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smallworld

eG Foodblog: smallworld - Spring in Tokyo

207 posts in this topic

From the rosy blossoms to the artist's palette of shades-of-pink fish to the glowing strawberries to their kin on the cake---this is just a jewel-box scattered down the screen.

Though I cannot understand how on Earth you took his mere word for how good that chocolate mousse was :raz:

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Btw, I used to think I loved California Strawberries, but Ontario strawberries rock!!  They're so juicy and sweet( but a bit small).  I made the most kick arse strawberry jam last year, I wish I could remember the recipe.    I'll take an Ontario strawberry over a US strawberry any day!!

Oh god, don't get me going about American commercial strawberries. Surreally large lumps of vaguely berry-flavored cellulose. Even when I've bought them at a farmer's market or a U-pick farm, all I get is slighly fresher, slightly more flavorful lumps of cellulose. And the goofiest thing of all is that I keep buying 'em. :wacko:

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So do you not eat sushi?

Alas, no, though I long to do so. Too much childhood exposure to the grim ins and outs of the cleaning process, I think, though I did have a pang of regret for the older couple next door whose subsistence seemed predicated two or three days a week on his perpetual fishing forays.

But I can make a bowl of tuna salad and eat it all myself twixt two noons---its pink canned-ness puts it at a remove, somehow, from a creature of the deep.

I DO fear I would have one small problem with the days-of-the-week sorting of the garbage---I save every big plastic Folger's coffee container against the day of glass breakage---I've even been known to smash the pieces even smaller to make them fit safely into the container, so as not to have a nasty surprise poking through the bag.


Edited by racheld (log)

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A minor earthquake woke me up at 6:15 this morning. Luckily it was small enough that it had stopped by the time I was fully awake, because I've become quite frightened of tremors and usually take a long time to calm down after one hits.

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Last night we skipped dinner and went straight to the snack fest. We started with the Sakura-shio (cherry blossom salt) flavoured potato chips, which are a kigen gentei (seasonal, limited time only) product. They tasted of salt with only a slight whiff of sakura fragrance-- not bad, but if we'd wanted plain chips we would have bought them. The Ume-katsuo flavoured chips (forgot to take a picture but I posted a photo of the package yesterday) were way better and had great ume (pickled plum) and katsuobushi (bonito flakes): smoky, salty and sour. We will try to grab these again before they disappear.

On the right is Fransu-pan Koubou (baguette workshop?), which is a chip-like snack made of very thinly sliced french bread baked until crispy. This one is caramel flavoured and was good with an excellent texture but just a bit blah-- not sweet enough to be a sweet, not salty enough to be a chip. I'd like to try the other flavours: sugar, butter, and garlic butter.

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These are deep-fried chili peppers with peanuts. Pretty damn hot, though my tolerance for spice has gone way down since coming to Japan. The name of the product is "Cho unma", which is supposedly what the Hangul characters mean, but this product is made in China and the name sounds suspiciously close to the Japanese expression for "crazy delicious". Do these actually exist in Korea or elsewhere? I don't really care, because they are indeed crazy delicious.

Beside it are peanut senbei. Senbei, or sembei, are often translated as "rice crackers" and indeed they are often just that, but can really be any kind of crisp Japanese style wafer/cracker/cookie type thing. These ones have cookkie-like ingredients and are light (as in lots of air bubbles) and very crisp, almot hard. There are many types of peanut senbei ranging from rock-hard to cookie-like but this brand is our favourite and we always have a package in the house.

gallery_7940_5772_5139.jpg

Now it's time to get to work on today's lunch. Two bento (lunch box) cookbooks, and a regular cookbook written by a student of mine (it's actually out to plan meals for next week, not today). I made bento for my husband's lunch for a brief period after we got married, but they generated so much interest among his coworkers that he eventually asked me to stop. They would all hover around him when he opened his lunch and inspect my handiwork, amazed that his new foreign bride could actually cook. My husband just couldn't take the scrutiny. Making his lunch had been a real money saver and was great for helping me learn Japanese cooking but I was relieved to quit doing it because it was a lot of work.

So it's been years and years since I regularly made bento and I am way out of practice.


My eGullet foodblog: Spring in Tokyo

My regular blog: Blue Lotus

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I am also intrigued about Nattou - I have never heard of it before (not surprised thou, since i live in chicago and have never been too far from the United States (I cannot wait when I have the means to travel - some day...)

Can you describe the taste a little but more?

And - what I really want to know - what makes Nattou so healthy? The fact that it is beans )fiber, protein, etc) or the fact that it is fermented? And, anyhow - what about fermentation makes it healthy????

Signed, Bewildered and perplexed in Chi-town (lol)

P.S. I too, am LOVING your blog....I may not 'chime in' or 'comment' often, but boy am I following along :)

Nattou, or natto, tastes a taste that's hard to describe, but I think it's beany, nutty and cheesy. It also has a strong smell that is cheese-like in its stinkiness.

I'm a bit fuzzy on what exactly is healthy about it, but I think you're right that it's largely the fermentation, which apparently creates good-for-you enzymes and stuff. It's also because they are beans, especially soybeans, which are already healthy. And the slime is good too as sticky foods have something in them that's good for the blood. Sorry I can't be more specific, but I'll direct you to the natto thread for more info.

Okay, inquiring minds want to know: how does one get nattou into a deep-fryable form? Make little balls and coat them in panko, like a dumpling or croquette? (I understand that korokke are big in Japan ... )

Good question! This was a long time ago, before I knew anything about Japanese food, but I think Hiroyuki is right in that it was tempura: dipped in batter and deep-fried. Still no idea how the little nattou bundles were kept together while dipping and frying. The bundles did have a band of nori seaweed around them which might have helped a bit, but still. Can't be an easy food to deep-fry!

I wonder if the yunomi (tea cup) on the right of the photo (the one with a female face) is one of meoto jawan (tea cups for a married couple).  I think I used to have the same one as you have.

I didn't even know what a meoto jawan was until now! I bought this very early in my stay here, at the Tokyo station Daimaru. I remember going on a mad spree there, buying dishes and kitchen implements at random without really knowing what they were or that there were far cheaper place to buy them.

So this is a female? I usually give this to my husband to drink from, and apparently he doesn't know any better than I do! I think I'll keep my eyes open for a male partner so I can finally complete the set.


My eGullet foodblog: Spring in Tokyo

My regular blog: Blue Lotus

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gallery_7940_5772_79998.jpg

Time for cake, which we eat cake every few months or so. Any more often and we'd get too used to it, and cake is not a habit we need. The cakes and pastries here are just so amazingly good compared to those in North America. I didn't even like cake before I came here. I'm still really picky but have, for good or bad, found plenty to like here.

Whoa boy! (Screech!) You have my attention now.

Nice looking pastries. So when did a country known for jelly rolls become so proficient and enamored by high end pastries? Do you know any of the history?

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Thanks for your description of that sushi restaurant.  I remember the thread on the restaurant that you started in the Japan Forum years ago.  I want to say something about hirame and other white fish and ama ebi.  No offense intended to the chef.  I think it's more appropriate to say that you can enjoy the chewy texture of white fish and ama ebi when they are fresh and then you can enjoy their taste the next day, when the protein is decomposed into amino acids.  And, I hear that Korean people prefer the chewy texture of hirame (correct me if I'm wrong).

Oh yeah, I remember that thread. I was just so shocked to hear that sushi wasn't just about super-fresh raw fish slapped onto rice, and had trouble understanding the meaning of "Edomae zushi".

The chef didn't actually talk about hirame yesterday, that was just my own observation. I do know that when I've tried the very fresh, chewy type of hirame I've wished it was less chewy but liked it nonetheless. But trying hirame yesterday I thought that I never want to eat the fresh kind again.

Maybe it's better to think of them as separate foods and enjoy them in them both in different ways.

That sounds like a good solution. Another possibility (a pricier one, unfortunately), is a thick end-grain cutting board on rubber legs. Chinese round cutting boards (the ones that look like a thick slice from a tree) are another possibility, but may be prone to splitting.

Great job, and I look forward to your last day!

ETA: Um, that didn't come out right. I look forward to today, not to the ending of the blog. You know what I mean.

That's a great idea and I'd love a proper end-grain cutting board (didn't know you could get rubber legs for them). The problem is that they are not easy to find here, too heavy to bring from home, and storage could be a problem. Or do people just leave them on the counter all the time? That's what my mother does, but I worry about keeping it clean that way.

What a weekend!

When you buy good ingredients and make something like shabu-shabu at home, exactly as you like it, do you think it makes you more reluctant to spend money on dining out?

I'm also surprised to find that somebody else thinks that otoro can be TOO fatty!

And your broad beans were a great find - certainly haven't seen any in the shops yet.

So how did you eat the fuki/ butterbur in the end? I agree with how much work they are - as much time to prepare the fuki as to prepare a whole separate meal, I'd guess :biggrin: .

I see you've got those "France-pan koubou" snacks (top left) in your photo. Did you like  them?

By the way, you can find "over-the-sink" chopping boards, but one that doesn't cover the entire sink is more useful - because you can sweep trimmings straight into one of those triangular waste-catchers.

About personal chopsticks - do you just toss the little bag in the laundry when you come home? I keep wondering if the INSIDE of my little chopstick bag is really clean!

As for the dilemma of the international couple...sigh.

I really do think certain foods are way better at home. It doesn't exactly make me reluctant to eat out, but it does mean that I tend to choose things that I can't/don't make at home. And I do like to splurge more on good ingredients than expensive restaurant meals.

The fuki will show up later today and I did like the France-pan koubou. I'd never seen it before and thought it was brand-new. Has it already showed up in your house?

I had to laugh at this: "do you just toss the little bag in the laundry when you come home?". If I did that I wouldn't see the bag again for weeks! Not having kids, and with a husband who wears a suit most of the week, laundry is not a daily thing for me. I just let it pile enough until there's enough for each type of load, and towels/linens (the category that the chopstick wrap belongs to) is the most infrequently washed.

So I only wash my chopstick wrap about once a month, at which time the chopsticks get a proper washing as well. I should probably do it more often but I only actually use them about once a week and at that time I'll wash them with water and a napkin or with an oshibori. Maybe not the most thorough cleaning, but hey- they're my own germs anyway! So you use "my hashi" as well? Do you ever get strange looks or comments? I've had restaurant workers who just didn't get it, and one even brought out a fancier pair of disposable chopsticks for me, thinking I was snubbing the cheap kind that were at the table.

Btw, I used to think I loved California Strawberries, but Ontario strawberries rock!!  They're so juicy and sweet( but a bit small).  I made the most kick arse strawberry jam last year, I wish I could remember the recipe.    I'll take an Ontario strawberry over a US strawberry any day!!

Oh god, don't get me going about American commercial strawberries. Surreally large lumps of vaguely berry-flavored cellulose. Even when I've bought them at a farmer's market or a U-pick farm, all I get is slighly fresher, slightly more flavorful lumps of cellulose. And the goofiest thing of all is that I keep buying 'em. :wacko:

So even actual Americans think their strawberries suck? I had kind of assumed that the imports we get from you had simply lost something on the journey and that they'd be good when they were fresh. Or that the tasteless ones are for export and you keep the good ones for yourselves.

Are there no good, locally grown berries in America at all?

I DO fear I would have one small problem with the days-of-the-week sorting of the garbage---I save every big plastic Folger's coffee container against the day of glass breakage---I've even been known to smash the pieces even smaller to make them fit safely into the container, so as not to have a nasty surprise poking through the bag.

Folgers comes in plastic??

Putting pieces of broken glass and ceramics into a sturdy container is actually what you're supposed to do here too. And then clearly mark the package with "kiken" (dangerous). As a world-class klutz, I'm kind of an expert in that department.


My eGullet foodblog: Spring in Tokyo

My regular blog: Blue Lotus

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Whoa boy! (Screech!) You have my attention now.

Nice looking pastries. So when did a country known for jelly rolls become so proficient and enamored by high end pastries?  Do you know any of the history?

Jelly rolls? Ever since I've been here Japan has been enamored by high end pastries. I don't know how it compares to those of Europe but the stuff here is a million times better than back home in Canada. They look good, taste good, have a good (low) level of sweetness, and often reflect the seasons. The two we bought were actually among the plainest in the shop-- there were exotic flavours like yuzu and some very fanciful constructions. I don't know much about the history and am not hugely into cakes and desserts, but this thread in the Japan forum might be of interest to you.


My eGullet foodblog: Spring in Tokyo

My regular blog: Blue Lotus

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Another American here who can't stand the American mass produced supermarket strawberries, they taste like cotton! I am sure there are good ones in the US somewhere...

I rarely buy strawberries here, maybe once or twice a season. With 5 people going at them we end up with 3 possibly 4 a piece.

Every couple of years my in-laws take us for an ichigo-gari (strawberry picking/eat on the spot) outing. We just went a couple weeks ago and I posted about it in the winter foods thread:

http://forums.egullet.org/index.php?showto...dpost&p=1527820

There is nothing like eating strawberries fresh from the greenhouse! I can't stand refrigerated strawberries they are best eaten slightly warm from the sun.


<p><strong>Kristin Wagner</strong>, aka "torakris"

Manager, Membership

<a class="bbc_email" href="mailto:kwagner@egstaff.org" title="E-mail Link">kwagner@egstaff.org</a></p>

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I didn't even know what a meoto jawan was until now! I bought this very early in my stay here, at the Tokyo station Daimaru. I remember going on a mad spree there, buying dishes and kitchen implements at random without really knowing what they were or that there were far cheaper place to buy them.

So this is a female? I usually give this to my husband to drink from, and apparently he doesn't know any better than I do! I think I'll keep my eyes open for a male partner so I can finally complete the set.

Okame (female) and hyottoko (male) :biggrin:

As for France Pan Kobo, I learned how it was developed from a TV show, "Gacchiri Monday" a few months ago. The manufacturer that makes Baby Star Ramen wanted to make another hit, and tried pressing just about everything that could be pressed, and they found that french bread was good when pressed. The manufacturer even constructed a factory for the sole purpose of making french bread.

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So even actual Americans think their strawberries suck? I had kind of assumed that the imports we get from you had simply lost something on the journey and that they'd be good when they were fresh. Or that the tasteless ones are for export and you keep the good ones for yourselves.

Are there no good, locally grown berries in America at all?

Just lost my post- hope this does not double post...

I live in Southern California which produces a huge chunk of the U.S. crop. The California Strawberry Commission latest daily report shows 221,484 flats picked this last Thursday March 6th. Unfortunately most are the "durable", "shippable" ones that sometimes have a strawberry scent but have a watery taste and an odd texture.

I am blessed with several local farmer's markets where I can, for a very short time, get some lesser cultivated varieties that do not ship well, but taste wonderful. I am talking about farmer's with red tinted fingers from picking the berries that same morning.

Also I recently tried a tip to store them in a glass jar. They were lovely for a week.

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Ditto~

the only place to get decent strawberries is from a farm stand/farmers market. NEVER the supermarket ! :angry:

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Yes. American grocery store strawberries are abominable, nasty, tasteless things.

But, in a month or so the small fields in the Central Valley that are usually run by Vietnamese families and have a stand by the road will be ready. These are the most delicious, fragrant, bright red berries anyone would want.

These berries, obviously aren't shippable because they keep for only a couple of days at most. I can gobble up a whole basket before I drive the 40 miles home.

Very seasonal since they last only a couple of months. Then we look forward to the next season.

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So even actual Americans think their strawberries suck? I had kind of assumed that the imports we get from you had simply lost something on the journey and that they'd be good when they were fresh. Or that the tasteless ones are for export and you keep the good ones for yourselves.

Are there no good, locally grown berries in America at all?

Maryland farms have wonderful pick-your-own strawberries (click). Unfortunately, strawberries either taste good or ship well, but not both.

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I believe what the package says is Cho Un Mas. I have no idea what the heck that means and haven't seen that anywhere here in Korea.

BTW, great blog and such brilliantly colored pictures.


Doddie aka Domestic Goddess

"Nobody loves pork more than a Filipino"

eGFoodblog: Adobo and Fried Chicken in Korea

The dark side... my own blog: A Box of Jalapenos

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For breakfast, french toast, butter maple bananas, yogurt with strawberries.

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After breakfast my husband helped with the dishes and then took a turn in front of the stove. Both activities are fairly rare but he used to help out more when he worked at home. Here he is making amazake, a hot drink made of sake lees and flavoured with sugar and ginger. He wears a cap while cooking as a sort of hairnet and will probably kill me when he finds out I've uploaded this picture. Send help if you don't hear from me within three hours.

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While he made the amazake I gathered up the receipts for the week and updated my kakeibo (household budget book). This is the first year I'm doing this and I have no idea if I'm doing it right, as I can't really understand the instructions. So I'm just using it in a basic way to get a sense of how much we spend on stuff. Neither of us are very good with money and if you asked me how much, say, our monthly food bill or average electricity bill is I would have no idea. So hopefully this will help me understand our spending patterns and eventually point us to where we should start cutting back.


My eGullet foodblog: Spring in Tokyo

My regular blog: Blue Lotus

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Just wanted to say thanks for the foodblog as a former expat I applaud you.


Jon

--formerly known as 6ppc--

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Now that is one breakfast that I couldn't say "snap" to! Looks great.

And a guy making amazake...there's something very cute about that.

I seem to remember that Hiroyuki posted about the same type of peanut senbei you showed - and they're a favorite of my husband's, too. They always seem to be on the fuddy-duddy shelf of the snack corner, yet those who try them always seem to come back for more!

I just found those france-pan snacks recently (kids were home early studying for exams...). Haven't tried the caramel one you had, but the butter one seemed better than the sugar flavor, for your future reference!

If your kakeibo has made it as far as March, you're already an expert. I don't know why they don't just sell a "January-only" edition for those who know themselves!

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I believe what the package says is Cho Un Mas. I have no idea what the heck that means and haven't seen that anywhere here in Korea.

BTW, great blog and such brilliantly colored pictures.

Cho Eun Mat. It means Good Taste and Yoonhi says they're anju (drinking food) a mixture of red bean and rice crackers and nuts. The katakana is just a read of the Korean - jyo en mashi. I would've thought they'd have translated, but maybe it sounds more exotic?

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I DO fear I would have one small problem with the days-of-the-week sorting of the garbage---I save every big plastic Folger's coffee container against the day of glass breakage---I've even been known to smash the pieces even smaller to make them fit safely into the container, so as not to have a nasty surprise poking through the bag.

Folgers comes in plastic??

Yes.

My Webpage

And now that I've outed myself as such a plebeian coffee-drinker to these august pages, I'll just say that it's one of the few kinds which is pre-ground of a size NOT to fall through the holes in my percolator. And that buying any beans, no matter how elite and rare, grinding them results in SOME powder which a filter-system will take out, but not the perc.

And at some times of the year, and at this time of my life, I just get a craving for the old days, the old ways, and waking up at my age to the familiar, remembered scent of the same coffee as I had in my teens and young married life---well, Proust liked what HE remembered, and Tom Wolfe was only partly right.

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These containers have great ergonomics. I have a big fine motor control hand problem in my dominant hand, and regular watering cans cause me distress and grief. My trusty plastic Folgers can is my current watering can of choice. A different kind of recycling I guess.

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Cho Eun Mat.  It means Good Taste and Yoonhi says they're anju (drinking food) a mixture of red bean and rice crackers and nuts.  The katakana is just a read of the Korean - jyo en mashi.  I would've thought they'd have translated, but maybe it sounds more exotic?

Thanks Peter Green and Domestic Goddess. The katakana actually says "cho unma" (the small "tsu" at the end is silent) and is very similar to the Japanese "chou umma" or "chou umai". On the back it does say that's the original pronunciation and meaning of the Korean but I was a bit suspicious because it's quite a coincidence. But the languages do have some similarities so I guess it shouldn't be such a surprise.

Since Domestic Goddess hasn't seen them is it correct to assume that "anju" are mostly consumed by men?


My eGullet foodblog: Spring in Tokyo

My regular blog: Blue Lotus

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For lunch I made a hanami bento (flower viewing lunch box) to bring to the local park:

gallery_7940_5772_36128.jpg

Bottom left compartment: fuki (butterbur) simmered with carrots; cherry tomatoes; teriyaki scallops; takuan (daikon piclkles); buta no negimaki (long onion wrapped with pork); brocolli; soramame (fresh fava beans). The next compartment has some of the same things plus udo (leftover from two nights ago) and tsukune yaki (sauteed chicken patties wrapped in nori and shiso). Above that is dessert: strawberries, apples (including my first ever "usagi ringo", or apple slices cut to look like rabbits) and segments of dekopon, a tangerine-like citrus.

The bento boxes must be about a decade old and were free from Mr Donuts. I badly need cuter ones but I don't make bento often enough to justify the expense.

gallery_7940_5772_70992.jpg

These are onigiri (rice balls), one type made of rice mixed type with salmon flakes and the other with plain rice stuffed with mentaiko (spicy cod roe).

gallery_7940_5772_44213.jpg

We found a good spot near a small grove of ume (Japanese apricot) trees and this was our view. Hanami (flower viewing) is more strongly associted with sakura (cherry blossoms), and sakura are far more popular than ume. It's true ume don't look as impressive from a distance as sakura, but the individual flowers are just as pretty and also have a soft sweet fragrance, which sakura don't have. Sakura also bloom when the weather is a bit warmer which is more condusive to hanami picnics, but if the weather is nice enough there's no reason not to celebrate ume as well. Luckily today was a lovely warm, sunny day.

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To drink with our bento there was amazake in the thermos, sake in the bottle and water in the portable coffee mug (there must be a name for those that I'm forgetting).

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We took our time eating and drinking, taking breaks to people-watch or take pictures of the flowers. The park was crowded with families who were picnicking and enjoying one of the first really nice spring-like days of the year. Everybody came to see the ume trees and snapped pictures, held fat-cheeked babies up to see the blossoms, and let their dogs pee on the trunks (not so nice while we were eating).

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And although my husband didn't consent to having another picture taken, he did take one of me:

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Kampai!


My eGullet foodblog: Spring in Tokyo

My regular blog: Blue Lotus

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Thanks for the lovely photos! Very clever. I never expected that you'd show us ume blossoms instead of cherry blossoms.

I was amused to see the bamboo shamoji in the rice cooker. I use a plastic one that came with the rice cooker. I want to buy a non-stick one some day.

I wonder how the fuki was seasoned. No mayo for the broccoli?

Edited to add: It sure was a sunny day today, even in my snowy area. I took two walks today, skipping the weeky house-cleaning.

Correction: Shamoji not shomoji (blush)


Edited by Hiroyuki (log)

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Wow! What an incredible looking bento! As a Canadian, I still feel surprise when Spring starts in early March, and I always want to get out and enjoy the weather while I can - there's some part of me that feels that even if it's warm and sunny one day, it could still snow again the next. What better way to celebrate than to get out and have a picnic!

buta no negimaki (long onion wrapped with pork)

Can you describe how you make this? It sounds like something my husband would love.

I took two walks today, skipping the weekly house-cleaning.

Hiroyuki, you always make me smile.

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    • By Gunnsr42
      Hello foodies. Tell us what work of art you're cooking for your meals these days. 
    • By chefmd
      My son married a lovely young lady from Yakeshi, Inner Mongolia, China.   Mongolian: ᠶᠠᠠᠠᠰᠢ ᠬᠣᠲᠠ (Ягши хот); Chinese: 牙克石; pinyin: Yákèshí
       
      We had a wedding in the US but her family also wanted to have a traditional wedding in China.  DH and I have never being to China so this was an exciting opportunity for us!  We spent a few days in Beijing doing touristy stuff and then flew to Hailar.  There is only one flight a day on Air China that we took at 6 in the morning.  Yakeshi is about an hour drive from Hailar on a beautiful toll road with no cars on it.  I wish we took pictures of free roaming sheep and cows along the way.  The original free range meat.
       
      The family met us at the airport.  We were greeted with a shot of a traditional Chinese spirit from a traditional leather vessel.  Nothing says welcome like a stiff drink at 9 AM.  We were supposed to have a three shots (may be they were joking) but family took pity on us and limited it to one only.
       

       
    • By Panaderia Canadiense
      Wow, this is my third foodblog for the eGullet….  Welcome!   I'll be with you from Palm Sunday through Holy Sunday to give you all a taste of the veritable food festival that is Easter in Ecuador.  As usual, I intend to eat on the streets, visit a plethora of small shops and vendors, and talk about (and eat copious amounts of ) the specialty dishes of the holiday.
       
      A bit of background on me and where I am.  I'm Elizabeth; I'm 33 years old and since the last foodblog I've ceased to be a Canadian expat in Ecuador, and become a full-fledged Ecuadorian citizen.  I run a catering bakery out of Ambato, and I deliver to clients on the entire mainland.  I've got a large customer base in nearby Baños de Agua Santa, a hot-springs town about an hour downslope of me to the east; I'll be visiting it on Wednesday with close to 100 kg of baked goods for delivery.  Ambato, the capital of Tungurahua province, is located almost exactly in the geographic centre of Ecuador.  It's at an average elevation of 2,850 meters above sea level (slightly higher than Quito, the capital) - but this is measured in the downtown central park, which is significantly lower than most of the rest of the city, which extends up the sides of the river valley and onto the high plain above.  We've got what amounts to eternal late springtime weather, with two well-marked rainy seasons.  Ambato has about 300,000 people in its metro area; it's the fourth largest city in the country.  But maybe the most important thing about Ambato, especially to foodies, is that it's a transport hub for the country.  Anything travelling just about anywhere has to pass through Ambato on the way; it gives us the largest, best-stocked food market in South America.  I have simply staggering variety at my fingertips.
       

       
      This view, which was a teaser for the blog, was taken from my rooftop terrazzo.  It is a fraction of the panorama of the river valley that I see every morning, and since Easter is traditionally somewhat miserable weather-wise, the clouds stick to the hilltops.  The barrio you can see in the middle distance is Ficoa, one of the most luxury districts in the city.  Ambato is notable amongst Ecuadorian cities for having small fruit farms (300-500 m2) still operating within city limits and even within its most established barrios - it's from this that the Ambato gets one of its two sobriquets: The City of Fruits and Flowers.  The tendency for even the poorest barrios to take tremendous pride in their greenspaces gives the other: The Garden City.  My barrio, Miraflores Alto, is a working-class mixture of professors and labourers, and my neighbours keep a mixture of chickens, turkeys, and ducks in their yards; someone down the hill has a cow that I frequently hear but have never seen.  Consequently, if the season is right I can buy duck eggs from my neighbours (and if the season is wrong, entire Muscovy ducks for roasting.)
       

       
      Today, I'll be doing my largest fresh-food shopping at the Mercado Mayorista, the largest market of its kind in South America - this place covers nearly 30 square blocks, and it exists to both buy and sell produce from across the country.  Sundays and Mondays it also opens up to a huge, raucous farmer's market where smaller quantities are available for purchase.  Sunday is the day of the freshest food and the largest number of vendors.  And I'm going to cross more than half the city to get there - I've moved since the last blog, and my new house, on the slopes of the river valley is further away than the old one on the high plain.  I promise to take many pictures of this - particularly close to the High Holy days, the Mayorista is alive with vendors and there will be special sections cordoned off for sales of bacalao, truly enormous squashes, and if it follows the previous years' trends, a festival of Hornado (about which more later).  Apart from mangoes, which are just finishing up their season, it is harvest time across the country, and the Mayorista will be well stocked with all manner of fruits and vegetables.
       

       
      To start us off, I'll demystify one of my teasers a bit.
       

       
      The Minion head that peeks out of my cupboard every day belongs to my jar of ChocoListo, the Ecuadorian equivalent of chocolate Ovaltine.  Since I gave up coffee for Lent, it's my go-to morning beverage.  ChocoListo normally comes in the plain white jar with orange lid that you see in front of the Minion; that's now my hot chocolate jar because I just couldn't resist when the company came out with the specialty jars.  I firmly believe that one is never too old to have whimsical things!
       

    • By therese
      Good morning, y’all, and welcome to the party chez Therese.
      As per the teaser, this week’s foodblog does indeed come to you from Atlanta, where I live with my two children (hereafter known as Girl and Boy) and husband (hereafter known as The Man). Girl is 11, Boy is 14, and The Man is old enough to know better.
      Atlanta’s huge: the total metro population is about 4 million, and there are no physical boundaries to growth like rivers or mountain ranges, so people just keep moving (and commuting) farther and farther out of town. Atlantans can be divided into ITP (inside the perimeter) and OTP (outside the perimeter), the perimeter referring to the interstate freeway that encircles the downtown area and surrounding neighborhoods, separating it from outlying suburbs. The politically minded may note that these areas could be designated red and blue. I’ll let you figure out which is which.
      We’re about as ITP as it gets, with home, work, school, and restaurants all in walking distance. The neighborhood’s called Druid Hills, the setting for the play/movie “Driving Miss Daisy”. The houses date from the 1920s, and because Atlanta has so little in the way of “old” buildings the neighborhood’s on the National Register as a Historic District. Charming, sure, buts lots of the houses need some updating, and ours (purchased in 1996) was no exception. So we remodeled last year, including an addition with a new kitchen, and this week’s blog will look at the finished product.
      So, some encouragement for those of you presently involved in kitchen renovation, some ideas for those who are considering it.
      But never mind all that for the moment: What’s for breakfast?


      Dutch babies, that’s what. And even better, these Dutch babies are produced by my children, the aforementioned Girl and Boy. The first picture is right from the oven, the second is after the somewhat messy job of sifting powdered sugar on top. They are delicious (the Dutch babies, I mean, not the children) and a great weekend treat.

      The Man drinks coffee in the morning whereas I prefer tea. He's not up yet, having played poker last night. I'm hoping he makes it out of bed in time for dinner.

      I also eat fruit whereas he prefers, well, anything but fruit. This is not such a bad thing, as it means that I don’t have to share the fruit. Pomegranates are a pain to eat, but not so bad if you’re reading the newspaper at the same time. This one’s from California, but you can also grow them here if you’ve got enough sunshine (which I don’t).
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