Zaru are draining baskets typically made from woven bamboo and used to prepare and present food. Nowadays, the word is used to describe many different types of sieves, strainers and colanders. When choosing a colander, Akira recommends one made of stainless steel, as sturdy and practical items are best. It can be used inside a slightly larger stainless steel bowl to wash rice.
A multi-purpose strainer is useful for a variety of tasks, such as draining noodles and straining miso (fermented soy bean paste) or dashi (Japanese stock).
Akira considers a sieve to be an irreplaceable tool in the kitchen; it is particularly useful for pressing water out of tofu or sifting breadcrumbs.
Porous woven bamboo zaru are used not only to strain ingredients, but also as serving plates or trays for a variety of dishes. For example, the Japanese dish zaru soba, chilled buckwheat noodles, gets its name from the tradition of being served on a zaru.