Features (articles)

[Update:] There seems to be some confusion about how zakkokumai is cooked and looks like, so I've added some more photos and such.

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Rice is such an integral part of a Japanese meal, that the word for 'meal' (gohan, ご飯) also means rice. White rice is the norm, both for taste and for various cultural reasons. But as you probably know, white rice (hakumai, 白米) is rice that has been stripped of most of its nutrients, leaving just the starch.

Brown rice (genmai) is the obvious healthier alternative. But brown rice can take some time to cook, what with the soaking and so on that's needed, and some people simply don't like the taste or texture.

In recent years, something called zakkoku-mai (雑穀米)has become increasingly popular in Japan. Zakkoku just means "mixed grains", and mai is rice. Another name for essentially the same thing is kokumotsu gohan (穀物ご飯).

Filed under:  japanese ingredients rice health

This post is now closed to new comments. It's now replaced by the new forum section, Ask Maki Almost Anything.

makiface-redshirt-sm.pngThanks to you (yes, I'm looking at you!) Just Hungry and Just Bento have really grown in popularity recently. This has also meant that I'm getting more emails. I do very much appreciate getting your emails, but there's a couple of disadvantages to email.

  • It's a one on one communication so your question will only benefit you. It might just benefit a lot of other readers. I do actually end up answering the same thing several times.
  • I may not know the answer but someone else might!
  • I'm really bad at email. Don't ask me why. I try to answer things as fast as possible but sometimes emails languish in my inbox for days, or I forget about answering them. Then you get mad at me and think I'm ignoring you, etc.
  • Answering lots of individual emails takes time away from me writing new posts, not to mention spending time with my family/friends, exploring new foods, and all that kind of thing.

Hence, this is Ask Maki (almost) Anything. comments here will remain always open, to ask me anything that doesn't fit into the context of a particular post. Unless it's something that must remain private, please post here before emailing. Thank you!

Filed under:  site news

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A few readers have emailed me recently about rice cookers by coincidence. So I thought I would put my answers here for everyone's benefit.

Filed under:  equipment japanese rice shopping

Confiserie Sprüngli Zürich Christmas Chocolates

A reader emailed me asking, how people celebrate Christmas in Japan.

My answer to that is ... "Not very well." But I get to pick and choose.

Filed under:  japanese swiss christmas

First of all, thank you so much to all of you who shared your food memories for our 4th Anniversary event. You made us laugh out loud, you made us chuckle, and you brought tears to our eyes. If we could we would have given the prize to everyone! But we only have one book in our budget...so, after a weekend of arguing back and forth, we finally selected one jewel out of a whole boxful of treasures: Mitch's entry, I Ate Love.

Filed under:  essays philosophy

This not quite food related, but I thought it might be of interest if you're reading this site and like to order Japanese books, DVDs and other media.

I go through books like I can go through a bag of potato chips. I order quite a lot of books almost every month from Japan. I don't have a local Japanese bookshop available, so I get everything from online stores.

I've ordered books in the past mainly from three sources: Amazon Japan, Yes Asia and JList. (Disclaimer: Just Hungry is an affiliate of all three companies, and product links do contain affiliate code that helps to pay costs for running the site.) Each has its advantages and disadvantages.

Filed under:  shopping

Just Bento, my new brand site dedicated to the making of bento box meals, is now officially open! It will have bento-specific recipes, tutorials and tips galore. While the majority of the bento box examples will be Japanese or Japanese-style bentos (geared and adapted for people who don't live in Japan), there will be foods and recipes from many other cuisines too, just as on Just Hungry.

The focus is on bento lunches for busy adults, especially those who are looking to using bento lunches to regulate healthy eating habits and/or lose weight. Why? Because that's how I use bento lunches. Late last year I made a resolution to try to lose some weight in 2007. While a lot of things I attempted in order to achieve that goal fell by the wayside, one of the things that 'stuck' was making bento lunches at least 2 to 3 times a week, if not more. So far, I have very slowly lost about 30 pounds (15 kg), and plan to keep going! I occasionally indulge in more luxurious and/or time-consuming bentos too, but that's all part of keeping things fun and loose.

Time is of the essence in the morning, so every bento example will be presented with a graphical timeline besides step-by-step instructions. (See Bento no. 1 for an example). Most bentos will be take less than 30 minutes to make, and the majority will clock in at 20 minutes or under.

There are already several articles up on the site. And no, Just Hungry will not be neglected; there'll be a lot of cross-referencing of tips, recipes and more between the sites.

Filed under:  site news bento

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Originally published on December 9, 2006: We won't be able to go to Provence this winter because of work, but I still dream about it, and plan for the next trip hopefully in the spring. Here is an article from our trip last year, about a wonderful truffle market in northern Provence. I hope you enjoy it!

The lady vendor with the intense blue gaze and the black beret on her head looks a little like a French Resistance worker from an old movie. She gestures with her hands as she talks, occasionally taking one of her wares gently in her slender fingers. Around her a curious group of people gathers, looking and sniffing intently, asking questions. I slowly inch my way to the front and look into the bowl, then up to her face, my meager French deserting me. She smile and tells me to pick one.

Filed under:  food travel ingredients mushrooms winter provence france

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My general 'simple is better' attitude to food has continued into the fall. At the moment I'm not cooking much per se, but I am enjoying the foods that are so good at this time of the year. A lot of these foods share a similar quality, for which I can't think of an appropriate word in English to describe. There's a perfect word in Japanese though - hoku hoku. Hoku hoku is the word that is used for a starchy, dense, sweet flavor and texture. Think of roasted sweet chestnuts, winter squash, and sweet potatoes. Baked white potatoes can be hoku hoku too.

My favorite hoku hoku food is sweet potato - though I do mean the kind we get in Japan (called satsuma-imo), not the kind that's most commonly seen in the U.S. (and here in Europe too). The U.S. kind of sweet potato has an orange skin and bright orange-yellow flesh, but the Japanese kind that I grew up with has a pale cream-white flesh and pink-purple skin. It's less fibrous and sweeter than the orange-flesh kind, which I feel needs added sweeteners most of the time (which is why it's so great in sweet potato pie and the like).

Filed under:  japanese fall

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