Oct 6

Zojirushi: Dreaming of Bentos and Ground Sesame

in Product Reviews

I became familiar with Zojirushi the first time we lived in Japan. Zojirushi Corporation began operation in 1918 in Osaka. Their brand is very recognizable because of the elephant they use on their corporate logo.
I was more familiar with their rice cookers (which are excellent if you were wondering), and so was excited when they sent me a couple of their other products to test out and tell you about!

I love the whole bento phenomenon and think bentos are a great way to get kids to eat healthy foods, and a great way to make a packed lunch in general. I have a variety of bento boxes that I acquired while living in Japan. I’ve been on the search for for a good bento set for Squirrel–one that is relatively small, has several containers and a carrying bag, and has an insulated container. The Zojirushi Mini Bento Stainless Lunch Jar fits all of those requirements. It consists of a washable vacuum insulated main bowl (designed for hot rice, but not hot soup), two side bowls, chopsticks, chopsticks holder, and an easy-to-carry insulated bag. All bowls are microwaveable and the carrying bag collapses down to half its size when the bowls are empty. The set is available in 2 different designs–a colorful green, orange, and cream design and a monochromatic metallic blue design.
The containers are quite small. This is why this is the mini bento set. If you’re looking for something bigger, you need to look at Zojirushi’s other options like their Ms. Bento, Mr. Bento, or Classic Bento sets. The size of the Mini Bento is perfect for a young child or for a light meal or snack for an older child or adult.
I used the set several times–once for a picnic lunch for the park and another time when I had to go to a meeting and Squirrel had to go along and I wanted to make sure I had snacks along to keep her satisfied if she got hungry. Both times were a success and I was more than happy with the performance of the set.

I was able to pack a nice amount of fruits and veggies, cheese (remember those carrot blossoms and that cheese pumpkin I mentioned in my last post?), crackers, and a rice concoction that Squirrel loves (mixture of rice, tuna, couple drops of soy sauce, and some ground sesame seeds) in the containers and everything stayed nice and fresh.
The only downside to this set is that it is a bit expensive. I found the set on Amazon.com for $40.99. Not cheap, but very functional and SO cute!

The other product I’ve been trying out is a sesame seed grinder. Sesame seeds are used frequently in Japanese cuisine and have become one of my favorite seasonings and flavors. I love the nutty flavor they add and how their flexibility in being used in either sweet or savory dishes. Normally when I need ground sesame seeds I use a suribachi (a Japanese style mortar and pestle–the mortar has a rough pattern on the inside which provides for more effective grinding), however it sometimes is a pain to haul it out and sit and grind my sesame seeds, so sometimes I don’t and I just go without. That’s why I am in love with the Zojirushi sesame seed grinder.
It is a small contraption which can sit in your cupboard filled and ready to go. It has three grind settings: coarse, medium, and fine. You just grab it, choose your setting, and hit the grind button and ground sesame immediately starts coming from the side dispenser.
Genius! With this little guy around you can add sesame to EVERYTHING! Seriously, you probably don’t know it, but you need this. Do you know how good ground sesame seeds are on things? SO good. Some of my favorite dishes to add ground sesame seeds to are: basically any rice dish, onigiri (rice balls), steamed vegetables, noodles, and yogurt parfaits.
Mmmmmm… I even used it when making the rice concoction for Squirrel’s bento. Again, the downside is the price (I found it on Amazon.com for $29.99), but from the the customer reviews I’ve read around the web, the grinder lasts for a long time if you take care of it. Some reviews I’ve read have complained that the grinder does a terrible job of grinding other seeds, like flax. The directions, however, specifically state that the grinder is designed to only grind sesame seeds, and no other grains. Personally, this is one kitchen gadget that I would love to add to my equipment cupboard!

{ 10 comments… read them below or add one }

Angie October 7, 2008 at 1:41 am

You are a super Japanese fan.
Zojirushi products are quite reliable. I remember that my mum bought one Zojirushi electric water boiler&warmer…hmmm…20-25? years ago, and it lasted for 15 years!!! Its bread makers are cool too.


Bentoist October 7, 2008 at 7:10 am

Hey Fuji!

Those look like great lunches and the sesame seed grinder looks real nifty. Now is that a specific grinder or can any pepper grinder work just as well?


Fuji Mama October 7, 2008 at 7:36 am

Bentoist–It is a specific grinder designed only for sesame seeds. I’m not sure about a pepper grinder as I’ve never tried grinding sesame seeds in one. Sounds like I’ll have to try it out! There are lots of multi-purpose spice grinders out there though that will grind sesame seeds as well as a variety of other spices.

The only thing to keep in mind when choosing a grinding device for sesame seeds is how airtight the grinder is and whether or not you are going to keep unground seeds in the grinder. Unrefrigerated seeds should be kept in an airtight container in a cool, dry place for up to three months, refrigerated up to six months or frozen up to one year.
(Randome note–Sesame oil, on the other hand, is remarkably stable and will keep for years without turning rancid, even in hot climates. Go figure!)


Mariko October 7, 2008 at 4:03 pm

I love ground sesame on my onigiri. Do you toast it first?
I own a Mr. Bento. It’s wonderful for keeping stuff cold. Only problem is that you’re not supposed to microwave them. Argh. So I usually just eat everything cold.


Fuji Mama October 7, 2008 at 4:06 pm

Mariko–Yes! I always toast my sesame seeds. They’re so much more flavorful, don’t you think?


Jen October 8, 2008 at 9:37 am

♥♥♥♥ it all! Yum!


aline October 8, 2008 at 11:30 am

i’m a big fan of the bento the carrot is really cute



Jackie October 9, 2008 at 10:32 am

I love the little lunch boxes! And ground sesame seeds sounds great! Does it make Tahini too?!? I’ve been gobbling up a lot of hummus lately and I’ve always wondered about making my own Tahini.


Fuji Mama October 9, 2008 at 10:45 am

This little grinder won’t work so well for making tahini since it starts spitting out the ground seeds as soon as you hit start, and for tahini you really need the seeds to stay in the machine they’re being ground in so that you can keep pulsing until you get the right consistency. I’ve only made tahini once, but this is the recipe I used and it was yummy! http://middleeasterncuisine.suite101.com/article.cfm/home_made_tahini


miss v October 12, 2008 at 4:06 am

darling bentos! i can’t wait to get one of my own.


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