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Archive for the ‘Japanese’ Category

***This post is a bit of a break from the usual sort of thing on this blog.  I was invited by the Japan Travel Bureau (JTB) to become a tourism supporter, and was lucky to be able to attend a 2 day bus tour in Gunma prefecture, along with 13 other foreigners also living in Japan.***

We left Tokyo Station at 8:30am, and drove north for 3 hours into Gunma prefecture.

The first stop on our tour was the Hara Museum ARC, which is an annex of the Hara Museum of Contemporary Art in Tokyo. Modern art museums are not my usual tourist spot of choice, but I was impressed with the Andy Warhol pieces as well as Yayoi Kusama’s pumpkin installation. Unfortunately. I wasn’t able to take photos of the interior installations, but the outside of the museum also had some interesting artwork on display.

Next was a stop at Ikaho Green Bokujo, which is a type of farm experience. There are ponies to be ridden, sheep to be walked and bunnies to be petted.

Then it was time for lunch! Mixed pork, beef and lamb barbecue with cabbage and bean sprouts, followed by the farm’s own vanilla ice cream 🙂

After lunch, it was time to explore the park area and see the sheep dog show. I love the Halloween decorations, it reminds me of pumpkin patches and fall festivals from back home.

After getting our fill of the Green Bokujo, it was time for a stop at the Takehisa Yumeji Museum. Takehisa Yumeji was a famous artist and poet who is famous for his unconventional painting of women and inventive prints and illustrations. There was also an annex with some lovely glass work, and the entire museum area was well designed and showcased Takehisa Yumeji’s many works.

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Typhoon number 12 is currently trying to decide where or not it wants to plow through the kingdom of peaches and grapes, so while the weather is windy and rainy outside, I am inside thinking of desserts. 🙂

So before coming to Japan, I actually had never eaten a parfait before. I guess they just aren’t a popular dessert where I grew up. Count me among the happily converted though! In Japan, the parfait usually refers to layers of soft serve or scooped ice cream (sometimes both), whipped cream and toppings which range from cornflakes (surprisingly delicious) to custard, coffee jelly, jam or preserves, and fresh fruit piled high in a tall glass.


Recently, the one fancy fancy hotel in my city made the news with their seasonal fruit parfait, so of course we drove up the mountain to try it out. The type of parfait changes every couple months, and we were lucky to be there at the tail end of the the peach season.

I love peaches and there was very nearly a whole peach perced precariously on top of a scoop vanilla bean ice cream. The fresh peach was sweet with just a slight tang, pairing well with the mellow ice cream and the layers of thick custard and whipped cream underneath. About half way through the glass, I was surprised to find a couple layers of tangy peach preserves. I like to think of parfaits as the dessert that becomes more complex as you eat your way down to the bottom of each glass. I will admit, I was wishing for some crunchy cornflakes, but the extra spoonful of preserves at the very bottom was a nice surprise.

Fujiya Fruits Park Hotel@ Yamanashi City, Japan

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Just looking at this picture makes me want another kakigori!

I took another trip to Nagoya a couple months ago, and went to this tiny shop in the market district for quite possibly the best shaved ice of my life. The green tea syrup was not too sweet and not too bitter, and there is plenty of condensed milk. What sets it apart from other kakigori that I’ve had is the texture of the ice. Many places use crushed ice, similar to a snow cone, but this shop uses very finely shaved ice. It melts in your mouth really smoothly, and holds the syrup well, instead of letting it all sink to the bottom of the bowl.This shaved ice was really big, but I somehow managed to eat the entire thing ^_^

@Nagoya, Japan

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baked donuts 1
Now that the summer heat has started to hit Japan in earnest, I’m starting to miss the chilly weather that hung on until just a couple weeks ago. I stayed at a friend’s place last weekend, and made these cute baked mini donuts. The mini part was a happy compromise, as we wanted to buy a full sized silicon donut mold, and could only find the mini version at Tokyu Hands.

Speaking of silicon cook and bakeware, they are suddenly very popular in Japan. There have been a ton of mooks (magazine books) coming out with recipes and free cookware, including everything from vegetable steamers to cake molds. Baking with silicon molds is being promoted as being the “healthy” option for making donuts, cakes and even churros. I don’t know if it is actually healthier, but it does make me want to fill my kitchen with rainbow colored bakeware! Baked donuts are leading the boom, popping up everywhere from Mister Donut to my local supermarket bakery. I can only assume that is why it was impossible to find a full sized silicon mold for donuts!

Using the mold is simple, we just made a batter using a store bought pancake mix, eggs, milk and butter. Then we added cocoa powder, green tea powder and kinako (roasted soybean) powder to make different flavored donuts. After spooning the batter into our mold, we baked the donuts for 1o minutes, let them cool, and started decorating.

It was an awesome way to spend a rainy Sunday morning. The only downside? Now all I can think about is other flavors of donuts and icing that still need to be tested!

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*This post about my trip to Tsujiki was written before the March 11th earthquake, tsunami and subsequent disasters took place. After some thought, I have decided to post it as written. *

I know I really have no excuse for having been in Japan for 3+ years, and not making a pilgramage to Tsukiji. Some people have threatened to revoke my “foodie card” so to speak. So when a friend who shares my food obsession was in town for the Tokyo marathon in February, it was decided that we would make the trek out for breakfast sushi at 8am, and forgo the tuna auction earlier in the morning.
katsuo
Nothing will wake you up faster than the smell of fish in morning! This are crates of dried bonito, or katsuobushi, which you might find as the main flavor component to Japanese dashi stock, or as tissue thin shavings atop an okonomiyaki. I seriously considered buying a bag of the freshly shaved bonito. However, sushi was calling us, so we headed to Sushizanmai.
kanimisotsuna
Starting off with some tuna nigiri and kanimiso. The tuna was really fresh tasting, and the kanimiso is probably the best I’ve ever had. Sometimes kanimiso can be too stinky and salty that the crab flavor is completely obscured, but this was perfectly balanced, with a deep sea taste that made me want to order another right away.
However, there was other sushi to be had!
maguroo
Tuna prepared 5 ways:
(left to right from the bottom left)
大トロ really fatty tuna
中トロ medium fatty tuna
赤身 tuna
あぶりまぐろ lightly seared tuna
まぐろ手巻き tuna hand roll

Even though Sushizanmai isn’t one of the fancy places to eat in Tsukiji, I thought the quality of the sushi was good. The tuna was some of the best I’ve had, and I would go back for the kanimiso 🙂

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I’ve started to count the seasons here by not the weather, but the appearance and disappearance of Japanese sweets, wagashi from the local grocery store.kashiiwaa
I have one weak spot for wagashi devoted wholly to kashiwa mochi 柏餅,which is rice cakes formed into a pancake like shape, and filled with a sweet bean paste, then wrapped in a oak or kashiwa leaf. The sweet is associated with Children’s Day 子供の日 in May. I specifically love the ones filled with a mixture of miso an, or sweet white bean paste mixed with a small amount of salty Saikyo miso paste.

From the middle of April, I start to keep an eye on the wagashi corner of the grocery store, and do a little happy dance when I spot them for the first time in the season. Because these sweets definitely  have a season!  Wait more than a few days after the 5th of May, and you’ll have to wait another year before they come back.  While I like red bean mochi, and generally enjoy the taste of sweet bean paste, sometimes the tooth aching sweetness can be a bit too much even for me.
kashiiwaa2
Miso an filled kashiwa mochi is at once sweet and salty, the miso paste lends a depth of flavor missing from regular red bean paste, making the filling taste almost creamy. I guess adding the miso to the filling is the same concept as adding flaky sea salt to a chocolate cookie, or salted caramels, the salty taste accenting the taste of the white bean paste and preventing the filling from being overly sweet. It’s difficult even in Japan to find wagashi shops that still make miso an kashiwa mochi, but if by chance you do find a place selling them, please give them a try!

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The first thing I did after I decided to go to Nagoya for the weekend was to make a list. Not of things to pack with me, nor famous places to go see, but a simple list of the foods I wanted to eat. ^-^;;

Though Nagoya is a bit lacking in major sightseeing destinations, it makes it up by having plenty of food destinations. So onward to the tour!

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