Kulinary Kansai (food.foto.spam!)

6 05 2011

One of the best things about travelling in Japan is trying the local specialities. So here’s a round-up of what I sampled on my last trip to Kansai!

Firstly while just getting to Kansai there was Ekiben (station lunchbox) of fried rice and wontons –

And arriving at Osaka I had to eat the classic Takoyaki (octopus balls) with a bit of a different spin, served in a light broth –

The Takoyaki was from this festive shop along Dotombori –

Eating out in Osaka also included Kushiage (fried things on sticks) –

Mexican with a friend –

Mystery Chinese –

And a Yum Cha set –

And moving from Chinese to Chinatown in Kobe, I had some Cha Siu Men –

Before stopping for some fruit tart from a french cafe near Kobe’s old foreigner’s quarter –

And continuing with sweets, in Kyoto I found soft serve ice cream with Yatsubashi (a hard cinnamon cookie) –

Shu cream (cream puff) made with real vanilla and sprinkled Yatsubashi on top –

And Mizuame (water candy) which is very similar to corn syrup according to wikipedia –

And finally some Unagi-don (eel rice bowl) served with sesame tofu at Mt Koya to keep up my stamina –

Yes, I think I did gain 5kg on this trip….

honne, giri and now tomo-choco

21 02 2011

Valentine’s day has come and gone, but White day is now soon to come. “What’s White day?” I hear you say? Well, let Michele tell you about Valentine’s in Japan.

It’s weird. It’s not a celebration of love, but truly a mass commercial money-making holiday. You might think that’s true in your country too, but just wait till you hear about Japan. Firstly, the girls give the boys chocolate. Not the other way around. Girls are expected to give chocolate to not only their boyfriend/partner, but also to almost every male of their acquaintance. For the kids I teach, that means all their male classmates, club-mates and teachers, not including family and extras. And they will probably give chocolate to their female teachers as well. This kind of chocolate is called ‘giri-choco’ obligation chocolate. And then, they are also pushed (by the chocolate companies) to hand make the chocolates, or cookies, or cake, or whatever they decide on. The chocolate they give to their boyfriends is classed as ‘honne’ or kinda like their ‘real feelings’.

My giri-choco from this Valentine's day

I had one student who made an estimated 180 chocolates.

But, the boys (and teachers) don’t get away scott-free! One month later, on March 14 or White day, the boys are expected to return a gift. And although it doesn’t happen so much now, the return gift should be store bought and worth about 3 times what the girl gave them…. (So, in theory that student from before should get about 180 chocolates in return…)

However, White day is really badly timed for students. It’s around the end of the year, and certainly many private schools are on, or just about to start spring vacation around then. So the chocolate isn’t always returned. Recently the invention of ‘tomo-choco’ has become very very popular, as a way for girls to get an instant return. ‘Tomo-choco’ is friend chocolate, which can be given to your female friends, and you can receive ‘tomo-choco’ back on Valentine’s day. So the immediacy is very appealing.

This year I didn’t do all that well with Valentine’s (which frankly is a relief to me – having to give a return chocolate as an obligation is more of a pain than receiving anything), but I did get about 15 small baggies. And now with ‘tomo-choco’ it’s much more acceptable for me to give them a return pressie on Valentine’s day, rather than waiting until March, when I know I’m not actually going to be at school on White day. So thanks Meiji and Lotte and whoever came up with ‘tomo-choco’ for making life so much easier for me!

Even after VD I continued to get chocolate...

Even after VD I continued to get chocolate...

(but no thanks will be given for making girls obliged to make even more chocolate now…)

Yukimidaifuku Nama-choco Strawberry

4 02 2011

I’ve talked about Yukimidaifuku before, but now they have released a new seasonal flavour!

Nama-choco Strawberry!

Mochi filled with strawberry ice cream and a runny chocolate centre. And this isn’t your kiddy strawberry lollipop flavour. No, It’s almost an adult ice cream, not too sweet, and a little tart, but evened out by the sweetness of the chocolate centre.

Another win for Lotte!

Brisbane Bites Take 2

31 01 2011

It’s been over a month since I returned to Japan after having a lovely few weeks in Brisbane for Christmas, and my lovely summer tan has finally disappeared under coats, scarfs and gloves. So, it’s about time I shared some photos of my Bris-Vegas adventures.

As always, a fair amount of my time was spent eating the things I don’t usually get to eat. Firstly Lauren took me to Guzman Y Gomez, a mexican (somewhat upscale) fast food restaurant chain from down south. It was beef nachos and margaritas all round!

And no trip to Brisbane is complete without a visit to the Pancake Manor on Charlotte St. I thought I could get through a regular stack, but my stomach had had too much pancake-y goodness 2/3rds through. Such a shame to waste good pancakes.

And of course there was the traditional (well, my family’s) Christmas day lunch of cold cuts of chicken and ham, smoked salmon, prawns and salad! The prawns were to die for!

Between eating I spent most of my time with family, meeting a couple of friends, looking at the sky (it’s sooooo pretty in Australia!) and even managed to go to the Gallery of Modern Art.

Unfortunately only a few weeks after I left, Brisbane and a lot of the state was flooded. Thankfully none of my friends or family were badly affected, but the long term effects are going to be difficult for everyone. In fact, financially it will affect the majority of Australians, so if you can spare, please donate to the flood appeal!


15 11 2010

This is Yukimidaifuku

Basically ice cream wrapped in a thin layer of sweet mochi (white rice pounded to make a gelatinous paste)

This is Yukimidaifuku Torokeru Nama Caramel

The current seasonal flavour of Yukimidaifuku has caramel flavouring in the mochi, and a runny caramel centre!

The only words I have to express the awesome-ness of Yukimidaifuku is ‘Om nom nom’…

sugary, flowery, photo!spam

13 07 2010

As I mentioned in my ‘good ‘cherry’ hunting’ post, the Japanese sweet factory Kikyoya that we visited has a very impressive museum of sugar flowers.  Now, to be honest, I’m not sure if these were all made by hand, or if they are all made of sugar, but I’m positive they would have to have been put together by hand and would have taken a long time to make.

So, firstly we have some purple and white flowers –

and a close up –

isn’t the detail amazing?

Irises –

Bamboo shoots –

Gourds –

A hydrangea bush –

and a close up of the hydrangeas –

Imagine sticking all those flowers together!!!

And lastly, probably my favourite, autumn leaves –

although this next close up isn’t from the tree above, it’s kinda similar, being an omikuji (fortune) tied to a branch of autumn leaves –

Of course this is only a few of the photos I’ve taken, so if you’d like to see more please head on over to my flickr set!  It includes fish, cosmos, lilies, snow covered grass, wisteria, cherry blossoms and more!


12 07 2010

Attention please!


that is all….