Monday, February 28, 2011

cocoa berry mochi (part 2)

The weather was nice on Saturday.

I had ingredients to make another batch of Cocoa Berry Mochi, which is actually 1/2 of the recipe that is linked.

The first time around I made it in a 8 inch x 8 inch pan, so this time around I tried making this in muffin papers.

It turned out that there was enough batter for 8. My muffin pan makes only 6 so I made the remaining 2 in ramekins.

Because I was too lazy to grease the ramekin, I placed the muffin paper in the ramekin and baked them on my turntable.

I think this way came out better than the first time. The mochi really rose. I didn't add chocolate chips this time and was happy with the chocolatiness of this version.

Sunday, February 27, 2011


I think that sometimes I buy desserts just for their containers.

Of course what's inside is delicious and pretty, but if the containers can be re-used, I'm all excited to try and fill them up.

The first two photos are of desserts we got from MIOR, a shop in our shopping arcade, pretty yeah??

The containers are glass and hold about 3/4 cup of liquid.

Perfect when you want just a little something sweet.

I recently used up a NOH Foods haupia packet that I had for sometime now along with some Jell-O chocolate pudding.

I also crushed some shortbread in-between the layers & on top.

I also tried a kanten recipe which I saw in a free newspaper that I picked up at the market.

Here's the recipe so you can try making your own dessert if you'd like:
Strawberry Milk Kanten adapted from free newspaper at market

4 containers that hold 3/4 cup
1 packet agar-agar powder (4 grams)
200 cc water
150 cc skim milk
1 tablespoon condensed milk
7 strawberries, tops off & rinsed

Slice some strawberries & chop up the rest, set aside
Add condensed milk to skim milk, stir and set aside.
In a pot, add the water and agar-agar powder, bring to a boil stirring with a wooden spoon
When it comes to a boil, cook for 2 minutes, stirring.
Turn off heat and add milk mixture, stir.
Add sliced strawberries to containers
Spoon in warm milk kanten mixture and top with chopped strawberries
Try to divide milk mixture as evenly as possible.
Put into refridge to set.

NOTES: I had envisioned having the strawberry slices line the sides of the glass but when I poured my milk mixture in, they all floated up. I think if you want to hold the strawberries to the side of the glass, the pieces have to be thicker.

Also, kanten's texture is firmer than gelatin, so don't freak out when you eat this, it is kind of dense, not wiggly-jiggly.

The original recipe sets the mixture in a pan, if you want to make this in a pan, the measurements are 15 cm x 12 cm (about 5 inch x 4 inch)

The original recipe also uses 200 cc (1 cup) cream but I lightened it up using skim milk, though I only had 150 cc (3/4 cup).

The original recipe calls for 3 tablespoons of condensed milk, I think I should have used the 3 because the version I made wasn't sweet at all. It wasn't bad, but I would've liked something a little sweeter.

I have more packets of kanten, so I'm definitely making this again.

UPDATE: perfect sweetness with the 3 tablespoons of condensed milk

Saturday, February 26, 2011

grilled cheese

Been seeing tweets about grilled cheese sandwiches so one day for lunch I made a grilled cheese with pesto sandwich.

Brushed on olive oil and "grilled" it in my non-stick pan.

It went nicely with some leftover ginger potato soup.

And then my friend, Deb, posted a review of a grilled cheese cookbook.

One of the recipes she tried from it was a kim chee-se sandwich (great name, yeah??)

I didn't have Gouda nor ham as the recipe she tried recommends, so I just grilled my sandwich with the cheese slice I had with some kim chee.

So good with some instant pumpkin soup.

What have you been enjoying for lunch?

Friday, February 25, 2011

foodie thursday in osaka

Yesterday Satoshi had the day off so we decided to check out Krispy Kreme.

I know this place is from America, and that we have one on Maui, but I'd never tried them before, so I was interested in what the hype was all about.

We went early in the morning, before most people line up to buy boxes and boxes of these doughnuts.

I chose caramel walnuts and chocolate iced with sprinkles.

Satoshi chose chocolate iced custard filled and creamy cheese.

The creamy cheese had a marscapone cheese filling, it was also topped with some cream cheese & parmesan cheese...this one was tart almost like yogurt.

Most of their doughnuts are really soft almost gummy.

The icing is way too sweet too. I'm glad we tried them but don't think I would go back.

From Shinsaibashi we decided to walk back to Umeda and came upon an interesting light post which looked like a stick figure.

There were several in this area.

We also saw the new EV Taxi. EV stands for Electric Vehicle, apparently there are 50 of these running around Osaka.

Satoshi had to visit the dentist later in the day, so we decided to have a quick lunch. Since we were both in the mood for curry we decided to stop in at Tokumasa.

I had the cheese curry donburi while Satoshi chose their tsukemen. Tsukemen is where the soup/curry is served on the side and you dip your noodles in to eat.

Before having lunch, we stopped in at Boulangerie Takeuchi. I've been here in the past, and wanted Satoshi to try them. The couple of times we were in the area they were closed, so I'm glad they were open today.

We picked up their roast chicken sandwich, smoked salmon sandwich, an olive bread (the crescent), baked curry bread, pumpkin brioche (filled with pumpkin custard) & chocolate w/griotte cherry bread.

We tried them for our dinner along with some wine and a salad, everything was delicious.

Lots of eating, lots of walking though the weather was overcast and a little chilly.

It is Friday here, hope you have a nice weekend.

Krispy Kreme UPDATE: as of 2/2013 this shop has closed
2-1-24 Shinsaibashisuji
Chuo, Osaka
Phone: 0120.79.1072
Open 7:00-23:00

Thursday, February 24, 2011

kimura fruit

The other night Satoshi brought home dessert from Kimura Fruit, a large fruit distributor in Osaka which has been in business since 1910.

Their desserts are always topped with the freshest most colorful fruits.

On this day, he brought home 2 fruit daifuku.

These were soft and delicious. Since both were a little different, Satoshi said we should cut them in half and share.

They were so soft that they were kind of squished after I cut them.

This one had yellow cake, whipped cream, strawberries and was covered with the thin mochi (rice cake) that daifuku usually has.

This one had yellow & chocolate cake, whipped cream, strawberries, other fruits and was covered with a thin mochi.

Both were delicious. (Thanks Satoshi!)

Kimura Fruit
Hankyu Sanbangai
Umeda, Osaka
Phone: 06.6372.8033

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

easy dinner

Super easy dinner the other night which I based on a dish that we have in Hawaii called kalua pig and cabbage.

Since I had almost half a head of cabbage leftover, I wanted to use it up preferably with an easy recipe.

I thought about kalua pig and cabbage but knew I wouldn't be able to make it unless I made my own kalua pig from scratch, so instead I bought a grilled chicken breast from a yakitori shop in our shopping arcade and chopped it up.

1/2 onion, thinly sliced
about 1/2 head of cabbage, chopped into bite size
1 grilled chicken breast, skin removed and cut into bite siz

Cook onion and cabbage in a non-stick pan until limp.
Add chicken to re-heat.
Add pepper to taste.
Eat with rice

NOTES: Since the chicken was grilled it had a smoky flavor. This was fast, semi-homemade and delicious.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011


I often see gardeners or construction workers using this type of broom to sweep things up.

A large bamboo pole with the tips of the bamboo wrapped around it. It kind of looks like something a wicked witch would ride on.

Rustic looking but does the job.

I'm kind of happy to see people still sweeping here and not using those noisy leaf blowers.

Monday, February 21, 2011

ginger potato soup

I got the idea for this soup when I ate an instant version.

Knorr Japan has a creamy ginger potage which we tried and when I looked at the ingredients, I thought, "I could make this".

The weather is starting to slowly warm up during the daytime, but the nights are still cold, so I wanted to try making this soup before the weather totally warms up.

The potatoes really help thicken up the soup.

Here's the recipe if you'd like to try:
Kat's ginger potato soup :serves about 4

1 tablespoon canola oil
3 medium potatoes, peeled and chopped
1/2 onion, chopped
1/4 can of SPAM, chopped
1/3 carrot, chopped
1 nub (about 1/4 inch thick) ginger, chopped small
1.5 cups water
1 consomme cube
1 small bunch of spinach, cleaned and chopped
2 cups skim milk
grinds of pepper, to taste

Saute the onions, spam, carrot and potato in oil until onions are transparent
Add ginger, water and consomme
Cook on high for 15 minutes or until potatoes are soft
Turn heat down to simmer and add spinach and milk
Cook on low for another 3 minutes, just to wilt spinach and heat milk.
Turn off heat.
Add pepper and whizz with immersion blender.
When serving add another couple grinds of pepper.

NOTES: I had some SPAM leftover so I used it in this recipe. If you don't like SPAM, I think bacon would also be nice in this soup. The original soup doesn't have spinach in it, but I had some and wanted to use it.

The original also had some cheese in it, but I didn't put any in it, though if you want a richer soup, adding some cheese or even some cream would be good choices.

Be sure to whizz your soup well, you wouldn't want to bite into ginger. If you want to strain this soup, you could, but I didn't, wanting to eat all the fiber and nutrients. This soup is spicy and will definitely warm you up. This is a keeper for winter.

I'm sending this to Deb for her Souper Sundays, a great array of soups, salads & sammies.

UPDATE: this soup is delicious served cold too, like vichyssoise.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

things I'm liking

It's Sunday and Satoshi is working, thought I'd share some random things that I'm liking...

This canvas tote.

I love tea and one of my favorites is Mariage Frères. Recently they came out with a mook (magazine + book) and their furoku (freebie) was this tote.

It is perfect for a short trip to the market and I think it will be perfect to bring
food on a picnic.

How beautiful are these sasanqua petals?

I loved the way the fallen pink and white covered the ground like a carpet.

Recently Yoshimi gave me this for my birthday, a happy pig (a fruitcake) and fair trade chocolates--one with glazed walnuts, one with chopped almonds & one with croquante...I shared half the pig with Satoshi (Thank you!)

What are you liking?

Saturday, February 19, 2011

kimu-taku yakimeshi

If you are familiar with popular singers in Japan, you'll know that "kimu taku" is a nickname for SMAP's Kimura Takuya.

Not to disappoint, but this post has nothing to do with him.

On a recent television show, which showcases the odd & mysterious cuisines from different prefectures in Japan, there was "kimu-taku gohan" = kim chee takuan gohan.

In Nagano prefecture, this is a really popular dish with school kids, especially when served as part of their school lunch.

On the program, they briefly went through how to make it, I ad-libbed and came up with my own recipe.

Kat's Kimu-Taku Yakimeshi serves: 4

150 grams thinly sliced pork, cut into bite sized pieces
70 grams tsubozuke, chopped chunky
100 grams kim chee, chopped chunky
about 1.5 cups day old rice
1 tablespoon sesame oil
green onion, sliced
1 tablespoon roasted sesame seed

Heat a pan with the sesame oil
Add the pork and brown
Add the rice and break up in the pan
When the pork is cooked and rice broken up, add the kim chee and tsubozuke, mix well.
Sprinkle with green onions and sesame seeds

NOTES: Tsubozuke is a type of shoyu-based takuan (pickled daikon) that is kind of sweet. If you cannot find tsubozuke where you are, I would suggest using takuan and add a little shoyu (maybe a teaspoon).

This dish is sweet, salty and spicy, perfect with beer. I used cold rice and made this like fried rice though the original version used fresh rice.

I would serve this with suimono (clear broth) or an egg-drop soup, I think miso soup would be too salty with this. Also, I think putting an over-easy or sunny side up egg on it would also be delicious.

I'm making this again, especially when beer season starts.

Friday, February 18, 2011


How was your V-day? Ours was good. The day started out with me giving Satoshi chocolates and a card.

In Japan, the guys get all the attention on V-day, if you want to read up on it, I've written something about it here.

As I was returning from the market it began to drizzle and the drizzles turned in to snow!

It ended up snowing the whole afternoon. I loved how the snow fell, it reminded me of white feathers, beautiful!

While it continued to snow, I heard commotion going on outside and decided to check it out, I'm kinda nosy like that.

It turned out something needed fixing, and this poor guy was outside with a plastic sheet overhead.

For dinner, I tried a new recipe.

It was a spicy pork wrapped with cabbage. Of course, I didn't read the recipe properly and ended up detouring a little from the original.

Spicy Pork Wrapped with Cabbage :adapted from ESSE March 2011 issue : serves about 3
1/4 cup water
1/4 cup sake (rice wine)
1 tablespoon sugar
1/2 tablespoon shoyu (soy sauce)
1.5 tablespoons miso (soy bean paste)
1 teaspoon tobanjan (chili paste)
150 grams pork, thinly sliced
1.5 tablespoons ground white sesame seeds
3 leaves of cabbage, washed

In a pan, put the first 6 ingredients in and add the pork.
Turn the heat up to high and while mixing, let liquid evaporate.
After the liquid evaporates, add the ground sesame seeds, mix well.

With your leaves of cabbage, heat in a microwave (600W) for 90 seconds. Be careful of the steam and remove the hard stem. Then wrap 50 grams of pork.

Cut in half and serve with rice.

NOTES: The original recipe says to put about 50 grams into 1 leaf for a serving, but my leaves of cabbage weren't too big, so I made about 4 or 5 little rolls as 1 serving and served with lots of rice.

The original recipe also calls for the cabbage to be boiled but since I didn't read it properly, I nuked it.

For dessert we had dark chocolate dipped strawberries. I used Rowena's idea and placed some heart sprinkles that I had.

The day after, the sun came out and started to melt the snow.

p.s. yesterday, we visited MIL and she is happy to be at home. She can't sit on the tatami like she used to nor can she go upstairs to sleep, so she is living on the 1st floor of her house for now.

BIL & SIL take turns daily to check on her and bring her food, and once a week her doctor and a nurse make house call visits to help change bandages and such. It was nice visiting with her though we worry about her getting around her house.

Hope your V-day was a nice one, boy the week went by quickly, hope you have a nice weekend!

Thursday, February 17, 2011


On Sunday, we awoke to the whole town covered in snow. As one of my Flickr friends said, "Looks like a toy village with powdered sugar poured on it." Sure did.

There were many other sights to be seen in Tsuwano but either they were out of the way or closed due to the snow.

Since we had some time before the train ride back to Yamaguchi, Satoshi thought we should kill some time at a museum in town but I didn't want to get my shoes & socks wet like the days before, so I convinced him that with the weather the way it was, we should try to get back to Osaka as soon as possible.

I also convinced him that we should take a taxi from our hotel to the station. It was a good call too because the roads were packed with snow.

As we rode in the taxi, we saw many people shoveling again and the driver explained that most of the trains weren't running the day before.

Here's a view of a train heading towards Tsuwano, somewhere under all that snow is the platform.

We fell asleep along the way, but I think it took us about an hour and a half from Tsuwano to Shin-Yamaguchi.

Since we had some time before our Shinkansen (bullet train) back to Osaka, we stopped into Santouka for lunch.

I had seen this place on our way to Hagi and thought it was the ramen place that I see Kirk & Dennis talk about on their blogs, but it wasn't.

A little bummed but still hungry, I decided to go with the Santouka Go-Go Don...550 yen (about US$5.50), this was a chicken katsu don. Usually you can find tonkatsu (pork cutlet) don, but chicken katsu is kind of rare.

I liked this but there was too much rice for me to finish it.

Satoshi went with the Curry de U-don...670 yen (about US$6.70).

This starts with rice at the bottom, a layer of grated yamaimo (mountain yam), a layer of udon then it is covered with lots of curry.

He said it was good but wouldn't rush back to eat it again, I didn't taste it, so I guess it was just okay.

We also found a local cider, Choshu Ji-cider.

Fizzy and flavored with natsumikan (chinese citron). This was good.

With all the cold and wetness, Satoshi's shoes gave out on him. The picture doesn't do it justice it was goners!

It was cold and wet but I got to see snow, lots of it (though I was afraid we may get frost bite).

I'm glad we went to Hagi and Tsuwano and wouldn't mind going back again, hope you enjoyed our adventure as much as we did.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011


The weather on Saturday was forecast to be awful and, it was.

Blustery, rain, snow. Still, we had more to see in Hagi. We had wanted to go by bicycle but the hotel staff convinced us that it was too windy.

So instead we borrowed two of their umbrellas...and went exploring.

The wind was so strong and then there was sleet, I'm sure the locals who saw us thought, "stupid tourists".

Have you ever seen someone walking in bad weather and their umbrella flips up the other way?? That was me. I swear it felt like we were in the middle of a typhoon or hurricane that day, it was THAT windy and rainy.

Our first stop was the Hagi castle ruins, which we looked at from a distance. We also peeped inside of the Hagi pottery museum which wasn't open yet.

There is an area in Hagi with walls called kaimagari, they are built high on both sides to protect against enemy attacks and the corners are angled...neat!

Inside of the Kubota residence there was a beautiful hina-ningyo (Girl's Day Doll) display.

In fact, a lot of these residences were showcasing their dolls.

At this point we were sopping wet and very cold. The volunteers in the Kubota residence kindly let us stand in front of their heaters (thank you!).

We then popped next door to Seiseian to have some matcha with sweets...500 yen (about US$5)

We were still sopping wet but it was nice to get out of the sleet.

After warming up a bit, we ran across the street to the Kikuya residence and looked at their dolls and interior.

The wooden decks around the house were quite interesting...the original deck is made of keyaki (zelkova) and are only meant for samurai and honored guests, so when lower classes were around, these decks were covered with sugi (cedar) boards.

The area called Kikuya Lane, next to the Kikuya residence looks like you've slipped back into time.

Despite the blustery wind and sleet, we saw quite a bit and unfortunately ruined the two umbrellas we borrowed from the hotel (sorry!).

After changing our socks and taking out some of the moisture from our shoes with some newspaper, we took a bus from Hagi to Tsuwano. It takes about 2 hours through the mountains and this was a slightly scary ride.

Everything was white and the roads a bit slick as we crawled along the roads.

At one point, the bus driver stopped to talk to another driver about the road conditions.

I'm glad we made it safely. Tsuwano had had a lot of snow overnight and when we got there, it was still snowing off and on.

Since we couldn't check-in, we decided to look for lunch and stopped into Tsurube.

I had their curry udon & Satoshi had their sansai (mountain greens) udon with 2 musubi.

The udon surely hit the spot though our feet felt quite frozen.

Even after eating, we still had some time before check-in, so we decided to check out some of the sights.

The Tsuwano Christian church had no pews, just tatami mats. I didn't go inside because I didn't want to take off my shoes, especially since my socks were wet and feet were cold.

As we walked about, many of the residents and shop owners were shoveling their store and home fronts and were chatting with each other.

One told us to check out the koi (carp) at the rice shop, Koi no Komeya.

The carp are located in their garden pond, just tell the owner you are there to see them. Boy, did they have a lot of carp!

It was interesting to watch people shovel.

There are grates on the side of the road which they open up and push all the snow from their store/home fronts into.

The snow then runs into the waterway running underneath.

Near our hotel was a sweet shop called Sanshodo Kashinan, there we picked up some sweets including Tsuwano's famous item, Genji maki, a sweet bean paste wrapped with a thin piece of cake...delicious.

After warming up in the furo (bath), dinner was kaiseki-style and we had all sorts of dishes including this kasago (scorpionfish) which was simmered in shoyu, mirin and sake.

To tell you the truth, having a whole fish like this intimidates me, I don't know how to eat it "nicely" and tend to freak out with all the bones. But, I did my best to eat as much as I could, though I did give Satoshi a little of it to "clean-up".

Another long day and another long post.

You can also see a really short video I took while riding the bus to Tsuwano.

1-27 Gofukumachi
Hagi, Yamaguchi
Phone: 0838.22.3929
Days off not set

384-1 Ushiroda
Tsuwano, Shimane
Phone: 0856.72.2098

Sanshodo (Kashinan)
197 Ushiroda
Tsuwano, Shimane
Phone: 0856.72.3225

Tuesday, February 15, 2011


Friday morning we awoke to snow! it fell quite steadily as we walked to the station.

From Osaka it takes about 2 hours by Shinkansen (bullet train) to Shin-Yamaguchi.

After arriving in Yamaguchi, we then caught a bus to Hagi.

The bus ride took about another 2 hours, winding through the mountains and isolated neighborhoods.

When we arrived at Higashi-Hagi station, it was drizzling and windy.

Hagi city has a bus line, called Ma-a-ru bus (go around bus). One vehicle runs clockwise and the other counter-clockwise. They run every half hour, no matter how far you ride on this bus it is only 100 yen (about US$1).

The city also has a larger bus line which runs more frequently but costs according to the distance you ride.

Since we had just missed the Ma-a-ru bus, we walked to Shoin Shrine, a shrine dedicated to Yoshida Shoin, who helped develop many activists for the Meiji Restoration.

While walking around this shrine, we had a Shoin dango, rice cakes heated over a fire then coated with a sweet miso....330 yen (about US$3.30)

This really hit the spot since we hadn't had time for lunch.

Around this shrine, you will also see these paper umbrellas and colorful washi (Japanese paper) hanging from the trees. We found out these were o-mikuji (random fortunes).

Usually when you go to shrines, you see white paper o-mikuji tied to tree branches, they had these types too but these umbrellas & washi were definitely pretty to see.

From Shoin Shrine we walked to Ito Hirobumi's house, a 4-term prime minister, follower of Yoshida Shoin and the person who drafted the Meiji Constitution.

We also visited Tamaki Bunnoshin's residence, who is the uncle of Yoshida Shonin.

Down the road is Tokoji, this temple has many oni-gawara (devil tiles) on the roof tops to ward off evil.

It is also the place where many lords of the Mori clan are buried.

There is an area towards the back of the temple with 500 stone lanterns. It was kind of eery to see this place in the rain.

Since we had missed another bus, we decided to find something to eat.

Luckily, right across from Tokoji are some tiny shops.

We popped in one for lunch.

I ordered a ji-biru (local brew) called Chonmage (top knot--the hairstyle that most samurai had), and shared it with Satoshi.

This was their brown beer called, Alt, it was fruity and delicious...650 yen (about US$6.50)

We also ordered some udon...450 yen (about US$4.50).

This came with thick thick slices of tamagoyaki (rolled omlette), kamaboko, lots of green onion and wakame (kelp).

Since it was still very cold and drizzly, this really hit the spot.

From Tokoji, we caught the Ma-a-ru bus to the birthplace of Yoshida Shoin.

His birthplace is in the same area as his grave is and there is apparently a nice view of Hagi city and the Japan Sea, but the weather was still bad, so we couldn't really get a good view of it.

We jumped on the bus again and went to an area called Aiba Waterway.

This waterway runs in front of many homes, where they used the water to wash their vegetables and dishes. It was also used as a means to transport firewood.

In many homes, it was common to see hatoba, an area to wash dishes or clothing.

There were also many koi (carp) outside the homes in the waterway as well as landing areas to wash garden tools.

Hagi is famous for its pottery, which was influenced by Korean pottery.

Most have a transparent white glaze and are pastel colored. There are also pieces that are more rustic looking, with chunkier glazing.

I got to watch the owner of the Genshu Gama as he worked on a piece on the pottery wheel.

After a long cold day, we enjoyed our kaiseki meal which included a fugu (blowfish) hot pot, sashimi & chawan mushi (savory custard) among other items.

Way too much food as usual but I managed to eat my share after all that walking and trying to keep warm.

You may notice at the bottom of your tea cup there is a nick.

It isn't damaged. Apparently in the feudal days, only samurai were allowed to use ceramic ware. When the lord made a nick, this signified that the piece was "damaged" and could then be passed down to the peasants.

A long first day, very cold and wet...but that was only to be the beginning of things...stay tuned!