Monday, December 31, 2007

toshikoshi soba

(photo taken at Katsuoji, Minoo)

In Hawaii, we used to eat toshikoshi soba as part of our New Year's Eve dinner. I was surprised to find out that in Japan, they eat it just before midnight. Toshikoshi soba literally means "year crossing noodles". When making the toshikoshi soba, the noodles are left extra long to symbolize long life and prosperity.

Most people recall events that occurred during the year and prepare for the coming year while slurping their toshikoshi soba.

Here's my toshikoshi soba, which I had for lunch.

Cook your soba (buckwheat noodles) according to the directions on the package.

The soup: Serves 2
4 tablespoons mirin (sweet rice wine)
4 tablespoons sake (rice wine)
300cc dashi (kombu & katsuo (kelp and bonito) soup stock)(about 1.5 cups)
40cc shoyu (soy sauce) (about 1/4 cup)
5g katsuo bushi (bonito flakes)

The toppings:
naruto maki (a type of kamaboko (fish paste) which resembles a whirlpool)
chopped green onions

We want to thank you for taking the time throughout the year to write a comment, send an e-mail and for reading our adventures.

Despite some low points, the bulk of the year was fun and exciting. We made some new friends and had new adventures.

We hope 2008 will be a delicious year for you, filled with new experiences, new adventures, good health and prosperity.

(a little photo round-up of the year)

Let's see what the Year of Rat will bring...Happy New Year everyone!

Saturday, December 29, 2007

keeping warm 2

It has gotten quite cool these days. How are you keeping warm?

We've been drinking Hawaiian Vanilla Company's coffee and tea. Vanilla flavored A dark roast coffee flavored with Hawaiian Vanilla extract.

The tea is made by Harney & Sons and flavored with their Hawaiian vanilla extract. Both are very comforting.

Venchi dark cocoa. Starts off a little sweet and ends with a bitter taste.

Lupicia's Jardin Sauvage. A green rooibos tea flavored with mango and citrus. Very nice in the afternoon.

Alaska's Wild Teas. Non-caffeinated and delicious.

Betjeman & Barton's Eden Rose...blah! too perfumy for my liking.

Ibarra's mexican chocolate. Not too chocolatey and way too sweet for me.

There was tea au lait. I've had this in cafes around here, they brew tea and put steamed milk with the crema on top. You can add your own sugar or drink it as is.

Poulain's Grand Arome, I received this from Bourgogne a while back but finally got around to making it, though I didn't know how to make it, from what I could get translated I somehow made a cup. This really reminded me of Ovaltine, a drink I loved as a kid.

But there haven't only been beverages, there has also been warm, spicy kimchee ramen from one of our favorite places, Hanamichi.

Peck's is a famous grocer in Milano. They have a counter at different department stores around Japan. We received this Pannetone flavored tea. Citrus bits and spices, delicious.

And lastly, a lot of Kusmi teas--Kashmir Chai, Prince Vladimir and St Petersberg--all have different spices in them and are very comforting on a cold day.

They are predicting some flurries in the next couple of days...I can't wait!

Friday, December 28, 2007

bistro lippee

Since Satoshi had the day off, we did our O-soji except that this year we cleaned from top to bottom, taking dust and dirt out of all the little crevices and corners and throwing out things we haven't used in a couple of years.

After doing half of our cleaning, we stopped for lunch. We went to a little restaurant near the Toyonaka station called Bistro Lippee. Not only was it for lunch but also as a sort of belated Christmas celebration.

Our lunch started off with this seafood salad made with a smoked shrimp, fish paupiette, tapioca pearls and some vegetables.

The next course was a tiny bowl of cream soup with komatsuna (Chinese cabbage), bacon and kabu (turnip).

The main dish was an amadai (tilefish) frite with assorted vegetables in a beurre blanc sauce. The tilefish was seasoned with a little Chinese five spice then fried...delicious.

Dessert was a gelee made from assorted red fruits like currants, raspberries, and blueberries. It was topped with a strawberry and slice of mango. This dessert was very refreshing and a nice way to end the meal.

Coffee was served in these pretty Japanese ceramic cups. The cups have no handles so you need to hold them in your hands to drink from them. I was really disappointed with the coffee, though, it tasted like instant.

I'm glad we were able to try this restaurant, we've gone twice to the front of the restaurant only to find that they were closed.

Bistro Lippee
1-1-8 Suehiro
Toyonaka, Osaka
Phone: 06.6858.3122
Closed Wednesdays
Lunch 11:30-14:30, Dinner 17:30-22:00 (Reservations recommended for lunch and dinner)

We finally finished cleaning at about 18:00, it was hard work but it was a good feeling to know that everything is sparkly clean.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

macarons, macarons & mini PH

Ever since Autumn, I've been seeing more and more macarons about, so I'd like to share with you what I've been sampling...

Starbucks caramel and raspberry macarons. The caramel one is sickly sweet. Definitely eat it with black coffee. The raspberry one has raspberry gelatin inside, it is not too sweet.

Bon Nouvelle's macarons have been featured in many foodie magazines here. I love the huge display they have in the middle of their shop. Apparently, they change it every month!

All edible except for the gold leaf ones.

I bought a box of 14 so I could share with Satoshi.

These were really small, and just right for a mid-afternoon snack. The flavors we had were cafe noix (coffee and sesame), chocolat passion (chocolate with passion fruit), pistache (pistachio), vanille (vanilla), mangue (mango with cinnamon), fraise (strawberry), the vert (green tea).

Secession's macaron flavors are seasonal, they have different flavors throughout the year. Their macs are bigger than Bon Nouvelle's, as big as PH's (Pierre Herme), but not as good as PH.

There was tarragon, chocolate, orange, pineapple, sesame & cherry. Satoshi and I agreed that the orange one was super bitter! My favorite was the sesame.

My search for macarons weren't all successes though, there was one shop, to be left unnamed, that had advertised macarons. So, I travelled quite a ways to buy some, only to find out that for the rest of the year, they have decided not to make any! I knew I should have called to see if they had them on hand.

Yesterday I met a fellow blogger, Tamakikat and we went to check out the IXC.caffe which is run by Cassina, an Italian brand interior shop in Osaka. They were supposedly serving PH macarons...meh, we were bummed that we weren't allowed to choose from the flavors they had (they gave us pistachio and caramel sel) and they weren't really worth the price they were charging and if I remember correctly, the PH macarons I had in Tokyo were WAY bigger! Still we had a nice time chatting and walking around Osaka.

While I'm on the subject of PH, Carol e-mailed me to tell me about the mini PH collection. I found a site in Japan that was selling it and ordered my own. Boy, they are REALLY mini. I've put my 6-inch scissors next to them so you can see how tiny they are! Usually when you buy figurines like these in the store, the boxes are not labelled, so to collect the complete set, you usually need to buy more than the actual amount in the set. And when you have to do this, you usually end up with two or more of the same figurine. Luckily, the company that was selling these, sold me the complete set (whew!), but I'm afraid to take them out of the plastic--I may lose a piece....

Bon Nouvelle
3-2-15 Kida
Nada, Kobe
Phone: 078.857.7342
Open:10:00-21:00, call ahead to be sure they are open

1486 Mikage aza Shironomae
Mikage, Kobe
Phone: 078.854.2678
Closed: Wednesdays
Open: 10:00-19:30

UPDATE: the IXC.caffe is now closed in Osaka (2011)

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

chai scones

Yesterday, I forgot to thank all our friends and family for their cards, letters and gifts. We always look forward to the cards, especially the ones with the photos and enjoy the letters. We also appreciate the thoughtfulness of the gifts. It is especially this time of year when we wish we were closer to family and friends. (Thank you!!)

Now back to the post...I love chai and I love scones. So, I tried putting the two together yesterday. I used this recipe for chai but only used the measurements for the spices and 3/4 teaspoons of finely ground black tea (not brewed) and this recipe for the scones.

It came out delicious. We ate them plain. I don't think they would match with jam, but if you need to put something on them, maybe some clotted cream would be nice.

We hope Santa brought everything you wished for!

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

odds & ends

So many things that I've eaten and haven't posted about!

Kobe's Isuzu Bakery has been in business since 1946, their chocolate france, a tiny french bread filled with milk chocolate and peanuts is great for snack or breakfast.

A rich caramel mousse covered with gooey rich chocolate from Palet d'Or.

Yuzumame, peanuts covered with a light rice cracker, then dusted with yuzu(citron) powder.

Yuzu yokan, a bar of jellied sweet beans and citron. I received this from a fellow blogger, Martin. I answered a quiz that he had on his blog and he sent me this delicious yokan. (Thank you Martin!)

Venchi's Unico, a hazelnut paste and caramel bits covered with a 56% milk chocolate--delicious.

Venchi's Cubigusto, a layer of milk, dark and extra bitter chocolate mixed with almond paste--perfect with coffee in the afternoon.

Shogoin's namayatsuhashi, a thin mochi (rice cake) that is flavored with nikkei (cinnamon).

best of 2007
And lastly, Zorra & Sandra are hosting a huge event.

Send them your favorite recipe of 2007! The whole thing will be round-up here. Check back on December 31st, they should have everything listed. To find out more info about the event, check out Zorra or Sandra's blogs.

Thanks Zorra & Sandra!

Sunday, December 23, 2007

meri kurisumasu

"Meri Kurisumasu" as the Japanese say. If you are in Japan during Christmas, it may be a holiday in the States, but it isn't here. In fact, all the excitement takes place before the "Big Day".

Couples have dinner together on the Eve. Satoshi and I have done this a couple of times since moving to Japan, but there is zero ambience, especially if you go to a restaurant which is popular with the younger crowds, not to mention, the food is very overpriced.

There was one Christmas Eve dinner where Satoshi was sitting right across from me and we couldn't hear what the other was saying because of all the chatter.

Another thing that is overpriced during Christmas are the cakes. Outrageous prices for 6-inch or 8-inch cakes made by well-known pastry chefs!

So anyway, here is our Christmas tree. A gajumaru (banyan), I picked this up at the 100 yen store, maybe a year or so ago. And when I bought it, it was less than half the size, I even cut it once to see if it would stay small....look how big its gotten.

Since Christmas falls on a weekday this year, and Satoshi doesn't get the day off. We decided to have our Christmas dinner tonight.

I made some barbecue shrimp from a recipe that Nate gave me. (Thanks Nate!)

Barbecue Shrimp adapted from Ruth Chris' Steak House Waikiki Beach
10 shrimp peeled, deveined
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/4 cup sake
juice of one sudachi (lime)
2 tablespoons Worcestershire Sauce
several shakes of Tabasco
several shakes of cayenne pepper
several shakes of paprika
10g butter

1. Wash shrimp, peel, discard shells.
2. Heat pan, add oil, cook shrimp until just done.
3. Remove shrimp, add sake, reduce volume by 1/2.
4. When sake is reduced by 1/2, worcestershire, tabasco, cayenne pepper & paprika.
5. Shake pan well, cook 1 min., reduce heat to low.
6. Add butter to pan.
7. Add shrimp back, toss well to coat w/ butter & heat.

The shrimp was delicious, very tasty with a little kick from the chilies and went nicely with our tender, wagyu steak. I also tried making a matcha (green tea) yule log cake but that didn't work out, so it turned into trifle. Still, we had a nice dinner and I have lots of dishes to wash....

Hope you and your family have a wonderful Christmas! Tomorrow is a holiday...the observance of the Emperor's birthday.
(photo taken at Herbis Ent in Umeda)

Saturday, December 22, 2007

chocolate babka

I first learned about chocolate babka from Kathy. Since there was no way of getting any in Japan (or not to my knowledge anyway), I decided to look for a recipe. I scribbled down a recipe but forgot to note where I found it. (Sorry!)

Chocolate Babka adapted from somewhere on the internet
Makes 1 loaf

1-1/2 cups flour
1 teaspoon dry yeast
2-1/4 tablespoon sugar
15g egg
1/2 cup water
20g butter

2 handfuls chocolate chips
1/8 cup sugar
20 grinds cinnamon
20g butter

Streusel topping:
1/8 cup flour
1/8 cup sugar
20 grinds cinnamon
10g butter
1/2 teaspoon dutch cocoa
1 handful of pecans, chopped

egg wash

Prepare dough and let rest for 50-60 minutes.
Roll out and add the filling and roll up like a swiss roll/jelly roll.
Let rest for another 40 minutes.
Brush with the egg wash and sprinkle the streusel topping.
Bake at 180C (350F) for 30 minutes.

NOTES: This dough was really sticky, so sticky that I couldn't roll it out and roll in the filling. This bread came out really fluffy and light, so much so that when I cut into it, it collapsed making it hard to cut. I think the next time I make this, I'll try it with cocoa instead of the chips, while the chocolate was oozy when it came out of the oven, I think this added to the bread collapsing. Still, it was really delicious.


Friday, December 21, 2007


This post is a bit old, as old as the leftovers I used?...Anyway, I had some leftover curry furikake, so I made fried rice. I scrambled an egg, and added some green onions. When the egg was cooked, I added in some rice that had been in the refrigerator.

When the rice was warmed up, I added a dash of tonkatsu sauce (a thick sauce similar to worcestershire, used on tonkatsu (pork cutlet)). Then I added the curry furikake.

The only mistake was that I left this in the pan too long, so everything dried out. It was tasty, but dry.

Another dish I did was with leftover pasta sauce and it is called doria. I'm not too sure of the origin of this dish. Usually when you eat it, there is seafood or chicken in it, rice and lots of white sauce, not tomato sauce.

If you order this when eating out be prepared to wait, it takes some time to bake. When it comes to your table, it is bubbly and usually is so hot that I burn the roof of my mouth and tongue and can't taste anything for the rest of the meal.

The other casserole type dish they have in Japan is called gratin, this is usually made with macaroni, seafood or chicken and lots of white sauce, this also takes a while to bake and I usually burn the roof of my mouth and tongue also....

What are you having for dinner?