Thursday, November 30, 2006

kyongdong herbal market

One of my students, Kazumi, just came back from Seoul. She stopped at the Kyongdong Herbal Market, which is known for their Chinese and Korean medicinal herbs. (The Koreans apparently call this market GYEONGDONG.)

She was kind enough to bring back some star anise and dried figs for me. (Thank you!) The star anise will come in handy when making chai or roast pork or chicken. The figs are quite sweet, but I wonder what I can make using them....any ideas?

foodie books

With all the foodie book information I pick up from all the food blogs I read, my U. S. Amazon wish list is getting bigger and bigger by the minute...

Earlier this year, my brother and I were chatting about it, and he suggested I check out Japan's Amazon. So, I've been slowly buying from Japan Amazon. With the yen-dollar exchange rate and the books that I want, sometimes buying American books from Japan's Amazon is not very reasonable in fact, it is sometimes more expensive.

On top of that, the airlines started restricting the baggage weight to 50 lbs, so maybe paying a little extra for the books that I want to be delivered directly to my home, may actually be a good thing. So, I calculated and figured out the difference of yen-dollars. Here are some of the books that I've bought...

"The Accidental Foodie", this book wasn't available on the U.S. Amazon, but I was able to get it at the Japan one.

"La Dolce Vita", if you are a chocolate lover, this book is definitely for you. I was able to get the paperback version on the Japan Amazon, only the hardcover version is available on the U.S. Amazon.

Here's what I've bought recently but haven't gotten around to reading...."Like Water for Chocolate"

"Chocolate: A Bittersweet Saga of Dark and Light"

"Slow Food: The case for taste"

"The Chocolate Connoisseur"

"In My Mother's Kitchen"

"Dangerous Tastes"

"Bread and Chocolate"

"The Book of Salt"

Lots of delicious reading to do...

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

sometimes things don't turn out...

Sometimes what I make doesn't always turn out as planned. I had planned to make okara hamburger patties for dinner tonight. Well, it turned out more like a meatloaf. The patties got slightly burnt, then fell apart, it was a mess! I debated whether they were salvageable and then to make matters worse, I smashed them up to cook them well. I added the sauce that the recipe calls for... It doesn't look too good but tastes good. Will post the recipe when I succeed.

On a happier note, Meiji recently came out with a new version of their Kinokonoyama. I've posted about this candy before here. This time they teamed up with one of Japan's famous pastry chefs, Toshi Yoroizuka. I wanted to visit his boutique the last time I was in Tokyo, but didn't get a chance to. The base of the candy is a biscuit made to resemble the taste of a traditional Belgian treat called speculaas. It is has a nice cinnamon flavor. The "mushroom cap" is divided into two parts, the top part is a 72% cacao and the bottom a bitter chocolate. Delicious!

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

phone heaven

The other day, I walked past our land-line phone and there was a crackling noise coming from it, which kind of spooked me out at 7 a.m. I especially freaked because I thought it might start a fire of sorts, so I lifted the receiver and this LOUD noise came out from the phone, which rudely awakened Satoshi....our phone went to phone heaven....

So, since Satoshi had the day off today and I had a dentist appointment, we decided to look for a new phone/fax . There are so many brands and styles out there, and it all boils down to how much you want to pay. We got a rather cheap model because the less functions the thing has, the less I have to read the manual to figure all the functions out (Satoshi doesn't like to read the manuals, isn't the manual in his first language??)....sigh...

Anyway, for dinner tonight, we wanted something kind of different, instead, we ended up going to one of our favorite ramen shops, Momofukutei. I posted about this place before here. We've often gone to eat at this place for lunch and had never tried their dinner menu. (Can you believe that each time we have gone here they have seated us in exactly the same seats?) We were pleasantly surprised at what they had to offer.

We ordered their bite sized gyoza (pot stickers).

Satoshi ordered their curry ramen, a version only served during autumn. The broth was very spicy but delicious.

We also ordered their Momofuku salad--which was a caesar salad with tofu (soy bean curd) and katsuo bushi (shaved dried bonito).

I also ordered the kurozu(black vinegar)su-buta (sweet & sour pork) and their fried rice (but my camera ran out of memory, so no photos of them...I hate when that happens...) All in all it was a very nice meal and a very nice day.

Gosh, November is almost over, hope your week is going well.

Monday, November 27, 2006


Okara or unohana are the lees of tofu (soy bean curd). It is a healthy way to eat protein without having to eat a lot of animal fat. I recently saw a show in which a dish using okara, as well as other dishes were prepared rather quick and easily.

Okara itame (soy bean lees stir-fry) serves 2
300 g okara
100g carrot
7 shiitake mushrooms
1 and 1/2 aburage (deep fried tofu pouch)
30g kombu (kelp)
350ml stock (preferably kelp stock)
2 tablespoon mirin (sweet rice wine)
2 tablespoon sake (rice wine)
2 teaspoons sugar
1 teaspoon oil

1. Put the okara into a frying pan and heat, then take out and leave aside.
2. Julienne the aburage, carrot, shiitake and kombu, leave aside.
3. In a pot, heat and add the oil and add the aburage, carrot, shiitake and kombu.
4. Coat everything with the oil and then add the stock, mirin and sake, cook until everything is soft.
5. Put the okara back into the frying pan and add the contents of the pot into the pan.
6. Cook on low heat until all the liquid disappears, stirring constantly.

The second dish was namasu (thinly sliced veggies soaked in vinegar).

Namasu serves 2
100g daikon (long white radish)
40g carrot
30g kombu (kelp)
70ml stock (preferably kelp stock)
50ml vinegar
50ml mirin (sweet rice wine)
2 teaspoons sugar

1. Julienne daikon, carrots and kelp.
2. In a bowl, place the daikon and carrots and sprinkle about 5g salt over and massage. Let sit for about 15 minutes.
3. Rinse and squeeze out all water.
4. Add kelp, stock, vinegar, mirin and sugar.

NOTES: if you make this ahead of time, it will be well soaked by the time you are ready to eat.

The last dish was pan fried chicken.

Pan fried chicken serves 2

6 pieces chicken wings
1 Tablespoon oil
1/5 teaspoon salt
pepper to taste
1 Tablespoon sake
1 Tablespoon shoyu (soy sauce)

1. In a frying pan, heat the oil and add the pieces of chicken.
2. Brown well, sprinkle the salt and pepper and lastly add the sake and shoyu.

NOTES: I finished cooking the chicken under the broiler for 10 minutes.

Make sure to serve this dinner with lots of rice and pickles like ume (pickled plum) and rakkyo (pickled shallots).


Sunday, November 26, 2006

more autumn colors

Yesterday after both of our lessons, Satoshi and I made our way to Kyoto. His family's grave is there and since we hadn't gone during Obon (the season to visit ancestors' graves), we decided to pay our respects, then check out the autumn leaves on the way back...semi-big mistake...EVERYONE was in Kyoto checking out the autumn leaves...

We got on a VERY crowded bus and made it to his family grave. We placed some flowers and said some prayers then waited for a bus to take us back.

During our wait, there was a little Japanese sweet shop, Otowaya, that just happened to be positioned RIGHT in front of the bus stop--which of course, tempted us to by some sweets while we waited...I bought something quite unusual, a Sekihan manju (this bean cake has sekihan (red rice) inside instead of sweet bean paste). Sekihan is usually made for celebratory meals, using adzuki beans and mochi rice (glutenous rice).

The bus finally came, and was PACKED. We squeezed ourselves onto the bus and crawled along the crowded streets. The positioning of your body while trying to hold onto something --so you don't go flying into someone when the bus jerks to a stop--and not step on anyone's toes reminded me of playing "Twister". On top of that, 3 local Japanese school girls smooshed their way onto the bus at another stop and grumbled about the tourists and the bus being packed for what seemed like forever! I held my tongue, although I was tempted to say something to them...They finally got off and we rode the PACKED bus in peace.

From Kyoto, we rode the train back towards Osaka and got off on the outskirts of Kyoto at a town called Nagaoka-kyo. This town has a rather large temple which has a lovely autumn display. We have visited this place several times over the past 5 years and love it because the trees create a tunnel of leaves and are so beautiful.

Plus, this temple is not as famous as others in Kyoto, so it is not as crowded. Usually, we visit this temple in the morning but I noticed that they were having a "light-up" of the leaves, so we decided to check them out at night this year. It was nice, not too crowded and very beautiful.

Have a great week.

26-4 Sennyujimonmae-machi
Higashiyama-ku, Kyoto
Closed twice a month, so call before going

Friday, November 24, 2006

carrot potato & tomato spiced soup

It is the day after Thanksgiving, what will you do with your leftover turkey or are you still at the malls? I couldn't find any turkey here, maybe I didn't know where to look--even the Subway sandwich shop was too far, so I couldn't even eat a turkey sandwich for my Thanksgiving.

When I was at home, I got to the point of hating to eat turkey and would purposely make beef curry on that day--plus, I usually couldn't spend it with family because they would go to the outer islands to spend it with my grandparents and I would have to work the next day and couldn't take time off. But now that I'm FAR away from all of them, I miss eating turkey--more than that, I think it is the family get-togethers that I miss the most about this time of year.

Tonight, Satoshi had a get-together with the alumni of his university baseball club, so I had to figure out what to make for dinner for myself. I guess I could have bought something, but I had a package of carrots and potatoes "calling me" to use them....

So, here is another variation of the moroccan spiced squash and carrot soup recipe which I posted about here. This time, I used carrots, potatoes, onions and diced tomatoes. After everything was soft, I whizzed most of it in my "cute" food processor and drizzled some plain yogurt on top.

Very fast and easy and a nice way to warm up on a cold evening.

Thursday, November 23, 2006

kinro kansha no hi

Today is a National holiday, Kinro kansha no hi (Appreciation for laborers and production), kind of like Labor Day and Thanksgiving all in one. The weather forecast was rain, fortunately it was overcast, although it was really cold and windy!

We went to our favorite neighborhood cafe for breakfast then made our way to Minoo Park. Walking in about 3 km, you come to an area with the Minoo Falls.

From the falls area, we walked above to see if we could catch a taxi to Katsuoji. Katsuoji is a temple that helps pray for good luck. We've visited this temple 3 times, it is quite out of the way, but the autumn leaves are usually very pretty and it is quite peaceful there.

We were lucky to also catch a glimpse at the Minoo monkeys--although I didn't get any photos.

Lunch was a bit late, but we stopped at a little restaurant that I had been wanting to try--Felice. This restaurant is near the Minoo station.

Satoshi had their special fried shrimp lunch.

I had their special "omurice" lunch. Omurice is rice, usually seasoned with ketchup and chicken, called chicken rice and enveloped in a fluffly omlette. The rice in this lunch was seasoned with a tomato based sauce, chicken and onions and also had a scoop of their special beef stew around it.

Here's the inside of the omurice--sorry it is a bit blurry.

Lunch was very leisurely and delicious!

Right across the street, there is a cute little confection shop called Epinard. I was first introduced to this shop by my host-sister, Tomoko, when we first moved to Minoo. They are known for their truffles called Truffle au chocolat. Coated with cocoa powder they go well with wine, whisky, milk or coffee--yum!

Have a great weekend!

6-1-32 Minoo, Minoo Residence Annex 1F
Phone: 072-720-3031
Closed: Wednesdays

6-6-8 Minoo
Phone: 072-724-2248
Closed: Wednesdays

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

ii fufu no hi

Today is November 22nd, written as 11/22 the Japanese call this day "ii fufu no hi" it is a kind of play on words using homonyms for the pronunciation of the numbers 1-1-2-2 to mean "good couple day". A lot of Japanese get married on this day in hopes of becoming "a good couple". It is a good day for couples to be nice to each other and show appreciation for one another.

I was in Umeda for a lesson and stopped by one of my favorite sweets counter, Tsumagari, this confectioner is actually located in Nishinomiya, about 30 minutes by train, but has a counter in Daimaru Umeda--a department store in Umeda. It is the time of year for their macarons called Kabutoyama Omoide no koishi (a pebble as a reminder of Mt. Kabuto) Mt. Kabuto is a mountain surrounding Nishinomiya. I first tasted these macarons about 2 years ago, they were giving them out as samples.

Bite-sized and so cute, it is hard just to eat one--although the chocolate ganache in the middle is quite sweet and rich.

So, tell your sweetie how much you care for them or if there is someone out there who you have your eye on, this would be a good chance to tell them!

Have a Happy Thanksgiving to everyone in the U.S.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006


The pumpkin bar (bottom) that I bought in Hokkaido by Ishiya, was so-so, the chocolate bloomed and the taste was kind of weak except for the pumpkin seeds. There were a LOT of pumpkin seeds in the bar, which I really enjoyed. I think I'll use the black chocolate (top) for some kind of dessert.

I found this dark chocolate crunchy hazelnut bar made by Kim's Chocolates, a Belgian candy maker, while roaming the aisles at a import shop. The chocolate is very creamy and the hazelnut filling is kind of like a praline, but not so sticky that it sticks to your teeth.

Another chocolate that I found was Goldkenn's mini gold bar, a Swiss milk chocolate bar, creamy hazelnut-milk chocolate with sliced almonds...delicious!

This chocolate is produced in collaboration with Van Houten by Glico and is called "Dear cacao".

A 57% cacao tablet type of chocolate. Not too sweet and a little bitter.

Hope you are enjoying the week.

Monday, November 20, 2006

bagels (part 3) and grains, grains, grains

I tried making bagels again today. This time with a little more success. I increased the amount of flour, yeast, sugar and water and also increased the amount of time to let the dough rise. The dough got bigger, though it was hard to roll to form the bagel, which resulted in all of them falling apart as I "kettled" the bagels in hot water. Still, it was crispy on the outside and chewy on the inside (I had one, fresh out of the oven with dinner--a veggie soup).

On another note--I don't know about you, but I love grains, in breads and in my rice. I wanted to show you what I add to my rice before cooking it. In Japan, there are all sorts of grains called zakkoku to add to your rice like corn, amaranth, quinoa, sesame seeds, barley, adzuki beans, black soy beans and assorted millet.

This is the 16-grain mixture by a company called HakuBaku. By adding grains to your rice, you can add more fiber and minerals to it. They also have a 5-grain mixture which I've also tried.

I put about a tablespoon or two of the grains into a fine sieve and run water over it, to rinse it. Caution: If you wash the grains with your regular rice, you will lose most of the millet, since they are VERY tiny. Then I add the grains to the rice, add the water and cook.

Sunday, November 19, 2006


The other day, Satoshi received a Masala tea from a friend who went to Kenya. I was excited to try it since I figured it must have spices in it and I could make masala chai with it. There were no directions on the package and when I opened it, it was ground really fine--and kind of reminded me of dirt (sorry!) There was a faint spice smell. So, when I made it for Saturday's breakfast, I was a bit disappointed that it wasn't too "spicy". I decided to add more spices and make it again for this morning's breakfast...much better.

Yesterday, Satoshi had his German language class. I met him for lunch and then we were about to catch the train to Kitasenri, an area we visit during this time of year for their colorful foliage. As we walked along the platform, I thought I saw Satoshi's brother....we got closer and Satoshi says, "nah, that's not my brother..." but it was...what a nice surprise! We were catching the same train--the two of them got to chat all the way to his brother's stop.

Last year, we visited Sanshikisaido, which I posted about here. Actually, we came upon this spot by accident a few years back and have tried to visit every autumn, just because it has never let us down for beautiful autumn foliage.

As we got off the train, it was raining, we didn't have umbrellas and it was really COLD! The temperature had dropped all of a sudden. We went looking for a 100yen shop (dollar store) to get some umbrellas.

The leaves were really pink, orange and yellow. Cars kept pulling onto the side of the road to look at the leaves and take photos.

After oohing and aahing at the colorful leaves, we walked back to the train station and rode the train to the next station, Yamada. This train station has a tiny shopping mall with a large supermarket, some eateries, shops and a nice little cake shop called, Grand Deco. My afternoon snack, a chocolat earl grey. A chiffon cake bottom, with a chocolate mousse outside and earl grey mousse on the inside (sorry, forgot to take a photo of the inside) It was really delicious and nice to be indoors.

Today, Satoshi is helping at an alumni function for his university baseball team, so it is just another day at home for me.

Have a great week.