Japanese kitchens are not the warm, oven-centred hubs that many westerners are used to. The majority of people here get by with a grill/broiler, a couple of gas burners and maybe a handful of kitchen devices like a rice cooker or, if they’re really swish, a bread maker.
True, more expensive microwave ovens often have an “oven” setting, allowing half-baked (sorry) chefs to cook things like pizzas and simple cakes and cookies, but since most microwaves are limited in size you can forget about cooking anything like a whole chicken or a nice ham around Christmas time.
Although vertically-loading toasters are few and far between, small toaster ovens like the one pictured above are very popular in Japan, and, as we’re about to see, can be put to incredible use so long as there’s a little creativity involved.
So, if you’re a foreigner arriving in Japan and bemoaning the lack of a gas oven like you had back home, feast your eyes on some of the mouth-watering creations that clever Japanese toaster oven users have put together.
- Hot, fluffy rice!
Who needs a saucepan or a kitchen-cluttering rice cooker when you’ve got an oven toaster!? It’s so simple we wonder why we never thought to try it before: simply wash your uncooked rice as normal, then pour it into a (good quality!) aluminium bento lunchbox. Add the necessary amount of cold water, pop the lid on firmly and place in the oven toaster for about 15 minutes. No need to stand over the hob keeping the heat under control; just let your mini heat box do the work for you.
No bento box suitable for the oven? A clean metal can will do the job nicely, too. The ultimate in cheap and cheerful cooking!
- Boiled eggs and toast!
Considering how simple a meal they make, boiled eggs can be a bother to cook. So put away your saucepan, forget the water and go and get ready for work while your toaster “boils” eggs for you.
Wrap a raw egg in aluminium foil and place it directly on the wire rack inside the oven toaster. Throw a slice of bread in there, too, if you’re feeling extra peckish. Set the timer for 7-12 minutes depending on how soft/hard you like your eggs and that’s it. When you hear the ping retrieve your breakfast from the toaster and enjoy. Minimal fuss, no saucepan to wash and no hot water to boil. Genius!
- Egg on toast in minutes!
Many westerners, particularly those from North America, freak out when they see how much mayonnaise Japanese people use. But that creamy white condiment is so popular over here for good reason- it really does go with everything!
Presented by a clever Japanese blogger, this recipe is perhaps one of our favourites, and shows just how far a little ingenuity in the kitchen goes. Just place a thin “embankment” of mayonnaise around the outer edge of a slice of bread, then crack an egg and slooooowly pour it out into the centre. Thanks to the oils in the mayonnaise, the egg white should remain on the bread. Carry it like a ticking time bomb over to the oven toaster and place it directly onto the rack as with the previous recipes. Turn your little pal on and your job is done; egg on toast, no mess!
Time and toaster-savvy internet users present a whole host of other recipes, some requiring a little more culinary proficiency than others, that show just how versatile oven toasters can be. With a little creativity, there’s a whole host of foods that you can leave to your toaster to produce. Some of our favourites include:
Baked jagamentaichiizu (potato, pollack roe and cheese)
Foil-wrapped salmon with mushrooms and tomato, perfect for a cold winter’s morning
Mini nikuman steamed meat buns
Mini cheese cake. Mmmmmn, cheesecake…
A firm favourite in my native UK, shortbread
Even mini rusks!
As well as coming up with these ingenious suggestions for ways to get the most out of the simple toaster oven, many Japanese bloggers and Twitter users point to the health benefits of cooking with an oven over frying pans and oil as is common in Japan. And with just a little mixing and the right utensils, even desserts like sponge cake can be cooked in a toaster oven!
If you’ve pulled off any particularly impressive cooking conquests using just a toaster oven, we’d love to hear from you. Drop us a line in the comments section below or via our Facebook page!