Thermomix & Japanese Cooking

It’s been a few years since I brought a Thermomix into my kitchen and it would not be an understatement to say that it’s become my right-hand man (or woman?) of sorts. If my blog is anything, it should at least hopefully serve as a testament to how much more cooking a karate-doing, doll-collecting, craft-making, working mother of two can achieve thanks to a machine. The Thermomix has helped me to cook more things more often and IMHO it’s been worth its hefty price tag.

Thermomix & Japanese Cooking

As über helpful as it is though, I’m not adverse to identifying the shortcomings of the Thermomix and Japanese cooking is one area where you may as well not have one. While I’ve discovered a stellar collection of recipes for various other cuisines on the net, there was a relative dearth of Japanese recipes for the Thermomix. Even a quick Google search in Japanese for recipes for the TMX only yielded Western style dishes posted by a small handful of Japanese bloggers. I did however find some really cool things that people have experimented with (such as making ‘tororo’, or yam paste) which I look forward to trying.

Thermomix & Japanese Cooking

From the Thermomix Japan website. A happy, German nuclear family poses with their old TM21. Will this sell the TMX to Japanese people?

Visiting the official Japanese Thermomix website was not terribly enlightening either and I’ll bet my bottom yen that it hasn’t been updated much since it was first uploaded, circa 2006. In fact, the machine most featured on the website is the TM21 and we all know that the current model is the TM31 (right?). Dare I say someone thought it would be a good idea to launch the Thermomix in Japan but clearly it wasn’t. It may actually be popular in commercial kitchens but a lack of domestic interest in the TMX means there’s not a lot of recipe sharing happening.

Thermomix may not be so popular in Japan for some cultural and logistical reasons. Firstly, most Japanese kitchens are relatively small with only one working bench area. The average microwave oven used in Japan is smaller than the Thermomix! Unless kitchen storage room is plentiful the TMX is a hulk of a machine to accommodate in a typical Japanese ‘LDK’ (flat or apartment).

Also, the amount of food the Thermomix produces is generous which is a bonus for most Western households and appetites but not so much in Japan. If you consider the risotto recipe in the Everyday Cookbook (which even I adjusted in Lettuce Risotto), it can easily feed eight adults. The same amount of risotto would freak out a Japanese family (typically of four or less people) of modest appetite. In a country where freshly bought and prepared fare daily is king, leftovers aren’t always welcomed.

Thermomix & Japanese Cooking

Kaiseki Ryori – The pinnacle of Japanese cuisine. Kaiseki consists of one small dish from each of the fundamental styles of Japanese cooking. We’ll see what of these the TMX can achieve!

Ultimately though, I believe the lack of Japanese recipes for the Thermomix is due to it not being particularly compatible with the fundamental styles of Japanese cooking. In short, the Thermomix doesn’t make life easier for the average Japanese home cook. In Australia (and elsewhere) it’s been touted as the machine that can replace all others but in Japan, where the bulk of cooking processes is generally done by hand, the Thermomix doesn’t replace much, if at all.

So let’s look at those fundamental styles and see whether the Thermomix can be of service or not:

  • grilled and pan-fried dishes (yakimono) such as Teriyaki Chicken, Ginger Pork etc.
    - Kinda. You can pan-fry some things in the TMX but the result is more moist than dry which doesn’t help with the glazing process for some dishes.
  • stewed/simmered/cooked/boiled dishes (nimono) such as Buta No Kakuni (simmered pork belly)
    - Kinda. The TMX tends to retain moisture in its bowl so reduction cooking is a little difficult, if not impossible for some dishes.
  • stir-fried dishes (itamemono) such as sauteed green beans.
    - Kinda. The TMX sautees well so some dishes are possible but things that need a long time to cook through may end up more moist than crisp.
  • steamed dishes (mushimono)
    - Varoma is a marvel at steaming, so YES!!
  • deep-fried dishes (agemono)
    - No. Just no.
  • soups (suimono ??? and shirumono)
    - Yes! Miso soup is easy to do in a TMX as with all other Japanese style broths.
  • pickled/salted vegetables (tsukemono)
    - Kinda. More for preparation perhaps.
  • dishes dressed with various kinds of sauce (aemono)
    - Yes. The TMX is the ace of sauce making after all.
  • vinegared dishes (su-no-mono ???)
    - Kinda. Again, more for preparation.

From this you can probably gather that the moisture retaining ability of the Thermomix isn’t actually a benefit where Japanese cooking is concerned. It’s perfect for sauce based dishes such as curries and pasta but for most part, a frying pan or saucepan just does the job better for most Japanese recipes. For everything else in the list above that a Thermomix might be useful for, you can well appreciate that a home cook in Japan can find other ways to do the same thing.

So is there any point in trying to cook Japanese food with the Thermomix? Therein lies a pretty cool challenge for me since I’ve always wanted to work with more Japanese ingredients and produce delicious food with it via the Thermomix. I’ll post any recipes I convert successfully here and should there be some Japanese or Japanese food cooking Thermomix users out there who could refute or support anything I’ve discussed here, it would be great to hear from you!

With that, I’ll move on to my first recipe.

9 Comments

  1. Blue Apocalypse October 23, 2012 Reply

    Great post Moni and I look forward to reading about your endeavours into Japanese cooking with a Thermomix! I feel the same way about Chinese/Vietnamese cooking. Sometimes I think that having a Thermomix would be cool but I don’t think I would actually use it that much because of the style of cooking that I do.

    Ai-Ling

    • Monica October 29, 2012 Reply

      Thanks Ai-Ling! It’s about the only drawback about the Thermomix if your main cuisine is Asian. I think some Chinese recipes would work but I certainly can’t imagine it being that useful for Vietnamese dishes. We’ll see what we can conjure up anyway for Japanese cooking :)

  2. Romi December 9, 2012 Reply

    Hi Monica! I came across your blog while following your link for congee from the recipe community, and I’m so glad to have found this blog! I’ve just put in an order for my TM and I’m super excited, but I am faced with the same conundrum as you with the lack of Japanese recipes (and yes I did the same as you-checked out the Japanese website only to find it pretty much useless and very outdated!). I love love love Japanese food (I’m originally from Japan too) and I was blindly hoping that my TM would miraculously whip me up all my fave Japanese dishes within minutes, but I guess what you’re saying makes a lot of sense. So I really look forward to seeing new recipes on your blog, but in the meantime I’ll be trying out some of your existing ones which look amazing, starting from the congee!

    • Monica December 12, 2012 Reply

      Hi there! So glad you stopped by and nice to meet you :) Yes, while the Thermomix makes a lot of cool things, there are just some world cuisines that don’t work that well with it. I think there’s a lot of potential with Varoma (like for Chawanmushi) but I guess we’ll have to see. Please let me know if you discover any fun Japanese recipes for the TMX. I am going to try some warabi mochi this week :D

  3. Katrina March 25, 2013 Reply

    Can I use my Australian tm31 in Japan?

    • Monica March 26, 2013 Reply

      Hi Katrina. I think you’ll need to do some research but my feeling is that you’ll need a transformer or voltage inverter to power something like a Thermomix in Japan. I don’t believe it handles multiple voltages unlike laptops and other appliances so you’ll end up frying it if you connect the TMX to power using just an adapter. If you’re moving there for more than a year it’s probably worth investing in a transformer as you’ll be able to use other appliances you might take over.

  4. shiori February 8, 2014 Reply

    HI Monica, i came upon your site while trying find on the internet whether i can use Thermomix to make kochi — the whole process (steam the sticky rice and knead it). If it does this, i am thinking of getting Thermomix. I saw that you make warabi mochi with it. So Thermomix can make mochi? i can’t find anything on this on the internet. Thanks so much!!!

    • Author
      Moni February 10, 2014 Reply

      Hello Shiori! Thanks for visiting. I had always been meaning to see if I can make regular mochi in the Thermomix and although I think it’s not possible, I will try. The Thermomix works/works best with ingredients that are either somewhat liquid or loose (grains, beans etc.) and mochi is basically neither of those :( I will try making ohagi first since it doesn’t have to be smooth and then move on to mochi. I’ll let you know what happens :)

  5. Meg Cherry in Tokyo March 23, 2014 Reply

    Hi – I have just brought my TM31 to Japan from Australia, and it doesn’t work!! I need to invest in a transformer, but when I went to buy one today, i was told I needed to know what the wattage of the machine was. The transformers are over Aus $200, so not a small investment to make if I want to use it for the next 2 years whilst we are posted here. I am not anticipating doing much Japanese food in it, but would be good to be able to still make my risottos and soups etc.

Comments: