Thursday, December 30, 2010

Bye Bye Tiger, Hello Rabbit :: 2010 in Review

Last meal of 2009/First meal of 2010 ::  Kamakura Ramen, Shibuya

 Bun Bo Hue in Nha Trang, Vietnam

Fell in love with dagashi, old school Japanese candy.

Ate lots of burgers.  

Had my final Japanese school lunch

Ate Okonomiyaki in Kyoto, Osaka and Tokyo. 

Had my first hanami party in Shinjuku Gyoen. 

Escaped Tokyo and ate wild greens from the mountains of Saitama

Went home to the Bay Area twice. Ate lots of Monte Cristos and established myself as a regular at Mama's even though I don't live in SF. 

Cut my throat on some delicious and ambitious bacon in Inverness, CA 

Flying solo with Vietnamese cooking. I still prefer my mom's cooking, but I'm improving. 

Spent too much money on fancy food. Some good. Some not so good

Made an awesome cake for Blammo's birthday. 

Enjoyed Yokote Yakisoba at the Super Genki Festival in Tokyo. 

Survived one of the hottest summers in Japan with shaved ice, ice cream and soft cream. 

 Checked out all that Hong Kong has to offer. (And 30 minutes of Macao) 

Whoopied it up in Pennsylvania

Went to a lot of weddings. 

New York, New York

After 22 bread classes, I'm getting pretty good at making mushy pan!

Really missing my friends and family but glad to know that they have my back when I need them most. 

My first nabe.

And my first Japanese birthday cake. I should mention here that I am also thankful for the friends I have made in Japan and am happy to know that they too, have my back when I need it most. 

Joanne Chang - I love you!

Finally found a sushi restaurant that is high quality and foreigner friendly in a non-pandering way. 

Finally went to karaoke.

Hopefully, started a new tradition

It's been a long year. I think I need a nap.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Merry Christmas! :: Cookie City

Merry Christmas from Tokyo! Apparently my family is having a big German Christmas dinner back in California. Me? I just ate a 5-piece Chicken McNugget kids meal set for lunch and am baking my last batch of Christmas cookies from Blammo and Company. Last week, I decided to give some homemade holiday cookies to friends and coworkers. It. Was. Crazy! But fun too! When I was growing up, our neighbors, the Hendersons, always gave us a tin of Mrs. Henderson's homemade Christmas cookies.They were so delicious and unlike anything I'd ever had before. The memory stuck in my mind and I've always wanted to carry on the tradition. 2010 marks the beginning of my cookie tin holiday giveaway. 

This event began on December 6th, with some pre-planning. I took out all my cookbooks, bought the Martha Stewart Holiday Cookie magazine and looked up all those Google Reader starred recipes I'd been eyeing all year. I think my first list of cookies was 13 recipes long. Eventually, that got whittled down to the final 6. Then came all the converting - Martha is not metric friendly. The flour cookbook came in handy because throughout her book, she lists how many grams X amount of sugar, flour etc. weighs. And this butter conversion website is a lifesaver. 

The plan was to make my staple chocolate chip cookies, 2 icebox cookies that could be made days in advance, 1 stovetop treat and something classically Christmas. The decision to do 2 icebox cookies was my saving grace since they're so easy to make and can be made up to a month in advance. You can freeze the doughs in logs and when you're ready to bake, you just slice and go. Martha has a genius suggestion of saving you paper towel rolls to store the logs in so that they don't flatten out at the bottom. It worked like a charm. 

Brown butter rice crispy treats (Flour cookbook), cranberry coins (Martha Stewart Magazine) and buttered rum meltaways with no powdered sugar topping (Martha Stewart Cookie Book). 
Chocolate chip cookies (my own recipe adapted from The NY Times), gingerbread men (Martha Stewart Cookies) and buttered rum meltaways with powdered sugar (Martha Stewart Cookies). 

I couldn't fine suitable tins anywhere in town, so I got these egg carton looking boxes and did what I could to jazz them up and make them my own. Not to shabby, I have to say. 

Our apartment's reception desk and my coworkers got extra big boxes thanks to Ziploc Snap 'n Seal tupperware. 

Me on the way to work carrying about 150 freshly baked cookies. 

My coworkers and friends seemed to enjoy the treats however, I get the sense that people don't bake and share in Japan as much as back home. It was almost expected that people bring in treats once and awhile at my old office in NY. I think it mostly confused people here. 

I had a lot of leftover cookies, so I've been passing them out to local restaurants we frequently visit. It's been really fun to share a little American tradition. 

To top off my 2nd Christmas in Japan, I made a raspberry chocolate Buche de Noel at ABC Cooking Studio. ABC Cooking Studio friend and I have never taken a cake class so this was a lot of fun for us.

Have a very Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

Friday, December 24, 2010

Tokyo Five Foot Runner :: Week 5 and 6

I've been pretty busy with work, cooking classes and cookie making, so I had to take a little break from blogging. But despite the busy schedule, I've kept to my running plan to the T, minus one day where I cut 2 miles off my night to get home and bake. What can I say, I love cookies.

I ran my first organized race in Japan last weekend. The Christmas RUN at the Imperial Palace, my normal stomping ground. It was an incredibly trying day but yielded uplifting results. I signed up for the race a few months ago on It was a pretty simple process - make an account, find an open race for your age and gender, sign up and pay at the convenience store. If you have questions on how to do it, you can email me. With the help of Google Translate or Rikaichan, you'll be able to figure it out.

Then came race day. I didn't realize that this race was SO organized - running chips, race numbers and a write up in the newspaper. The description on runnet was "Let's have fun running together for Christmas! There will be prizes!" To which I responded with, "Yeah sure, ok - that sounds easy." I've seen races on the weekends before and they're always pretty casual affairs. Well, I showed up about 40 minutes before ready to get my run on but was greeted with a crowd of folks with runner's chips on their shoes and numbers pinned across their chests. Apparently, I was supposed to go to the sponsor's shop, High Tech Town, in the morning to pick up all my stuff. I tried to tell two volunteers that it was my first time running a race in Japan so I didn't know what to do, but I think they interpreted my sorry Japanese as "Today is my first day running. What do I do?" To this, they responded that it would be very difficult and that I couldn't join the race.

Already in a fragile state, I threw up my hands and gave up. Defeated, embarrassed and frustrated, I walked away with Blammo ready to go home. I may or may not have had tears in my eyes. Those tears may or may not have been streaming down my cheeks. Not embarrassing at all! Just as all hope was lost, one of the race organizers ran over with my number and chip and got me ready. (All the while, apologizing profusely even though it wasn't her fault at all) I guess since I was the only idiot that didn't pick up my stuff, they knew that it belonged to me. I spent the remaining 5 minutes until race time drying my eyes, though, in retrospect, I should have been stretching.

And then it was time to run. And I did. At first, very slowly and hesitantly. I eventually got into the groove and finished 6.2 miles faster than I've ever run before - shaving 7 minutes off my last time. I guess had I picked up my participant gear before the race, like I was supposed to, I would have learned that this Christmas RUN was a tuneup race for the half marathon I'm running in January. In any case, I'm glad I got my first race under my belt before the big day - I'm not sure I would have been able to survive all that drama AND 13.1 miles in one day.  

Monday, December 13, 2010

Empty Orchestras :: Everyone Loves Karaoke

Friday was my company's ぼねんかい (bonenkai - end of year party). I don't actually socialize much in the office, but that's not to say that I don't want to. I share a desk with the boss man and that doesn't exactly make you the most popular or approachable girl in the office. I've tried to woo people over with Reese's Peanut Butter Cups and homemade pumpkin pies with limited success. But all it takes to get people to talk to you is...a party! And booze! And getting as far away from the office as possible.

I haven't seen this in awhile. I only made 1 cup but it was my specialty cup - the overflowing "money cup". I'm debating whether or not to tell you my favorite beer pong story from college but it's kind of gross and I've told it so many times, most of you already know it. It involves a side pony tail, rat poison and a balcony.

The party ended around midnight and a few of my coworkers and I met up with Blammo in Shibuya for more drinks. We stumbled upon a teeny tiny 8 seat bar under the train tracks. We drank special winter sake, spoke Japanese and made friends. That is until, they started asking us about Wikileaks. Then it was time to move on... karaoke! I'm a little embarrassed to say this, but I've actually never gone to karaoke until this past weekend. What have I been missing out on?! Perhaps it was really fun because of all that special sake we drank earlier but singing '80s tunes at the top of your lungs with a tambourine in your hand seems like it'd be fun dead sober too. There are karaoke establishments everywhere in Japan. You rent a small room for you and your friends and order drinks and food through a telephone. It's pretty great. Also really great? Karaoke videos.

Can you name that tune?

It wasn't until after I took this picture that I realized what this is implying. No comment.  

 She looks pretty gangsta, no? 

Blammo's jam. Very impressed by his rapping skills.  

 It's not hard to guess that this last one is now officially my karaoke song.