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  1. And in speaking of Valentine's Day in Japan we're not just talking just plain choco here like a Hershey's kiss or a meager Mars bar. No--oh! I mean we're talking -- CHOCOLAT -- as in the most expensive, extravagant, decadent FRENCH chocolat that the women here can get their hands on. Forget the men, the women here go all out to get the best money can buy for themselves, as has been mentioned. Price is no object. This fancy stuff costs in the thousands of yen. In fact, Valentines Day has become such a gala affair extraordinaire that the most respected and celebrated chocolat chefs from France are flown to Japan to do their thing at department stores--whipping up all kinds of tantalizing goodies that sell out in minutes to women who have learned of these chefs' arrival dates months in advance and have come, lined up and waited for hours. It's amazing how a simple idea like the giving of chocolate on Valentine's Day has escalated into a chocolat frenzy here. NOT to sound bitter (as in 86% pure cacao), but since Valentine's Day has grown into such a huge mass-marketing extravaganza to separate women from their money, that most men like me are left without as much as even a candy-bar wrapper anymore on that special day.
  2. While we're on the subject of shiso, I was reminded of my first experience of eating natto without gagging. It's all thanks to the wonderful flavor of shiso. A friend made natto tempura by spreading some natto on a a whole shiso leaf and rolling it up, pinning it with a toothpick. She then dipped the leaf it into tempura batter and deep fried it. Knowing that there was natto in it, I was hasitant to try, but I gave in to pressure. You know, surprisingly it was actually quite good with the flavor combinations (shiso, batter, oil, tempura sauce). From then on I have garnered a taste for natto and can eat it by itself even, although I prefer it combined with other ingredients such as in natto maki sushi rolls. So, any of you who aren't fond of natto but still want to experience with ways to see if you can eat it, try this tempura with shoso as an easy way to break into the taste.
  3. I also have come across some bad shiso. To me it was so strong it tasted like "soap" (not that I dine on soap, but you know what I mean.) One of my favorites with Shiso is to make a very plain garlic/olive oil pasta with shrimp, and mixing in fresh thinly sliced shiso at the very end. When I added shiso while cooking, the flavor dissipated. Also, for more added flavor, there is a shiso furikake (flavored sprinkles for rice) that I have added to the pasta to give it more shiso flavor. Although not as natural, it does bring out the flavor and tastes good, plus it is readily available. It is very salty though, so adjust added salt accordingly if you use this. In addition to the fresh leaves, what I have found that works a lot better than the furikake is the dried shoso leaves made expressly for making umeboshi. These tend to be lesss salty. A friend gave me a bag of them, telling me they were expensive. I am not sure if they are easy to find. Maybe they are more in abundance during umeboshi season.
  4. Thanks for the informative link by the Ministry of Information, I hadn't come accross it before. I had found the "My Oman" site and was amazed at the scenery and photos--incredible. I hope what I see in person looks even half as good as those photos. And with my level of photography skills, I won't even be able to come close, no matter how hard I will try. I'll post my culinary experiences after I get back
  5. I'll be going to Oman soon and would like to hear EG members opinions about what and where to eat in Muscat (And also what and where NOT to eat ) I keep hearing that much of what restaurants offer is Indian food (which I love and can never get enough of). While in Oman, though, I'd lke to have something typical and would like to know where and what, if you can help. I'm a novice to Mid-eastern food and look forward gaininig exposure to a whole new food-world. Thanks.
  6. For one, the blossoms are used in a tea. (Sakura Cha). Sakura Tea Other uses include the cherry-tree leaves for Sakura Mochi (rice cakes). Sakura Mochi These are really good, as the salty leaves combine so well to quell the sweet of the beans. MMMMmmmmm. These are sold in tandem with Cherry Blossom time, which is usually late March/early April in Tokyo.
  7. Oh Monica, I am so glad you are back safely and able to share all those great goodies in words and pictures. My mouth watered with every new picture as I scrolled down the page. Your story and pictures were really a joy for me and I too am getting in line with the others who are anxiously awaiting a trip to India. Now about MacDonalds and the International Menu. I would love to trade our "Teriyaki Mac Burger" we have in Japan with one of those Aloo Tikki Burgers. I never bothered to try MCD in India, as I wanted to have as much Indian food as possible since I had such limited time. I will do so next time on your recommendation, as it seems MCDs is Indianized, as ours are Japanized by serving such delights as Melon-flavored Shakes. (Now if they would only use Midori Liqueur instead of green syrup!!! ) I am looking forward to reading and learning more from you. Pompollo
  8. Just to add here. A good source to learn about spices, and an EXCELLENT book for great recipes too, is Monisha Bharadwaj's The Indian Spice Kitchen. A bonus is its beautiful and artful photos. It offers real value in many aspects, one being its explanations about a myraid of spices (plus legumes, rice varieties, etc. too). It is usually mentioned as one of the top "Must Have" Indian cookbooks here on EG. You will learn more about what to do with all those newly aquired spices in your pantry.
  9. Torakris, Thanks for that interesting article. Just to add, I have heard there are efforts in Japan to feed the hungry (namely the homeless) the leftovers from banquets and also the conbini-store lunch boxes, etc. that must be tossed due to freshness expiration. Although I will hold comments about the morality of feeding homeless (or anybody) leftovers, in theory it does sound like a conscious effort to eliminate 2 problems: 1) too much waste and 2) feeding the hungry. (Off topic but: I have heard stories that most convenience stores go out of business because they take such a heavy loss on the food which is mandated to be thrown away/destroyed after the freshness expiration has passed. One TV story showed a struggling conbini-store owner who brought the expired food home EVERY DAY as the only means for him to afford feeding his family 3 meals. Can you imagine eating that stuff 3 meals a day, everyday?)
  10. I believe this thread is dealing with perceptions in olden times when the idea of "waste not want not" applied. Traditionally nothing went to waste whether it be in China, Europe, Japan or Mexico. The whole animal and the entire vegetable were eaten out of necessity: in former times there was a lack of availalable and affordable food. Japan too in the old days was a poor country and food was highly honored and respected. Nowadays, however, as an American living in Japan, I that see the Japanese are terribly wasteful at times. As a food person who can't stand to see things go to waste, I have left parties, events, and even simple gatherings when tons of food gets left and thrown away. Wasting food is something that I cannot tolerate. Maybe this is off the subject, but in Japan, buffets turn into what I call "mini buffets". What happens is that everyone gets in line and starts hoarding plates of food (desserts especially). They take not only what they themselves want to eat but end up bringing heaping plates back to their own little group of friends who then guard their own "mini buffet" as if they were dogs in the manger story. This means that other people who come late get nothing while much of the food brought to these mini-buffets is lying on tables going to waste. This custom bugs me to no end. And just yesterday, I was in a restaurant where I couldn't help but notice two picky girls who had eaten less than half their bowls of rice, plus left most of the main dishes and side dishes too. (I happen to watch how people treat food.) If they weren't going to eat, why did they come in the first place. If they weren't very hungry they could have asked for smaller portions of rice. BUT, what infurrriated me more was that these two girls instead of eating, were more involved with putting on their make up at the table. You can see that to them, food (and wasting it) is of no concern and ranks below looking pretty. I shouldn't be so critical here, but I am old fashioned. The idea, if it ever existed, of leaving nothing to waste is either non-existent or not given much thought anymore in Japan, a country where food, while not cheap, is in such abundance it is regarded as a superfluous commodity and no longer considered an object worthy of respect.
  11. Putting the taste factor aside for the moment, I end up using canned at least 95% of the time, whether it is for Indian or Italian. The reason is simply based on the mess factor and the time involved with doing it from "scratch" the right way, which takes time and leaves a mess to clean up. With cans I need to do no more than turn the can-opener and toss out can. Moreoever, as stated elsewhere, it's hard to find tomatoes good enough to use for sauce. When I have the time; when I can get a lot of good, red-ripe tomatoes; and when I want be as authentic as possible, then I will make sauce from real tomatoes. I spend a lot of time doing it: I blanch tomatoes in hot water, peel the skin, remove all the seeds and water, to get only the pulp. Simply cutting up tomatoes and throwing them in the pan with juice, seeds, skin works in some dishes, (aloo gobhi) but to get a real nice sauce consistency that is needed in for example Murg Makhani, then I have found I have to go to this bother and mess. It's worth it, but I can't do it all the time, so I find canned makes so much more sense. Also, when you deal with canned, you have the added benefit of a consistant amount on hand. It's frustrating, even after I have gone through all the bother to make the sauce from fresh tomatoes, I have found out I didn't get enough so I end up having to have to add canned anyway
  12. Pardon me for stepping in, but I have some novice questons: How long can cardamon seeds be stored in a jar before they become stale/tasteless/bad? Reason I ask is I am down to a few last ones I got in India because so many recipes call for them. I only bought a handful, but now regret it. I am wondering what quantity I should buy them? Do they last years or just a few months? And, does greener mean fresher? I always thought that the dull/faded ones must be old and lack flavor so I have tended to buy the greener ones. Finally, some pods open easily with a quick whack, and some don't want to open no matter how hard I pry. Is this a any indication of good/bad flavor, old/fresh?
  13. Sonya, Let me, please, just say it once: Perhaps your friend couldn't boil water! Seriously, do you think one basic problem is that your friend wasn't too skillful in the kitchen, and that possibly the same results would have arisen had the food been Italian, Chinese, or other?? Some people just aren't meant to be cooks. As to Amazon, I never thought about the idea that the most popular Indian Cookbooks are bad. Yes, Jaffrey's and Julie's are popular but I think they are popular for a reason: they are good cookbooks (I assume, not having any). Many here also praise them. Jaffrey and Julie possibly cater more to non-Indians, as that is the niche they created living overseas and cooking there. Since they are often mentioned on EG too, I trust they must be somewhat worthwhile books regardless of who does the reviewing. I (Italian-American, who at one time didn't know the difference between a samosa and a ravioli) enjoy reading the Amazon reviews. I think you have to take some with a grain of salt, but I think there are people (yikes, even Americans too) who are taste-savy enough to know a good bowl of daal to a plate of canned beans. So, I value all the opinions and filter out those that to me seem suspicious. The more reviews the easier it is to make a purchase decision. I have been really good not to collect too many cookbooks; that's why I have none of Jaffrey's or Julie's. But temptation set in. I went overboard this weekend and actually bought TWO!! The Great Curries of India book that gets constant raves. And how could I resist our own Monica's latest, the Everytihng Indian Cookbook, which I trusted from reading Amazon reviews is the type of book that will help me cook better, and one that I will make must use of and treasure.
  14. Hummm, I just don't think so. Here's my 2 cents worth of observations on fast-food outlest and some casualties. There are several aspects to consider: price, variety, and conceptions. Nathan's: Nathan's may be around for a limited time. To the average Japanese I don't think they'll rush on the trains to Harajuku for just a "hotto dogu". With such a limited menu, and with the Japanese thinking that all they'll get is a "pan" (snack-bread type thing), Nathan's has a hard challenge ahead here. Hot dogs are not considered a meal. At 270 a dog, let's hope Nathan's can sell them as fast as the Hot-dog-champ Shirota can eat them. I am almost sure the company will go to fast-food heaven and join Burger Kind, Pret, Sbarro's, etc. McDonalds: McDonald's is struggling because it has too many of it's own outlets, plus is in deep price wars with the competition. Yet compared to Nathan's it does it have a wider variety of food, which in my opinion is far more appealing to kids and families. How many youngsters are going to want a Nathan's hot dog with chilli, which itself is a terribly disliked food item here to begin with. The whole concept of McDonald's has caught on here, and I am sure they will stay. The concept of eating at McDonald's is that you can, if you want, have an entire meal. Starbucks: Coffee is big here, as it is in the States and elsewhere. The main problem with Starbucks is that it's not the coffee itself that is going out of fashion, it just too much overkill with Starbucks popping up on every corner, all eating into each other's business. This is in addition to competing with all the Escelsiors, Cafe de Pres, Doutor's, etc. that have sprouted up. The coffee-market pie is only so big, so each store's share gets cut into a smaller and smaller slice. Burger King: In Japan, Burger King didn't want to fight the 59-yen burger war with McDonalds, Lotteria, etc. so they just pulled out. Too bad, as I like Woppers. Sbarros: I don't know what the story was with Sbarros. The only place I knew, the one in Harajuku, always seemed to be busy. But pasta maybe didn't pay the rent there. Let see if Nathan's hot dogs pay the Harajuku rent. Pret a Manger: It sounds funny to say in such an expensive place as Tokyo, but I think Pret A Manger was just too pricey for what in Japan amounted to 560 yen for bread, which is considered as a snack and not a meal item. First of all, the concept of a sandwich here is something that costs about 200 yen. To diverge a little, I'll tell a an incident I remember that happened many years ago when I was in Little Tokyo in Los Angeles at a Japanese coffee shop that had opened. I went there and didn't give a second thought to paying $2 for a cup of coffee. While there I saw two little ole ladies come in. When they looked at the menu and saw coffee priced at $2, they went into price shock and dashed out the door, commenting that coffee isn't something you pay two bucks for. I went back a couple of months later, and not surprising, the coffee shop had folded up. In Tokyo at Pret, for 560 yen you could get 1 ruccola & smoke turkey sand. For that same 560 yen you could get either 2 Yoshinoya beef bowls or at least 8 McDonad's hamburgers. What do you think the poor and starving student would eat? I liked the sandwiches at Pret, but one alone never quite made a full meal. And to buy two, costing over 1,000 yen, was not a good deal, considering I could get a filling teishoku plate-meal for less than that. Finally, the Sweeties: I am wondering if overkill is hurting Krispy Kreme and Cinabon's in the US? I'm really curious about this. Does anybody know how are they doing there? Food fads there too fade, so it doesn't only happen in Japan. How many times has cherry Coke come and gone. In the meantime I think I should plan a quick trip in a hurry to Harajuku while I can still get a decent hot dog.
  15. This type of thread is always interesting. I saw similar elshere in EG, but I like the twist this time to analyze why? First of all, as a kid my: special favorites: home-grown tomatoes, corn on the cob, baked squash. I was strange as I usually ate all veggies except: Yuck: asparagus, green peppers, long-hot Italian, fried green peppers and STILL THE YUCKIEST FOOD HAS GOT TO BE LIVER IN ANY WAY, SHAPE, FORM OR CUISINE! Now I like and eat all vegetables. My taste buds started to change when I was in my 20s, and when I tasted peppers and asparagus they weren't as bad as I remembered them. Analysis: This topic is centered around Indian, and that Indian kids eat veggies because they were made to taste good (the veggies, not the kids!). I grew up Italian, in terms of food. But the same theory applies in general, and that is, I liked my home cooked veggies because my mother, grandma, aunts knew how to make them taste good. I always thought the same applied to Chinese too, meaning most Chinese kids eat their vegetables becuase they are cooked to taste good. Same can be said of Thai, Malay, Korean and many other cuisines but sadly not for the bland and boring standard American or British foods. I always thought about why American kids don't eat their veggies. The answer came to me one day. With nothing more than a pile of mushy, overcooked carrots, potatoes, peas and green beans on their plate, with no more imagination than the come-all, end-all pad of ubiquitous butter placed on top, it's no wonder everybody hates veggies in the States (and most likely the UK and northern Europe too). My theory goes beyond Indian food--it has to do all with flavor. Italian food/veggies are not based on spice (like Indian food) but on herbs: basil, oregano, rosemary, sage, mint. But the idea is that veggetables are treated so they have FLAVOR. and taste good. And that is what is so lacking in your standard, stove-top, plain-boiled USA vegetables. And I still hate liver...... It's beyond being saved with either spcies or herbs.
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