Photos by Star Sabroso
Almost every home now owns a microwave oven and it is mostly used for convenient and faster cooking. There has been a long debate on whether the microwave is good for your food or not, and there are different studies that say no and yes. But understanding how microwaves cook your food, plus what kind of food you put and the kind of material you use to cook food in, can determine whether the microwave oven is good for you or not.
In a recently held food demonstration presented by the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry, and Fisheries of Japan, Tokyo- and New York-based chef and inventor Machiko Chiba introduced her revolutionary Cook-Zen microwave pot and demonstrated its use for traditional Japanese cuisine. Aiming to promote better appreciation of Japanese cuisine among Filipinos, she highlighted Japanese recipes and ingredients during the demo. But instead of using traditional ways of cooking Japanese cuisine, chef Chiba demonstrated a faster, easier, and not just convenient but healthier way of preparing the dishes – using a microwave oven.
Now, one would think, how can it be healthier if you use plastic, and doesn’t microwaving break down food nutrients? Cook-Zen is made from polypropylene plastic and can withstand high heat and cold-minus environments; it is designed especially for microwave ovens and is a result of a 10- to 15-year study and experimentation of chef Chiba. During the demonstration, she cooked traditional dishes like green beans and fried tofu, Japanese clams steamed with sake and garlic, Japanese roast beef, and she even sampled her version of spicy pork adobo. You won’t even know the difference if it’s cooked in a microwave or done in the traditional way of cooking when you taste the food. Not only is the dish tender, it retains most of the colors of the food especially the greens and reds of the fruits and vegetables.
According to the chef, this method of cooking is healthier because, when you cook with Cook-Zen, you use the meat’s natural oil, no need for using vegetable or other kinds of oil just to avoid sticky pots, so your dish will naturally be low in fat. And because cooking time is shorter, you retain most of the nutrients and vitamins without breaking them down. Vegetables are also steamed without use of water so original food components are retained. “Sometimes you boil it in pots and it breaks down and takes too many things. With Cook-Zen, you wash and put the vegetables inside, don’t add water and let them cook on their own. Cook from two to four minutes and you retain most of the nutrients,” explains Akiko, chef Chiba’s daughter, a Juilliard-trained pianist who assisted her mother during the event.
Some Japanese cuisines take time and effort to prepare and chef Chiba invented this microwave pot with the goal of making it easier for households to enjoy everyday cooking and to actually appreciate cooking at home more. Her method honors the traditional Japanese old ways of cooking and combines it with an innovative style of cooking.
Cook-Zen is not yet available in the Philippines but you can purchase it online together with the Cook-Zen cookbooks authored by chef Machiko Chiba. Visit www.cook-zen.com for more details.