Friends are fun. I don't have a ton of them in Japan, but the ones I do have, I like very much. Quality, not quantity people! And even though I can count my buds on 1 hand, they somehow managed to extend my birthday celebrations to 3 weeks. My friend Natsuko invited me, Squids (who is requesting ANOTHER name change...Blammo) and my ABC Cooking Studio partner in crime over for a "typical Japanese birthday cake" party. It was a low key night in Saitama where we ate nabe, talked about appropriate x-mas gifts (Blammo: "Fireworks.") and listened to Spice Girls (only about 30 seconds of it...on accident...I hope.)
Appetizer. Avocado, cream cheese and shaved bonito flakes with a soy dipping sauce. Pretty tasty and VERY Japanese.
My friend made "Kimu Kimu Nabe". When Natsuko and I became friends, she said that I had to have a nickname because...that's what Japanese people do. So, she settled on "Kimu Kimu" which is my name doubled up and pronounced in Japanese. In honor of my birthday, she made Kimchi Nabe, a classic Japanese one pot winter dish with kimchi. Cute and delicious!
More on nabe: Nabe means pot or hot pot. The clay nabe pot goes in the middle of the table and everyone sits around and eats it. It's filled with lots of veggies, tofu, chicken meatballs, pork, mushrooms...basically anything you want. They say that eating nabe brings you closer together, both physically and spiritually.
Japanese homes get very cold in the winter, so nabe is a really popular dish. You can double your heating pleasure by eating nabe on a kotatsu, a low heated table covered with a futon. You sit on the ground with your legs under the futon and table where it is nice and warm. Natsuko says kotatsu are very evil because once you get under one, you can never leave.
Japanese girl's apartments are not built for foreign guys' feet.
Cake assembly. For Natsuko's birthday, I made her a typical American birthday cake - chocolate with cream cheese frosting and rainbow sprinkles. She pretended to like it, but I think it was too sweet for her taste. So, she promised that for my birthday, she'd make me a "typical Japanese" cake. I learned on this night, that it meant a sponge cake with whipped cream and strawberries.
Me with my eyes closed, waiting for the goods.
The cake was light, fruity and very delicious. Exactly what I needed after our nabe dinner. How cute is this cake?!
And I got to take home some homemade kitchen mitts! ちょ~かわいい！(Very cute!)