Tuesday, January 31, 2017


I came across huge beets at Crazy Pantry over the weekend.

2 beets were 140 yen (plus tax)...what a bargain!

According to the label, this was variety was called "Detroit Dark Red".

I roasted them and we had some for Sunday dinner.

Bummer that they don't sell the greens with the beets, but I am happy that I came across these.

Monday, January 30, 2017


Have you ever seen these at the market? Kuruma-fu.

They are wheat gluten rings.

Apparently they were created for Buddhist monks to replace the meat in their diets.

It reminded me of bread.

When I looked online, there were people using it as bread too.

To reconstitute them, you need to put them into water for about 10 minutes.

Then using your palms, gently press out the water from the kuruma-fu.

I made this into french toast.

It was watery, so I need to press out more water.

And these rings were getting larger and larger as I was cooking them, soaking up whatever liquid it could get.

2 rings per person was very filling, so I am thinking that the next time I make this, I will use only 1 ring per person and soak it overnight in the milk-egg mixture.

Will let you know how my experimenting goes...

Friday, January 27, 2017


My friend Hiromi had some time off so she asked if I would join her for lunch at Ambiente.

They have many different lunch choices, but the most popular are their raclette & fondue lunches.

So that is what we ordered.

The lunch comes with appetizers...quiche, smoked duck and ratatouille.

Some salad. Some foccacia.

The raclette cheese is "poured" over chicken and veggies. The skin of the chicken was so crisp!

The fondue comes with many veggies (even hard boiled quail eggs) and some pieces of ham to dip.

To end, you can have coffee or tea.

It was a great lunch. I'm glad Hiromi asked me to join her. (Thank you!)

I want to go back to try other items on their menu...I'll be back.

1-10-5 Ishibashi, Tsuda Building 2F
Ikeda, Osaka
Phone: 072.762.1328
Hours: Sunday-Thursday 11:30-23:00, Friday-Saturday 11:30-2:00

Thursday, January 26, 2017


When I was learning Japanese, we learned the word for "chicken" to be "toriniku" ("tory-knee-coo"--literally bird meat).

Then while living here, I realized that it had a different name, "kashiwa". (I think even my Grandma used to call chicken, "kashiwa")

I had thought that most of Kyushu and the southern parts of Honshu called chicken, "kashiwa", but apparently, there are parts of Northern Honshu that call chicken, "kashiwa" too.

Anyway, since I had gobo and some leftover dashi in my fridge, I made some kashiwa-meshi for dinner last night.

I've made this once before and thought I posted about it, but couldn't find it on my blog...

Kashiwa-meshi adapted from "Bento no hon by Yorino Masami" makes 4 servings--more or less depending on your servings.

2 cups rice, washed
2 cups dashi (cold brewed stock)

150 grams chicken breast, cut into bite sized pieces
gobo (burdock root) 1 piece about 12 inches long, cleaned and whittled or peeled with peeler, soak in water after whittling/peeling for a couple of minutes
maitake (1 package), torn apart with hands

1 tablespoon sesame oil
1 teaspoon sugar
2 tablespoons mirin
1 tablespoon sake
2 tablespoons shoyu

Cook rice with dashi in rice cooker.
In a frying pan, heat sesame oil
Drain water from gobo
Add chicken and gobo, sauteeing in the oil
Add the maitake
Add the sugar, mirin, sake and shoyu, stir fry everything for about 5 minutes
When the rice is finished cooking, add the chicken mixture to the rice and mix gently without smooshing the rice.
Serve and enjoy!

NOTES: a bit tedious to make, but delicious. Plus, you can just add a salad like I did.
I actually made half the recipe of the rice (1 cup rice, 1 cup dashi) and the full recipe of the chicken mixture and am thinking to put the other half of the chicken mixture into oyakodon...

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

wings up

I don't know if all trucks have sides that open up, but thought that this truck was cool.

Now the driver wouldn't have to tunnel into the depths of the truck to find something...just open up the side and take whatever he needed out.

Cool yeah?!

Tuesday, January 24, 2017


I recently saw dashichazuke featured on a morning program.

Instead of tea, you use dashi (stock).

These days, I make my stock "coldbrew" style a day ahead.

Filling a container with the amount of water suggested on the package and putting in a "tea bag" style dashi packet.

Then I put the container in the refridge overnight.

The next morning, I put some rice into a bowl and then serve with different toppings.

Bubu arare (tiny rice cracker balls), nori (revived in the toaster), tsukemono, some fish...(put whatever you enjoy)

The first time I did this, I thought that the grilled saba (mackerel) would have enough saltiness so that I wouldn't need to season the dashi (stock), but it did need a little seasoning, so...

The next time I made this, I heated up 300 milliliters (about a cup and a half) of dashi (for 2 people) with a teaspoon of shoyu and a teaspoon of mirin.

I heated this thoroughly but didn't boil it.

If you give this a try, I hope you like it.

It is perfect for these cold mornings.

Monday, January 23, 2017

rice bags

I recently bought a bag of rice.

I usually buy rice that is packaged in plastic bags and usually only buy 2 kilos (about 5 pounds) at a time.

Anyway, while the bag itself is sturdy, I was shocked that it was just tied at the top.

The bag wasn't even sealed!

Sometimes I think Japan is a little too trusting...

Friday, January 20, 2017


I found some nori in my pantry that was stuck together and rather stale.

I would usually ask my mom as to what she thought should be done, but since that isn't possible, I turned to the internet.

Of the solutions, I chose to revive the nori in the toaster.

Total 3 minutes.

1 minute, flip, 1 minute.

Turn off toaster and let sit for another minute.

Actually, I think the internet said something about 30 seconds for each side, but since I didn't write anything down, I just ad-libbed.

I'm glad it was revivable and I didn't have to throw it out.

We added some to our okayu (rice porridge) the other morning.

Hope you have a nice weekend.

Thursday, January 19, 2017


I stumbled upon a small festival/first prayer event at Sonpachiyakujin yesterday while walking back from the market.

They had so many food stalls all crammed into their entranceway and many spilling out into the streets.

Usually when we visit this temple it is so quiet and no one is really around.

It was nice to see so many people out and about.

The weather yesterday was a little warmer though the weather dude is saying we will either have rain or snow this weekend.

Happy Thursday!

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

meatless monday

I rarely keep to the "meatless monday" thingy.

But this past Monday, instead of using a chicken consomme cube, I used some leftover Japanese dashi when I made tomato miso soup, making it "meatless".

I also used whatever veggies were in my fridge (maitake, carrot, gobo).

Topping the soup with some leftover baby leaf just before serving.

According to the weather dude, the wintry weather will be around at least for the next week.

(Can you believe we were having March temps a couple weeks ago? Some ume (apricot) plants had started to bloom!)

What things are you cooking these days?

Tuesday, January 17, 2017


We recently received this handwritten nengajo (New Year card) from my cousin in Okinawa.

In Japanese it reads "ryu-hi-hou-bu"...in Chinese "ron-fei-fon-ooh"

In English, it is "Dragons Soar, Phoenix Dance"

The saying is used as wishes for the new year.

I think both the handwriting and the writing are beautiful.

Monday, January 16, 2017


we got snow!

It was off and on throughout the day.

Satoshi kept shuddering as he looked out the window.

I'm glad we bought enough groceries so we didn't have to venture outdoors.

If you'd like to see two videos I shot, click here and here.

It was also our anniversary yesterday.

17 years...seems long yet short.

I am thankful for Satoshi always putting up with me...Love you always.

Dinner was beef rolls with japanese tartar sauce, watercress daikon salad and a glass of wine.

This morning we had some flurries, and it was also off and on, even as I typed this

Have a good week everyone.

Friday, January 13, 2017

this and that

It's almost halfway through January and can you believe we haven't had a flurry in Osaka? not one (or none that I have seen anyway).

I was bummed.

I mean, winter since moving to Japan for me is all about the white stuff.

...then the weather dude forecasted that we might get some snow this weekend.

2 days! whoo!

I don't want to have to shovel the stuff or anything like that, but still some flurries or a dusting would be nice...

We are keeping warm with soup though...like this Japanese Veggie Soup with Ginger.

Instead of grating in some ginger, I put a couple of tablespoons of the okazu shoga (ginger) that I had from Kochi.

Hope you have a nice weekend, will let you know what happens.

Thursday, January 12, 2017


These puddings at Starbucks came out during Christmas (or maybe it was a little before that)...

I heard the Starbucks in Korea has had this on their menu for awhile now.

Anyway, it was hard to come by because of social media...

Last Saturday, we finally were able to try it and shared the chocolate version. (There is also a custard version.)

The chocolate version has a rich chocolate sauce at the bottom, making it even richer.

I like the cute packaging.

At 320 yen (plus tax) it isn't cheap though.

If we come across the custard version we may give it a try.

Have you tried anything fun lately?

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

entrance exams

I've written about the entrance exam season in Japan here.

This year, my friend, Hiromi's son, R, is getting ready to take his entrance exams.

His birthday is also coming up, so I thought it would be nice to send him a "Kit Kat" for good luck.

You can buy these at the post office, postage is separate.

Write the address here.

Write your message here.

I hope R will pass his exams.

Good Luck & Happy Birthday R!

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

portuguese sausage flavored spam

When I saw this on my last visit to Hawaii, I thought...hmm...

My brother said, "why not just bring back portuguese sausage"...true.

After trying the teriyaki version, I was leery about this one too...

Turns out it is meh!

I put some into goya champuru.

Portuguese-ish bean soup.

And just plain fried up for breakfast.

It doesn't have the right texture like portuguese sausage, nor the "punch" of spices that portuguese sausage has.

Oh well, we tried it.

Monday, January 09, 2017


The last day in Nara started with chagayu (rice gruel made with tea) but with different condiments...and this hotel served coffee with our meal too (most times you only receive tea when you have a Japanese style meal).

Next to our hotel was this odd pyramid thingy called Zutou ("zoo-toe"...literally head tower)...apparently no one really knows why it was built here or who actually built it.

I thought our hotel would give us a little discount on the admission which was 300 yen, but they didn't, so we just admired it from the outside...

We then walked up the hill to Shinyakushiji.

If you visit this temple, go watch the video that they are showing first (only in Japanese though).

It shows how they used x-ray and other techniques to figure out what the warrior statues guarding the Yakushi Nyorai statue actually might have looked like originally with paint and other patterns.

Satoshi also mentioned that if you visit places that let you go around the statues, they will make you go around it clockwise. Apparently this is a Buddhist thing.

Walking back down towards Nara town, I had mentioned to Satoshi that wouldn't it be cool if we came across deer in the suburbs? And we did (sorry no photo).

It was a nice "hold your breath" moment.

On FB, Reader V, mentioned that there was an udon shop that she loves that is "behind the yomogi mochi shop" (love social media!).

I actually had the yomogi mochi shop bookmarked which is called Nakatanido.

If you've ever done mochi-tsuki (pounding rice cakes) you'll be in awe of these guys...they have krazy technique!

We weren't able to see them in action, but I did find something here.

These yomogi mochi are filled with sweet bean paste.

We did pick up a couple for snack on our train ride back...delicious!

Around the corner from Nakatanido is V's favorite shop, Mentoan.

They are popular for their kinchaku kitsune udon.

A huge aburaage is filled with udon noodles and tied with the green onions.

Satoshi had their curry version while I had their original.

Both were delicious, though I prefer my aburaage in kitsune udon to be sweetened.

We were the first in line and when we left the line to get in was quite long. (Thanks for the tip V!)

Despite the icy winds, I'm glad the weather was quite cooperative.

It was a short adventure filled with lots of walking, lots of eating and we got to see more of Nara.

I hope you enjoyed this adventure as much as we did.

29 Hashimoto-cho
Nara, Nara
Phone: 0742.23.0141
Hours: 10:00-19:00

30-1 Hashimoto-cho
Nara, Nara
Phone: 0742.25.3581
Hours: 11:00-19:00, or earlier if they run out of noodles or aburaage
Closed Tuesdays

Friday, January 06, 2017

nara (day 2)

We woke early the next day as Satoshi had a lot he wanted to see.

Breakfast was chagayu (a rice porridge that is cooked in tea). We have the same type of dish in Hawaii except my grandma used to call it "chagai".

Our first stop was Kofukuji. While walking to the temple, we ran across these two male deer fighting/playing. If you click on the photo, I hope you'll be able to view the short video I shot.

While we were at Kofukuji, we visited the Eastern Golden Hall and the National Treasure Hall.

NOTE: the National Treasure Hall will be closed for all of 2017 to strengthen the building against earthquakes .

I'm glad we were able to see the artifacts housed in the National Treasure Hall.

It was nice seeing the jizo statues being "dressed" for winter.

Down the street from Kofukuji is Gangoji, a temple which was apparently the first full scale Buddhist temple to be built in Japan.

The structures on the property are not the originals, most were destroyed in fires.

While Satoshi looked at the artifacts in the hall, I had some quiet time in this walkway lined with jizo statues.

This temple is where I purchased some Juppuku tea (10 fortune tea).

If I understood the writing on the package correctly, 10 temples in Nara each have a different Jizo statue which each have different good luck wishes such as "having enough to eat", "taking away sickness", "having wisdom" to name just a few.

(We tried some of this tea on New Years Day and enjoyed it. I think if I come across this tea again, I will pick up some more.)

We then made our way to our hotel...

On our way though, we noticed a long line outside a shop.

Since it was close to lunch time, we decided to go into the shop next to the one with the long line...Kana Kana.

We both ordered the Kana Kana Gohan Plate...oyster cream croquette, carrot shiroae, daikon and greens, azuki kanten, korean nori rice, simmered konnyaku and some coffee afterwards.

The place was quite cozy and felt like we were in someone's home.

We wouldn't mind coming back to try other items on their menu as well as checking out the shop next door too.

It was nice walking through the Naramachi area with their preserved buildings.

We dropped off our bags at the hotel we would be staying at and then walked through Nara Park to Kasuga Taisha.

Along the way, we came across the "famous" deer of Nara.

It's all about the deer senbei (wafers) for these guys...

Just be careful, some get krazy...up on hind legs fighting each other for the senbei in your hand, some nudge/butt/bite/lick you...anything for that wafer...

I overheard a rickshaw driver tell his riders that the roads are colored differently to warn cars to slow down for deer.

We actually saw a couple of deer cross and cars having to stop suddenly...talk about "hold your breath" moment, eep!

Kasuga Taisha is a huge Shinto shrine, they have many lanterns that were donated by worshippers.

It was amazing to see so many!

Next to Kasuga Taisha are a couple more temples, and then we made our way down to Todaiji to see the Daibutsu (Great Buddha).

This is where we bought some deer senbei and they all zoomed in on us...

Satoshi had the most of the senbei so they were mostly following him.

His jacket got all the deer "kisses".

I was wondering why they were following him so closely...he had put the senbei into his jacket pocket...lolo (crazy)...

The young male deers with antlers were quite scary...I was afraid someone would get stabbed...still, we had lots of fun.

It had been many years since I've visited Todaiji, to see this Daibutsu will have you walking around with your mouth open and looking up in awe of it...it is really huge!

Afterwards, we were feeling a bit hungry so stopped into Tenpyoan for something sweet...

Never have we had bad service such as what we encountered at this shop.

First off, we waited for half hour for our order, only to see it being served to customers that came in AFTER we did...

And then instead of apologizing for the mix up, the waitress tried to cover up her mistake by ordering our food...STAT...

Still hungry (and a bit upset)...we walked back towards our hotel and checked out a cafe I had seen earlier...Kuuki Cake.

I had their matcha kuuki cake.

while Satoshi had their marron (chestnut) version.

Kuuki in Japanese means "air"...talk about light and fluffy! Definitely like eating air.

Dinner was again kaiseki style, not as big as the meal we had the previous night, but just right.

Another full day of walking, sight seeing and eating. The weather was fair but the wind was icy.

Kana Kana
13 Kunodo-cho
Nara, Nara
Phone: 0742.22.3214
Hours: 11:00-20:00
Closed Mondays

Hotel Wellness Asukaji
778-1 Takabatake-cho
Nara, Nara
Phone: 0742.22.2857

Kuuki Cake
738-2 Takabatake-cho
Nara, Nara
Phone: 0742.27.2828
Closed Wednesdays
Hours: 9:00-19:30

Thursday, January 05, 2017


From Osaka it took us a little over an hour to get to Tsutsui station.

We bought this one day pass (1650 yen), it let us ride the Osaka subway as well as Kintetsu trains and buses.

NOTES: from different areas and train lines the price is a little different.

The pass also gets you some discounts into temples.

From Tsutsui, it was about half an hour by bus to Horyuji, which has "the world's oldest surviving wooden structures" dating back to 1,300 years ago.

The place was huge!

We also visited Daihozoin which is on the same property and housed many national treasures.

Next to Horyuji is Chuguji.

It was believed that Horyuji was originally built as a monastery while Chuguji was built as a nunnery.

It was amazing to see all the different sculptures and artifacts.

Then about 20 minutes away on foot, was Hokiji, one of seven Buddhist institutions that Prince Shotoku helped establish.

We thought we might be able to grab some lunch, but there wasn't much where we were, so we headed back to Tsutsui and pickings were even slimmer.

Thank goodness for "emergency food" (a.k.a. snacks) that I had packed...

We then caught the train to Nishinokyo.

From the train station, it was about 10 minutes to Toshodaiji.

Most places didn't allow photographs of the sculptures or artifacts, so I was taking more photos of the scenery...like this moss covered area at the entrance of Ganjin Wajo's tomb....

One thing you should know is that most temples close at 17:00, so you need to get in by 16:30, if you want to visit.

Since Satoshi wanted to visit another temple in the area, Yakushiji, he ran back, while I leisurely walked over and waited for him outside.

While I walked over, I was intrigued by the roots of the trees and how the soil around it was eroding but the trees seemed to stay upright because it looked like they had weaved their roots together.

Dinner was kaiseki style and since we didn't really have lunch, I ate everything (and surprised Satoshi)!

Usually when we have kaiseki, I get full mid-way and end up giving the rest to Satoshi...

It was a full day...lots of walking and lots of sights.

Nara Hakushikaso
4 Hanashiba-cho
Nara, Nara
Phone: 0742.22.5466