Friday, March 22, 2019

yakiimo

So I experimented with the fish drawer grill/broiler and cooked one of the purple sweet potatoes in it...

The pilot light (at least I think it was the pilot light) for my gas range kept going out, so it took about an hour to cook.

Still, I think this came out pretty good.

I have two more sweet potatoes and will try cooking one in the oven.

This was fun trying to cook it with the grill/broiler.

Thursday, March 21, 2019

sakurazaka

Tuesday, I went to check out one of the spots for blossoms, Sakurazaka (literally cherry blossom hill)

Apparently this particular area was the model for Masaharu Fukuyama's song "Sakurazaka".

On this particular day, the blossoms weren't quite ready and at the time I was putting this post together, Tokyo was still waiting for the weather people, to see 5 flowers on the specific tree (there were only 4 flowers) to announce the start of the cherry blossom season.

It is the Vernal Equinox (First day of Spring & a holiday) today, hopefully the weather dudes will be able to see one more flower bloom so that this cherry blossom season can get started.

Wednesday, March 20, 2019

yokosuka

From where we live it takes about an hour to get to Yokosuka.

It is home to a large US Naval base.

And where there is a slice of America there are usually burgers...

Honey Bee's has been around since 1968...their navy burgers are pre-made 1/2 pound patties and the huge fluffy buns help hold the sandwich together while eating.

As the waitress said, "just smash it down and go for it" (well, something like that in Japanese)

Super juicy and well seasoned...this was hefty...1680 yen (tax included)...and I also added cheese 150 yen.

This came with fries and a drink (which I ordered a cola).

Satoshi went with the captain...2300 yen (tax included)....this had teri sauce, an egg, bacon, mayo, cheese, tomato and onion, plus the 1/2 pound patty...talk about monster! messy eats.

Satoshi had an orange Fanta.

While eating it was nice to listen to KSSK which they had streaming in too.

Another popular food in Yokosuka is their curry which I believe is influenced by the Japanese Navy...we'll have to come back to try that...

After lunch we walked to Mikasa Park.

This is where retired Japan warship, Mikasa is parked and where you can pay to roam around inside.

While Satoshi roamed the warship, I went to check out the Port Market.

They had fish freshly caught at the nearby Misaki area.

I picked up some otoro (fatty tuna)

and katsuo tataki (seared bonito) for dinner...about 1700 yen for both!

As well as locally grown swiss chard and broccolini.

I also found some purple sweet potato that was grown in Chiba...550 yen total for the veggies I bought.

Yokosuka is also the home of the Sukajan (Yokosuka + Janpa (jacket))...a satin embroidered baseball jacket...for more background on this read this.

The weather was nice and we were glad to be able to explore this area.

It was also a nice change to see many Caucasians.

We hope to come back for some cherry blossoms too.

Honey Bee
2-1 Honmachi
Yokosuka, Kanagawa
Hours: 11:30-??
Open Daily

Yokosuka Port Market
6 Shinko-cho
Yokosuka, Kanagawa
Closed Tuesdays
Hours: 10:00-21:00

Tuesday, March 19, 2019

tonkatsu enraku

Saturday night, we checked out Tonkatsu Enraku which is located near our train station.

The atmosphere when we opened the door was kinda cold, no "irrashaimasse" (welcome)...even got laser beams from the people sitting at the counter...eep!

After looking at the menu I ordered the filet katsu don...1450 yen (tax included).

This came with a bowl of tonjiru (miso soup with pork and veggies) and a generous serving of tsukemono (pickles).

Satoshi ordered the mixed fry set...2300 yen (tax included).

His order came with potato salad made with their housemade mayo, a bowl of tonjiru and tsukemono.

I was impressed with the tonkatsu...melt in your mouth tender, just the right amount of panko breading.

Lots of sweet onions and the sauce used for the donburi wasn't too sweet nor too salty.

They use lard to fry their tonkatsu but not just any type of lard, apparently the fat is taken from the innards, so the amount that can be made is a limited amount.

The panko is housemade from only the white parts of the bread crusts.

Satoshi was impressed with his dish too (no photo, he was too fast to start eating)...especially the fried shrimp, he said it was meaty and fried perfectly.

He's already thinking about a return visit to try their katsu curry, so despite the "cold" welcome, we'll be back.

Tonkatsu Enraku
6-1-4 Ikegami
Ota, Tokyo
Closed Sundays and Mondays
Phone: 03.3754.8243
Hours: 11:00-14:30 (lunch), 17:00-21:00 (dinner)
*cash only

Monday, March 18, 2019

saturday

From where we live it takes about and hour and a half to Koiwa which is located at the very east side of Tokyo.

Ever since we saw Kunio Kobayashi's bonsai on tv, we've been interested in checking out his museum.

Admission is 800 yen but worth it.

You can roam around the property and check out the many different bonsai.

Some are over 500 years old!

When I think of bonsai, I think of miniature sized plants but Mr Kobayashi's works show you that bonsai is not only "tiny", they can also be very large!

While we were there, there were several bus loads of tourists from several different countries learning about bonsai, Japanese calligrapy and origami.

One of Mr Kobayashi's disciples gave Satoshi this starter bonsai (an ume (apricot))...we'll see how long Satoshi will be able to care for it...

From Koiwa, we went back a couple of stations to Kameido.

We had wanted to try Kameido Gyoza, but the line was krazy!

We still ended up waiting, but in a shorter line at Fujiiya, another gyoza shop nearby.

Satoshi ordered the gomoku (5 item) soba and gyoza, which he enjoyed.

I ordered the pari pari (crispy) gyoza and ganso (original) gyoza set.

This was delicious and came with rice, some soup and pickles. I gave some rice to Satoshi. The broth looked thick but was light and flavorful.

We still want to check out Kameido Gyoza, but will need to get there when they open.

Across the street from Fujiiya is Julian Bakery. Apparently the owner/baker had a connection with Julian Bakery in Hawaii.

He said that Julian Bakery had shops in the GEM Stores in Waipahu and Temple Valley?! I remember GEM but not this particular bakery.

He hadn't been back to Hawaii since the 80s, so he was shocked to hear that GEM was no longer.

We tried the curry pan, mentaiko baguette & cream cheese walnut bread, for breakfast on Sunday.

The mentaiko and cream cheese breads were on the harder side but tastewise were delicious.

The curry pan had just the right amount of spice and kick.

We also tried the chocolate bread, this morning, which had some raisins (or maybe cherries) and some chocolate in it.

I think it could've had (way) more chocolate in it...

Down the street from Fujiiya was a display of Edo Kiriko (a type of etched glass).

So so beautiful!

Then we checked out Kameido Tenjin.

They have many ume (apricot) trees as well as fuji (wisteria) trellises.

We missed the ume but hope to come back to check out the wisteria.

Despite the weather being forecast for rain, we were bummed that it was fahreezing but glad that it was just overcast.

It was nice to explore another part of Tokyo and hope to be able to check out more areas.

Shunkaen Bonsai Museum
1-29-16 Niihori
Edogawa, Tokyo
Phone: 03.3670.8622
Closed Mondays
Hours: 10:00-17:00

Fujiiya
5-13-8 Kameido
Koto, Tokyo
Phone: 03.3683.1891
Closed Tuesdays
Hours: 10:00-23:30

Saturday, March 16, 2019

shop 'til you drop

Thursday, Val and I planned to check out to the shopping mall that is under Tokyo station.

On my way to meet her at her hotel, I witnessed the train staff "jamming" commuters onto the subway...it really does happen eep!

While roaming the many areas of the shopping mall, she bought some items and then we headed across town to Shibuya.

They have a One Piece shop located in the Marui Department Store.

One Piece is a manga (Japanese comic series).

She was interested in finding some souvenirs for one of her sons.

Then it was two doors up to Tower Records...it had been ages since I had set foot into a CD shop.

I was surprised that Tower Records was still around...though I have a feeling they only exists in Japan....

We were starving at this point and popped into J.S. Burgers Cafe for lunch.

I ordered the Maple Butter BLT...and was surprised that my BLT was topped with a pat of butter and drizzle of maple syrup...

I have given up on eating crispy bacon in Japan and accept the thick Canadian type of ham "bacon" that is served...

This had way too much grainy mustard in it but I was glad that the bread and fries were crispy...I want to go back to try the burgers.

And then it was back out for more shopping...

It was a whirlwind stay for Val, the weather was nice...I hope she had a nice time and was able to buy everything she came to Japan for.

J.S. Burgers Cafe
1-20-13 Jinnan, G Building 2F
Shibuya, Tokyo
Phone: 03.6415.2017
Hours: 11:00-22:30

Friday, March 15, 2019

playing tourist in ueno

Friend Val was visiting from Hawaii...she wanted to see the pandas at Ueno Zoo.

It was my first time to the zoo...and even on a weekday, there was a long line to see the pandas.

Before turning the corner to see them, there was a sign that said, "you have 1 minute to view the pandas...do not stop to take photos..blah blah blah" (WT!)

Well, when we turned the corner this is what we saw...the panda with its butt facing us.

How disappointing yeah?

We were like..."we stood in line for this?!"

The next two display areas were empty and we were feeling gypped.

Luckily, the panda in the next display area wasn't camera shy...

If you are interesting in seeing a really short video of the panda moving, click the link here.

Luckily, there were kanhizakura (a type of early blooming cherry blossom) just outside of the zoo.

Loved the dark pink color!

Lunch was at a place called Bal Pinolo...the pizza sauce was a bit watery but overall it was a nice lunch.

And since we were near Okachimachi, I took Val to Takeya.

They had everything she wanted and we were glad to be able to find everything in one place. (Thanks again V for telling me about this place! It is now Val's favorite place too!)

It was a beautiful day and it was nice to spend some time with a friend from Hawaii.

Ueno Zoo
9-83 Uenokoen
Taito, Tokyo
Closed Mondays
Hours: 9:30-17:00

Bal Pinolo
7-1-1 Higashiueno, Atre 1F
Taito, Tokyo
Hours: 11:00-23:30

Thursday, March 14, 2019

okachimachi

Saturday, I had some free time, so I went to check out Takeya.

After V showed me where it was, I wanted to go back to check it all out.

Well...Takeya has 8 buildings!

I went to the packaged food building and the ladies building...picking up some food items (coffee, chocolate almonds, arare, corned beef) and some nail polish remover.

I only went through 2 of the buildings and will definitely go back to check out the other buildings...

For lunch, I ate at Yushokuya Boo, which is located under the train tracks near Okachimachi station.

The roast beef in their donburi was super tender with no gristle...830 yen (tax included)...and topped with their housemade ponzu (citrus soy sauce), shiso (perilla), myoga (Japanese ginger) and green onions.

The rice was kind of on the hard side...I think it might have been reheated in the micro.

My meal came with some salad and some soup....I didn't care much for the soup though it was creamy but super tasteless.

I'm glad I tried this place though I don't know that I will be back (they allow smoking).

So much more to explore in this area...I'll be back.

Yushokuya Boo
5-9 Ueno, 2k540 Aki-Oka complex
Taito, Tokyo
Phone: 03.6240.1220
Weekdays: Lunch 11:30-14:00. Dinner 17:00-24:00
Weekends and Holidays: 11:00 - 20:00

Wednesday, March 13, 2019

hiiragi nanten

Hiiragi Nanten (Mahonia japonica) is a plant that we have in front of our apartment building.

The yellow flowers have a fragrance that kind of remind me of orange blossoms.

I read online that the plant has thorns and looking at the leaves, they look like holly which is "hiiragi" in Japanese.

The plant in front of our building is rather short, but online I have seen them quite tall.

Do you have something similar where you live?

Tuesday, March 12, 2019

nian gao

My IG friend, @yumyumtofu shared a nian gao (Chinese New Year Mochi) recipe that her mother had given to her (thank you!)...

I finally got to try it and while it was baking I realized I forgot to add the sugar...sigh.

After posting about it on IG and FB, some readers gave me suggestions (thank you!) and in the end I drizzled it with chocolate, because chocolate can save pretty much everything.

At least it was edible and I didn't have to throw it out.

I need to buy more mochiko, but still have some coconut milk and half of the evaporated milk...hope to get around to making some muffins or something with the milks in the coming days.

Monday, March 11, 2019

sri lanka chicken curry with cashew coconut sauce

After trying Sri Lankan Curry in Hakone, I looked in one of my cookbooks, "Madhur Jafferey's Ultimate Curry Bible"...

Thursday was a cold rainy day (we even had thunder and lightning, some places even had hail!)...perfect for trying the recipe.

I adlibbed here and there because I was lazy and because I didn't have some of the ingredients.

Sri Lanka Chicken Curry with Cashew Coconut Sauce (servings 2) adapted from "Madhur Jafferey's Ultimate Curry Bible"

80 grams skinless chicken breast, cut into bite sized pieces
1 teaspoon garam masala
dash of cayenne pepper
pinch of salt

1/2 tablespoon mochiko (rice flour)
1 tablespoon unsweetened coconut, smashed with rolling pin
1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom
1/4 teaspoon ground clove
1 tablespoon raw cashew, smashed with rolling pin
30 milliliters water

1 tablespoon olive oil
1/4 red onion, minced
1/2 stick cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon fenugreek seeds
1/2 clove garlic, minced
5 dried curry leaves

50 grams diced tomatoes
300 milliliters consomme stock

60 milliliters coconut milk

Massage the garam masala, cayenne & salt into the chicken then set aside for 15-20 minutes.
In a plastic bag, with a rolling pin, smash the raw cashews and coconut.
Mix with cardamom, clove, mochiko and water to make a paste then set aside.
In a pan, heat olive oil then add onions, when onions get translucent, add cinnamon, fenugreek, garlic, curry leaves to heat the spices with the oil.
Add the chicken and brown slightly.
Add the tomatoes, stock and nut paste.
Bring to a boil, cover then reduce the heat to low.
Cook gently for 15 minutes.
Stir in coconut milk, then turn off heat.

NOTES: Apparently cashews and coconut are commodities of Sri Lanka, so this recipe incorporates them.

I read somewhere that curry leaves can substitute for pandan (ingredient in the original recipe), so that is what I used.

I also don't have a spice mill (and was too lazy to take out my food processor), so I just smashed the cashews and coconut in a plastic bag with a rolling pin.

The recipe also instructs you to make a rice flour by toasting it then putting the rice into a spice mill, since I already have mochiko (rice flour), that is what I used.

The cookbook does not have many photos, so I am not too sure what this curry was supposed to look like, but I think I should've cooked it without covering so that some of the liquid could have evaporated.

Satoshi said it was tasty and would've been better with rice.

Getting everything together before starting to cook made things go smoothly and I'm glad I finally tried a recipe from this book.

I hope to try other recipes in the coming weeks.

Sunday, March 10, 2019

sunset

The sunset on Friday night was pretty amazing!

It was the first time I saw a gradation of "rings" around the sun (hope you can see it in this picture too)...

Mount Fuji in the distance was a nice touch too.

Saturday, March 09, 2019

inspired

Inspired by Reader Barbara H's comment, "We are lucky to have a blood orange tree here in California. We enjoy blood orange slices with roasted beets, pecans, blue cheese & a citrus vinaigrette."

I adlibbed and made a blood orange vinaigrette.

juice of one blood orange
1 teaspoon grainy mustard
drizzle of olive oil
several grinds of black pepper

And put a tablespoon of the dressing onto some wilted swiss chard...topped it with some pieces of Italian gorgonzola and Trader Joe's sweet & spicy pecans that V gave us.

After re-reading the comment, I realized that I still have one roasted beet in the freezer, so I will definitely try this combo again.

Thanks again for the inspiration Barbara H!

Friday, March 08, 2019

resilience

The cyclamen plant that we've had for over 10 years is getting ready to bloom...whoo!

If you've never heard the backstory about this plant please read this post.

Even though most of the other plants on my lanai died (after that blazing summer we had), the cyclamen and freesia seem to be doing fine.

Since March started we've had springy days and cold snap rainy ones...

I'm ready for Spring...how about you?

Have a nice weekend.

Thursday, March 07, 2019

mother meat plaza's katsu sandwich

Tried Mother Meat Plaza's Katsu Sandwich the other day.

Super tender pork with just the right amount of breading, sauce, a little cabbage and toasted bread...only 400 yen (tax included).

Most of the workers are friendly too.

I'll be back.

Wednesday, March 06, 2019

setoka

Recently "my taster" (Satoshi) picked out an orange called Setoka.

They were giving out samples at the market, so you know what he was doing...

These were super sweet! (though some have seeds)

I was impressed with this...

A QR code on their label...if you aim your smartphone at it, it should take you to see their You Tube video.

I added the link just in case your phone doesn't...this video is in Japanese and I hope there aren't any region restrictions.

I was also amazed with what the fruit goes through before being sold in our markets...

I'm glad we tried this.

Tuesday, March 05, 2019

ikinari steak

There is lots of hype for Ikinari Steak...

I hear that there are even shops in the US, some under the name Ikinari Steak, some under Pepper Lunch...

Our experience was meh!

First off, I don't care for wait staff that assume you are a returning customer and have their drill and menu memorized...

As soon as we were seated the waiter asked us what we were ordering...(um, we haven't even looked at the menu!)

When we finally figured out what we wanted to order, the same waiter says, "I only take orders for sides and drinks"..."since it is Sunday, you need to go up to the grill area to order your steak"...(WT?!) sigh

We went to the grill area, ordering one 200 gram filet and one 300 gram filet...

Since it is by weight, you would think they have everything pretty much weighed out already...nope.

They "eyeball" the weight, cut the piece and then try to sell you the amount that they are over.

Each piece was 20 grams over the amount we ordered, adding almost 200 yen more per order.

I was also disappointed with the way the steak was cooked.

They recommend you order the steak cooked "rare" but we both ordered "medium rare"...needless to say that the cooking was uneven (some areas rare, some medium, some medium rare) especially since they serve it on that hot plate.

Satoshi's piece had very little suji (gristle) while my piece had quite a bit and was also hard to cut with their junk steak knives.

Another peeve was that we had to sit side by side...the tables seat 6 and are made for individual eaters.

There was zero elbow room for cutting your food.

Anyway, we tried it, we won't be back...

If you decide to give this place a try, let us know what you think...

Ikinari Steak
5-25-2 Kamata
Ota, Tokyo
Phone: 03.6715.9829
Hours: 11:00-23:00

Monday, March 04, 2019

spring is coming

Spring is coming...some days slowly, some days with lightning speed.

Sakura foods are slowly coming out of hibernation.

We recently shared this sakura filled taiyaki from Naruto Taiyaki Honpo.

Sweetened white bean paste mixed with minced salted sakura flowers and leaves.

Filled all the way to the tail.

Delicious!

Like the chestnut paste filled one, I hope to get a few into the freezer before the filling flavors change...

Sunday, March 03, 2019

miura kaigan sakura festival

Yesterday, the weather was beautiful.

Perfect to check out the Miura Kaigan Sakura Festival.

From where we live it took almost and hour and a half to get to Miura Kaigan Station.

You then need to walk almost 1 kilometer to where the row of sakura trees are.

It was pretty because the nanohana (rape blossoms) were in bloom too!

They had some food stalls at the Komatsugaike Pond & Park area, but the food looked kind of sad...

On the way to Misakiguchi (the end of the train line), we stumbled upon a farm that was selling all sorts of veggies and picked up a whopper of a cabbage...

When we got home we weighed it...2.2 kilos (4.85 pounds)...and only 150 yen! (Thankful that Satoshi carried it around)

Lunch was at Donguri.

In this area it is all about the maguro (tuna).

I ordered the Zukemaguro Donburi (tuna soaked in a soy based sauce served on rice) and maguro karaage (deep fried tuna)...1650 yen (tax included).

This came with a super tender cooked Miura Daikon topped with miso, some pickles and miso soup.

Satoshi went with the Zukemaguro Donburi with yari ika nitsuke (squid simmered in a soy based sauce)....1600 yen (tax included).

His lunch also came with the super tender cooked Miura Daikon topped with miso, some pickles and miso soup.

He said the squid was super tender too.

The maguro karaage was so good, the flavor tasted like mochiko chicken....

Satoshi helped me eat part of my donburi...overall everything was delicious!

Apparently you can see Mount Fuji from this area too...we'll be back to explore the Misaki Peninsula area, but we were glad to be able to check out this festival.

Donguri
489-11 Hassemachi Shimomiyada
Miura, Kanagawa
Phone: 046.888.7790

If you're interested in checking out more photos and some videos, look at the Miura Kaigan Sakura Festival in the Photo Gallery.

Saturday, March 02, 2019

supermarket finds

Nabana is broccoli rabe.

I couldn't resist trying it because there were two packages bundled together for only 98 yen (plus tax).

The stocks are softer than regular broccoli.

I sauteed one package with some char siu.

Super easy and tasty.

Friday, March 01, 2019

rainy thursday

Yesterday was cold and rainy.

Met up with V for shopping and lunch.

Lucky for us we could get around with the subway so we didn't have to walk too much.

We started off at Tsukiji, then headed back to Yurakucho...unfortunately getting lost several times trying to get in and out of the stations (sorry!)

Then to Kanda and Okachimachi...V showed me a huge shopping area for food stuffs and other things that I'll need to go back to roam the aisles...Takeya! (Look for the purple buildings near Okachimachi station...)

Lunch was yakisoba...one okonomiyaki style and the other topped with kim chee at Ginchan.

Since moving to Tokyo, I haven't found "favorite spots" to take friends visiting from Hawaii (yet), so I'm glad this place turned out to be delicious...plus, it was nice and warm, perfect place to get out of the cold rain...

This place was small, but the food comes out pretty quick.

Can you believe this was their smallest serving? and it was quite filling...I hope V enjoyed this, I'll be back.

After lunch, we walked up to Yushima Tenjin (also called Yushima Tenmangu) to check out the ume blossoms.

I'm glad they were in full bloom.

The last time we were there, there weren't many trees blooming yet.

Check out the amount of ema ((eh-mah) good luck amulets)...it's entrance exam time in Japan, so everyone is praying to pass their exams...

This was the first time for me to see so many ema flowing all the way down to the ground.

Since meeting up with V last week, she went to Sogabessho (Odawara, Kanagawa), Kyoto and Kairakuen (Mito, Ibaraki) and spoiled us with all these goodies! (thank you!)

Despite the bad weather, I'm glad we got to do all that V wanted to.

Have a safe trip back and thank you for everything!

Shitamachi Yakisoba Ginchan
3-28-7 Ueno
Taito, Tokyo
Phone: 03.5812.8015
Closed Tuesdays
Hours: 11:00-21:00

Takeya
4-33-2 Taito
Taito, Tokyo
Phone: 03.3835.7777
Hours: 10:00-20:00