[From March Issue 2014]
Aichi Dobby. Ltd.
“Vermicular,” an enamel pot developed to cook without using a single drop of water, has become a hot topic. If ingredients such as meat, potatoes, onions, carrots, and a roux are placed into the pot and cooked over a low heat, a delicious curry is produced in approximately one hour. Though it’s been three years and six months since it was launched on the market, it is still a popular item; it takes eight months to arrive after an order is placed.
Vermicular is manufactured by a small factory in Nagoya City, Aichi Prefecture called Aichi Dobby. Ltd. (Executive President, HIJIKATA Kunihiro). The company has the knowhow to cast and precision process iron. Originally the company made machine parts, but it was decided that “by combining these two processes, it will be possible to produce pots that haven’t existed in the world till now.” With this in mind, development work got underway.
The pot can cook without water because there is no gap between the body of the pot and its lid. “When you close the lid on pots produced by other companies, they rattle up and down, but since the point of contact between the Vermicular’s pot and lid is processed precisely, it does not move at all. When you seal it, you do not need water because the moisture emitted from the ingredients turns into steam that stays inside,” explains HIJIKATA Tomoharu, vice president and head of development.
“We had to manufacture it precisely in order to make it as airtight as possible. However, the casting used to make pots is very thin, so it warps no matter what. In addition, cast iron will warp at high temperatures of 800° heat when the body is painted with enamel. In this way, it was a huge effort balancing techniques of applying enamel with techniques to improve the seal,” he says, looking back to the developmental stage.
“The pot was designed to effectively transmit heat to ingredients from the heat source, with the idea in mind of producing ‘a pot designed to bring out the essential taste of ingredients.’ For example the ridged surface on the bottom of the pot does not stress the ingredients and distributes heat evenly. That is why this pot can bring out a sweetness in ingredients that other companies’ pots cannot,” Hijikata says, describing the Vermicular’s features.
Emails and telephone calls from surprised customers arrive almost every day saying, “In any case, vegetables are tastier,” “It is the first time I was able to cook so well,” “I did not know that the taste of ingredients could be so rich,” “Up until now I’ve hated carrots but now I can eat them,” and “Now artificial flavoring leaves a bad taste in my mouth.”
Approximately 80,000 pots have been shipped and the Vermicular has become the company’s main product, accounting for 80% of sales. Hijikata says that the appeal of the product lies in the fact that it “reflects the craftsmanship that is only possible with Made in Japan products.” Talking about his dreams for the future, he says that from now on, “so that customers from around the world can enjoy it, I want to develop a product that adapts itself to the eating habits and the lifestyles of various countries.”
Text: ITO Koichi