Tuesday, May 30, 2006

breakfast & dinner

Today's breakfast and dinner were "wa", which stands for Japanese. Whenever you go out with friends and they ask you what you want to eat, they'll usually say, "wa, yo, chu". "Wa" is the shortened version of "washoku" and means as I said, Japanese, "Yo" is the shortened version of "yoshoku" and means Western food (Italian, French, etc.) and "chu" is the short version of "chuuka" and stands for Chinese food.

Well, I got this idea from Blue Lotus' post. What she did was open a can of fish and stick in under the broiler. That's what I did this morning for breakfast. One can of iwashi (sardine) (left) seasoned with shoyu (soy sauce) and one can of sanma (pacific saury) kabayaki (right).

Kabayaki is a style of cooking which is usually associated with eel, you may have heard of unagi kabayaki. The eel, in this case, the saury is split and broiled over charcoals and a thick sweetened soy sauce is used to coat the fish/eel, I guess you could say it is a kind of Japanese "barbecue".

I think I could of left it under the broiler a little longer because the iwashi didn't get very brown or crispy, but the sanma had a very nice roasted flavor, next time I'll know better!

I also made some akamiso-shiru (red soy bean paste soup). There are all kinds of miso all over Japan, the key is to find something you like. It is thought that akamiso speeds up metabolism.

Here's the shoga (ginger) that I mis-ordered. It is so sour! I think it was soaked with the ume (pickled plum).

Our rice is one cup of genmai (brown rice) and one cup of white plus a sprinkle of gokokumai (5-grain rice). I usually pour enough gokokumai to cover the bottom of the measuring cup (the one that comes with the rice cooker). After washing the rice, I just add the gokokumai--unwashed.

Some strawberries and sudachi-cha. Sudachi is a type of lime. It is mixed with kombu-cha (kelp tea), kind of an interesting combination of salty and sour.

Since we hardly (didn't) have any veggies with breakfast, I kind of went overboard with them for dinner...

From left to right counter-clockwise: wilted spinach with katsuobushi (shaved dried bonito), kinpira gobo (strips of burdock root and carrots cooked in sesame seed oil, shoyu (soy sauce), mirin (sweet rice wine), sugar and chili pepper), shiokombu (salted and seasoned kelp), ume (pickled plum), konnyaku (devil's tongue jelly seasoned with sesame seed oil, dashi-joyu (soy sauce mixed with stock) and chili pepper), and rice.

Wow, May has flown by and June is just around the corner...

halekulani scones


The Halekulani is a very upscale hotel in Waikiki, on the island of Oahu. There is no hustle or bustle in the lobby area, in fact it is VERY quiet there.

Although, I've never stayed here, I have had a chance to do a site inspection when I was working in the tour industry. And, for our first wedding anniversary, Satoshi and I had the chance to dine at their French restaurant, La Mer. On my recent trip back home, I was pleased to see this article in the Honolulu Starbulletin for the Halekulani's scone recipe, and couldn't wait to try it!

Halekulani Scones
1-1/2 cups flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
3 to 4 tablespoons unsalted butter (room temperature)
2/3 cup buttermilk
1/2 cup currants
1 egg, beaten
» Topping:
1/2 cup cream cheese
2 tablespoons sugar
1/2 cup sour cream
1 teaspoon lemon juice

Preheat oven to 380 to 400 degrees. Lightly grease a baking sheet.

Sift together flour, baking soda and salt. Blend in butter. Mix in buttermilk and currants.

Turn dough onto a generously floured surface. Roll to a thickness of 1/2 inch, then cut into 2- to 2-1/2 inch rounds. Place on baking sheet, about 2 inches apart. Brush tops with beaten egg. Bake 12 to 15 minutes, until golden brown.

Whip topping ingredients together until fluffy. Serve scones with topping and strawberry jam.

Makes 12 scones.

NOTE: I put 4 tablespoons of butter and since I wanted to use up my dried blueberries, I put 1/4 dried blueberries and 1/4 dried cranberries. Also, since I have never seen buttermilk here, I substituted it with plain yogurt. This mixture is VERY gooey, so be ready with LOTS of flour.

It came out light with a biscuit texture. And the cream topping has just the right amount of sweetness, so I didn't use any jam.

Enjoy!

Monday, May 29, 2006

hokkaido gourmet fair (part 2)

Remember I wrote about the Hokkaido Gourmet Fair held at a department store? (here) Well, on top of Satoshi's bento, I also bought some bagels made by Otaru Bagel. These bagels were interesting, gokokumai (5-grain) and earl grey.

These bagels were good and chewy. I particularly like the earl grey bagel. The bergamot oil from the bits of tea in the bagel were so fragrant and tasty.

I also got some herb tea from a company called Koyu-Seikatsu. I've bought this brand before when we travelled to Hokkaido. Their tea is certified Japanese organic and has many different herbs, one in particular is called Dokudami (Houttuynia cordata) I remember taking this tea while growing up, it was supposed to help with acne--but I think it is actually supposed to help you "go".

I was talking to the vendor at the kiosk and she was asking me if I had ever tried their tea. I told her, "yes" and she wanted to know if I had seen them at another fair that they had participated in Osaka. I told her, "no, I've bought your brand in Hokkaido". She was so thrilled that I remembered their brand that she gave me a free sachet of tea!

I guess it pays to be a foodie with a semi-photographic memory :)

Otaru Bagel
2-21-17 Shinko
Otaru, Hokkaido
Phone: 0134-51-3251

Koyu-Seikatsu
14-3 Kashiwagi
Kitami, Hokkaido
Phone: 0157-66-1201

Hope you had a great weekend.

Sunday, May 28, 2006

noix de coco

For Christmas, we went to a French restaurant called Noix de Coco, which I wrote about (here). Today, Satoshi's friend, Gen, wanted to eat french food, so we went to the same restaurant.

First course was "genetically engineered" (or so I thought because it boasted all these minerals and stuff to make you beautiful) soft boiled egg called "asuran" with red bell pepper mousse and tomato sauce.

Cantaloupe melon with shrimp salad.

Escargot.

Wagyu (Japanese beef) tartare (raw) with kamo eggplant.

Potage of the day = pumpkin

Fish of the day = suzuki (Japanese sea bass in a cream sauce with pink peppercorns

Filet with veggies and roast beef

A platter of assorted cheeses: clocwise, gueyere, camembert, garlic, epoisses and blue cheese

And for dessert a cheesecake encased inside of a vanilla mousse with lime essence.

We also had a bottle of Jackson Estate Riesling and a Shiraz (which I can't find on the internet, so I can't tell you the name of)

Everything was delicious, but I think Gen will stick to eating in the izakaya (Japanese bars), because he can smoke whenever he feels like it and the portions are a bit bigger.

Oh, and because we were the first 10 to make reservations for dinner we (I) got these cool herbs: clockwise: italian parsley, thyme and watercress (cresson)

Have a great week!

aramaki

The weather forecasted sunny/cloudy in the morning and rain in the afternoon. I got up early to make us breakfast bentos (boxed breakfast) of sato-joyu (soy sauce-sugar) coated spam, rolled egg, pickled ginger and ume (pickled plum), 5-grain rice mixed with genmai (brown rice), some shiokombu (salted seaweed) and sliced apple (I actually peeled the skins off and left it attached at one end, so that it wouldn't get too brown. In Japan, a lot of farms use lots of chemicals to produce "perfect" fruits & vegetables, so we usually don't eat the skins.)

About 3 stations away in between of the Yamamoto and Nakayama stations is the Aramaki Rose Garden.

This garden is 1.7 hectares (about 4 acres) and boasts 10,000 stems with about 250 different varieties of roses and the best part is it is FREE!! (Not many things are free in Japan!) They weren't lying...We were speechless when we arrived at this garden.

There were so many roses (some blooms as big as our hands!) and at the time we arrived, hardly any people.

We quickly grabbed a bench and enjoyed our breakfast amongst the fragrant rose blooms. After breakfast, we leisurely strolled around the park. And as we were leaving we noticed that the crowd had picked up--I think there were actually tour buses dropping people off! Their website says that they will be open in the autumn for the autumn blooms so we're looking forward to checking this garden out again.

We then made our way back to Minoo and went to a place called Mensho Hanamichi. This shop serves ramen. Ramen is a chinese style noodle in hot soup. There are about 4 different types of soup bases (that I know of)--shoyu (soy sauce), tonkotsu (simmered pork bones and root veggies), shio (salt) and miso (soy bean paste).

I ordered something different, it is called the kenbi-tomato-miso. Kenbi is not a Japanese word but just two chinese characters playfully put together to mean healthy and beautiful.

This ramen boasts high collagen (from the pork) and lycopene from the tomato paste mixed in the tonkotsu soup. Diced tomato, lettuce and a hanjuku (half cooked) hard boiled egg garnished the top. It was very good. Not too salty, I think the tomato sauce balances the saltiness. The gyoza (pot stickers) in the background were Satoshi's--although I had one :)

Hope you are enjoying your weekend.

Aramaki Rose Garden
6-5-50 Aramaki
Itami, Hyogo
Phone: 072-779-8935

Mensho Hanamichi
3-1-13 Segawa, Grandia Kashima 1F
Minoo, Osaka
Phone: 072-725-8112

Friday, May 26, 2006

clouds, rain, vosges

We are nearing the rainy season here (I think I saw that Kyushu entered their rainy season today). Today's weather forecast was cloudy in the morning and rain in the afternoon. This usually means from 6am-12pm it will be cloudy and from 12pm-6pm it will be rainy. I had some errands to run, so I wanted to try to be back before 12 noon. (You definitely want to check the forecasts before leaving your house especially during the rainy season!)

Luckily, I was almost home when it started to drizzle at about noon (I am amazed at how they can pinpoint the weather almost to the minutes!)

My afternoon snack were a couple of squares of Vosges' Red Fire Bar and coffee. This bar is a 55% cacao dark chocolate with Mexican ancho and chipotle peppers with Ceylon cinnamon. The first thing you notice as you put a piece onto your tongue is the cinnamon. There is a lot of cinnamon in this bar. As the bar begins to melt, a fiery kick comes from the ancho and chipotle, almost enough to make you cough a little from the punch! 2 squares was just the right amount.

Satoshi has to work tomorrow, and I have a lesson, plus I think it will be a rainy weekend....since we won't be able to galavant around much, hopefully we'll have some nice foodie experiences.

Have a nice weekend!

Thursday, May 25, 2006

crochet & other stuff

Today was my crochet class. These are my last projects. Starting in two weeks, I'll begin a bead stitch class. Bead stitch has been popular in the U.S. for some time now and is only starting to pick up in Japan. This frilly necklace was the last project needed in order to receive a certificate which allows you to teach bead crochet.

This other project was made by fusing all the loose silver wire that gets leftover after making projects (you can't throw anything away when using sterling silver wire!) to make a long wire. Then, with a perfectly good wire and semi-precious beads and pearls, crocheting the two together to make this necklace.

The retro look is coming back in style here. A company in Kyoto called Pagong makes these cute tank tops, camisoles and aloha shirts with traditional yuzen prints. Yuzen is a style of dyeing for kimono--the traditional Japanese dress.


At a department store, they were having a Hokkaido Gourmet Fair. This is when the department store brings in vendors from Hokkaido to sell their wares--mostly food items. Since Hokkaido is often known for their seafood, Satoshi was drawn to this bento. Look at all that seafood! Not bad for $16, huh?

Recently, the Candied Quince sent me her recipe for Lavender Pound Cake. I finally got all the ingredients together and tried it this morning...can I just say, that I really need MORE counterspace and a really BIG mixer (like a KitchenAid, maybe?)

Plus, I should have cut the recipe in half (I had originally envisioned baking them in muffin cups, but at the last moment put the batter into my one and only loaf pan--since I don't own a bundt/tube pan)...The aroma while baking was heavenly!

We had a couple slices for breakfast and it was great! (Thanks for sharing, Tania!)

Lavender Pound Cake
Adapted from:
The Herbal Kitchen: Cooking with Fragrance and Flavor by Jerry Traunfeld

2 tbsp lavender buds, fresh or dried
2 ½ cups sugar, preferably superfine
1 ½ cups butter (3 sticks)
1 tsp vanilla extract
½ tsp fine salt
5 large eggs, at room temperature
3 cups all-purpose flour, sifted
¾ cup sour cream

Preheat oven to 350F. Heavily butter a 10-inch tube pan, coat it with flour, and knock out the excess. Whirl the lavender and ¼ cup of the sugar in a spice grinder, mini food processor, or blender until very finely ground.

Put the butter, the remaining 2 ¼ cups sugar, the lavender sugar, vanilla, and salt in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle. Turn to medium high and beat for 4 minutes. Scrape down the sides of the bowl and beat another minute. It will be fluffy and nearly white. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating the batter well before adding another. Alternately add the flour and sour cream (1/3 of the flour, ½ the sour cream, another 1/3 of the flour, the rest of the sour cream, and finally the remaining flour), beating each addition into the batter completely before you add the next. Scrape down the sides of the bowl a couple of times during the whole process.

Scoop the batter into the prepared pan as evenly as you can and gently whack the pan on the counter a couple of times to expel air pockets. Bake the cake for 1 hour 20 minutes to 1 hour 35 minutes, or until it is golden brown and springs back when pressed, and a wooden skewer emerges dry after being inserted into the center. Let the cake cool in the pan on a rack for about 15 minutes, then turn it out onto the rack. Once it’s completely cool, wrap it tightly in plastic wrap. It will be best the second day and still moist after about 4 days.

Makes 16 to 20 slices.

Enjoy!
Hang in there, one more day until the weekend!

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

movies & pizza


One thing about living in Japan, is that you don't always get to see the latest movies at the time they are showing in the U.S. (Plus, movies cost about $18 per person to see! although, they do have a thing called "Ladies Day" when ladies pay only $10, so if anything that's the best time to see a movie)

I had been wanting to see this movie, because I enjoy drinking wine. Unfortunately though, I don't know a lot about wine and it never showed here in Japan. Luckily, my Aunty had a copy of the movie (I think it may be my cousin, Dawn's copy) and let me borrow it.

The movie, Sideways (photo by Amazon.com) was a very nice story about Miles and Jack on a trip to California wine country before Jack's wedding. There was a lot of talk about wine, but also some soul searching for the two of them--mostly for Miles. I loved the atmosphere of wine country and would definitely like to visit there someday.

Today, Satoshi had the day off, so we went to see the Da Vinci code (photo by Random House). I have seen the book in bookstores, and heard a lot about it on television, but haven't read it. I don't want to give anything away, but this movie keeps you on the edge until the very end. (By the way, today was Ladies Day, so my admission was $10, while Satoshi's was $18.)

Dinner was pizza. Remember those oven roasted veggies that I made last night? Yesterday, I had also bought some pre-made pizza dough (like the Boboli brand), threw on some pre-made tomato pasta sauce, put the roasted veggies on and grated some mozzarella. Our oven has a "pizza button"--which when pressed, pre-calculates the amount of cooking time and cooks it. The crust was very crispy while the pizza was chewy...ah, comfort food.

Tomorrow is crochet class, hopefully I can finish the project I'm working on, so I can post about it.

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

chinese-italian-spanish-japanese

Today it rained for most of the day. Luckily, I made it to the grocery store and back before the rain really came down!

Tonight's dinner was a mixture--Italian-seasoned roasted veggie salad, yaki gyoza (chinese fried pot stickers) and genmai (brown rice) with gokokumai (5 different grains). There is a grain in there, kurogome (black rice) that usually turns the rice a purplish color, so don't worry, I didn't burn the rice :)

Gyoza is Satoshi's favorite food. Ask him what he wants for dinner and he will always mouth "g-y-o-z-a". The bottoms of the gyoza usually have this cripy crunch (from sticking to the pan/pot) to it and the tops are soft and usually juicy. The dipping sauce is very easy to make, a little vinegar, a little shoyu (soy sauce) and drops of rayu (a chinese chili pepper oil made from sesame seed oil and chili peppers).

Dessert were a couple of squares of Vosges' Barcelona bar. Although I'm a dark chocolate fan, this bar is actually 40% cacao milk chocolate with smoked almonds, and gray sea salt and very addicting! The sweetness of the milk chocolate goes really well with the gray salt and there is a hint of caramel in the chocolate. I've been noticing a lot of "dark milk chocolates" lately and aren't quite sure what that means.

In March, while in Okinawa, my mother-in-law bought me these pair of geta. Geta are the traditional footwear in Japan. Now, they are usually worn during the summer months. These geta are a bit different because you don't have to balance too much to walk. I like the sound of the geta as it hits the pavement. It has a clopping kind of sound to it. I wore them in Hawaii and have been wearing them here...summer is almost here! I will warn you in advance that I do not enjoy summers in Japan. It is very humid and very miserable. People often tell me, "but you are from Hawaii". And I say, "Yes, but if it is humid, it usually means that it will rain. And once it rains, it usually cools down."

If you have ever visited Thailand, you will understand what the Japan summers are like. Anyway, more on this later...

Hope you are having a nice week.

Monday, May 22, 2006

fried egg salad don



Tonight, I had a last minute lesson, so by the time I came home it was almost 8pm. I wanted something, quick and easy for dinner. I was inspired by La tartine gourmande's blog post about having a meal in one dish and Messy Cucina's blog post about having fried egg sandwiches. I decided that my dinner tonight would be a fried egg salad-don. Don is short for donburi which means "deep bowl". I put some rice at the bottom, then put some lettuce, diced red pepper and carrots and topped it with a fried egg.

I also made a simple dressing which I got from the February 2006 issue of "Healthy Cooking"

4 tablespoons olive oil
2 teaspoons balsamic vinegar
1/4 teaspoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
pinch of salt
freshly ground pepper


And how cute is this dog? He/She always waits like this. Kind of reminds me of a drive-thru, waiting to take an order or of a prisoner in jail, wanting to get out. I had to take the photo from aways back so that he/she wouldn't bark at me.

Hope you're having a great day!

takarazuka

Yesterday, we went back to Takarazuka to check out their botanical garden, Takarazuka Garden Fields. They were having a rose festival, but didn't have too many roses. Luckily, there were other things to look at.

Like these pretty lotus flowers (hasu no hana)

And these lavender outside the garden.

And these interesting "balls of thread"-like flowers. The tag said "clematis", but when I surfed the net for info, there weren't any that looked like this, so I figured that maybe this is how they look after they bloom and the petals fall off....

Lunch was at a sandwich shop called, Sandwich Lehmans. We like this shop because you can order an assortment of sandwiches. Sandwiches in Japan usually have their crusts cut off, and you will rarely see wheat bread. This shop is near the Takarazuka Theatre.

The Takarazuka theatrical company are a group of women who perform various musicals--they play the mens roles and the womens roles. All of the performers are graduates from the Takarazuka School of Music, which is a very elite school. While we had our lunch, there were a couple of actresses sitting next to us, and a lot of groupies too!

Summer is just around the corner, the temperature went up to 28C (82F).

Sandwich Lehmans
1-6 Sakaemachi, Hananomichi #2 Bldg. 2F
Takarazuka, Hyogo
Phone: 0797-85-1200

Have a great week!

Saturday, May 20, 2006

umeda

Today, after my lesson, I met Satoshi in Umeda. Umeda is about 20 minutes by train from our place, Ishibashi. After waiting about an hour for a table, we had lunch at a buffet. It was supposed to be an Okinawan type buffet, but I was a bit disappointed with the kinds of foods that were served. Satoshi on the other hand, ate 3 servings.

After lunch, we went to a little shop called, Kokoroniamai Anpanya. This shop sells all kinds of anpan. Anpan are sweet bean paste covered with a sweet bread type dough, then baked. This shop had some unique anpan.

One was the kinakomochi anpan a whole kinako (powdered soy bean) mochi (rice cake) enveloped in the sweet bread dough.

Another one was the sakusaku anpan. Sakusaku is the onomatoepoetic sound for crispiness. The inside is the sweet bean paste, but the outside was a flaky crust. This one reminded me of the pie crust manju that we have in Hawaii.

Some of you have asked me how crowded Osaka is...here are some photos of a "mild" crowd, I've been in worse crowds.

After our late lunch and anpan shopping, we walked around Umeda a bit then got on the train to go to the end of our line--Takarazuka. They have a park where dogs can have their owners pay admission, so that they (the dogs) can run around. They call this park a "dog run park" (pretty obvious, yeah?) We were amazed at how big this poodle was!

Kokoroniamai Anpanya
9-24 Kakuda-cho (located in the Shinumedashokudogai)
Kita-ku, Osaka
Phone: 06-6312-9790