Thursday, December 29, 2011

Year in Cookies

A friend's friend is responsible for this and it makes me so ashamed of my lack of creativity and dedication:

Year in Cookies


Last Christmas

And so the time has come to say good bye to Tokyo. In February, Mister and I will be starting a new adventure in Hong Kong. (gasp! applause! tears?) I've done quite a bit of moving around, but this Hong Kong move has been unique in that, even though I've known about it for awhile, it kind of snuck up on me. So, here I am, a month and a half before we move, freaking out over having to enjoy every single minute Tokyo has to offer me.

Party throwing really freaks me out, but I decided to seize the day this Christmas, since it will be our last in Tokyo. We resurrected the KFC Fried Chicken-Fancy Christmas Cake party and I think that this might become one of our first true traditions as a married couple. At least I hope, because it was a lot of fun and not at all stressful. Or maybe next year, it will be a Peking Duck-Egg Tart party? That doesn't sound so bad either...

Adorable musubi brought by my friend Natsuko. The one on the left is me and the one on the right is Blammo. Aren't these the cutest? 

KFC is really amazing if you eat it once a year. Finger lickin' good indeed. 

Hungary in da house! My Australian by way of Hungary coworker brought some amazing spicy Hungarian sausage. A real treat for sausage lovers in Japan. 

And she made Hungarian cold cherry soup! Perfect for this carb filled meal. 

And of course, in honor of Hanukkah...

Latkes and Apples (I don't have a blender, so we couldn't make Applesauce - oops.) 

Bacon and Chive biscuits (or "savory scones" as the Aussies refused to call them "biscuits") a la me. Whatever you call them, they were 100 times better than those soggy biscuits from KFC. 

And my favorite part, the Christmas Cakes. Christmas Cakes, while festive and a real crowd pleaser, don't actually taste that amazing. But I enjoy the hunt for the craziest ones and I think I did an alright job this time around. 

Tiny mushroom sized elf/santa. 

Make shift masking tape tree. We asked everyone to "hang" an ornament. I will look back fondly at this picture for years to come. 

Sign of a good party. Along with mulled wine, we also had hot toddies and hot buttered rum. Have you ever made hot buttered rum? It's incredible. Not only because it tastes good, but also because it is dead simple. My sister says that she's messed up every batch she's ever tried to make and I just find that incredible. It is literally just a crazy amount of brown sugar mixed with butter and spices, melted in hot water and rum. She can make a perfect roast that feeds 20 people but can't do that?  

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Fukuoka :: Home to Hawks and Ramen

Last month, my husband had an opportunity to watch the final game of the Japan Series from the owner's box of one of the competing teams. That is not an opportunity you turn down, especially when it means you get a good excuse to take a weekend trip. I myself did not have a ticket to the game, but was happy enough to tag along for the 6 hour Shinkansen ride to Fukuoka.

Fukuoka is the largest city on the island of Kyushu. It is known for tonkotsu style ramen, my personal favorite. Typical ramen broth is made with a salt, soy sauce or miso base. Tonkotsu ramen, or Hakata Style, is made with a pork bone based ramen that is milky and very rich. One of the most famous ramen restaurants in the world (not an exaggeration) is Ippudo. If you've ever waited in that line in NY, you probably know why. Ippudo originated in Fukuoka and serves up a bangin' bowl of tonkotsu ramen. Another famous chain in Japan is Ichiran, which I wrote about way back when.

Going straight to the source. It's what dreams are made of. This humble looking bowl of ramen may have been the best thing I've eaten since moving to Japan. *WHOA* To be fair, there were a lot of factors working in its favor - it was cold, I was eating outdoors and I had just drank a 500 ml bottle of beer on my own. 

"Eating ramen outdoors alone?" you may have asked yourself. Why, yes. Fukuoka is also known for their delightful yatai - outdoor nighttime food stalls. And since I didn't have tickets to the game, I wandered around downtown Fukuoka in search of ramen. As with most places, some of the best food can be found in or near the red light districts. What can I say, pervs just know how to eat. These yatai along the river were just a stones throw away from some pretty seedy stuff. Gross or convenient, depending on who you are. 

Meal of champions. 

Fukuoka is also known for their adorable bite-sized gyoza.

The opposite of bite-sized - a sumo wrestler. November is sumo season and along with the Japan Baseball Series, there was also a big tournament over the weekend. 

It's really hard to find experimental sushi that is not gross, but I managed for find something really unique and delicious at a conveyor belt sushi restaurant in the basement of a shopping mall. This is raw salmon nigiri brushed with mayonnaise, half-cooked and caramelized with a blow torch, topped with a slice of jalapeno pepper and cracked pepper. I really wish this shop had an outlet in Tokyo because it was amazing. 

Oh yeah, the baseball. Now, as you may know, I am a big Yakult Swallows fan. The Swallows made the playoffs this year and even beat their nemesis, the Yomiuri Giants, to move on to the 2nd stage. That's not nothing. But they eventually lost to the Chunichi Dragons. Needless to say, for various reasons, I was rooting for Softbank Hawks to beat Chunichi. 

This by the way, is a bronze mold of the hand of Sadaharu Oh. Along with being a lyric in a Beastie Boys song, he is also the original Homerun King of Japan and former manager of the Softbank Hawks. 

I watched Game 7 from the Stadium Gift Shop with a bunch of die hard fans who were also ticket less. 

And Softbank won! 

Friday, November 18, 2011

Winter Hot Pot in the Fall :: My First Nabe

I love Autumn. I like the drop in temperature. I like taking out my jackets and scarves from the back of the closet. And I like eating soups and stews. Food blogs go soup crazy around this time of year and it makes my belly warm just sifting through all the recipes. There is one dish I have always wanted to try in Japan. More of a stew than a soup, nabe (nah-bay) is a Japanese cold weather staple. Though it is incredibly simple to make, it is very hearty and filling. This is after all, the dish that sumo wrestlers eat when they want to gain weight. 

This version I made is probably the simplest type of nabe. I was feeling sick and nabe sounded perfect. I didn't know how to make it exactly, but I knew what I wanted to go in it, so I bought my ingredients and kind of winged it. It turned out great so here's my overly simple nabe recipe: 

Make a simple dashi with water and dried kombu seaweed. You can also use plain water or a low-sodium chicken broth. 

Prepare bite sized pieces of veggies you like. Mushrooms, leeks, tofu and no calorie konnyaku...

...cabbage, bean sprouts, chinese chives and carrots. Nabe is so popular in the winter that grocery stores stock prepared nabe sets like this one above with pre-cut veggies and instant broth. 

Dice up some meat. My two favorites shown here - chicken and pork 

Once your dashi comes to a boil, remove the seaweed and turn down to simmer. Then start adding your ingredients being sure to add the meats and tofu first, since they take longer to cook. When you're sure the meats are cooked, ladle the contents into small bowls with a little bit of broth and start eating. Usually, nabe is cooked in a clay pot right at the table over a portable gas burner. I don't have one of those and just used my dutch oven on the stove. You miss out on some of the communal fun of family style hot pot, but it tastes all the same. You can add different kinds of sauces to this simple dish, but my favorite is definitely this yuzu ponzu sauce. It's tart, vinegary and delicious. Of late, kimchi has become a popular pairing. 

My favorite part of nabe is how you finish off the pot. Once most of the ingredients have been eaten, add udon noodles to the leftover broth and you have a super flavorful udon soup! Japanese families never waste a single grain of rice, so this is a great way to put that leftover broth to use.  

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

California, I love you

Sure, sure, this blog is supposed to be about Tokyo, Japan and food food food! And I promise, I'll get back to that sometime.

When you live abroad, you get asked "Where are you from?" a lot. Most people answer with their home country because it's easier to say that than explain where exactly it is you're from. I always answer proudly, and obnoxiously, "California".

Here's why:

Monday, October 10, 2011

Not So Subtle Hint

This comes out 4 days after my birthday. Thank you in advance. 

Downtown LA Wonder Wedding

How do you know you're in your late 20's? It's getting harder to stay in shape, you have to start using eye cream and you're going to a lot of weddings. And if you're lucky enough, you get to have a front row seat at said weddings as a bridesmaid. Did you know that it's bad luck to be a bridesmaid more than 3 times? Curse or no curse, there was no way I was sitting out of one of my closest friend's wedding. 

There she is! Drinking a cup of tomato soup and holding a grilled cheese sandwich, looking like the beautiful baby bride that she is. 

As this is technically a food blog, I will briefly touch upon the refreshments in this section of the post. The food was catered by an LA food truck serving pulled pork sandwiches, sweet potato fries, grilled cheese sandwiches and tomato soup. And the bar hosting the reception served two signature drinks chosen by the bride and groom. 

I have to admit that I was very biased going into this trip because my previous experiences with Los Angeles have never been positive. Impossible traffic, impossibly perfect looking people (everyone has such nice hair!) and as a native NorCal girl, it's just in me to dislike LA. 

But this trip reminded me that all that is silly and LA is pretty neat. We stayed downtown at the historic Los Angeles Athletic Club that reminded Blammo and I of LA Noire. Comfy rooms, good food, guaranteed parking and 10 floors of exercise options. (Not that I took advantage, wah wah) 

Green rice, mole chicken taco and spicy pork taco. Hubbah hubbah!

We were blessed to be in the company of lots of LA natives with very strong opinions about the best tacos, burgers, Bloody Marys and French Dips in town. Did you know that French Dips are a thing in LA? Blammo tried Cole's and said it was great. 

Before heading out on our 2 day Pacific Coast Highway trip north, we were told to go to Loteria in the Farmers Market. Uh. May. Zing. That shredded beef nachos plate ~ I will have dreams about it until our next trip to LA. I will however, have nightmares about this lady we saw walking off our meal. Oh LA!

It's like a frickin' Sheryl Crow song or something!

Lonely goldfish by the sea. 

And of course, we had to stop off at the beach before heading out of town. This is actually the very beginning of our road trip - Santa Monica. The weather was too perfect not to stop and dip our feet in the water. 

LA, you treated us real good and for that, I will not say anything bad about you for at least a few months.