every time. Here's how...   The heart of sushi is the rice. Without rice there would not be sushi. The very word "sushi" means "vinegared rice." An electric rice cooker is essential for perfect, no fail rice for sushi.  
  White Rice   Sushi Rice  
Here are some popular rice recipes that you can try with both types of rice.
  Onigiri Yakiniku Donburi Kimchi Fried Rice   Nigiri Sushi Maki Sushi Chirashi Sushi  
Learn the art of delicate pastry baking with our Zojirushi Breadmaker.