Monday, June 30, 2008

around the neighborhood

Friday I had an errand in Ikeda, it was a sunny day, actually it was super humid, but still sunny, so I decided to walk back from Ikeda to Ishibashi (where we live).

The walk usually takes me 30 minutes if I don't stop along the way.

But it was so hot that I stopped here and there along the way and 30 minutes turned into 2 hours.

One of the places that I stopped at was Suigetsu Park.

There were many dragonfly about. In Okinawa, I heard that when the dragonflies swarm about, a storm is approaching. I don't think there were too many to be a sign of a storm coming, but I was excited to capture some with my camera (I guess that is why it turned out to be 2 hours...)

Anyway, there was the akatombo (red dragonfly)(photo up top). It actually came close enough for me to get a good shot of it with my macro lens on.

These blue ones are called shiokaratombo. Actually I didn't realize this, but dragonflies are kinda huge! and have scary eyes.

And then I saw this one, a black and yellow one, I think it is called oniyanma.

The zakuro (pomegranate) have started to flower and begin to produce their fruit. I didn't know that the flower turns into a hard flower and then forms into the fruit.

And oniazami (thistle), you can see these huge thorny plants (weeds?) all over the place. Definitely bigger than the ones I've seen in Hawaii.

At night you can hear the frogs croaking in the rice fields. I think in a couple of weeks the semi(cicada) will start their chirping.

Sunday, June 29, 2008


Remember when I was in Hawaii, I couldn't find "short" sized drinks because it wasn't on their menu? Then reader, Whitney pointed out that they do have "short" you just have to ask for it.

Well, recently the Starbucks here came out with a Dark Mocha Frappucino. It tasted like a rich fudgesicle. I had forgotten about being able to order a "short" and unconciously ordered the "tall" which is noted on their menu. But the "tall" is too much, it gets boring half-way through.

Then, I saw people walking around with "short" frappucinos and made a note that the next time I wanted one I would order a "short".

I was surprised.

Usually the Japanese barista along with all store workers in other shops like the beauty parlor, restaurants--yell out everything. Actually it is kind of embarassing when you go into a place alone, they yell to everyone in the restaurant..."table for 1". Even when they drop something on the floor and it makes a ruckus, they yell "sorry for the disturbance". At the beauty salon, when you are done coloring or cutting your hair and need to walk over to the sink to be washed, they yell "O-tsukaresama" (you worked so hard!) Or when I was in a library-like atmosphere bookstore the other week, I quietly asked if they had a restroom and the clerk yelled out, "no we don't have a restroom here". All in all, they feel this is customer service but I think it is just unnecessary jabber and unnecessary embarassment for me.

Anyway, I was surprised, because when I ordered the "short" frappucino which isn't noted on the menu, they whispered it to the barista. Like it was a sin to order something so small.

I guess there are just some things in this country I won't understand.

Hope you have a good week.

Saturday, June 28, 2008

easy dinner

I have a cookbook that gives variations of their recipes. Last year, I tried their recipe for Celery dressed with kim chee which was paired with a yakiniku bowl topped with oroshi daikon (grated daikon).

The other day, I made the same salad but with a miso flavored yakiniku bowl.

Serves 2 : from Orange Page "Natsu ni Oishi kondate"

200g sirloin, thinly sliced
150g kabocha (pumpkin) : about 1/8 of a kabocha
1 teaspoon butter
1/2 tablespoon sesame oil
400g rice

1 teaspoon sesame seed
1/2 tablespoon grated garlic
1/2 tablespoon grated ginger
1/2 tablespoon miso (preferably akamiso (red miso))
1/2 tablespoon mirin (sweet rice wine)
1/2 tablespoon sake (rice wine)
1 teaspoon sugar
1/4 teaspoon tobanjan (chili paste)
1/4 teaspoon oyster sauce

Cut kabocha to about 5mm thin slices.
Cut meat into bite sized pieces.
Put ingredients for sauce into a bowl and mix well.

Heat pan and put in butter, "fry" kabocha until a toothpick goes through smoothly.
Take kabocha out and put in sesame oil.

Cook meat in oil, when it turns color, add the sauce.
After all the meat is coated well with the sauce, put rice into bowls, add meat and kabocha.

Serve with kim chee celery salad.


p.s. there is another miso recipe that I love during the summer because it uses fresh corn.

Friday, June 27, 2008


There have been some macarons in the past couple of weeks. Not all good, but mostly good.

The ones I got from my student were from Angelique Chiba. Citron, Caramel & Pistachio. A bit too airy, but still delicious.

She also gave me these from Palet d'Or. I had tried macaron from Palet d'Or before, but these flavors were different--chocolat, pistachio, orange, framboise & coconut. These were more like a cookie. (Thank you Yoshimi!)

I was reading something on Wikipedia which said that the traditional macaron is more cookie-like and the more modern macaron is the chewy type.

And then there were the disaster macaron from Cuore. I had seen these macaron in a Kyoto department store, but found out that their main shop was in Umeda, so I went to Umeda to buy them. Looks nice in the box, right?

Well, the guy who packed them put in an ice packet which started to melt by the time I came home.

Water in the box means the water directly touched the macaron, it was all smushy and gross (insert pouty face).

I immediately called the store to tell them they should change their ice packs to a dry type. I also emailed their head office. Surprisingly they emailed back apologizing. The earl grey macaron was pretty disappointing, it had tea on top and was really bitter with no tea flavor at all.

The outside of the macaron was crisp, but the insides kind of smushy. I don't think I'll be going back here.

I guess 2 out of 3 isn't too bad...hope you all have a great weekend.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

tako salad

The first time I tried this recipe, the salad looked nice, but didn't taste good. It was really bitter.

The original recipe calls for watercress, shiso (perilla)(10 leaves) and boiled tako (octopus)--about 1 leg. The dressing is just lemon juice and some oil.

So, I changed the recipe and I think this version is better.

The day I wanted to make this, the supermarket had no watercress, so I subbed it with rocket/arugula. For the dressing, I used the bi bim kook soo sauce. Cut and toss.

Doesn't look as nice as the first photo, but sure does taste better.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

they aren't the same size

On the news a couple of weeks ago, I heard that the people raising chickens in Japan were having a hard time because the cost of feed was rising too quickly for them to be able to afford it. Some have resorted to feeding their chickens rice instead of corn.( I wonder what the yolks will look like?)

I'm not sure if this has anything to do with what has been going on at the supermarkets, but recently I bought a pack of eggs. It was cheaper than the usual L (large) pack I buy--198 yen (about US$1.98) for 10 eggs.

When I took a closer look, the label said iroiro saizu (various sizes)--188 yen for (about US$1.88).

I'll keep buying these to save some cash. I wish they would do this for their veggies and fruit (everything is perfect and straight), then I could save even more.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

carrot cupcakes

Last year we had some of Satoshi's staff over. Since he has a large department, we broke the group down to about 10 per gathering.

Sunday, we had some of Satoshi's staff over for lunch. I made Spicy Poke, Taco Dip, Szechuan salt & pepper shrimp and Kim chee gyoza, but we ran out of food!

For dessert, I also made carrot cupcakes using a Food Network recipe, I'll have to tweak the baking time though, the cupcakes came out quite dry.

I guess for the next party in two weeks, I need to add another dish or two.

Monday, June 23, 2008


It has been almost a month since my "almost everyday" lunch pick up bakery went out of business. I've been buying bento(boxed food) for lunch.

There was the chicken soboro bento--399 yen (about US$3.99). Chicken soboro means ground chicken. The ground chicken is seasoned with shoyu (soy sauce), mirin (sweet rice wine) and sugar.

Haigamai bento--399 yen (about US $3.99). Haigamai as I understand is the brown rice with the germ taken off. I think this is the step before it turns to white rice. There was also nishime, a piece of fried chicken & konnyaku with aburage.

Omurice (omlette rice)--398 yen (about US$3.98)--the inside of this omlette has ketchup seasoned rice and bits of chicken. There was way too much ketchup around the omurice.

Chili dog--sorry forgot how much it cost. I liked this one because the bread was crisp on the outside, chewy on the inside and the chili was spicy.

Sometimes when I have rice sitting in the rice warmer, I buy some okazu (side dishes). This day, I bought some togan ebi ankake (wintermelon with shrimp and thick sauce), yakinasu no pirikara ohitashi (chilled grilled spicy eggplant), su-buta (sweet sour pork) and some yakisoba (fried noodles)--293 yen (US$2.93).

Yakisoba (fried noodles)--180 yen (about US$1.80), I prefer my yakisoba a bit crispy, with thin noodles, this version was dry and the noodles were fat.

What do you usually eat for lunch?

Sunday, June 22, 2008

rainy foodie friday in kyoto

It was a rainy Friday in Kyoto, actually all over the Kansai area, or maybe the whole of Japan...

Anyway, my friend, Tamakikat, was in some need for some sweets, so she emailed me to join her.

Always willing to help someone tame their sweet tooth, I met her in Kyoto.

Lunch was at a Vietnamese restaurant, Tiem an Huong Viet, that was featured in a foodie magazine. (actually the picture in the magazine was so delicious looking, I was a bit disappointed that the dish was no longer on their menu...insert pouty face.)

Their items on their lunch menu during the week costs only 1000 yen (about US$10), but the prices go up on the weekend, so watch out--you get the same portions as the weekday.

I ordered the Bun Cha Hanoi. This came with fried spring rolls in a sweet/sour soup. The noodles came separately and were chewy. I dipped the noodles into the soup and really enjoyed this dish.

Lunch also came with a little dessert (caramel gelatin with milk) and a shot of vietnamese coffee.

After lunch, we walked around in the rain and did a lot of window shopping, and popping into stores when the rain got bad.

We decided to stop for cake and coffee at a relatively new place, Patisserie M.S.H. This shop was also featured in the same foodie magazine. I really liked the home-iness of the cafe area.

I could see myself having barbecue parties out in their terrace area. Actually, I think I was happy just to see grass, no one really has grass in their gardens here...

I ordered two cakes (oink oink)...the green tea (399 yen ) and the caramel chocolate (493 yen).

The green tea flavor was strong and when Tamakikat tasted it she said, "this is what Kyoto tastes like". I think it did too.

The caramel chocolate was rich, maybe a bit too rich. But both went nicely with a hot cup of cappucino.

Despite the rain, it was a nice day filled with good company and good food.

Hope you are having a great weekend!

Tiem An Huong Viet
Oshikoji Higashitoin Nishi Hairu 118
Nakagyo, Kyoto
Phone: 075.253.1828
Open 12:00-14:00, 18:00-21:30
Closed Tuesdays

Patisserie M.S.H.
Oshikoji Fuyamachi Nishi Hairu Tachibanamachi 630
Nakagyo, Kyoto
Phone: 075.212.5388
Open 11:00-20:00
Closed Thursdays

Saturday, June 21, 2008

bacon + dark chocolate

Actually I had this post in draft mode for awhile. Better late than never posting it.

After trying this bar, I was determined to try making a dark version.

With one piece of bacon, I made two mediants--just melted some 60% dark chocolate chips, sprinkled the bacon and then poured the melted chocolate onto parchment paper, then let it chill.

I think I need to tweak it a bit more, needs more saltiness.

Still a great combination though and my version had more bacon.

Friday, June 20, 2008

kim chee corn fritters

I had never had a corn fritter, have you? But when I saw them here, here & here, I knew I should try making some.

The issue of Donna Hay that I have just so happened to have the recipe for corn fritters.

It was weird, the image I had of making them wasn't at all like the recipe.

In fact, I didn't have some of the ingredients. (insert pouty face) I hate when that happens. So, I ad-libbed.

Makes 10 fritters or so : adapted from Donna Hay magazine issue 29
1/2 cup all purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon oil (I used rice)
1/2 cup water
1 egg
2 tablespoons canned corn
50 grams kim chee
1/2 bell pepper, chopped (1/4 if you have the big bell peppers)
1/4 onion, chopped
rice oil to fry

Mix the flour, baking powder, oil, water and egg together.
Add the corn, kim chee, bell pepper and onion to the mixture.
Mix well.
Heat a non-stick pan on low and put some oil in to lightly fry (about 1 tablespoon)
Using a serving spoon drop a spoonful of batter onto the pan and cook like pancakes.
Take off heat and put onto paper towel to drain oil.

Serve with salad and some bi bim kook soo sauce.

NOTES: This was good, but the next time I buy milk and some butter, I'm trying this recipe again.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

le ba-ta-clan

I read about this shop in my television guide. This cafe not only serves meals during the day, drinks at night, but also serves macarons during tea time.

The macarons reminded me of PH (Pierre Herme), and after reading up about the patissier, Marc Glaisse, I knew why. He studied with Laduree and Gerald Mulot in Paris and also worked under PH in Tokyo. These macs are good!

I bought the 13 mac set, this had one of each flavor (12) plus an extra mac--2730 yen (about US$27.30)
Each was chewy and delicious. Flavors were strong and distinct. There have been some macs that I have tasted in which you couldn't pick out what flavor it was supposed to be.

There was lime shiso (perilla)(light green), lemon cheesecake (white), raspberry (red) & passion fruit (yellow). The lime shiso started off tart like lime then the shiso flavor ever so discreetly appeared...different but delicious. Lemon cheesecake was creamy with a hint of lemon. The passion fruit had actual seeds in the cream!

Earl grey (light brown), yuzu (yellow), orange (mustard yellow) & Tiramisu (beige with cocoa dusting). The earl grey had bits of tea in the shell. Yuzu was tart and citrusy. Orange was the only one that didn't taste like orange. The tirimisu had a chunk of coffee ganache in the center.

Matcha (dark green), bitter chocolat (dark brown), cassis violette (purple) & caramel chocolate (light brown).

Matcha was bitter but that is how matcha is supposed to be. The bitter chocolat ganache was a very high quality dark chocolate. Cassis violette reminded me of raspberry but without the seeds. And the caramel chocolate had a bit of saltiness to it but in a delicious way.

My favorites were....all of them! I think if I have cravings for PH macarons, I'm going here, closer than going all the way to Tokyo/Paris.

Le Ba-ta-clan
Mint Kobe 2F
Phone: 078.231.3622
Open 9:00-23:00
(UPDATE: as of 1/11/2010, the chef that makes the macaron has opened his own shop, so this shop no longer sells macaron.)

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

bi bim bap

Yesterday I met my friend Kathy at Takatsuki. She lives in Ibaraki and teaches English at a University nearby.

After lunch and some window shopping, we were browsing around the Takatsuki shopping arcade.

I came across a kim chee shop that I had been looking for. The shop was featured in a foodie magazine and every time I've gone to Takatsuki I had been looking for it.

I didn't realize this, but you can also eat inside. They serve bi bim ba, buta kim chee (pork kim chee), chijimi (pajeon) and many other dishes. (will have to go back to try them!!)

They sell a bi bim ba veggie set. I bought one of the sets (400 yen--about US$4) and decided to make bi bim bap with it. The set comes with spinach, mung beans, zenmai (flowering fern/osmunda) and daikon (long white radish) namul.

I put some of the veggies onto some rice, added a little kim chee and corn, topped it with a sunny side up egg and some bi bim kook soo sauce.

Kind of mixed up Korean style food, but this was a great dinner with almost no cooking involved.

Fuji Kim Chee
16-19 Takatsuki-machi
Takatsuki, Osaka
Phone: 072.683.5129
Open 10:00-19:30 Closed on the 3rd Sunday

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

dusting off the resume (for a day)

Last Friday night I got a call from Kazumi, her son's friend's sister was in a bind. The interpreter that was scheduled for a job cancelled at the last minute, so would I be willing to work?

Me? An interpreter? I get nervous speaking in front of people, let alone having to translate what the person is saying.

This job was easy (so she said), a make-up artist from France was coming and they needed someone to translate what he was saying to the customer and staff and what the customer and staff was saying to him.

There are so many technical words when dealing with cosmetics or any subject for that matter. But, when someone says that they need my help, something jumps out at me, and I'm always willing to oblige.

So, yesterday, I reported for work in Kobe. The make-up artist, G.H. works for a big french cosmetics company, G. He's done many model's make-up as well as the make-up for the Opera de Paris.

He was a nice guy, we chatted when we had free time, had lunch together and also took our breaks together. I think he enjoyed the company, just to be able to talk about stuff he wanted to talk about, as he travels around the world doing makeovers for most of the year. (I wish I spoke French or German as those were his stronger languages.)

The day went by quickly, he corrected my make-up several times during the lulls and got LOTS of samples. (I think if you are looking for a husband, you may want to get a make-up artist, girls, he'll make sure you look good all the time, plus, he wasn't gay either (not that being gay is a bad thing)--G.H. is available for those of you looking!!)

The job was only for one day, but it was fun and luckily it was easy. He says that the next time he comes to Osaka/Kobe to work, he's asking for me to help him.

Monday, June 16, 2008


This year's rakkyo came out good. I still would like it to be a bit sweeter, but Satoshi says he likes it.

Last year's rakkyo recipe was this one.

This year's rakkyo recipe was this:
1 kg rakkyo, cleaned and rinsed
50g salt

Put your rakkyo and salt into a container and let sit in a container for 1 day with something heavy (about 1 kg) on it.

Then take the weight off and let sit for 2 or 3 days, mixing every so often.

Make the sauce:
200 ml vinegar
400 ml water
200g sugar
2 or 3 chili pepper

Bring everything to a boil then let cool.

After the 3 days, rinse the rakkyo once and try to make sure that most of the water is drained well.
Add the cooled sauce and put into the refrigerator for about 15 days.
After the 15 days, it is ready to eat.


NOTE: actually if you don't want to make the sauce you can eat the salted rakkyo as is.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

osaka international airport

It is Sunday, it is also Father's Day. Happy Father's Day to all of you. Hope you get to do something you'd like to do today.

Satoshi had Thursday and Friday off, so he worked yesterday, is working today and won't be off until next Saturday. We went to stay with his mom on Thursday and Friday, to help out with the preparations for the 100-day service coming up at the end of the month. I think she was happy just to have us around.

On a lazy weekend, what better thing to do then to head to the airport.

The Osaka International Airport is located about 10 minutes by train or 40 minutes on foot or 5 minutes by car from where we live.

When I studied in Japan (some many moons ago), this was the airport I flew in and out of.

The international flights stopped when the Kansai International Airport was built in 1994 and now, only domestic flights come and go through Osaka International Airport, or Itami airport as some call it.

With the loss of business after the international flights stopped, the airport has gone under major renovations to improve their appearance and have put in several shops and restaurants to lure people, "to just hang out at the airport".

There is a huge observation deck up top, on the weekday that we were there, there were many people (though you can't see them) eating their breakfast, having some coffee or just relaxing (maybe daydreaming of going on vacation?).

I was surprised how neat they line everything up down below.

Another thing that surprised me was the workers bowing and waving "goodbye" to the planes.

Usually for our summer vacations, we use our miles for a domestic trip, or go abroad, but with the continuing rise in gas/oil prices and food items, we are looking into using the trains for our summer vacation this year.

What are you planning to do this Summer?

Hope you have a great week, my week looks to be filled with all kinds of events, hope to be able to share them with you soon.