Happy Donabe Life

Hakeme Donabe is Featured in LA Times’ Gift Guide 2019

November 14, 2019

We are really excited that our very popular classic-style donabe, Hakeme, is featured in the latest holiday gift guide by Los Angeles Times!

Our donabe made it to the top of the short list of the kitchen category in the printed edition.

It’s also introduced in the online edition.

Luckily, we restocked with all sizes of Hakeme donabe, along with many other designs of donabe just recently. So, please check out our online shop to find one (or more) for someone special or for yourself.

Happy donabe life.

Naoko

Koji/ Sake-Kasu Workshop Report

October 30, 2019

We hosted a special Japanese fermentation workshop for two days on 10/16 and 1/17. It was titled Japanese Koji/ Sake-Kasu Workshop, and we had guest instructors, Mr. Nakaji Minami Tomoyuki and Ms. Yoko Maeda Lamn.

Nakaji is a master of koji fermentation and the founder of Koji Academy in Japan. He flew all the way from Japan to offer fermentation workshops in several cities in Canada and US this time. Yoko is based in LA and is the founder of Hakko. As a Koji Academy certified Koji instructor, Yoko hosts Koji & fermentation workshops locally.

Setting up the koji tasting

In the class, Nakaji and Yoko guided the guests through the world of koji fermentation. Koji is a type of mold and the mother of many essential Japanese food and drinks, such as soy sauce, miso, mirin, rice vinegar, sake, amazake etc. Koji is also known for many health benefits as it’s probiotic and full of beneficial amino acids. Koji fermented foods/ drinks are rich in umami flavors.

The class also focused on sake-kasu, which is a byproduct of the production of sake. Sake-kasu are the lees left over from the fermentation of sake. Sake-kasu is also rich in flavor and full of health benefits. It’s a popular traditional ingredient in Japanese cooking. Sake-kasu is also often used in cosmetic products as it’s considered to give beneficial effects to the skin.

The lecture was followed by the cooking demonstration. I made six dishes and most of them are made with sake-kasu! We used different kinds of sake-kasu from different producers to showcase the variety and versatility of sake-kasu.

Kashiwa Meshi (Chicken and Root Vegetable Rice), made in Kamado-san donabe.
Sake-kasu Dates
Time for Donabe Hot Pot!
The main course was Sake-Kasu Nabe (hot pot of salmon and vegetables in sake-kasu broth)
Sake-kasu Pound Cake with Amazake Cream

We couldn’t take photos of all the dishes, but hopefully we can introduce them in our recipe page in the future. Here is the menu.

Sake-Kasu & Creme Fraiche Stuffed Dates

Mamina Sune (Okinawa’s traditional mung beansprouts with sake-kasu seasoning)

Sake-Kasu Shira-Ae (Vegetables in Tofu & Sake-Kasu Cream)

Sake-Kasu Nabe (Hot pot of seafood and vegetables in sake-kasu broth)

Kashiwa Meshi (Chicken and Vegetable Rice, Kyushu Island style)

Sake-Kasu Pound Cake

Our guests enjoyed the dinner with sake, of course! So, the night was really full of koji flavors with many donabe dishes.

Happy donabe life.

Naoko

TOIRO’s Two-Year Anniversary Reception

October 25, 2019

Team TOIRO!

My brick-and-mortar shop, TOIRO, has turned 2 years old! We opened its door on October 10, 2017. It’s been amazing two years…and the time flew by so fast.

So, we hosted an anniversary reception to celebrate with our supporters…our customers, friends and family, at our shop on Saturday, October 12. It was a real festive day!

Just like last year, we had delicious small bites made by Tsubaki, in addition to our donabe rice onigiri (rice balls) etc.

So many people were already waiting outside before our event began.

During the two hours, more than 350 people showed up to celebrate with us! We were so happy to see beautiful smiles of these people and they are having a fun time.

I want to thank everybody who came to celebrate the milestone with us and also those people who couldn’t come but continue to support TOIRO. I also want to thank Team TOIRO…I am so lucky to work with these amazingly talented and dedicated women to pursue our mission of spreading the wonderful Japanese food culture and healthy donabe cooking to the world.

Happy donabe life.

Naoko

Donabe Collaboration Dinner Event at Tsubaki in Echo Park

October 23, 2019

I spent a special evening at Tsubaki, my favorite izakaya restaurant in LA…Tsubaki x TOIRO Donabe Collaboration Dinner on September 30. From TOIRO, Yuko and I joined Tsubaki’s team led by Chef Charles Namba. We created 5-course dinner at this sold-out dinner event.

Since Tsubaki opened a few years ago in Echo Park, I’ve been dining there countless times. The food at Tsubaki is always so delicious, and the atmosphere is nicely relaxing and casual. The owners, Courtney (sommelier/ sake expert) and Charles (chef) are such talented and wonderful people. So, I was really excited to do this first collaboration dinner event with them.

A little relaxing moment before the dinner begins
The menu of the collaboration dinner
Gorgeous First Course of Fresh Seafood by Tsubaki
Donabe-Steamed King Crab by Tsubaki
Time for Our Donabe Dish!

Hot pot course…we made Saikyo Miso Nabe with Tai, Scallops, and Vegetables.

Time for the donabe rice course!

Tako Meshi – Octopus Rice

And, we don’t have any photo of dessert! But, it was a big hit, too. We made Matcha Kuzu-Mochi with Mirin Ice Cream.

We were so happy to see the beautiful smiles of all the guests who came to the dinner, and so many people came to me to tell me how much they enjoyed the dinner. We are so thankful to everybody who joined this donabe night.

We are also very thankful to Courtney, Charles, and the entire team of Tsubaki for this special opportunity. They are such a talented team and continue to inspire us.

Happy donabe life.

Naoko

Gaijin Cookbook Signing Event with Ivan and Chris

October 19, 2019

We hosted a launch event of Gaijin Cookbook, a new cookbook by a acclaimed chef, Ivan Orkin, and founder of Lucky Peach and author, Chris Ying on September 30 at our shop.

The book is a collection that celebrates everyday Japanese home cooking with insights on being a foreigner and father.

IVAN ORKIN is the author of Ivan Ramen and a star of Chef’s Table and Mind of a Chef. He owns Ivan Ramen and Ivan Ramen Slurp Shop in NYC, where the food is “so good it makes
your eyes explode” (Eater).

CHRIS YING is the co-founder of Lucky Peach, the former publisher of McSweeney’s, and the author and editor of numerous titles including Ivan Ramen, the Mission Chinese Food Cookbook, and You and I Eat the Same. He lives in San Francisco,
California

Fun and intimate event started with a talk session by Ivan and Chris.

The audience was really engaged in the very interesting stories by them, and they also enjoyed fun Q & A session, followed by donabe cooking demonstration by them.

Ivan and Chris signed each copy of their book for every guest. Meanwhile, we served my homemade donabe dishes.

Tonjiru (Pork & Root Vegetables Miso Soup)
Inari Sushi – Soy-braised Fried Tofu Pouch, Stuffed with Donabe Sushi Rice

It was our great pleasure to host the event and meet Ivan and Chris, specially talented chefs! Everybody had a wonderful time!

Happy donabe life.

Naoko

Chef Aitor’s Donabe Garlic Shrimp Recipe in LA Times

September 20, 2019

Chef Aitor Zabala of Somni, a Michelin 2-star restaurant, likes to use our Iga-yaki donabe! We are very excited to read the article about his secrets to make the best Gambas al Ajillo (Spanish garlic shrimp) in Los Angeles Times. And, he shares his recipe made in our Bistro Donabe!

In the article he explains he likes to use donabe in place of the traditional Spanish terra cotta for the most even heat distribution.

It’s a simple yet super delicious recipe, so we hope you will try it in your donabe!

Happy Donabe Life.

Letter from Aomori

September 17, 2019

I got an email message from Oyu-san, a wood craftsman from Hirosaki City in Aomori Prefecture, Japan. His popular Triangle Ichirin Flower Vase has been out of stock for many months, and he said they are now finally complete and ready to ship to LA! So, for those who have been waiting, please stay tuned…they will be back in stock very shortly.

In the email, he included a photo of the vase stands which were just complete for us. Every piece is carefully made by Oyu-san’s hands, so it takes time to finish all our orders. The photo included an apple which is a specialty of Hirosaki, and it’s just coming in season!

I really loved the photo, because I could also see part of his atelier (where everything is made) and it just felt very, very warm. The photo really showed Oyu-san’s kind personality.

He said Aomori is getting much cooler and the autumn has started. He also said the first harvest of this year’s apples are really nice.

Reading his message made me want to visit Hirosaki right away. Part of my blood is actually from Hirosaki City, Aomori, as that’s where my grandfather is from. So, even though I have never lived there, I feel personally connected to this northern most region of the main island of Japan. Aomori is a beautiful region with a lot of nature, and people with very warm hearts.

Donabe Cooking Class Report (August 2019)

September 5, 2019

On August 24 and 25, before the summer ended, we hosted donabe cooking classes at TOIRO.

Everything was prepped and ready!
Showing the guests how to cook rice with donabe rice cooker, Kamado-san
Steamed Market Vegetables, Served with Creamy Sesame Tofu Dipping Sauce
Steamed Large Shrimp & Rapini in Donabe Steamer, Mushi Nabe
Served with Ginger Yuzu-kosho Sauce
Chicken Tomato Sukiyaki
Shime (finishing course) was Kiwami Udon!
Smokey Shoyu Butter Corn & Hijiki Rice

I was so glad everybody enjoyed the class and all the dishes so much. We hope to host more classes later this year, so please stay tuned.

Happy Donabe Life.

Naoko

TOIRO is Featured in Los Angeles Times

July 19, 2019

We are really excited and honored to be featured in Los Angeles Times! The article came out on July 5 (online) and July 13 (print). The story really sums up my journey since I started TOIRO and my mission to spread donabe cooking and wonderful Japanese culture in America and beyond. 

You can read the full article in the link here. I want to continue my best to bring happy donabe life to many more people.

Naoko

Ume-Shu Dinner Party

July 18, 2019

The Ume-shu (plum liqueur), we made last year turned 1 year old and finally become ready to drink, so I hosted Ume-shu dinner party the other day. It was such a lovely celebration with the wonderful Team TOIRO and friends.

We tried our 2018 Ume-shu and Kinkan-shu (kumquat liqueur), plus my 2012 vintage Ume-shu (2 kinds: one of them was made with Okinawa black sugar).

Everybody tried different kinds in different ways. The basic way of enjoying Ume-shu is on the rocks. It’s also nice with sparkling water and ice.

I also made different dishes to enjoy with Ume-shu.

Soba Salad with Kale & Mix Seaweed
Ahi Tuna Poke

Miso-Marinated Cream Cheese on Watermelon Radish

Market Crudités with Firefly Squid Dipping Sauce and Kanzuri Shuto

Ginger Hijiki and Roasted Vegetable Salad

Time for the donabe main courses. I made Sesame Miso Hot Pot with Tasmanian Ocean Trout and Hokkaido Scallops. To finish, a couple of slices of butter was dropped to the broth.

Octopus and Corn Rice was made in Kamado-san.

Dessert was Matcha Almond Milk Kuzu-Mochi (kudzu jelly) with Okinawa Black Sugar Syrup, Kinako (roasted soy powder) and Anko (sweet azuki paste).

We also drank a lot of wine and had so much fun!

Happy Donabe Life.

by Naoko

Copper Grater Featured in Eater

June 19, 2019

Our Genuine Copper Grater was featured in Eater and is the choice of Chef Kuniko Yagi of Pikunico in Los Angeles! In Eater, she describes how and why she uses Japanese copper graters. Perfect for ginger, garlic, citrus zest and more, this copper grater requires less force to grate and is built to last for decades.

After weeks of waiting, we finally received a new shipment of our handmade Copper Graters! After restocking them, they were sold out in hours. Here is our shipping list the day after we restocked! It’s the longest we’ve seen since Christmas. We’ve already placed another order and they should be here in the upcoming weeks! Our handmade version from Niigata is currently sold out, but you can sign up here to be notified when it’s back in stock.

Happy Cooking!

Jodi

Donabe Cooking Class at Chateau Hanare

June 7, 2019

We had our first collaboration donabe cooking class event with Chateau Hanare on May 25, and it was a big success! Chateau Hanare is a Japanese restaurant, located next to Chateau Marmont in West Hollywood. It’s a beautiful place and they serve authentic Japanese food in an elegant setting. I’ve been a fan of this restaurant since they opened last summer.

The 20 seats filled up immediately after the event was announced a couple of weeks prior, and by the time of the event date, there were about 50 people on the waiting list. We are so grateful for such demand and are sorry to those who couldn’t get in this time. But, we want to do this again.

We made 5 different dishes, all in donabe! The class was done in a demonstration style, so the guests could sit back and enjoy learning these donabe recipes. We also enjoyed many interactions with the guests.

After all the dishes were made, all the dishes were served in courses and everybody enjoyed the lunch.

Here’s my oil sardine donabe rice. I’m glad everybody liked it! Here’s the entire menu of the class.

Homemade Soft Tofu with Mushroom Ankake Sauce.
Sake-Steamed Clams and Vegetables
Hot Pot of Meat, Seafood & Assorted Vegetables in Hatcho Miso Broth
Oil Sardine & Ginger Rice
Hojicha Custard Pudding

Chateau Hanare’s executive chef, Abe-san was truly a master! I really enjoyed cooking with him. The class was so much fun, and I look forward to another collaboration with Chateau Hanare!

Naoko (Mrs. Donabe)

An Order to Décor – We are featured in the New York Times!

May 9, 2019

We are featured in the New York Times! The article was posted in their online edition on May 7, and also in the printed edition on May 9. Here’s the link to the article.

 An Order to Décor


Yay, I found myself in the centerfold of the Design section of the paper! I am so humbled that our passion to introduce donabe and artisanal cookware/ tableware from Japan is recognized.

Happy Donabe Life.

Naoko (a.k.a. Mrs. Donabe)

Made In Gifu Launch Reception

April 20, 2019

Last Saturday, April 13, we launched Made In Gifu: Traditional and Modern Crafts from Gifu Japan. We hosted an early evening reception to celebrate the launch of this special collection, and so many people come to the event!


Many were already waiting outside before the reception started.

 


We offered Taste of Gifu samples.

 


So many happy people.

 


I was so glad everybody loved Miso-Marinated Cream Cheese canapés.

 


The event was filled with so much love and happiness by the wonderful people.

 


We want to thank everyone who came to the even to show your support to us and the wonderful crafts from Gifu. Thank you! Made In Gifu Collection is now available both in our website and West Hollywood location. Availability is limited, so please check them out now!

Happy donabe life.

Naoko (a.k.a. Mrs. Donabe)

MADE IN GIFU Opening Reception and Online Launch

March 31, 2019

 

TOIRO Presents

MADE IN GIFU: Traditional and Modern Crafts from Gifu, Japan

The opening reception @ TOIRO in West Hollywood

April 13 (Sat) 4 – 6 pm

TOIRO has curated a selection of handmade products from nine producers, totaling over 100 items, across Gifu, situated in the heart of Japan. The collection includes Mino-yaki pottery, Mino Washi Paper, wood works, and many more. We are honored to be representing these special Gifu handcrafts and being able to bring them to Los Angeles. All of these products will be available world-wide via our online shop starting April 14th. Please join us in this opportunity to celebrate the launch of MADE IN GIFU, and see and feel these unique and beautiful items yourself.

Gifu prefecture is known as the “Land of Clear Waters” that flow through ancient forests. It is a centrally located landlocked region nestled within the mountains, and is the site of more than 1,300 years’ history of continuous artisan craftwork. Gifu Prefecture’s rich culture has been recognized by UNESCO, with the village of Shirakawa-go being given the distinction of a World Heritage Site.

 

We are honored to introduce the nine producers from Gifu that make up our collection.

Please RSVP to attend this event at this link. We look forward to seeing you there!

TOIRO’s Brick-and-Mortar Store 1-Year Anniversary

October 20, 2018

TOIRO’s brick and mortar store had a one-year anniversary on October 10! So, we recently had a celebration with many of our customers, friends, and family. We also launched our World of Kohchosai Kosuga collection, featuring many artisanal bamboo products from the 5th generation atelier. It was certainly a night to remember– we had wonderful food from Tsubaki and Bub & Grandma’s bread, wine, and met so many of our greatest supporters and lovers.


Busy time prepping dishes before the party.


Mrs. Donabe giving an inspiring prep talk to TOIRO staff members before we open doors to guests!


Greeting guests to our doors with warm friendly smiles and lots of love.


Guests marveling at our “World of Kohchosai Kosuga” collection. Available here.


The menu included izakaya-style small bites by Tsubaki, artisan bread by Bub & Grandma’s, matcha passionfruit and shichimi togarashi vanilla cream puffs by Yuko.


We had such an amazing night and are so grateful to have such an amazing team that made the event  possible! Go Team TOIRO!


Celebrating the end of the event with even more wine!

 

We had such a successful 1-Year Anniversary event filled with happy faces, satisfied stomachs, lots of wine, and most importantly, with much love. We are so grateful to have enjoyed such a positive evening with our team, friends, family, and supportive customers. This past year has been filled with so much prosperity and happiness, and we are looking forward to many more joyful years to come!

Our “World of Kohchosai Kosuga” Collection, featuring many chopsticks, bento boxes, jubako, plates, trays, baskets, cutlery, and many more. You can find our artisanal bamboo products here.

Dashi Experience at Uneno

July 25, 2018

Uneno, a traditional dashi company was established more than 120 years ago in Kyoto City. I have been using their dashi products for more than 10 years at my home and have always admire their philosophy of offering the top quality ingredients sourced from sustainable environments.


The 4th generation husband-and-wife team, Motofusa and Yoshiko generously hosted my visit at their shop and factory.


At their factory, every katsuobushi is processed with much care by hand. Before shaving katsuobushi, they are steamed in the traditional wood steamer.


Then, they are shaved one by one by their motor-operated machines which are over 100 years old. The blades are made of iron and sharpened by hand every day.

At their shop, they have a special room for cutting kombu for dashi. After kombu is dried and aged, they are cut by hand in this room. Because kombu is one of the offerings for Shinto Gods and considered sacred, you are not allowed to enter this room with shoes on. Uneno offers their kombu to historic shrines and temples in Kyoto.


Look at the Rishiri Kombu before it’s cut!


Dashi tasting session. I learned so much. Dashi made with Uneno’s ingredients are always so delicious and special.

 

Happy donabe life.

 

Naoko

Vinegars by Iio Jozo

April 5, 2018

Back in March, I visited Iio Jozo, a 120+ year-old vinegar producer, located in Miyazu, Kyoto. Now the company is run by Akio Iio, the 5th generation of the family. He and his father (4th generation gave us a tour of their sake brewery and vinegar making facility.

At Iio Jozo, rice for their rice vinegar is cultivated 100% organic by the local farmers and every process of vinegar making, starting from brewing sake, is done by hand in their premises. While those conventional (inexpensive) rice vinegar by large producers are often made from cheap sake (made from lesser quality/ old/ broken rice) and takes just one day to produce, at Iio Jozo, their rice vinegar is made from their premium sake and takes about 1 year to make it.

The amount of rice used for making their Premium Rice Vinegar is 320 g/ liter. That’s 8 times as much of the rice normally used for conventional rice vinegar. So, their Premium Rice Vinegar has extra rich flavor with round umami.

Here are some of the photos from the visit.

I’ve been a big fan of Iio Jozo’s vinegars, and after learning so much more about their vinegar making process and philosophy, I love them even more. Iio Jozo’s vinegars are available at TOIRO website.

 

Happy donabe life.

 

Naoko

TOIRO Spring Festival 2018

March 11, 2018

Since we opened our brick-and-mortar shop last October, we hosted our first big festival on March 4 (Sun). We called it TOIRO Spring Festival. We offered spring theme menu to sample and celebrated the new season with people who attended. At the event, we had special guests from Japan, people behind Stork Rice, from Toyooka, Hyogo Prefecture. Their rice is very special and we were so excited to feature Stork Rice at the event.


It was a day after Hina Matsuri (Girls Day in Japan), so we also had a traditional display of Hina Matsuri. It was a special kind Saori has taken over from her mother.

We are a team of 6 girls…Yuko, Hiroko, Fumi, Saori, Miki, and I. We prepared everything from scratch in our tiny kitchen. With 3 units of Kamado-san, we cooked so many batches of rice all day to make so many onigiri (rice balls)!

Hundreds of people showed up to the event to celebrate with us, learn and support the wonderful Japanese food culture. The shop was so packed the whole time and people kept coming in!!

Luckily, we had a handful of volunteers, including Miki’s sweet husband and daughter, Aria!

We were so happy to see everybody’s smile and also so touched by all the support we received by them. What a happy donabe event it was! We made almost 500 onigiri, and all were gone by the end!

I was having so much fun!!

TOIRO Spring Festival
Sunday, March 4
1 pm – 4 pm

Menu:

Onigiri with Natural Stork Rice & Mochi Mugi Barley

Onigiri with Natural Stork Rice (Brown Rice)

Toppings
-Tajima Beef & Dried Baby Sardine Condiment (Soy Flavor)
-Tajima Beef Furikake
-Walnut Miso
-Slow-Roasted Tomato & Smoked Soy Sauce
-Plum Salt & Salt-Marinated Cherry Blossom

Smoked Tasmanian Ocean Trout with Sansho & Daidai Citrus Vinaigrette

Steamed Vegetables with Shichimi-Flavored Black Sesame & Mayo Dip

Cream Cheese Canapé with Crystalized Shoyu & Katsuobushi

Matcha & Cherry Blossom Cookies

Drinks:

Organic Mecha (Young Shoot) Grean Tea by Jugetsudo
Matcha Latte with Almond Milk and Matcha by Jugetsudo
Kimino Yuzu Sparkling Yuzu Juice

After the event, we had a small wrap party with wine and donabe dishes at the shop in the evening.

More donabe cooking!

I feel so lucky to be in the same team with such amazing ladies and share the mission of bringing the wonderful Japanese food culture to people in America. The real girl power!

Happy donabe life.

Naoko

Happy Donabe New Year 2018!

January 14, 2018

I spent my New Year with my husband at home in LA. As I do every year, I prepared Osechi Ryori (Japanese traditional New Year meal).

It’s a lot of work to prepare Osechi Ryori, even for just two people, as the meal involves many different small dishes. I spent all day just for this, but it’s always worth it. It’s not only ceremonial, but it’s also such a joy to share a special meal and appreciate the fact we can welcome a new year together.

In 3 tears of traditional lacquer Ju-Bako (multi-tiered box), I made traditional dishes including Kuromame-ni (braised black beans…I used special Tanba black beans from Kyoto), Kuri Kinton (chestnuts and sweet potato paste), Tazukuri (dried baby sardines in sweet soy flavored sauce), Date-maki (rolled egg and fish cake omelet), etc.

O-zoni (New Year soup)…clear dashi broth with mochi and vegetables were made in soup & stew donabe, Miso-shiru Nabe.

Chikuzen-ni (Root Vegetable Stew) was made in my classic Kyoto-style shallow donabe, Kyoto Ame-Yu. I normally add chicken in this dish, but because there was already so much food for two people (!), I made it without chicken. So, it’s completely vegan-style. The chicken version recipe is found here in our website, so if you want to try it vegan version, you can just omit the chicken and increase the amount of other ingredients a little more.

 

I feel all the good luck and health for 2018 after the meal.

Happy New Year to everyone!

Naoko

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