Monday, March 12, 2012

I Tumble For Ya

I broke down. I've switched over to Tumblr here. Who knows, maybe I'll end up hating Tumblr and come  back to Blogger, but for now, Tumblr's doin' for me. Come join the fun!

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Mr Vietnamese Banh Mi in Fortress Hill

I started apartment hunting this week. I've been looking forward to home search all month, but now that I'm finally doing it, I'd like it to be over. Having just moved from a serviced apartment in Roppongi Hills, it's safe to say that I need to adjust my expectations in Hong Kong and accept the fact that our bathtubs will not be automated by friendly robots and our washer/dryer will be in the kitchen.

Our real estate agent in part Vietnamese and being around Viets always makes me crave Vietnamese food. So to reward myself for surviving the first 2 rounds of viewings, we tried a highly rated (on Open Rice, the Yelp! of Hong Kong) banh mi shop in Fortess Hill.

Mr Vietnamese is pretty decent and I'm sure I will return to try the other variations. It's a very small shop with a few places to sit and enjoy your made to order sandwich. The bread is spot on with the fillings hitting all the right notes, though lacking a bit of punch.

Mr Vietnamese
Shop 9, G/F, Wang Fai Mansion, 2-12 Wang On Road North Point

Take the tram to the Fortress Hill stop. Walk down Oil Street, turn left on the street after Electric. It's the shop with the green awning.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Hong Kong, I'm Here

I have to be honest. I kind of hate the blogger platform. I was just tooling around with Tumblr and was oh so tempted to jump ship, but then I realized that I've had this blog for FOUR YEARs. That's an amazing feat for someone like me. I've kept this up from New York, San Francisco and Tokyo, why stop now, right? 

So here I am. In Hong Kong. Bloggin' away. My first impressions of the city are mostly positive. The vibe of the city feels very downtown New York (both Tribeca banker fancy and Lower East Side gritty) with a touch of SF Chinatown thrown in the mix (sassy old people and hills). I think I'm going to like it here though I'm sure, just like with Tokyo, there will be days I absolutely hate it. So bear with me! 

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Last Meal Tokyo :: Tonkatsu Tonki

Hello from Hong Kong! It's been a busy few days but we're all settled in our temporary apartment in the Hong Kong Mid-Levels. I'm taking a quick Dim Sum break to share my final Tokyo meal, dinner at Tonkatsu Tonki in Meguro. 

Tonkatsu Tonki has been a Meguro institution for generations. It is still family owned and operated, with most of the family still working in the kitchen, frying up katsu like you've never had before. They make their own tonkatsu sauce and each meal comes with some of the best tonjiru soup you'll ever have. A close friend, SS, introduced us to Tonki and it has since been our go-to katsu shop. Her family is from Meguro and they've been regulars at Tonkatsu Tonki for generations. Literally. On any given night (they're not open for lunch) you'll see a long bench full of people waiting for a seat at the counter. 

So yes, this is what we chose as our final meal in Tokyo. For this special event, we were seated upstairs in one of the private tatami rooms. I ordered the kushikatsu, which is deep fried pork and leek. Blammo always goes for the hire cut. Per usual, it was perfectly crispy and delicious and we made sure to take advantage of their free refills on soup and cabbage.

Looking at these photos make me miss Tokyo a lot. That's not to say that I'm not excited for what Hong Kong has to offer. The food here doesn't suck. But I'm certain I won't find katsu as good as Tonki. If you're in Tokyo, stop by and have some on my behalf. Who knows! It may turn out to be your choice for last meal in Japan too. 

Tonki Meguro, とんき 目黒店 
1-1-2 Meguro, Tokyo
JR Meguro Station, Southeast Exit, 4 minute walk
Tokyo Metro Meguro Station, 3 minute walk
Dinner Only, Closed on Tuesdays

Monday, February 13, 2012

Hello Kitty x Hooters :: Only in Japan

Don't forget to tip your waitress.

Raw Horse Meat :: Nay or Neigh?

I had a work party on Friday night. Our first course was raw horse meat (basashi). Everyone's reaction was about the same: 

"Ohhh, yum. Sashimi...hmm..or beef? Do we cook it? It's what? Horse meat? Oh wow. Do we cook it? No? You just eat it raw? Oh.

Since I'm leaving Japan soon and I've never had it, I had a few pieces. It wasn't as bad as I thought it was going to be. People complain that it is chewy but what do you expect? It's raw meat! I much prefer basashi to raw chicken, which I have had in Japan as well. I have not been confronted with whale meat yet and am going to do my best to avoid it in our final week in Tokyo. 

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Photo of the Day 2012

I'm attempting a photo of the day project over on Flickr. Check it out sometime! I always say that I want to take more pictures. Setting an achievable and measurable goal for myself is really the only way you can make sure I'll get something done. It is a sad but true fact. But if that's what it takes for me to start snapping more pictures, then so be it. I'm also trying my best not to use grimy iPhone meal photos because that's lazy.

My goal each day is to capture something that either sums up the events of the day or is remarkable. I'm still trying to decide if I want to include text descriptions for every photo. I'm kind of leaning towards no but I just can't help myself sometimes.

In any case, I hope you follow along and enjoy!

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Hello Gotochi Kitty, Hello Japan

You know what's the worst? The physical act of moving. It's just...blech. Who needs it?! I'd say the two worst parts of moving is cleaning the kitchen and cleaning out the miscellaneous closet. The kitchen stinks because you throw out a bunch of food and you feel like a wasteful horrible person that hates the earth and starving children. It also smells awful. Do you know what it smells like when you pour maple syrup, fish sauce, vinegar and jam down the drain? I do.

The miscellaneous closet - we've all got one. You know the one I'm talking about. It's the one that's filled with random stuff you can't get yourself to throw away but can't use on a daily basis. I'm pretty sure there's a Friends episode about this closet. The one bright spot in cleaning out the Misc Closet was finding my collection of Gotochi Kitty keychains.

At the very end of any day or weekend trip in Japan, I've always made sure to pick up a new keychain. Every prefecture or region in Japan has their own Gotochi Kitty - a little figuring of Hello Kitty dressed up as something that region is well-known for. There's usually a few to choose from. For example, Kyoto is well known for their geishas and temples, so you can choose a Kitty dressed up as a Geisha or posting next to a temple. Some of them are boring like Kyoto's and others are hilarious. Like the port town of Kobe dressing up Hello Kitty as a pirate. Or the one I picked up in the beach town of Shimoda, where Hello Kitty is tan.

Souvenirs are silly and useless, but I'm glad I started this tradition. I took a little break from packing to go through all the keychains I've collected these past 2 years. They're good reminders of the funny memories I've made with friends around Japan. I haven't collected them all and I'm sure I never will but there is one I have yet to pick up which I'll be sure to do within the next coming weeks. My home of 2 years and an adventure all to itself, Tokyo.

Friday, February 3, 2012

Cleaning Out the Kitchen :: Booze!

If you ever need an excuse to throw a big party and get all your friends wasted, move out of your apartment. I'm not a huge at home boozehag, but for some reason, over the years, we've accumulated a lot of hard alcohol. There is apparently a 100% import tax on liquor in Hong Kong so we figured it was best to push it upon all our friends in Tokyo for one last hoorah in our apartment. And being that we had just entered the year of the Dragon, we made it Lunar New Year themed...kind of.

This was definitely the most people we've ever had in our apartment so I was busy playing host and didn't have time to take a lot of pictures. Mental photos are not so helpful for blogs, but trust me when I say that it was a fun time!

Ordered Peking Duck to go with Kimchi Fried Rice (to help get rid of rice), Scallion Pancakes (used up all my flour), Gyoza, Fried Mochi and various kinds of liquor. 

And the day before, I found some Sprinkles Red Velvet Cupcake mix my sister gave me a long time ago. Not exactly Lunar New Year's themed but everyone loves red velvet and why the heck not? I did find yellow star candles to at least try and make it New Year themed, but I think that fact was lost on everyone. 

By the way, I also made another batch of the Momofuku Chocolate Chip Marshmallow Cornflake cookies. You should really make some and bring them to work or give them to the man or woman in your life because people LOVE this shit. I mean, seriously, it was the hit of the whole evening and it was competing against the like of free booze. 

Cleaning Out the Kitchen :: Kraft Mac & Cheese

I got the blues...

You know, not every meal can be gourmet, 100% homemade or healthy for you. In fact this one was none of those things! I've been working from home all week in preparation to our slow move to Hong Kong. I had a little bit of milk, a little bit of butter and a whole lotta Kraft Macaroni & Cheese, so I bit the bullet and made it for lunch. And you know what? It was pretty tasty. Until it wasn't.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Cleaning Out the Kitchen :: Leeks and Pasta

Creamy Bacon and Leek Pasta via the Pioneer Woman Cooks

When you go to the grocery store in Japan, one thing you will always notice is the giant green stalks of leeks sticking out of everyone's shopping baskets and grocery bags. Leeks, or welsh onions are a big part of Japanese cuisine. I've talked about this Creamy Bacon and Leek pasta before and was reminded at how easy and filling this dish is when remaking it this week. 

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Cleaning Out the Kitchen :: Quinoa and Fried Onions

Lemon-y Quinoa with parsley and pine nuts (made it up)
Paprika dusted salmon with mint mango salsa (mom's recipe)
Spicy Broccoli in olive oil and fried onions (tried to copy a dish i liked from a restaurant)

I'm especially proud of this meal because it helped me get rid of an entire package of quinoa and the last of my fried garlic, plus it was a healthy Sunday night meal. Even though I hardly ever used it, I'm really going to miss our Japanese fish fryer. It is the epitome of "set it and forget it. Marinate your fish however you like, then turn on the fish fryer and it does the rest - 8 minutes later, you'll have a perfectly cooked and crusted fish filet. 

Shout out to the black flower coaster my mom just crocheted me. 

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Cleaning Out the Kitchen :: Powered Sugar and Walnuts

I've finally started thinking about all the practicalities of moving. I had a mental block on it all month but there's really no hiding from it now. It's happening and it is happening soon. Oddly, one of the first things I thought of was cleaning out the kitchen. What am I going to do with all this stuff? Do I take it? Leave it?  Give it away? I did a quick inventory of our cupboards and wow, we are really weird. Why do we have 2 boxes of Kraft Mac & Cheese (saw it on our first trip to an international market and were probably feeling homesick), 2 kg of cous cous (because we thought eating cous cous made us healthy and fancy) and Betty Crocker instant mashed potatoes (odd Christmas gift from younger brother). 

I'm a bit of a spoiled cooker. I tend to pick something I want to make and just go out and buy what I need without thinking about how practical a whole bag of shredded coconut may be, despite only needing 1/5 of the bag. I blame my mother. I don't blame her for a lot of things because she is wonderful, but I definitely blame her for allowing my sister and I to have anything and everything we wanted from the grocery store. We would just wander the aisles and throw random things in the cart. Shark Bites? Score! Ritz Crackers? Yes please! Alcoholic Strawberry Daiquiri Mix even though I'm 8 and my sister is 13? Obviously. This kitchen cleaning task will be a really great practice in Home Economics and Resource Allocation. actually seems kinda fun. 

Tonight, I made a dent in the 1 kg bag of powdered sugar I had leftover from holiday cookie extravaganza 2010 and a bag of walnuts I bought for the 1 salad I made last week. 

The result? Nut Ball Cookies

P.S. - Ok, actually, there were a few things my mom did NOT let us have. Mostly, Kudos Bars, any cereal that was the color of rainbows and brown sodas. Though I despised her for these rules at the time, I now see the error of my ways and am thankful that I do not have metabolic syndrome. You're the best mom!

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Hokkaido New Year

17 days ago, we rang in the New Year in Hokkaido, Japan's most northern island. We only made as far as Hakodate and even though it was cold and everything was closed for oshogatsu, we had a great time. On New Year's Eve, we rode the ropeway up snowy Mt. Hakodate to see one of the "top 3 night views in the world." I don't really know what that means, but it was very pretty. 

We spent the night at a Japanese onsen so that we could enjoy some natural hot spring baths in the cold snowy scenery. After we warmed up with our baths, we had our in-room dinner. And because it was New Year's, we were treated to an unholy amount of food.

This is osechi. Like most Asian cultures, the New Year is the most important holiday of them all. Japan celebrates the New Year (oshogatsu) according to the western calendar, while other countries like China, Vietnam and Korea celebrate according to the Lunar Calendar. (This year, it is on January 23rd) 

During oshogatsu, families are not supposed to cook or clean. But you still gotta eat, right? That's where osechi comes in. It's a 3-tiered bento box filled with food that can keep for 3 days without spoiling. Families order their osechi meals in early December and pick them up just before the New Year, and they don't come cheap. The contents vary and are heavy on fish and pickled veggies. Many of the contents are symbolic, such as fish roe for fertility and beans symbolizing good health. 

(yes, those are gold flakes on my salmon)

We were treated to a single tier of traditional osechi foods at the Hanabishi Hotel in Hakodate. Some of it was good and some of it was...not so good (I'm looking at you slimy thing I still can't identify). But it was a really cool way to ring in the new year, one last time in Japan. 

In addition to our bento, we also had mini-hot pot 

Fresh sashimi
Roast beef and potatoes

Hairy Crab

Miso soup

Sake and fresh fruit

What I'm trying to say is that it was a lot of food and I rang in the new year completely satiated and relaxed. If it's any indication of the things to come, I think it's going to be a good year. 

Monday, January 16, 2012

Momofuku Cornflake-Chocolate-Chip-Marshmallow "Cookies" :: Toffee x Cookie Time

I finally now have in my possession, copies of the Momofuku Milk Bar cookbook. Yes, copies plural. My love of all things Momofuku is so widely known that I've made it dead-simple for people to shop for me. To all of you that gifted me with the Milk Bar cookbook, one million thanks to you. I will probably need all 3 copies, somehow, someway. 

People rave about the compost cookie and everyone is obsessed with the cheeky crack pie. Those are amazing, yes. But me? I love the Cornflake Chocolate Chip Marshmallow Cookies. It is everything I love in a cookie. Super chewy, super buttery, not too chocolate-y and has a nice texture. So naturally, when I got the book, I flipped right to this recipe and started gathering everything I needed. 

And that didn't take very long since I had everything but cornflakes on hand. This is a pretty basic cookie recipe...sort of. Before you start creaming your butter and sugar, you have to make the Momofuku Cornflake Crunch. Basically, you toss a box of cornflakes with sugar, milk powder, salt and melted butter, then bake until you get golden brown crispy clusters. It's not hard, just an extra but necessary step. If you've been to Milk Bar, this is the stuff they crumble on top of their soft serves as a salty-sweet topping. And yes, you can just eat it plain. I know because I've tried. 

After you have the cornflake crunch, it's pretty easy. I would highly recommend refrigerating the dough for at least 3 hours. The book says just 1, but these cookies spread like a motha'f*#%^ in the oven. Mine came out a little funky texture wise: crispy like toffee on the edge but gooey and cookie-like in the middle. Not necessarily a bad thing though! I brought a batch on a ski trip over the weekend and we renamed these "Tookies". 

Here's the recipe online, but get the book! It's filled with a lot of great stories and recipes.