September 4, 2013 § Leave a comment
September 4, 2013 § 1 Comment
My friends took me to one of their colleagues birthday party on a Japanese house boat or yakatabune. There was about 50 people there who had to remove their shoes and sit in groups of fours on the floor at grill top tables. The party started within 10 minutes of arriving and set sail in Tokyo’s harbour. Spring rolls and dumplings were the first thing to arrive at the table and of course Japanese beer. The Japanese love their beer and even have created a zero calorie one!
Next a bowl was placed at the table with cabbage, sprouts, cheese and eel in it. The man beside me Haru started to cook. He poured oil on the grill and placed the cheese down first. On my first night in Tokyo I ate monjayaki and was attentively watching the waiter cook the dish. Instinctively, I took the utensils from Haru and took over. I added the cabbage and cooked the eel separate. Yes, I cooked meat!
Once the veggies are semi cooked, you make a well and add a broth to the centre which makes the pancake gooey. You eat it bite by bite from the grill and add sauce to it as you like.
The next dish that I made was okonomiyaki which is chewier and drier than the monjayaki. The technique is the same. Add oil to the grill and saute veggies using metal utensils in both hands. I really got into it and everyone was surprised that I knew what I was doing. Once again I made the well and added the broth. I let that cook and took a short beer break.
During the party we played rock paper scissors or as they call it jan ken pon . We played for partying gifts and one of the winners received a lingerie set and the happy Japanese man put it on over his jeans and dress shirt and pranced around for a bit.
I got back to my okonomiyaki and to my surprise it tasted like a pros. Everyone was so impressed that they had me make the last dish, yakisoba. It is actually really simple to make and basically requires the yakisoba and soy sauce for flavouring. All you do is saute the veggies first, add the noodles and add the sauce. It was delicious. My kids love it and I can now make it at home.
The game of jan ken pon continued and more and more party gifts were being handed out. By now I was a bit tipsy from all the beer that I drank, trying to keep up with everyone else. The Japanese drink fast. Near the end of the night, the box of party gifts was being handed out and I got a ribbon that said in Japanese No.1 VIP!
Everyone had a big laugh. People gave me their items as souvenirs of Japan. I got a watch, a beer mug with Japanese writing that says beer party. You put the mug in the freezer and outside layer turns to ice. I also got a beer pump that pumps beer out of beer cans and the weirdest items that I received were key chains with Japanese vegetables and panty hose.
I have to say the Japanese seem quite quiet and reserved but when they party, boy do they let loose. It was a super fun experience and one of the highlights of my trip.
September 3, 2013 § 1 Comment
When I decided to cook dinner for my hosts one night, I chose one of my favourite dishes, vegetarian coconut curry. I make this dish all the time, especially when I’m craving fat in my diet. This coconut curry is not overly spiced and has a warming effect on the body and soul. Better yet, it matures overnight and continues to dazzle the next day. All you need is a little water to heat it up.
I headed to the grocery store and when I arrived, I realized that I would need to substitute my veggies for Japanese ones. Their produce comes in small plastic packages with plastic wrap on it. The portion are about the size of a large handful because the Japanese value fresh ingredients and shop for groceries almost daily. I bought a whole bunch of different ones to create variety in the dish. I was also fortunate to find the right spices and was surprised that the quality was better than in Canada.
When I got back, I got organized in the kitchen. It was my first time cooking in Japan and also the first time that I felt a little Japanese. I love Japanese kitchen stuff as everything is good quality and made ergonomically. Saya is always laughing at me because I have a long list of kitchen items that I want to take home and that list gets longer everyday.
When we sat down for dinner, Saya decided to play music and put on a youtube video with Shahrukh Khan, the famous Bollywood actor. She told me that all the Japanese women love him which made me laugh. The meal was delicious and the Japanese veggies created a nice contrast in texture and taste. I will definitely make the curry using these veggies at home.
Cooking time 45 minutes
one Japanese yam boiled and cut into 1/2 inch pieces and then quartered
one lotus root cut into thin slices
one handful broccoli florets
one handful green beans cut into 1/2 inch pieces
one handful okra cut into 1/2 inch pieces
one handful snow peas
two bunches bok choy cut into 1/3 inch pieces
one red pepper sliced into 1/4 inch pieces lengthwise
one handful mushrooms sliced into 1/3 inch pieces
1 package soft tofu diced
2 tbsp (30 ml) olive oil
1 small onion diced
2 -3 cloves garlic minced
1/2 tsp ginger paste
1 tsp cumin seeds or powder
1 tsp coriander seeds or powder
1 tsp salt
1 tsp turmeric
1 small can plum organic tomatoes
1 large can coconut milk
chopped fresh cilantro
1. Steam the veggies
2. In a large sauce pan on medium heat add the olive oil.
3. When hot, add the garlic saute until golden and add the onions. Cook until transparent and brown.
4. Add the spices, ginger and salt. Stir. Add the tomatoes.
5. Add the coconut milk, bring to a boil and puree.
6. Add the steam veggies to the pot and when the flavours are incorporated, turn off heat. Serve with rice and Japanese pickles.
September 3, 2013 § Leave a comment
The Japanese love french bakeries and in Tokyo they are in a category of it’s own. Tokyo, Japan is a sister city to Paris which might explain why every neighbourhood is littered with exquisite french pastries. I never thought that I would need to be mindful of my waistline when coming to Japan. I neglected to pack my running shoes thinking that I would not need them. Boy was I wrong. I now wish that I had them as I am enjoying all of the delicious cuisine that Tokyo has to offer.
Today, we picked up some pastries at one of the many authentic French boulangeries in the neighbourhood. They carry everything from macadamia demi loafs to sweet chocolate and cheese pastries. The signs are in Japanese and french and being from Canada, I was able to understand what each item was. As each day goes by, I increase my navigation skills and who would have thought that french would have come in handy in Japan.
I picked a cheese bun and a caramel apple pastry. Saya’s favourite is the cinnamon roll and her husband picked the classic pain au chocolate. When we sat down to tea and pastries we all agreed that the cheese bun was the hit. My caramel pastry was delicious, heaven in each bite. I must say that I am getting very used to being in Japan and do not know how I will survive back home. I had the thought today that I could move here just to enjoy the delicious food.
September 2, 2013 § 1 Comment
Cabbage is the most used vegetable in Japanese cuisine and is in everything. On my first night out, I was with tourists and a friend commented that he was getting sick of cabbage. I actually don’t mind it as in India it’s frequently served as a side salad instead of lettuce which is harder to grow there.
The cabbage salads that Saya served are her own recipes that she has come up. I must say I was quite impressed at how flavourful they were and the one with the sesame oil was my favourite. The traditional Japanese style is to eat cabbage with the sauce that is used for yakisoba. I tried it but I was more impressed with Saya’s personal creations.
white rice vinegar
thinly sliced hot red pepper
pink pepper seeds
white rice vinegar
Toss the ingredients in a bowl. I don’t which proportions she used so you’ll have to play around.
September 2, 2013 § 1 Comment
My Japanese host Saya is very health conscious and serves delicious healthy salads are every meal. Yes, even breakfast which is when she served this one. The food in Japan is very light and even meals with salad and soup for breakfast are lighter than eating toast. This salad is very quick to make and the sesame tofu is surprisingly from Canada! She was very clever and used a frozen lemon for the zest. The salad tasted very fresh and the tofu melts in your mouth.
Cooking time 5 minutes
cherry tomatoes sliced in half
sesame tofu cut into cubes
1. Place arugula in a bowl and top with tomatoes, tofu and zest.
2. Drizzle with olive oil and ponzu
September 2, 2013 § Leave a comment
This is the delicious assortment of Japanese snacks that was presented to with coffee. Well that is except for the chocolate. At home the only savoury snacks I eat are chips. These are way better and the textures and density vary, creating a nice effect on the palate.
Starting at the upper left is imo kenpi which is made from sweet potatoes, a popular vegetable in Japan. They look like really old McDonald’s fries that have turned brown. They are very sweet and have a crunchy candied exterior.
To the right is a delicious chocolate that is made from coconut nectar and coconut milk. It was made in switzerland and absolutely divine.
The two bottom items are rice crackers. The left one is called okaki and the right is called okaki senbei meaning with soy sauce. The round ones look like a flattened quarter and are quite crispy and light on the palate. The okaki are fluffy and airy with a salty coating.
They are all so yummy and filled me up for hours. I am definitely stocking up on bags of all three snacks before I go and hope to find them at the Japanese grocery store at home.