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eG Foodblog: smallworld - Spring in Tokyo

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#61 Chufi

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Posted 04 March 2008 - 10:00 AM

Eggs are often sold unrefrigerated, and as far as I know the use-by date only applies if you plan to eat them raw (eggs for cooking can be kept much longer). Japanese eggs are safe to eat raw, which took me a while to get used to.

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what makes Japanese eggs safe to eat raw? I eat raw eggs (in mayonaise etc) but I always thought that no eggs are 100 % safe?

#62 Priscilla

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Posted 04 March 2008 - 10:25 AM

Wonderful blog, Amy. Your meals are beautiful!

Could you tell about the spring cabbage preparation? And eagle-eyed Hiroyuki got me wondering why you have homemade ponzu as well as Ajipon... do you use one or the other for specific dishes?

Did you say that was just your second time preparing the tamago? Looked absolutely perfect.

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#63 earlgrey_44

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Posted 04 March 2008 - 10:54 AM

Wow, this blog makes the wheels start turning. This latest meal in particular makes me want to get some bonito, make up some ponzu and experiment with dressings. Sounds very cool.

I have never seen umeboshi used as a condiment - that's new to me. I have always used them to make medicinal tea. Do you just mince them up into tiny bits? Any particular other ingredients that combine well with them to make a good rice topping?

#64 smallworld

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Posted 04 March 2008 - 04:27 PM

Once again, another beautiful meal.  I love the colors, the textures, the shapes of the serving pieces, and the fact that everything isn't thrown together on one plate, but arranged in an aesthetically-pleasing way.  Such an array would take me forever to prepare.  How much time did you spend preparing dinner?  And is this a typical meal for you?

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It took just under an hour of work (but that was spread out over two hours while I did other stuff). A little more if you count de-sanding the clams (I put them in salt water last night). Everything I made was fast and simple, and it helps that I used frozen rice. When I make rice I always cook more than I'll need and then freeze the rest. If it's used within a few weeks it doesn't taste much different from fresh rice and is a real time saver.

And I forgot to answer your question about the previous dinner. That one took me about 2 hours, but it wasn't in the kitchen non-stop.

I couldn't cook like this if I didn't work from home!


Your dinner last night is absolutely gorgeous and delectable, just the kind of dinner I wish I could have!

Tell us more about telephone lessons?  As a person who's struggling constantly to live in a foreign language, I'm very interested in how other people manage.  And I totally relate to being able to perfectly read recipes in another language, because I can too.  After all, there are only so many ways to say "bring water to a boil and simmer until tender."

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I work for Aeon, a large language school, teaching English conversation by telephone. The students are mostly people who can't attend regular lessons (people who live in rural areas, very busy folks, pregnant ladies and new moms). Usually there is a textbook or newspaper article, of which we both have a copy, and the lessons are short (15 20 0r 30 minutes) and quite intense. The salary is quite low for an English teaching job, but working from home allows me to get a lot more cooking and housework done than if I was going out to work.

Telephone lessons are three days a week, and I also have a few private students and two or three group classes a week.

And I think here must be a dozen ways to say "bring water to a boil" in Japanese! "Drain" is another tough one. I sometimes make takikomi gohan (rice cooked with vegetables and other stuff) with an instant pack: just open, dump into the rice, add water and cook. They all have different instructions, with some needing to be drained and some that go in the rice liquid and all. I twice ruined takikomi gohan by failing to to understand instructions: once I didn't drain and ended up with soggy, bitter tasting rice, another I did drain and was left with flavourless rice.

I don't buy instant takikomi gohan mixes anymore...


Great blog so far!

I can totally appreciate the concept of struggling to grasp the little nuances of an unfamiliar culture's everyday cooking that we so take for granted with the styles of food we grew up with. I've begun to absorb some basics about various Asian cuisines' meal protocols, but it still doesn't come anywhere near as fluently as the Euro-American cookery I grew up with.

About that bright-pink chirashi-sushi: I can't help thinking of various young girls I've known here in the US who have had a real thing about the color pink. Some go through this phase where seemingly everything has to be pink--backpacks, bicycles, you name it. Oh, and the pink birthday cakes, oy! (With Disney princesses in pink-on-pink frosting!) So I'm imagining a Japanese girl in a similar phase would totally be into pink sushi for Girl's Day. :biggrin: (Me, I somehow missed the whole pink thing. I was more into purple. :laugh: )

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When we were about about 9, some friends and I started the "Black and Burgundy Club". We never found a purpose for it other than to talk about how much we hated pink and how cool black and burgundy were.

Japanese girls certainly do seem to love pink as much as girls anywhere else. "I often use What's your favourite colour" in kid's English lessons and the younger ones almost always say pink. You can tell they're growing up when they start saying other colours.

Girl's Day does have official colours: pink, green and white. The food does reflect those colours, but my sister-in-law is a health nut (at least when it comes to feeding her daughter) and doesn't buy artificially coloured food or use colouring herself. The sakuramochi she made are far paler than the bright pink ones usually sold.


There are two things to do: dilute it with boiling water to make a nice hot soup, or pour it over rice.

...or save for your next Bloody Mary!!

Wonderful blog! Timely too - a bunch of us are getting together for a Japanese feast on Sunday. Your photos and menus are very inspiring.

What's the availability/price of uni these days?

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Wouldn't that make it a Bloody Caesar? You've just reminded me of another thing I miss: Clamato juice. I've never thought of making it myself, but maybe it's worth a try.

Please don't ask me about uni! It's one of the few things here that I can't eat.


That's an impressive array - if I made dashimaki for dinner, the clams would definitely be relegated to something quick and easy like soup!

And is your husband drinking shochu, or water?  :cool: Does he enjoy wine?

What time do your and your husband eat dinner?

I do appreciate the sight of a fridge stocked with familiar ingredients - even familiar brands in some cases - that's the brand of men-tsuyu I often buy too  :biggrin: .

I've had the saggy shelf thing too, but only one actually cracked.
It's counterintuitive, but when we got a bigger fridge we had no more trouble - the bigger shelves were split into two horizontal panels, so that you can slide the front half backward, to make room for taller items on the shelf below. I don't think they're any thicker, must just be that the narrower panels are stronger.

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Helen, I'm in a learning phase right now, and when that happens I tend to cook to much stuff. You should have seen the meals I cooked just after I got married! So many dishes they couldn't fit on the table, with dashi from scratch and all the proper garnishes. It's no wonder we both gained weight after marriage.

My goals right now are to master egg cookery and improve my knife skills. I haven't quite gotten the hang of onsen tamago, and I still can't peel a potato without a peeler, so I've got a while to go.

My husband was drinking water. He has eczema which usually acts up if he drinks. He did have a sip of my wine though, and approved.

We usually eat around 8, but last night he was late so it was closer to 9. He has been working outside of the home for less than six months, before that he worked at home. The meal schedule was drastically different then: we'd often have just two big meals a day, with a few snacks, and eat kind of whenever. It's a challenge to learn to cook on schedule, especially when my job finishes at 6 and I need to go shopping and get dinner ready by 8.
My eGullet foodblog: Spring in Tokyo
My regular blog: Blue Lotus

#65 smallworld

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Posted 04 March 2008 - 04:37 PM

The home-made ponzu is interesting, especially because you also have a store-bought one - Ajipon.

The dinner photo is interesting too, because of the lack of miso soup and the presence of alcohol together with rice. I am capable of having rice and alcohol at the same time, but many Japanese aren't. You know what I mean?

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Ponzu is my all-time favourite condiment and I use it almost every day. I'm not crazy about all the additives in cheaper ponzu, but I can't afford the good stuff. So I compromise: Ajipon or similar cheap brand for regular use and the expensive stuff for special dishes. And when I find cheap yuzu, sudachi or kabosu (or when a student gives me a bagfull from one of their trees) I make it myself to replace the expensive ponzu.

Like I said before, there's a lot of stuff that doesn't come naturally. Miso soup is often just an afterthought, and I sometime skip it (or forget it) altogether.

Not drinking alcohol with rice is one thing I have picked up here. I'm not strict or anything (thus the wine with last night's dinner) but have somehow gotten used to it enough that I do try to avoid mixing rice and alcohol.

Back when my husband worked from home, we'd take longer to eat dinner. I'd drink alcohol with the okazu (side dishes) and when I finished drinking I'd serve rice. Now I just serve everything at once and usually drink my wine before or after dinner, but tonight I'd steamed the clams in the same wine I was drinking so I just had to have some with the meal.



I am capable of having rice and alcohol at the same time, but many Japanese aren't. You know what I mean?

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How interesting. Why is that? Let me guess: instead of filling up on rice, let's make more room for the alcohol?

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Hiroyuki can probably explain that one better than I can!



I know I should be reacting to the lovely food shots, but must admit that the refrigerator really captured my interest. I've wanted a fridge with multiple temperature options like yours for some time, but didn't know they existed below the super-high-end!

Tell us, are these sorts of fridges the norm in Japan?

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Oh, completely the norm. This is a pretty basic type, most fridges have more compartments, all with different temperatures. Check out Hiroyuki's and Kristin's food blogs: they both have the same fridge, and it's a cool one!



I may have asked this question before on another Japanese blog, but if I did, I forgot the answer. With a meal like this, would you eat everything in front of you? and how would you eat the different components , one at a time, or in a certain order? you said something about the positioning of the different bowls so I am assuming it does matter what you eat first? I find this fascinating, it´s so far removed from just eating a bowl of pasta until it´s finished :smile:

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As far as I know, the first dish sampled should be the soup, and from there you take a little bit from each dish in no particular order until everything is done. It is considered bad manners to finish a whole dish at once, then finish another, then another: you have to eat everything bit by bit. There may be other rules but I don't know about them, so maybe someone else has more to say.



Hello. Thank you for taking me far far away to such a very different land! Everything is very foreign to me. I have seen the basics, or the basics of the basics, so this is like being on another planet- which suits me just fine!
Thanks!

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Lior, thank you! I loved your blog and had the same reaction you did to mine: like another world! A delicious and beautiful other world.



Wonderful blog. Thank you so much. I was just bemoaning the fact that we don’t have a single good Japanese restaurant in Ireland to a friend yesterday. To compensate, I’m making shabu shabu tonight, although I can’t get chrysanthemum leaves over here which I had when I visited Japan years ago.

Do you ever make the Japanese savoury custards? If you do, I’d love to hear a bit more about them. I adore the little secret ingredients hiding inside. I have just one recipe for the custard, which shamefully I haven’t tried yet but intend to soon.

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I've never made chawan mushi. I didn't even like it the first time I tried it (along with any other eggy dish) but I've since learned to love eggs and I aim to attempt chawan mushi sometime this year. I have to get dashimaki tamago, onsen tamago and poached eggs down first though.

I too love all the hidden ingredients inside.



Eggs are often sold unrefrigerated, and as far as I know the use-by date only applies if you plan to eat them raw (eggs for cooking can be kept much longer). Japanese eggs are safe to eat raw, which took me a while to get used to.

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what makes Japanese eggs safe to eat raw? I eat raw eggs (in mayonaise etc) but I always thought that no eggs are 100 % safe?

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I'm not sure why they're safe, but salmonella seems to be either rare or non-existant here. I'm guessing that the way the chickens are kept has something to do with it. But who knows: the cheap eggs are definitely from a factory farm so I don't know what they do differently.

In any case it's completely normal to eat raw and undercooked eggs and we do a few times a week.



Wonderful blog, Amy. Your meals are beautiful!

Could you tell about the spring cabbage preparation? And eagle-eyed Hiroyuki got me wondering why you have homemade ponzu as well as Ajipon... do you use one or the other for specific dishes?

Did you say that was just your second time preparing the tamago? Looked absolutely perfect.

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The cabbage was chopped and mixed with a pinch of salt and left to sit for about an hour to "pickle" (Mark Bittman used a similar technique in a recent NYT column), then drained and mixed with the katsuobushi. I sometimes add a dash of ponzu too.

The tamago yaki was overcooked. But yeah, it was my second time so no big deal.



Wow, this blog makes the wheels start turning. This latest meal in particular makes me want to get some bonito, make up some ponzu and experiment with dressings. Sounds very cool.

I have never seen umeboshi used as a condiment - that's new to me. I have always used them to make medicinal tea. Do you just mince them up into tiny bits? Any particular other ingredients that combine well with them to make a good rice topping?

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The simplest way to eat umeboshi is to plunk it as-is on a bowl of rice. Ume and shiso are a super combination, and ume alone or with shiso is nice with katsuobushi and soy sauce. I don't make as much use of ume as I'd like as my husband doesn't like it. I'm guessing Helen has some good ideas for ume.

*Again with the quotes. Sorry about that.

Edited by smallworld, 04 March 2008 - 04:41 PM.

My eGullet foodblog: Spring in Tokyo
My regular blog: Blue Lotus

#66 Kim Shook

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Posted 04 March 2008 - 05:14 PM

Hello. Thank you for taking me far far away to such a very different land! Everything is very foreign to me. I have seen the basics, or the basics of the basics, so this is like being on another planet- which suits me just fine!
Thanks!

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This really says it all for me, too! I am loving all of this! I'd love some outside shots of your neighborhood, if you are taking requests :biggrin: !

#67 C. sapidus

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Posted 04 March 2008 - 05:47 PM

Smallworld:

My sister spent a year in Japan, so I find it a fascinating mix of the familiar and the unexpected. Thank you for sharing your slice of the country. Your meals look deliciously varied and healthy (well, except for rare outbreak of artificial coloring :wink: ).

Not food-related, but I love the honor system vegetable stand and the apparently unlocked bicycles. Very cool.

#68 Hiroyuki

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Posted 04 March 2008 - 07:16 PM


I am capable of having rice and alcohol at the same time, but many Japanese aren't.  You know what I mean?

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How interesting. Why is that? Let me guess: instead of filling up on rice, let's make more room for the alcohol?

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Hiroyuki can probably explain that one better than I can!

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I'll just provide links to threads in the Japan Forum, because this is smallworld's foodblog.

If sake first, then rice last
http://forums.egulle...dpost&p=1026437

Eggs
http://forums.egulle...ndpost&p=943711

Sankaku tabe...
http://forums.egulle...showtopic=91881

Edited to add: No photos of you and your husband?

Edited by Hiroyuki, 04 March 2008 - 07:17 PM.


#69 smallworld

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Posted 04 March 2008 - 08:56 PM

Smallworld:

My sister spent a year in Japan, so I find it a fascinating mix of the familiar and the unexpected. Thank you for sharing your slice of the country. Your meals look deliciously varied and healthy (well, except for rare outbreak of artificial coloring :wink: ).

Not food-related, but I love the honor system vegetable stand and the apparently unlocked bicycles. Very cool.

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The bikes were all actually locked. Most Japanese bikes have a built-in lock on the back wheel, I'll post a pic soon. Bicycle theft is one of the few common crimes here (along with umbrella theft!) and both my husband and I have had a bike stolen. Both times they were unlocked so it served us right. The thief usually just wants a joyride or a one-time ride somewhere to save busfare. Miraculously my husband's stolen bike was tracked down by the police, but it took months and he'd already bought a replacement. That's why he has two bikes: hey, anyone in Tokyo want a used mountain bike?


Hiroyuki, thanks! You are the link master.

My husband will almost certainly forbid me to post a picture of him. I'll see if he'll consent to taking one of me though.

Edited by smallworld, 04 March 2008 - 11:23 PM.

My eGullet foodblog: Spring in Tokyo
My regular blog: Blue Lotus

#70 smallworld

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Posted 04 March 2008 - 09:36 PM

I made this for my husband this morning at 6:30:

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The usual kiwi, half apple and homemade yogurt. The yogurt is flavoured with honey from Canada, and I always try to buy honey from Canada. Japan does produce honey but it's not that easy to find, and I haven't liked the honey from China which is widely available. I love how it comes in a tube: most packaging here is really convenient. I don't love how the tube has a picture of Winnie the Pooh and the Disney logo. Winnie the Pooh, by the way, is called "Pooh-san" or just "Pooh" in Japan.

He also had a special treat: pancakes! I never ever do this on weekdays but I haven't been able to find English muffins or decent bread this week, so I used these frozen leftover pancakes. I added butter and maple syrup, but by the time he sat down to eat it had all been absorbed and he didn't notice, so he doused the pancakes with the honey. He said they were the best frozen panackes he's ever had!

He had breakfast with a mug of Celestial Seasoning's blueberry tea (which I also had). I used to hate herbal teas until I realized I just didn't like the grassy types like chamomile. I now like floral and fruity types, especially blends (probably thanks to the "natural" flavourings). I serve herbal tea in the morning because my husband gets enough caffeine at work. His office is in the Imperial Hotel building (which impresses the hell out of any Japanese who hears it but really means nothing-- any company can rent there) and they have a well-stocked drink bar. The building charges all companies renting there some ridiculous price for the service (I think about 3000 yen per employee) and so my husband drinks espresso, jasmine tea and the like all day long.

He reports that nearly everyone uses a new disposable cup for each drink. I've convinced him to use the mugs, which are technically supposed to only be used for visitors and are washed every night by the cleaning staff. He reports feeling a bit guilty about this.

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A few hours after my husband ate I had coffee and oatmeal with apple, raisins, walnuts, cinnamon and maple syrup. I don't like to eat the same breakfast everyday, but I'd probably never get tired of this.
My eGullet foodblog: Spring in Tokyo
My regular blog: Blue Lotus

#71 SuzySushi

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Posted 04 March 2008 - 10:45 PM

Your descriptions and photos are great & I've started perusing your Blue Lotus blog... Natsukashii desu (I haven't really lived in Japan, just visited for 5 or 6 weeks at a time, but my most recent visit was in 1991! Hard to believe it's been that long.)

Where do you do most of your food shopping?

A couple of stray thoughts...

About salmonella, although it's rare in Japan, a Japanese friend of mine contracted it there (most likely from raw eggs or chicken sashimi) and miscarried because of it. :sad: That's sort of put me off raw eggs.

Re umbrella theft. Do the outlying subway stations still have "loaner" umbrellas? They did when I was visiting!
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My eGullet Foodblog: A Tropical Christmas in the Suburbs

#72 smallworld

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Posted 04 March 2008 - 11:21 PM

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Another bike picture, to show the lock I was talking about: it's the grey ring on the back wheel. It would be easy to break if you were determined, but bicycle theft is more of a crime of opportunity than the well-organized business it tends to be in North America, so these locks are always enough. People are so trusting here that twice when I've lost the keys to a bike lock I've dragged my bike to a local bike repair shop, where the lock was broken off and replaced-- no questions asked!

In my basket is a bag of recycling, since most supermarkets have recycling bins. Behind my bike are three bikes that have been abandoned. They've been there for months and will probably turn into rust piles before they are removed. Bicycle abandonment (usually stolen bikes) is a huge problem in the cities. Across the street, the small shop with the yellow signs is a take-out takoyaki (octopus dumpling) stand. It is one of the few dining options nearby. There is a Hanaya Yohei (a Japanese-style "family restaurant") across the street from us but it's not very good so we've only been there a few times.

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The nearest Supermarket is Inageya, about a 10-minute walk away. I hardly ever go, unless I'm already at the 100 Yen Shop or the drugstore in the same building. For some reason the atmosphere there is completely different from my regular supermarket, although there's just a block between them. The staff aren't very knowledgeable and the customers are a bit rude and they stare a lot. Really rare as most Tokyoites are rather used to foreigners. I'd say it was because the place is right on the border of Saitama (the prefecture that neighbors Tokyo to the north) but then I'd be guilty of snobbery.

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This is my regular store: Summit. It's the only supermarket that I have a point card for. (Japanese people are crazy about point cards and nearly every store and service has them, but they drive me nuts.)

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It has only been open for 20 minutes and already there are this many bicycles. There are also a few floors of parking on top but I think they only fill up on the weekends.

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The shopping carts are tiny here and you don't put the groceries directly in them. You put in a basket first, and at checkout you give give the basket to the cashier. The pink card in my basket says "No regi-bukuro" (No shopping bags) and you put it in your basket at the register to let the cashier know you've brought your own bag. Most supermarkets do this now and some give a small discount for this (like 5 yen or so). Many cashiers will go ahead and wrap meat or seafood in small clear bags, which I hate.

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Summit's recycling station is at the front entrance and has a bin each for cans, milk cartons, styrofoam trays, plastic bottles and batteries. Everything must be cleaned, which I do anyway because I don't want dirty recyclables stinking up my apartment.

Note the No Camera sign. All stores have this rule and they actually enforce it, so I'm afraid I can't take any shopping pictures. I took the previous two pictures with my cellphone while pretending to send an email. I felt like a spy!

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This Family Mart (one of the biggest convenience store chains in Japan) is just down the street from our building and represents my only other nearby dining option. I'm totally over convenience store take-out like bentos and onigiri (not very tasty and chock full of additives) but I lived on them when I first came to Japan. I do occasionally pick up some hot food there, like nikuman (Chinese pork bun) or oden (a kind of stew chock full of vegetables, tofu and fish paste products), or sometimes ice cream in the summer (all convenience stores sell Haagen Dazs and other high-end ice cream). But the main reasons for visiting a convenience store is to pay bills, use the bank machine or send a package (via takkyubin, Japan's cheap and super-efficient delivery system).

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I picked up this flyer at Summit. I love flyers but since we don't get a newspaper we don't get flyers. Whenever I go back home or to the in-laws I spend hours looking through all flyers!

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I see that oysters are on for 98 yen per 100 grams and Japanese beef (shoulder roast, I don't know what that would normally be called in English) is 40% off. Maybe you'll be seeing oysters or beef in the next few days!
My eGullet foodblog: Spring in Tokyo
My regular blog: Blue Lotus

#73 Hiroyuki

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Posted 05 March 2008 - 12:11 AM

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A few hours after my husband ate I had coffee and oatmeal with apple, raisins, walnuts, cinnamon and maple syrup. I don't like to eat the same breakfast everyday, but I'd probably never get tired of this.

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Is it only me who want to shout, "Watch out! You may spill your drink (and ruin your PC)!"?

I like the way you get get fruit into your daily diet. It's something that the Japanese can never be adept at. For many, including me, fruit is just an afterthought...

#74 smallworld

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Posted 05 March 2008 - 12:36 AM

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A few hours after my husband ate I had coffee and oatmeal with apple, raisins, walnuts, cinnamon and maple syrup. I don't like to eat the same breakfast everyday, but I'd probably never get tired of this.

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Is it only me who want to shout, "Watch out! You may spill your drink (and ruin your PC)!"?

I like the way you get get fruit into your daily diet. It's something that the Japanese can never be adept at. For many, including me, fruit is just an afterthought...

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I always have a drink handy when I'm on the computer, and eat half my meals in front of it. Never spilt an entire glassful, but the keyboard does get the odd splash or spill. Not a problem as I hate this keyboard and really need an excuse to buy a new one.

I agree that Japanese people don't eat enough fruit. But believe it or not, I picked up the habit of having half an apple and a kiwi for breakfast from my mother-in-law, who does that every morning (along with English tea, yogurt, cheese and toast or a pastry). I do love fruit and eat a lot of it, but could never get my husband to eat it regularly until I started serving it for breakfast. I think the choice of apples and kiwis is sensible because both are grown domestically and can be found year-round (although the apples aren't very good by summer). Sometimes I'll substitute a banana or a seasonal fruit.

I think one reason why people don't eat much fruit here is that it's expensive. The high prices used to really bug me but now I'm used to them, and I even kind of appreciate them. After all, fruit is only cheap in Canada because of exploited labour and environmentally damaging farming practices. I think that in Japan fruit prices are more "real" and reflect the fact that actual Japanese farmers are making a living wage.

I wonder how long it will be before Japan catches up to the west and starts using cheap migrant labour for fruit picking and other farmwork?
My eGullet foodblog: Spring in Tokyo
My regular blog: Blue Lotus

#75 insomniac

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Posted 05 March 2008 - 12:43 AM

Shin" means new,


and

Is your seasoning more like Kansai (Western Japan) style than Kanto (Eastern Japan)?


I just had a *doh* moment......as a bumbling Cantonese speaker I have just realised that 'shin' = 'sun' (new) and 'sai' = 'sai' (west) and 'to'= 'tung'.(east)....
only took me about 21 years to notice, til now just thought certain characters were the same....hmmm, not exactly Sherlock Holmes...
enjoying your daily life very much

ps. how safe is it to cycle? I wouldn't fancy it in HK..

#76 smallworld

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Posted 05 March 2008 - 01:29 AM

Your descriptions and photos are great & I've started perusing your Blue Lotus blog... Natsukashii desu (I haven't really lived in Japan, just visited for 5 or 6 weeks at a time, but my most recent visit was in 1991! Hard to believe it's been that long.)

Where do you do most of your food shopping?

A couple of stray thoughts...

About salmonella, although it's rare in Japan, a Japanese friend of mine contracted it there (most likely from raw eggs or chicken sashimi) and miscarried because of it. :sad:  That's sort of put me off raw eggs.

Re umbrella theft. Do the outlying subway stations still have "loaner" umbrellas? They did when I was visiting!

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I shop most often at Summit, introduced a few posts back, but there are a good half a dozen supermarkets I'll visit depending on where I am at the time. Add in another dozen or so markets, specialty shops (like the tofu shop and the chicken butcher shop) and import shops, and I have a lot of choices! I really wish I could take more pictures but most stores have no-camera policies and I'm already really shy about taking pictures...

That's so sad about your friend. Pregnant women in Japan have so many dietary restrictions already, she was probably indulging in one of the few "safe" treats. Well, now I know that salmonella is rare rather than non-existent. Luckily I don't really like chicken sashimi, but I don't know if I can give up raw eggs. Maybe I should stick to the expensive kinds.

Loaner umbrellas? Neat idea, but I've never heard of them! But then I don't take the subway very often. Anyone else in Japan seen them?

Shin" means new,


and

Is your seasoning more like Kansai (Western Japan) style than Kanto (Eastern Japan)?


I just had a *doh* moment......as a bumbling Cantonese speaker I have just realised that 'shin' = 'sun' (new) and 'sai' = 'sai' (west) and 'to'= 'tung'.(east)....
only took me about 21 years to notice, til now just thought certain characters were the same....hmmm, not exactly Sherlock Holmes...
enjoying your daily life very much

ps. how safe is it to cycle? I wouldn't fancy it in HK..

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Yes, lots of the characters are either the same or just slightly different. It's possible for a Japanese person to understand much of a Chinese menu, as well as some Chinese place names or personal names. Do the Chinese love to slap 新 (sun/shin) onto words as much as the Japanese do?

I live in suburban Tokyo and it's fairly safe, but there are no bicycle lanes and the rules are confusing. Technically cyclers should stay on the road, but all the cars honk if you actually try riding on the street, so you have to stay on the sidewalk. Where telephone poles, fences, signs, and cellphone email-reading schoolgirls are major hazards. Nobody wears a helmet, and moms carry their babies on front and back seats. I've seen a woman with two children loaded onto her bike, plastic shopping bags dangling from each handle, and a cellphone at her ear while she was riding with one hand. I've had a few minor accidents myself, including a collision with a bus, but nothing major.

I don't ride a bike because I'm a major bike person, I do it because it's healthier, cheaper and better for the environment than driving a car (we don't have one anyway) or taking the bus. Of course, I do take the bus when the weather is bad, and a few times a year we rent a car for a big shopping trip to Costco or Ikea.


And your post reminded me, I forgot to answer Hiroyuki's question! I honestly don't know if I cook Kansai or Kanto style, because I haven't truly developed my own seasoning habits yet. I know that I'm gradually using lighter seasonings and I've learned to automatically tell when a new recipe needs to be modified (usually by using less sugar). I'll ask my husband tonight and see what he says.

When I use too much soy sauce or salt my husband always comments "You must be tired". It seems to be a belief here that cooks unconsciously use a heavy hand with salt when they're tired. I'd never heard that before and wonder if it's a Japanese thing, or do people elsewhere share this belief?
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#77 smallworld

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Posted 05 March 2008 - 02:54 AM

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Lunch today was kaki furai (deep-fried oysters) and leftovers. I meant to eat rice too but lost track of time and had to get back to work.

The kaki furai was bought at the supermarket this morning. Once or twice a week I'll get a small take-out treat for lunch, usually a few pieces of battera-zushi (pressed mackerel sushi) or inari-zushi (sushi rice wrapped in deep-fried tofu). And when oysters are in season I'll pick up kaki furai occasionally.

Supermarket take-out food is pretty good here (but it really depends on the store). The label includes the time an item was made so you can be sure it's fairly fresh. Of course, much of the take-out food is made of items from the meat, seafood and produce sections that are nearing their expiry dates, and these oysters are no exception. A certain amount of trust is certainly involved, but people take food poisoning very seriously here so I doubt any supermarket would take a chance by using truly expired food.

Normally I don't like fried food that isn't freshly fried, but somehow these oysters always manage to retain their crispness. I heat them up first in the microwave and then in the broiler, so they're moist inside, crunchy outside. Almost as good as freshly made.

I usually don't like tartar sauce but for some reason I like it, just a tiny little dip, with fried oysters.

It may surprise oyster lovers in other parts of the world, but in Japan it's more common to cook oysters than to eat them raw. Oysters are acknowledged to be one of the most dangerous seafoods (well, there's fugu, but fugu poisoning will get you whether you eat it raw or cooked) and people tend to be careful with them. Other than kaki furai oysters are cooked with rice and with okonomiyaki (especially in Hiroshima) and stir-fried (often Chinese style).
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#78 Hiroyuki

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Posted 05 March 2008 - 03:42 AM

And your post reminded me, I forgot to answer Hiroyuki's question! I honestly don't know if I cook Kansai or Kanto style, because I haven't truly developed my own seasoning habits yet. I know that I'm gradually using lighter seasonings and I've learned to automatically tell when a new recipe needs to be modified (usually by using less sugar). I'll ask my husband tonight and see what he says.

When I use too much soy sauce or salt my husband always comments "You must be tired". It seems to be a belief here that cooks unconsciously use a heavy hand with salt when they're tired. I'd never heard that before and wonder if it's a Japanese thing, or do people elsewhere share this belief?

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Thanks for your reply. I'm also interested in what you call dashimaki tamago (Kansai style). Is yours less sweet than atsuyaki tamago in Kanto?

My Osaka-born brother-in-law used to complain that all the dishes that my Tokyo-born sister made were salty. I wonder if your husband was born and bred in Osaka.

#79 helenjp

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Posted 05 March 2008 - 03:54 AM

I had to laugh at the salty/tired comment too...I don't think my husband is capable of cognitively combining the concepts of "excess" and "shoyu/salt"!

#80 Corinna Dunne

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Posted 05 March 2008 - 04:46 AM

Ponzu is my all-time favourite condiment and I use it almost every day. I'm not crazy about all the additives in cheaper ponzu, but I can't afford the good stuff. So I compromise: Ajipon or similar cheap brand for regular use and the expensive stuff for special dishes. And when I find cheap yuzu, sudachi or kabosu (or when a student gives me a bagfull from one of their trees) I make it myself to replace the expensive ponzu.


I adore ponzu too, but I’ve only used it with shabu shabu and sukiyaki and use green onion and daikon as condiments. I’d be interested to hear what dishes you use it with and how you cook them. I make it with soy sauce, lemon juice, stock and mirin. Is this the recipe you use?
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#81 smallworld

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Posted 05 March 2008 - 05:42 AM

Ingredients for tonjiru (pork soup):

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Thinly sliced pork, negi (long onion), carrot, daikon, kabocha, gobou (burdock). They are sauteed in sesame oil then simmered until tender, then miso is added.

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Clockwise from bottom left: shin-gobou to renkon no kimpira, leftover from Monday night; cherry tomatoes, cabbage and wakame seaweed dressed with sesame oil, ponzu, pepper and crushed sesame seeds; tara no kasuzuke (cod marinated in sake lees and miso); hourensou to abura-age no nibitashi (spinach simmered and fried tofu simmered with soy sauce); tonjiru; steamed white rice topped with mentaiko (spicy cod roe). In the back is shirasu (baby sardines) with umeboshi (pickled plum) and mentaiko, to eat with rice.
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#82 _john

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Posted 05 March 2008 - 05:45 AM

finally a blog I can relate to!

Ive never seen "loaner" umbrellas but you can buy an umbrella for less than $1 so it is no big deal.

Do you have certain staple meals that you eat a lot? What do you like to eat when you eat out?

#83 nakji

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Posted 05 March 2008 - 06:45 AM

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I used to shop at an Inegaya when I lived in Nishi-Tokyo! I found their english muffin supplies to be shockingly erratic as well. Where I live now, they're practically non-existent, so I stock up when I see them, and freeze them. Somehow, they just taste better than the plain old white bread.

I agree about the conbini food. I usually pack a homemade bento for lunch every day, which causes a lot of surprise amongst my Japanese co-workers, since most of my foreign co-workers seem to live off conbini food. One of the ladies I work with told me that when a teacher brings in a conbini bento, and heats it up, it just smells like chemicals, but when the teachers bring their own food to heat up, it smells good. I have to agree.

#84 Shelby

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Posted 05 March 2008 - 07:35 AM

Hi Amy! I'm really enjoying this. Every morning I perch on my stool, log on, eat my breakfast, and read!

One question that popped in my head. Do you use chopsticks to eat every meal?

#85 shinju

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Posted 05 March 2008 - 01:41 PM

I had to laugh at the salty/tired comment too...I don't think my husband is capable of cognitively combining the concepts of "excess" and "shoyu/salt"!

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:laugh: Me neither.

#86 smallworld

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Posted 05 March 2008 - 03:41 PM

Thanks for your reply.  I'm also interested in what you call dashimaki tamago (Kansai style).  Is yours less sweet than atsuyaki tamago in Kanto?

My Osaka-born brother-in-law used to complain that all the dishes that my Tokyo-born sister made were salty.  I wonder if your husband was born and bred in Osaka.

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I didn't know there were different styles with different names! I call it dashimaki tamago because that's what my husband calls it. And I guess I make it Kansai style because it's lightly seasoned with dashi and soy sauce, no sugar. I just naturally chose that recipe because neither my husband and I don't like our food too sweet.

My husband was born in Osaka but spent time in Tokyo and Sapporo while he was growing up, and then America from his late teens. He can speak perfect Tokyo Japanese but reverts to Osaka-ben when we go back to visit, and he does prefer Kansai style seasoning. He makes a mean okonomiyaki and takoyaki too, but that happens rarely now that he's working out of the home.

Helen, your husband sounds just like my sister-in-law's husband, from Chiba. When he's visiting the in-laws in Osaka he douses everything he eats in soy sauce. Admittidly we all feel the food is underseasoned at times because my father-in-law, who lost most of his stomach to cancer and is on dialysis, has so many dietary restrictions.

I adore ponzu too, but I’ve only used it with shabu shabu and sukiyaki and use green onion and daikon as condiments. I’d be interested to hear what dishes you use it with and how you cook them. I make it with soy sauce, lemon juice, stock and mirin. Is this the recipe you use?

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You can use it in any place you'd normally be using salty and sour flavours. Salad dressing is a great use for ponzu: just mix with your choice of oil (it goes very nicely with good olive oil and sesame oil) and season it with black pepper, chili sauce, herbs or whatever else you like. It's wonderful with seafood (especially with butter) and good with chicken and pork too. And there's no better way to flavour vegetables like brocolli and asparagus.

My recipe is similar: juice the citrus (yuzu, sudachi and kabosu are best, and one type is fine but two or more types blended is better) and add it to a pan with soy sauce, sake, a little mirin, kombu sliced into small pieces and katsuobushi. Bring to a simmer and cook for a few minutes, then turn off the heat and let it sit for a few hours (you can also let it all sit in a jar in the fridge for a week or so without simmering it, but I like to do it the fast way). Then strain and pour into a bottle, keep in the fridge.

The simmering/steeping adds extra depth of flavour that you don't get from just mixing everything together and using right away. And I understand that yuzu and the like are not easy to find overseas, but do try to use something other than just lemon: a blend of lemon and lime maybe? Bottled yuzu juice is fine too, if you can find it.

finally a blog I can relate to!

Ive never seen "loaner" umbrellas but you can buy an umbrella for less than $1 so it is no big deal.

Do you have certain staple meals that you eat a lot? What do you like to eat when you eat out?

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Well SuzySushi, I think John has just answered your question! The loaners probably disappeared when those cheap clear umbrellas started to be sold everywhere for 100 to 500 yen. I imagine a lot has changed since 1991 (I've only been here since 96). You're long overdue for a visit!

John, the only staple I can think of is pasta with tomato sauce. In winter I use a sauce is like Amatriciana but when I learned it (working in an Italian deli in Vancouver) it was just called "tomato sauce". In summer I'll use a lighter sauce with fresh tomatoes. NOT because the tomatoes are any better in the summer though. I mean, do hothouse tomatoes have a season?

I guess noodles, either soba or udon, are another staple meal. We eat them about once a week when we're both too tired to cook but don't want to go out, as they're fast and simple to prepare.

We don't live in a great restaurant area so eating out is more about what's available than what we really want. We often eat Chinese, sushi (kaitenzushi of course) and soba, and sometimes "fast food" like oyakodon (at Naka-u), ramen and tempura (at Tenya).

Oh, and we hit Mr. Donuts about twice a month!


I used to shop at an Inegaya when I lived in Nishi-Tokyo! I found their english muffin supplies to be shockingly erratic as well. Where I live now, they're practically non-existent, so I stock up when I see them, and freeze them. Somehow, they just taste better than the plain old white bread.

I agree about the conbini food. I usually pack a homemade bento for lunch every day, which causes a lot of surprise amongst my Japanese co-workers, since most of my foreign co-workers seem to live off conbini food. One of the ladies I work with told me that when a teacher brings in a conbini bento, and heats it up, it just smells like chemicals, but when the teachers bring their own food to heat up, it smells good. I have to agree.

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Which Inageya? I lived in Nishitokyo for 6 wonderful years and much preferred the shopping there.

Inageya doesn't even carry whole-wheat English muffins, which are the ones I buy. I go to Summit or Life for those. Freezing is a great idea, and as soon as there's room in my freezer I'll start stocking up.

Hi Amy!  I'm really enjoying this.  Every morning I perch on my stool, log on, eat my breakfast, and read!

One question that popped in my head.  Do you use chopsticks to eat every meal?

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I use chopsticks for Japanese, Chinese and other Asian food, and a fork and knife for western meals. Hopefully I'll be showing my cutlery drawer today, so more on that later.
My eGullet foodblog: Spring in Tokyo
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#87 Hiroyuki

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Posted 05 March 2008 - 04:02 PM

I use chopsticks for Japanese, Chinese and other Asian food, and a fork and knife for western meals. Hopefully I'll be showing my cutlery drawer today, so more on that later.

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Great! I hope you show us your knives, too. I think I have seen only one knife so far here in your blog.

#88 smallworld

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Posted 05 March 2008 - 04:28 PM

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This is one of the free-range eggs. It has a nice, fat, bright orange yolk, typical of good Japanese eggs. This is about the be sprinkled with salt and pepper and microwaved for one minute.

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English muffins toasting, one with cheese. This stuff is called "Natural Pizza Cheese" and is anything but natural. I've given up on using real cheese for daily use, as it is expensive and hard to find in reasonable amounts. But every supermarket is full of this fake shredded stuff, and hey- if you can't beat 'em, join 'em. I kind of like the stuff now.

Most Japanese kitchens do not have an oven, but every gas range comes with this little broiler toaster thing. It is quite useful for toast and fish (last night's fish was grilled here), not much use for anything else.

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Egg and cheese on a whole wheat English muffin. This will be my husband's breakfast, along with strawberries, kiwi and tea (it's Red Zinger today). He gets the egg muffin almost every weekday, except when I can't find English muffins or when I know we'll be having eggs for dinner. On weekends there might be bacon added.

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He watches the news on NHK (the national broadcaster) while eating, and meanwhile records another channel's business news on his cellphone. His phone comes with a TV but since he takes the subway to work he doesn't get reception during his commute. Taping the news beforehand solves the problem nicely.

As you can see, it's pretty cloudy up in Northern Japan. They were just showing the Cherry Blossom Front before this, and I'm killing myself for not taking a picture for you. The Cherry Blossom Front is a special kind of weather report that shows a map of Japan with different areas marked in varying shades of pink, representing where the sakura are in bloom, and at what percentage they are blooming. It's the first blossom report I've seen this year and I didn't see the screen long enough to see where the cherry blossoms are, but I imagine it's down in Okinawa or maybe Kyushu. We won't be seeing sakura in Tokyo for another three weeks or so.

At the top of the picture you can see the filter and grinds from yesterday's coffee. In the winter I dry them in the living room, where the air is so dry it just takes a few hours (the rest of the year they are dried outside, and during the rainy season I don't bother because the get moldy before they dry). Dried coffee grounds are great as a deodorizer, and the filter is good at sopping up liquids. So it all gets thrown into the garbage to reduce odours and leaking.

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First breakfast is strawberries, kiwis and yogurt. Second breakfast will be the same egg muffin my husband had, with some chopped tomato on the side.
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#89 smallworld

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Posted 05 March 2008 - 04:40 PM

I use chopsticks for Japanese, Chinese and other Asian food, and a fork and knife for western meals. Hopefully I'll be showing my cutlery drawer today, so more on that later.

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Great! I hope you show us your knives, too. I think I have seen only one knife so far here in your blog.

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That's the only knife you'll see! I do have a serrated knife and a paring knife that I use occasionally, but it's mostly just this regular santoku. I've long wanted a collection of good knives but I'm incredibly clumsy and already manage to cut myself quite often, and I can only imagine the carnage that would result from me using a super-sharp sashimi knife.

But this year I've made a new year's resolution to improve my knife skills, and have made a deal with myself: when I am able peel an apple in one long peel, without breaking it, I will buy myself a good knife. Until recently I used a peeler for everything but have trained myself to peel fruit and most vegetables (still use a peeler for carrots and potatoes). Which doesn't sound like much to the average Japanese person but is a huge achievement for me.

For those outside of Japan, let me tell you that the knife skills of the typical home cook here rivals those of a typical chef in North America. It's just amazing watching people cook here. And the pros are even better. If you ever come to Japan, get yourself to a "fruit bar" or "fruit parlour" and sit at the counter where you can watch the chef (fruit cutter?) do his stuff.
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#90 winemakerswife

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Posted 05 March 2008 - 04:46 PM

Amy, I am a long time fan of your blog Blue Lotus, and your posts thus far on eGullet are so inspiring! My best friend lives in Tokyo, and I visit often, but I get to relive my joys of discovery of Japan through yoru blog. Your posting about how you do your shopping are just as interesting as the cooking that you do. Your shoppign list note book is very cool, do you save eahc of your shopping lists in it? Tell me more about the other information you keep in it, I know you mentioned a wine list of some sort. (My husband is a wine maker in California.) Thank you for sharing so much of your time this week!

p.s. i love greek yogurt with honey, my favorite breakfast.
p.p.s. I bought a few sashimi knives in Tokyo last July, I bought mine got mine from a small kinfe store is Asakusa selling Masamoto brand, My husband prefered the Tokyo Hands store. He bought a cheaper version of my knife, and really... it's just as good for amatuer cooks like us.

Edited by winemakerswife, 05 March 2008 - 04:59 PM.






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