MARNA ‘OTOSHIBUTA’ PIGGY STEAMER

Who can resist this face? The Otoshibuta is certain to be a timeless classic that deserves a spot in any kitchen.

It’s not every day when a cute, memorable design successfully intersects with functionality. Oftentimes, one or the other is sacrificed in the process; but when it works, the resulting product ends up in the public conscious almost effortlessly, not to mention prestigious shops like New York City’s MoMA Store. Such is the case with the Piggy Steamer Otoshibuta by the Japanese company MARNA. This best-selling silicone lid, with its pig shaped face and ears, not only looks adorable, but also adheres a long-standing style of simmering pot cooking.

Those unfamiliar with the MARNA name may instantly recognize its products, from fish-shaped sponges to standing rice scoops. The company, started in 1872, originally made brushes for the application of shoji (translucent paper) onto the quintessential Japanese sliding doors; in 1968, they pivoted to household items, and subsequently built a reputation as one of Japan’s most imaginative design houses. The Otoshibuta is a prime example, as its pun of a name suggests – otoshibuta literally means ‘drop (otoshi) lid (futa)’. But ‘futa’ (modified to ‘buta’ in compound words) also means ‘pig’. It’s this type of thinking that allowed this little piggy to be born.

While traditional Otoshibuta lids are made of wood, and MARNA’s version is of the silicone kind, the science behind its use in cooking is still the same. When making simmering dishes, such as stews, one places the lid (the diameter must be smaller than the pot) directly on top of the simmering liquid. This technique yields more concentrated steam and heat, while reducing large bubbles that can cause more delicate ingredients to break apart. According to US Sales Manager, Ms. Rika Tochinai, however, the lid is used more as a steam cover and microwave accessory in the US.

Microwave steaming is a great application for the product, but it is still at its best with dishes like pasta sauces. When resting the Otoshibuta on top of a simmering meat sauce, you can immediately tell the difference from using a typical cover. First, you can hear how the lid maintains a consistent heat  – the bubbling sounds like it’s evenly distributed under the lid. Second, you can keep an eye on how hot the liquid gets thanks to the nostrils of the Piggy, as that is from where the steam (and sometimes cooking liquid, as a comical nasal secretion) actually escapes. Finally, the lid also reduces the amount of splatter and mess.

It’s also the tiny design flourishes that truly make the Otoshibuta a cut above, and the winner of Good Design Award. For example, the ears function as handles, so you can easily raise the lid with your fingers, and the pliable silicon is easily washable by hand or in the dishwasher. But make sure to use it with simmering and steaming only; while silicone can withstand high, indirect heat, it will melt over a direct flame or hot surface.

Available in Pink or White, and in two sizes, you can find Otoshibuta at design stores, kitchen supplies stores, and online.  Soon enough, you’ll be collecting many of the other inventive items in the MARNA catalog, which include everything from Hedgehog Microbrush Sponges for those pesky grooves in cutting boards, to bottle-cleaning sponge Beans. And before you know it, the cute takeover of your home will be complete.

Microwave safe, this is an ideal steamer cover that adds ‘kawaii’ even to boring vegetables.
There’s no better indicator of how the cooking is going than what comes out the nose.
Silicone insulates, but doesn’t transfer heat, so you can pick up the lid by the ears at any time.

MARNA www.marna-inc.co.jp/en

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