Tagged: Japanese food

Making Mochi in the Mountains

We hopped in Mami’s little pink car and took a drive out to Gujo city with our friend, Mr. H, for some traditional new year mochi making. Mochi can be described as ”steamed rice pounded into a glutinous cake and used as a staple ingredient in a variety of dishes, including desserts”. This seasonal activity is a Japanese custom I hadn’t experienced until today, so I was quick with my camera to snap some pictures of, and take part in the rice-cake-making ceremony, mochitsuki.

Making Japanese rice cakes - mochi

Below is a short video of our mochi-making, which you can also see here on YouTube. Actually, there are some really amazing videos of people making rice cakes on YouTube (especially here and here) which I urge you to watch.

Chocolate – Japan style

I love chocolate. I want chocolate. I need chocolate.

I used to be a skinny teenager, so my mum would keep a stash of chocolate bars in the fridge for me to have everyday to help me gain weight. Unfortunately, I’m still 6 feet tall and weigh a featherly 56kgs! On the bright side though, I can eat as much chocolate as I want and only need to worry about getting spots!

So Valentine’s Day has rolled around again, and as a teacher I often get chocolates from the students. This year I got some chocolate worth sharing on my blog. Ladies and gentlemen, I give you… sushi chocolate!

Sushi Chocolate!

Let’s have a look inside…

More sushi chocolate

And the chocolate itself, which I actually found to be pretty good…

It's not sushi, it's chocolate!

So there you have it folks – sushi chocolate.

On a side note, how come Japan has so much chocolate available, but the choice of chocolate ‘bars’ is almost non-existant? Out here in Gifu, most convenience stores have Snickers, and if you’re lucky, you might find Aero or Big Kit-Kat, and that’s it!!! Come on Japan! Let’s have some Mars bars!

Happy Valentine’s Day everyone. If you have any leftover chocolate, send it my way!

Japanese pizza and recipe navigator

Recently, Mami and I have been ordering a pizza every weekend. This is a bit of a luxury and something we would never have done just a year ago, but we feel like spoiling ourselves at the moment. So when we get a craving for pizza, we turn to Aoki’s Pizza, for our fill of cheese and tomato.

I won’t fill up this post with a bunch of pizza pictures, but it’s worth checking out Aoki’s menu page on their website even if you can’t read Japanese. So let’s see, we can choose from delights such as “Squid, Shrimp and Salmon”, “Potato Curry”, “Rice Cake Pizza”, “Egg and Tuna Potato” and many others. Mami and I usually settle for a simple “Super Combo” which has all the things we’d consider ‘normal’.

The Aoki’s website is quite impressive, especially the opening page which greets you with this wonderfully appealing slogan:

Aoki's greeting

I don’t know about room, freedom and a dream, but there’s plenty of fish, corn and egg!

When Christmas in Japan comes around, the fast food restaurants and convenience stores go mad promoting their chicken and sponge cakes, but Aoki’s takes it a step further by sending out their delivery boys in Santa suits! Maybe this is common overseas too, but I’d never seen it till I came to Japan. I mention this because I saw some guy from Aoki’s in the ‘coin laundry’ next to my school today washing half a dozen of them.

Still, not even a Santa suit will encourage the Japanese to pay a tip, but that’s another story.

Oryouri Navi On a related note, I saw a TV commercial today for Shaberu! DS Oryouri Navi, the latest novelty ‘game’ for the Nintendo DS. It’s actually not a game at all, but rather a talking cookbook that holds over 200 recipes and talks you through each step in the cooking process. Check out the Japanese site here.

The Nintendo DS has taken Japan by storm with, I guess, almost every household owning one. Surprisingly, games such as Brain Age, a brain training game for adults, and Eigo Zuke, an English teaching program, have made it incredibly popular with adults. Apparently the recipe navigator, Shaberu! DS Oryouri Navi, sold 120,000 copies in its first week alone!

At least I know what to get Mami for Christmas!

The 12-course dinner

Well, I’m still a bit hungover and definitely still full after last night’s dinner with Mr. H and his staff. Mr. H is the student of mine that introduced us to ballroom dancing. Despite having turned 70, he still knows how to party!

The 12-course meal

He picked us up in a taxi and took us all the way to Seki city. My wife was relieved when Mr. H turned down my offer to pay the fare and instead put the $70 bill on the company expense account!

Although I’ve been in Japan for nearly ten years, it was the first time I’d been to a restaurant like this one. I can’t remember what this 12-course meal was called but it was split into wooden boxes with each one steamed on the table in front of us. We were given an egg timer and told to turn it over every three minutes, and to change the box every six minutes. This meant that we had to scoff down the contents of each box before the next one was ready, and every time we’d forget to turn over the timer the chef would jump up and down causing mass panic as we rushed to finish what we were eating, change box and start again.

Oysters

Each box contained something different, form beef to oysters, rice balls and sweet dango (Japanese dumpling). The meal was wrapped up with a huge plate of crab which we had seen alive just a couple of hours earlier!

The Crab

Now apparently this restaurant is so popular that you have to make a reservation a year earlier, and this was Mr. H’s way of thanking his staff, and his English teacher! One of the women at the party took photos of every course for her own blog, since nobody would believe she went there without photographic evidence!

Us and the chef

After we were completely stuffed, we all jumped in taxis again for another long drive to Gifu city where we sang karaoke at a Japanese ‘snack’ bar. This really capped the night, as the ‘master’ made us wear flashy frocks and glittering jackets when we sung. He also did a comical enka routine with the hostess which had Mr. H laughing so hard I thought he was going to keel over!

Having entertained over a hundred kids at a kindergarten event in the morning (niko niko nikku no eigo asobi, or “Smiley, Smiley Nick’s English Playtime”), I was absolutely beat, so while party-hard Mr. H and his staff went to another bar, Mami and I took another long taxi drive all the way home, courtesy of Mr.H’s expense account!

The Entertainment

The end of Westernized Japanese food?

Japan’s agriculture ministry said it plans to certify the quality of Japanese food abroad in an attempt to promote “authentic Japanese food”. Does this mean that all Japanese restaurants abroad will have to conform to the standards set by the government here? If so, I don’t think it’s going to work.

I heard that London is experiencing a sushi boom right now, but also that most of the chefs are not Japanese. Apparently, it’s difficult to find and keep Japanese sushi chefs. So would these non-Japanese chefs have to take the ‘Sushi Standards Proficiency Test’?

Naturally, food is adapted to suit local tastes, for example California rolls, or coke with your sushi instead of tea, so who is going to benefit if the local community doesn’t like ‘authentic’ Japanese food? Maybe only the Japanese tourists who despise foreign food (especially British) so much that they will eat at Japanese restaurants when traveling overseas.

I’m such a hypocrite!

Here I am suggesting that the demand for ‘authentic’ food is a preposterous idea, I so wish other countries would follow Japan’s lead! Imagine a Japan filled with authentic Italian, Mexican and French restaurants. No more curry doughnuts or fried eggs covered with spaghetti!

Oh, what I would give for a traditional English roast, or a bag of overly vinegared sausage and chips!