Foreign Foods in Japan –
Japanese Curry!

“It seems that everyone in Japan loves curry.” These words from Tadashi Ono and Harris Salat are certainly true.

Here at Zojirushi, we’d argue that everyone who loves Japanese food loves Japanese curry! Our foreign food this month is the much loved Japanese curry, in its glorious, savory wet form.

Curry is not native to Japan. It was imported to the country a mere two centuries ago. And not, as you’d assume, by South Asians from India, where curry, or “kari”, originated. Indian curry is a blend of fresh spices and aromatics that are blended into gravies using tomatoes, cow’s milk, coconut milk, and other liquids. Indian curries are generally spicy and hot, full of chilis and cumin, coriander, turmeric, ginger and other spices. Families in India carefully guard their own curry blends and pass them down generation to generation. During the centuries of the spice trade by the Dutch, Portuguese and British, curry transformed into a dry powder that was able to be transported by ship to Southeast Asia and China, the Caribbean and South Pacific, Africa, Europe and Japan.

Rakkyo

Because dry curry powder was imported into Japan by the British, it was originally considered a European food! And as it was transported ship-to-ship, sailors were the first ones to fully adapt Britishized Indian curry powder to Japanese tastes.

Japanese curry is made of many fewer ingredients – and in a much less complex way – than Indian curry. The base is made with a roux, or mix of curry powder, chili pepper, garam masala, butter and flour. Often, curry roux can be found in specialty Asian grocery stores. This roux is mixed with water until it reaches the consistency of a gravy, and to the gravy are added vegetables, beef, chicken, apples and less commonly, seafood. The entire mixture is eaten with cooked Japanese white rice and condiments such as fukujinzuke, or pickled radishes, pickled rakkyo, or Japanese scallions, or raisins. The spiciness of Japanese curry is quite mild compared with Indian and Southeast Asian curries, but hot chili oil can be added to increase the heat. The result is the popular karēraisu.

Fukujinzuke

While Japanese curry is easily found in restaurants, it is home-style cooking prepared for lunch at schools and at home for families. It is considered easy food for dinner, and one of the first dishes Japanese children learn to make.

One of our favorite recipes is Japanese Beef Curry. Our own secret recipe includes a touch of Worcestershire sauce for some savoriness and honey for sweetness. Paired with white rice made in one of our rice cookers, and it’s a perfect meal!

Have you tried Japanese curry? Let us know about your experience in the comments below!

Product Inspirations –
Stainless Bottle (SJ-TG08/10)

At Zojirushi, we’re all about designing that perfect vacuum insulated bottle, mug or tumbler, whether you’re taking your favorite beverage with you while you’re out or while you’re sitting at home or the office.

Our latest bottle – the Stainless Bottle (SJ-TG08/10) – is one of our most versatile. Its gorgeous sparkling stainless steel finish and sleek black lid and strap make it stylish. It works on the go, whether you’re outdoors, at work or traveling, and it’s packed with a host of features.

Along with the beautiful finish, this Stainless Bottle is made using Zojirushi’s superior vacuum insulation technology. The air between the outer and inner layers of the stainless steel is removed, so heat is blocked from transferring through the layers of steel, greatly minimizing the temperature change of your beverage. We even guarantee our vacuum insulation with a five year warranty on heat retention.

The extra-wide 2-inch opening makes it easy to fill, even with full-sized ice cubes, and the nonstick coated interior ensures that the bottle is simple to clean. Plus, all areas that come into contact with your beverage are BPA-free.

The bottle’s lid is one of our favorite features. The lid doubles as a standalone cup. You can take a hot drink with you, pour a cup when you’re ready, and keep the rest of the beverage fresh and ready to enjoy later. You can even use the lid to share your drink while maintaining hygiene. And the one-touch button on the stopper allows for smooth pouring through the spout. Imagine going to your favorite sporting event, and being able to not only bring your own sencha tea with you, but being able to sip it just like you would at home.

Because we know many of our customers would use the bottle for hot beverages, as well as cold ones, we’ve incorporated smart design features like a stopper gasket to prevent leaks, and a small taper below the opening of the bottle to indicate the maximum fill line. And the adjustable carrying strap makes it even more convenient.

This stainless bottle is made of high-quality 18/8 stainless steel and comes in two sizes – 27 oz. and 34 oz.

Check out this bottle to add to your collection, and as always, let us know how you use your favorite Zojirushi bottle!

Design Explained –
Our Easy-Release Magnetic Power Cord

Our Gourmet d’Expert? Electric Skillets (EP-RAC50 and EP-PBC10) and our water boilers are designed with a unique feature that keeps them powered up and safe: our magnetic power cord.

Magnetic power cords are ubiquitous when it comes to laptops, mobile devices and other tech products, but we’ve used these types of power cords in our products since 1982, when we introduced them in a new water boiler for the Japanese market.

Since then, we realized that adding magnetic power cords to most of our water boilers and electric skillets was the smart thing to do, because both of these categories of products tend to contain large amounts of heated liquid. Imagine if you walked by a full water boiler that was resting on a countertop, snagged your foot on the power cord, and toppled the water boiler over. The result would be quite scary. Same goes for our skillets, which are so convenient for cooking at the table. In the event of a snag by a foot or chair, the power cord would detach, preventing the skillet from being pulled from the table.

So convenient is this design that we even get phone calls from customers saying “My power cord is broken!” While the magnets that hold the power cord attached to the skillets or water boilers are strong, they’re made to detach easily. No tugging is required, making this design both smart and safe. As an added bonus, the magnet also makes the power cord easy to attach too!

Check out our water boilers, skillets and other great products in the Products section of our website, and be sure to comment with any questions you might have.

Udon, The Straight Noodle

A while back, I wrote a post on Ramen and its popularity here in the U.S. It hasn’t dwindled one bit, seems like, and ramen shops keep multiplying. And while I love ramen in all its forms, I’m also a great fan of udon; it might be my favorite noodle of all time. Of the three great noodles of Japan—ramen, soba and udon, I feel I can never get tired of udon. Soba is healthy, gluten free and probably the best summer food when eaten chilled; but many friends I know don’t like the texture or nutty taste. Ramen can get heavy when the broth is pork based tonkotsu, often to the point where I can’t finish it. It’s an amazing meal in itself though, I’ll admit.

On the other hand, there’s not much to dislike about udon. Unless you can’t digest wheat flour and you need to stay gluten free, udon noodles are satisfyingly chewy, adaptable to practically any kind of broth and condiments, delicious hot or cold and slippery good! Maybe the only complaint would be that you have to be fairly skilled with chopsticks to pick them up!

Udon is made by mixing flour with lightly salted water to make a dough, which is then kneaded, rolled and flattened like pizza dough, and sliced into the thin strips to look like udon. It really is the easiest type of noodle you can make at home. Most people use the “stepping on it with your feet” method to knead the dough (after covering with a cloth of course), because it’s easier than using your hands. If you have a breadmaker to knead it for you, all the better. Here’s a recipe from Zojirushi for Teuchi (handmade) Udon using their breadmaker.

A professional sous-chef at a restaurant uses a dough slicing machine to get perfect strands of udon noodles.

 

With summer and hotter days coming, you may think udon season is over, but you would be wrong! There are so many cold variations of this noodle, it doesn’t always have to be in hot broth. One of my favorites is this very simple dish called Bukkake Udon, where a cold broth is splashed over chilled udon. This is so unbelievably refreshing—I mean, take a look at these ingredients; katsuobushi (shaved bonito) flakes, green onion, grated daikon, and tempura crisps. Easy to imagine the flavor about to explode in your mouth, isn’t it?

Bukkake Udon with a beef bowl rice dish

 

An even simpler cold dish is Zaru Udon, which is eaten by dipping the noodles into a cup of cold broth, much like the popular Zaru Soba version. Learn how to make the dipping broth with this Zojirushi recipe.

Zaru Udon with dipping sauce

 

And not all udon is made with a hot broth. Being so closely similar to pasta, udon is often used in Western interpretations, like this wonderfully cheesy, rich and creamy Gratin Udon. This is my daughter’s favorite whenever we go to our main udon restaurant.

Cheese Gratin Udon

 

A popular tapas style appetizer at Japanese izakaya restaurants is this stir-fried dish called Yaki Udon. There are hundreds of versions, but here’s one you can make on your own with Zojirushi’s help. Yaki Udon is quick to make, you can use leftover ingredients, and you can have it year ‘round.

Yaki Udon

 

Some more traditional udon styles. Classic Kitsune Udon, with its signature deep fried tofu.

Kitsune Udon

 

Beef Udon, for meat lovers like me—but the beef is shredded to better suit this dish, and it’s not heavy or greasy at all.

Beef Udon

 

Kanitama Udon; crabmeat in an egg scramble—so sublime and perfect for crab lovers.

Kanitama Udon

What is your favorite udon dish?

 

photo credits: Bert Tanimoto, @ironchefmom, Zojirushi