Monday, February 27, 2006

chop suey/champon

Tonight's dinner was a bit like what we say in Hawaii as "chop suey" or a mixture of things. In Japanese, they call this "champon".

I had bought salmon that was labeled "for meuniere". Meuniere is French for "miller's wife," referring to a style of cooking whereby a food (usually fish) is seasoned, lightly dusted with flour and sautéed simply in butter. (from International Recipes On-line)

I kind of re-vamped how to make it by adding a pat of butter, some corn and beans, sprinkled some panko (bread crumbs) and threw it under the grill for about 13 minutes. It came out pretty good, if I do say so myself. The salad had Chinese chicken salad dressing on it (minus the chicken). Shiromiso-shiru with wakame (white soy bean paste soup with seaweed). And rice with zakkoku (various grains/cereals) furikake (dried seasonings sprinkled over rice).

Here's the recipe for the Chinese chicken salad dressing: (from Recipes Please...)
2 tbsp. sugar
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. Ajinomoto (a.k.a. MSG)
1/2 tsp. black pepper
1/4 cups vegetable oil
1 tbsp. sesame seed oil
3 tbsp. vinegar

Mix all ingredients together thoroughly.
Add to salad just before serving.
Garnish salad with any of the following: shredded chicken, sliced ham, char siu (chinese roast pork), and any other veggies that you like.

p.s. I don't put the salt and Ajinomoto



Yesterday's weather was one of the worst I've ever experienced. It was raining and very windy! I had to go grocery shopping but didn't know when the rain would stop, so I put on raincoat and braved the wind and rain.

Needless to say, I was soaked by the time I reached the supermarket. I did my shopping quickly and rushed home so that I could change out of my clothes. They were so soaked they felt just like when you take them out half-way through a wash cycle! I hope I don't catch another cold (I've already had two this season!)

I have only spent one winter in Japan; when we first moved here, and this is my second.

All the other winters were spent in Hawaii (where I'm from). So, I don't really know what winter is all about. After reading about "haramaki" (stomach wrap) on Amy's blog, Blue Lotus, I had to go out to get me one (or two)...this little piece of material wraps around your mid-section and REALLY keeps you warm! (Thanks for sharing, Amy!)

For lunch today, I bought a teriyaki chicken sandwich with veggies on chapata bread. I looked on the internet and chapata bread is also called ciabatta bread. Ciabatta bread originated in the Emilia Romagna region of Italy.

Its name means "slipper" as it is said to resemble a well-worn slipper. Its light airy texture is due to its long rising time and the use of a wet dough. It is an unusual process in that the dough is not punched down to elminate the air bubbles as with other breads. It needs to be handled with great care so as not to lose the air bubbles that have formed after the long rising. (from The Essential Baking Cookbook)
This sandwich was really good because they had huge pieces of teriyaki chicken in it.

I ate my sandwich along with these cute potato snacks called "Jumpy's". They are shaped like little kangaroos. Satoshi got them in a snack bag from Australia Airlines. And wouldn't you know they are made by a company called the REAL McCOY snackfood company!

Hope you have a nice week.


"Omiyage" means souvenir in Japanese. When the Japanese travel they often buy LOTS of souvenirs to give away to friends, family and co-workers. Recently, the Japanese travel agencies have been selling "omiyage" to their customers before they even take off for their destinations. This is to relieve the Japanese of wondering what to buy and carrying the items around with them on their trip. The agencies also have the "omiyage" sent to the customers home, so that it arrives the day that they arrive back home!

I don't really like this idea of ordering items from a catalog. In fact, I like roaming local supermarkets to find stuff that the locals are buying. I think we were in Belgium when we roamed the aisles of a local supermarket. We found a lot of great foodie items!

Well, Satoshi is back from his business trip. He was in Sydney and the Gold Coast for the past week. Besides Tim Tams (a chocolate covered cookie made in Australia), I wasn't quite sure as to what kinds of foodie items Sydney and the Gold Coast had to offer, so my "omiyage" list was for him to buy me Australian food magazines. I surfed the internet and found an online subscription site that listed various food magazines. I wrote up a list and gave it to him before he left for Australia. I must say, he did a great job at getting most of them. (Thank you!!) He said he found most of them at Borders Books.

My list:
Donna Hay
Australian Gourmet Traveller
Regional Food Australia

What Satoshi got:
Donna Hay
Australian Gourmet Traveller
Vogue Australia Entertainment & Travel
Waitrose Food Illustrated

I'm so to read them all :)

Saturday, February 25, 2006


My lesson cancelled today. So, I had some time on my hands.

This is what I did...I crocheted a pendant. It was an extra project that I had purchased from my teacher. It kind of reminds me of the opening of a decorated Easter egg, don't you think?

After finishing the pendant, I decided to go grocery shopping to buy some ingredients for dinner (making okonomiyaki), on the way home, I bought this for snack. The sign said orange roll. Thinking it was rolled sponge cake with orange jam and cream...I was wrong. It was a baked bread (like a sweet roll) with orange jam and rolled with cream! It was still good despite my disappointment!

Satoshi comes home tomorrow night (yeah!!) I wonder what kinds of "omiyage" (souvenirs) he's bringing home for me (although I did give him my "wish list"...) :p

Hope you're enjoying your weekend.

Thursday, February 23, 2006


Today was bead crochet class.

We made a necklace in which you "nejiru"--to twist the wire to make branch-like parts.

I didn't like this project very much mainly because I couldn't get the hang of twisting the wire to the right size...

Practice, practice, practice...

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

got gas?

Nope, it's not what you are probably thinking. If I remember correctly when we went to France they asked us if we wanted our water with gas or without. This means carbonated water or not.

Since moving to Japan, I've stopped drinking soda. But, there have been times when I want a little fizzy something to drink--but don't want to fall back into drinking, I've found carbonated water...I know, to buy water is a bit crazy and can be expensive.

Luckily, we have 100 yen shops here. This means EVERY item in the store is only $1 each (it is amazing what they sell in these stores these days!)...I found these imports in the 100 yen shop...if you were to purchase these in the supermarket you can expect to pay up to 300 yen ($3) a bottle.

From left to right: San Benedetto (Italy), Vals (France), Brio Blu (Italy).

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

cocoa comes from...

Yesterday, I wrote a little about cocoa powder, but was reminded by Clare of Eatstuff that cocoa is used to make chocolate and not the other way around. So, I decided to check out the internet to see if there was an easy explanation as to how cocoa powder comes to be...

Cocoa powder comes from beans that grow in pods on the Theobroma cacao tree. Native to many South American countries, these trees now grow all around the world including in Africa, Southeast Asia, Hawaii and Holland.

To produce the powder, cocoa beans are fermented, dried, roasted and cracked. The nibs are then ground to extract most of the cocoa butter, leaving a rich brown paste called chocolate liquor, which contains about 25% butter fat. This liquor is dried again and hardening into a mass that is finally ground into a fine powder known as unsweetened cocoa. This is an intense process, but for the chocolate lover, it's worth every minute.

Black onyx dutch cocoa powder has been alkalized to the extreme, producing a dark, purplish black cocoa that when used in baking makes for an impressive black-as-coal colored product. Because black onyx cocoa has less fat, it does tend to create a drier product. It is suggested to use a 50/50 mixture of black onyx and dutch to add more fat. If you do want to use 100% black onyx, then be sure to increase the fat in the recipe. This will also alleviate any dryness.

Dutch cocoa has been treated with an alkali which helps neutralize cocoa's natural bitterness. It's a richer, darker and slightly milder powder that is perfect for hot cocoa and other chocolate drinks.

Natural cocoa has a strong, bittersweet flavor that is great for baking. Natural cocoa is the type to use when cocoa is called for in Mexican recipes. Use 3 tbsp. plus 1 tbsp. fat (shortening, butter, etc.) to replace a 1 ounce square of unsweetened chocolate.

I'm glad that Clare pointed this out to me so that I would be spurred to learn more about cocoa.

Changing the subject, I served the madeleines with melted chocolate and green tea powder on them to Satoshi. He liked them.

He'll be going on a business trip for the rest of the week, so I don't think I'll be cooking/blogging very much this week. Not too fun cooking for one! (although if I come across a foodie experience, will definitely share it with you!)

Have a nice week!

Monday, February 20, 2006

french toast & madeleines

Today's breakfast, french toast. I usually use french bread or something similar called "kuppe pan". The one thing I found out about "kuppe pan" is that it is a made-up Japanese word. They took the word "coupe" in French which means "to cut" and the word "koppe" in German which means "arched or shaped like a mountain" and put the two together to stand for a spindle shaped bread half the size of a baguette or batard. Some areas call it "koppe pan" and some areas call it "kuppe pan". I soak the bread in 1 cup milk and 1 scramble egg with a dash or two of cinnamon. I cook it on a non-stick pan and serve with "homemade" syrup. Instead of buying syrup, I usually melt 1 teaspoon of honey and 1 teaspoon of butter together. Really easy breakfast to make in the morning. Sometimes I also slice apples to put on top.

This weekend, I went bead shopping and pan shopping. In an area called Hommachi, there are several shopping arcades with lots of tiny shops. I got some beads and these madeleine pans. The pans here are different than the ones in the U.S. The big size makes six and the small size makes fifteen. I hope the small madeleine pan will work in my oven is REALLY small. When I bought the pans, I also came across black cocoa powder (cocoa powder made from dark chocolate)...I also had green tea powder and cocoa powder (from my truffle attempt), so I'm planning to made three different kinds of madeleines.

Well, this is what happened...the tiny madeleine pan doesn't fit nicely in my oven, so it kind of baked unevenly. The bigger madeleine pan fits nicely onto the turntable of my oven so it rotates and bakes well. The only thing that bothered me about baking these is that the shell like pattern didn't turn out on the finished product. I'm wondering if it is because I didn't flour the pans after greasing them with butter...anyway, it's the taste that counts, right? That was no problem. This recipe tastes great, a light and fluffy, spongy cake. I found it on the Joy of Baking site. I sprinkled the powdered green tea, cocoa powder and dark cocoa powder on just before tasting. :)

If anyone can give me pointers as to making madeleines, I really would appreciate it!

8 tablespoons (113 grams) unsalted butter
1 cup (140 grams) all-purpose flour

1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/8 teaspoon salt
3 large eggs, at room temperature
2/3 cup (133 grams) granulated white sugar
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

In a small heavy saucepan, heat the butter over medium heat just until very light golden brown and fragrant, about 5 minutes. Remove from heat and let cool until tepid. Strain through a cheesecloth-lined strainer to remove the milk solids. Keep warm while you make the batter.
In a small bowl place the flour, baking powder and salt and whisk until well blended.
In bowl of electric mixer, beat the eggs and sugar at medium-high speed until the mixture has tripled in volume and forms a thick ribbon when the beaters are lifted (about 5 minutes). Add the vanilla extract and beat to combine.
Using a large rubber spatula, sift a small amount of flour over the egg mixture and fold the flour mixture into the beaten eggs to lighten it.
Sift the rest of the flour over the egg mixture and fold in being sure not to overmix or the batter will deflate.
Whisk a small amount of the egg mixture into the clarified butter to lighten it.
Then fold in the cooled melted butter in three additions.
Cover and refrigerate for 30 minutes, until slightly firm.
Position a rack in the center of the oven and preheat to 375 degrees F (190 degrees C). Generously butter two 12-mold madeleine pans.
Dust the molds with flour and tap out the excess. (Could spray pans with Bakers Joy instead.) (Make sure the pans are well greased or the madeleines will stick and be hard to remove.)
Drop a generous tablespoonful of the batter into the center of each prepared mold, leaving the batter mounded in the center. (This will result in the classic "humped" appearance of the madeleines.)
Bake the madeleines for 11 to 13 minutes, until the edges are golden brown and the centers spring back when lightly touched.
Do not overbake these cookies or they will be dry.

Thursday, February 16, 2006

nature spa takarazuka

What to do on a rainy day? Go to the spa...
There is a spa about 20 minutes by train at Takarazuka that had opened 2 years ago called Nature Spa Takarazuka. It closed for a bit, renovated and re-opened this year on Valentine's Day.

Since Satoshi had the day off (he has to work this coming weekend), we decided to check out the renovated spa. The lobby area had lots of flower arrangements given by different businesses.

They added a new area called "ganbanyoku" this is a heated bedrock which you lie on to relax and detox. Since it was a new item at the spa, the wait was over 2 hours! (guess we'll have to try it when the novelty fades...) They were giving away free gifts as part of the re-opening...boxes of chocolates!!

Lunch was at the spa's restaurant, Acqua Rossa. We had the "pasta lunch", this is a prix fixe menu.

First course, appetizer plate with salad, sausage on potato salad, sweet potato with butter, a seafood omlette and ratatouille.

Next was your choice from 6 different pastas...I chose the penne bolognese. It was really tasty.

Dessert was a choice from a platter...I chose the "babaloa" (bavarian creme). This dessert was very light and topped with a raspberry sauce, strawberry and blueberry and an espresso.

It was a great way to spend a rainy day!

Nature Spa Takarazuka
9-33 Yumoto Hommachi
Takarazuka city, Hyogo Prefecture
Closed on Mondays and every 3rd Tuesday

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

the day after...

It's the day after Valentine's Day...Satoshi was so busy that I didn't even receive a card :( Although, we did receive these chocolates from Satoshi's staff (Thank you!!)

Satoshi had the day off so we did some errands. After all of our errands were done, we went to see the movie "Flightplan". It was an interesting movie that kept you at the edge of your seat until the end.

For lunch, we went to a restaurant called Tawawa. This restaurant uses Kyoyasai (vegetables from Kyoto) and have an all-you-can-eat salad bar. My main dish was roast pork with a whole tomato on top(there is pork under there...). The whole dish was baked. There wasn't too much added seasonings so the flavor of the tomato really came through.

This is my first round at the salad bar (I went for seconds...)

After lunch, we had some time before the movie so we walked around the Carrefour market. I bought some anchovy paste since I want to try to make olive tapenade soon.

After roaming the aisles, we still had over a half hour before the movie, so we decided to have dessert. Our favorite cafe, Hiro, has a shop at the shopping center we were at, plus I received a coupon in the mail entitling us to 2 free cake and coffees (the key word....FREE!). Satoshi had a matcha cake with matcha white chocolate called "Japone", I had the sacher torte. I had never had it before and was surprised because there was apricot jam in between the chocolate and cake.

It was a great day despite the rain....

UPDATE: as of November 2011, Carrefour and Hiro are no longer at Visola

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

lightly simmered chicken

Tonight's dinner: "Tori no sappari ni" = lightly simmered chicken.
It isn't a very "romantic" dish, but it was definitely fast and easy to make.
Great for working moms and dads to make.

Ingredients: from the Mitsukan website
16 chicken wings
4 eggs (hard-boiled)
20g ginger
2 cloves garlic

1 cup vinegar
1 cup shoyu (soy sauce)
1/2 cup water
6 Tablespoons sugar

Steam or boil your broccoli and put on the side.
Rinse chicken.
Thinly slice the ginger and slightly smash the garlic.
Put into a stainless steel pot the ingredients for the sauce, ginger and garlic. Bring to a boil.
Add in chicken and peeled eggs. Simmer for 20 minutes.
Plate and garnish the dish with the steamed/boiled broccoli.
If you want to thicken the sauce, thicken after simmering the chicken for 20 minutes...make a cornstarch/water mixture and add a little at a time while sauce is boiling.
Serves 4.

*if you don't like broccoli, use another type of green veggie like green beans, chinese pea pods.


happy valentine's day

It's Valentine's Day kind of snuck up on me...I had envisioned making these great truffles...but didn't really have the right equipment...anyway, these are the truffles I made for Satoshi. Curry and green tea.

My recipe for the truffles: (adapted from a recipe on the internet)
140g milk chocolate (only because Satoshi likes milk chocolate)
1/4 cup cream
10g butter

Melt everything together then put into a bowl and chill for at least 30 minutes.
After 30 minutes, form into balls with teaspoon. Put back into the refrig.
Temper 140g milk and dark chocolate. Put some chocolate at the bottom of your candy cup. Put in the ganache into the cup then put some chocolate on top. Top with your favorite seasonings or spices. I put a little curry powder and a little powdered green tea.

I sampled them (not the ones I'm giving to Satoshi) and they tasted really good! I hope Satoshi likes them.

Here's my mid-afternoon snack...dipped strawberries with the leftover chocolate.

Hope you have a very nice Valentine's day.

kure-onomichi-tomonoura (part 3)

From Onomichi, we went back to Fukuyama and then took a bus to a little fishing town called Tomo-no-ura. In feudal days, boats used to use this harbor area to wait to see the shift in tides and winds before heading back out to sea.

There is a little part of town which still have houses and shops from the Edo period. Part of this town was also used to film the movie, "Yamato".

Along the sea area, there are many vendors selling dried and fresh fish. If you look carefully, you'll see a flock of seagulls eyeing out the fish from a distance...

The hotel we stayed at Ofutei, is rather new, this was the sashimi (raw fish) platter that came with our dinner.

Also, when you stay at ryokan (Japanese inn), there is a platter of snacks for you to try, this is so that you can purchase them from the gift shop....

From Tomo-no-ura, we went back to Fukuyama. While waiting for our train back to Osaka, there was a little article about "curry pan" in our guide book. We tried this "curry pan" at the Food court at the Lotz Department store in Fukuyama. The vendor is called Spice Note. These curry pan are larger than what you can buy at bake shops. I had the original, Satoshi had the shrimp/mayo (ebi-mayo). Both were good, especially since it was right out of the fryer!

Here are some of the foodie souvenirs we got on our trip. From the top, clockwise, "Kaigunsan no curry" (Sailor 's curry), Onomichi ramen from Ichibankan, Yamato senbei (cookies), Inoshima no hassaku jelly (Inoshima's hassaku gelatin) and a pair of susutake chopsticks. Susutake is a type of bamboo that is used to thatch roofs and is colored by the soot of the hearth. These chopsticks had a nice twist at the handles.

We had a nice, relaxing time!

kure-onomichi-tomonoura (part 2)

From Kure, we caught the train to Onomichi. Onomichi is a very hilly town with many temples. 

A life-size set of the battleship Yamato was built here and filming also took place on a little island called Mukaishima. 

We stayed at the Green Hill Onomichi hotel, which looks out onto the Onomichi channel and faces Mukaishima. 

An actor, Sorimachi Takashi, also stayed at this hotel while filming, "Yamato". 

I've also been to the sister hotel in Kobe with my host-mom and host-sister for lunch.
 On Sunday, we caught the ferry (only 100 yen, $1, one-way) and got to walk on the deck of the set. 

This set really looks like a real battleship!
After walking on this set, we caught the ferry back and went sightseeing around Onomichi. 

Our first stop was lunch. Onomichi is kind of famous for their ramen. 

When you travel around Japan, you'll notice that every area has their own original ramen. Onomichi is no different...they have thick slices of "char-siu" (seasoned pork), lightly season "shinachiku" or "menma" bamboo shoots, green onion, shoyu (soy sauce) based chicken stock, thin-flat noodles and pieces of fat from the pork's back. 

The place we had our ramen at was called "Friend", it had 6 counter seats and 2 tables of 5 seats each. (If your party is small, you'll have to share a table...) This ramen was really tasty and the broth was light. 

Definitely worth the wait! Here's a photo of some of the lines you'll see--people waiting to get into "Shukaen" for ramen...  

After lunch, we walked to the Museum of Film Cinema. 

A lot of areas in Onomichi have been used to film movies. This museum showcases these areas and the movies.

From the museum, we walked to catch a cable car up to the top of Senkoji Park. 

From the top, you can see the whole city. The walk down brings you through many temples and shrines. 

This one shrine prays for humans 88 sins. The huge rosary (juzu) is pulled on to pray for your sins, as the beads come down a clicking sound is made, "click, click, click". 

Praying for your sins and hearing the sound is supposed to bring you peace with yourself. This is a photo of someone praying and pulling at the rosary, I took this photo while waiting for my turn.

Another temple that we visited was Saigokuji, the big "warazori" straw slippers are a symbol to protect your feet. This temple also has 108 steps to symbolize the sins of humans. 

I'm not quite sure if human sins are 88 or 108, it varies... Onomichi also has a castle. We didn't get to explore it, but I thought the view of it from the deck of the Yamato set looked like it was about to fall off its perch...(don't sneeze!)

A citrus fruit that is found in this area is called "hassaku" orange. It is kind of half "zabon" pommelo, half orange. This daifuku mochi had "an" sweet bean paste and a chunk of "hassaku" inside. Delicious!

kure-onomichi-tomonoura (part 1)

Over the weekend we travelled to different areas of Hiroshima. This post will cover part of our adventure.

Saturday was a National holiday, "Kenkoku kinen no hi" or Foundations Day. It is the day when the first Emperor, Jinmu took to the throne in Japan. Since Satoshi had the weekend off, we decided to go to three different cities of Hiroshima prefecture.

By Shinkansen (bullet train), it is about an hour to Fukuyama, a city in Hiroshima prefecture. From Fukuyama, we transferred to a local line and rode to Kure.

Kure is a shipbuilding town. The famous battleship, Yamato, which sank off the Nagasaki coastline on a suicide mission to Okinawa during WWII, was just one of the many naval vessels built in Kure. There is a museum called the Yamato Museum dedicated to the battleship and to educate everyone about WWII. There are artifacts, letters and photos of the men of this battleship and of other battleships as well.

Recently, a movie called "Otokotachi no Yamato" or "the men of Yamato" was filmed in areas of Kure and tells the story of the men onboard the battleship before it sank. This is a model of the battleship, it is 1/10 the actual size.

To give you an idea of what 1/4 of the deck was like, this park was made. I've outlined it in green.

Kure was also used in filming a movie and soap opera called "Umizaru" or "Sea Monkey". This was a story about the men of the Japan Coast Guard or "Kaijohoancho".

There is an area where the men trained while wearing their scuba gear, and climbed up a flight of 200 plus stairs...we climbed to the top...boy, was it STEEP! And the step were rather narrow... Going up, wasn't so bad, it was coming back down that was really SCARY!