The Beast Loves Rice!

Posted on Thursday, February 25, 2010 | 2 comments

    Here's an old post that I did the week before last and didn't get to post before having to fly home suddenly. But we'll talk about that later, when I'm feeling a little bit more emotionally able to write. For now...

   I may have mentioned before that Wasabi really only eats/drinks 3 things: her cat food; bottled sea urchin that's been pickled in sake, and sometimes a drink of Yuki's beer.
 Well, add one more thing to the list. White rice. I was getting Yuki some out of the rice cooker a few days ago, and Wasabi suddenly went absolutely nuts over it. She just about fell into the rice pot trying to sniff at it, the rabid little weasel!
 I thought that this was going to be like ever other occasion, where she would simply have a good sniff and then be done with it. Boy was I in for a surprise. I let her have a go at the shamoji (the rice scoop) after I was done with it. It still had some grains of rice stuck to it, and she really went to town! She even grabbed ahold of it when we tried to take it away from her!
 Yuki ended up getting quite annoyed that I was conditioning the cat to eat his breakfast, but I managed to (of course) get some good shots in before he confiscated the shamoji.
  I guess Wasabi really is Japanese at heart!





 Chop-lickin' good!

Cooking Class

Posted on Tuesday, February 16, 2010 | 0 comments

   I took my first Japanese cooking class this past Saturday. Unfortunately, it was only a one-time event offered by Japanese volunteers from a multicultural exchange group. I'm hoping that they'll plan another one some time soon though, since it seemed to be a pretty big success. I already knew how to make the recipes that we prepared, but it was still fun to work with a group (plus it was good Japanese practice, although my head was admittedly pounding after 4 hours straight of listening to high-speed talk, usually from more than one person at once).
  The recipes that we prepared were: futomaki (those huge sushi rolls I talked about in the Setsubun post), chikuzenni (braised chicken with vegetables), and egg soup. The chikuzenni was much saltier than we usually make at home--recipes tend to vary by household, but the rest of the food came out great. The volunteer women were surprised that I could roll the futomaki so quickly, and they were even more shocked to learn that I used to make sushi rolls in the US. For some reason, the idea of Westerners making sushi at home still seems odd to a lot of Japanese, I guess. Or maybe I'm just a rather unusual foreigner!

                           Ingredients for Chikuzenni

                             Egg soup ingredients

Chikuzenni before soy sauce, etc was added

 Rolling the futomaki

Finished product



Kawazu Cherry Blossom Festival (Kawazu Sakura Matsuri)

Posted on Monday, February 15, 2010 | 1 comments

   Here are some shots from the Kawazu Matsuri yesterday. While it's not cherry blossom season here yet, Kawazu is famous for a type of cherry blossom tree that blooms early every spring, usually starting in February but sometimes in late January, even. The blooms are a darker pink than the typical Japanese cherry blossom, and they seem slightly less delicate, too. This fact means that they tend to stay in bloom for a month or more, as opposed to the regular cherry blossoms, which reach full bloom in about a week and are falling off the trees by around two weeks' time from when they first opened.

  While the Kawazu Cherry Blossom Festival used to be relatively undiscovered, in recent years it has become famous throughout the nation. I've seen varying stats stating that between one million and two million people visit it every year. Judging by the crowds we saw yesterday, I'm not surprised! Maybe it was just my imagination, but it seemed to me like it was even larger than when we last visited it, two years ago. I didn't remember there being nearly so many people, nor so many vendors or booths there.
  We had a great time sampling various festival foods, including some seasonal specialties like sakura (cherry blossom) manju and cherry blossom ice cream. The ice cream was surprisingly delectable--not too sweet, as I'd been imagined, with just enough richness to make Yuki and me glad that we'd decided to share one.
Side note: ** For those of you who are grammar sticklers--in this case, 'Yuki and me' is indeed correct. I wouldn't say '...with just enough richness to make I glad....'***
 Other food for sale included fresh wasabi, home-made takuan (a kind of pickled Japanese radish) and mushroom miso soup, along with typical fesitval foods like takoyaki.

                               Fresh wasabi 

             Takoyaki: bits of octopus and seasoning encased in doughy balls then grilled

Takuan: Home-made pickled Japanese radish

Sakura (cherry blossom) ice cream

  The crowds made it rather hard to get many decent pictures, but here are some that turned out ok. Enjoy!

'Happy Freaking Valentine's Day!' (from Wasabi)

Posted on Sunday, February 14, 2010 | 1 comments

                     Happy Valentine's Day! 
  We went to a cherry blossom festival in Kawazu today; more on that in a future post though. 
  It was a rather long drive there and back, but all in all, a great day! Well, at least, it was a happy day for most of us....

                                       Wasa modeling her lovely paper heart

                               'I'm going to break your stupid heart!!!'  Riiip....

                              And then chew on it!!

                              Grrr (shakes head back and forth violently)....

                    (Good thing there aren't any boy cats around this little heart-breaker!)

Valentine's Sushi Dinner

Posted on Friday, February 12, 2010 | 1 comments

    We celebrated Valentine's Day a little early, by going out for a lovely sushi dinner tonight at our favorite sushi bar, Icchou (いっちょう). We went with a course menu, just selecting the price and letting the head chef pick out whatever he wanted to give us. Since fish availability and price varies by season, the chef's selections are always a little bit different every time we go. This time, the show-stopper was a broiled uni (sea urchin) and kai (oyster) dish. I can't even begin to describe it, but it was some of the best sea urchin I've ever had. All the other dishes were great, too, of course, but right now I'm feeling so stuffed that I probably don't need to eat anything else until Valentine's Day. See for yourself...

           The appetizer: egg sushi, crab, tempura, and leek sushi (it was amazing, and now my breath is just as equally amazing, hah)

      Another appetizer: nori (seaweed) and wasabi with fish flakes over clams and mekabu (another type of seaweed)

   The sashimi plate: shrimp, fatty tuna, little squid, red kai (clam) and tai (a type of white fish)

             I HEART IKA!

         Steamed eggs with crab, shrimp, and mushrooms, topped with salmon eggs 

       The best dish of the meal: oysters topped with sea urchin and then broiled

    The main course: nigiri! Clam, tuna, squid (2 types), shrimp, salmon eggs, sea urchin, and..uh, something else...

More Eel!

Posted on Thursday, February 11, 2010 | 0 comments

  I know that I've already posted pics from eel restaurants before, but in my opinion, you can never have enough eel. (It's kind of like that infamous cowbell). So here are some shots from our lunch last Saturday. Mmm, EEL!!!

        The appetizer: a type of omelet with eel in the middle  

            The jumbo size

   It almost looks like whitefish under all the sauce

Maple Kit Kats

Posted on Wednesday, February 10, 2010 | 0 comments

   Found another flavor of Kit Kat at the grocery store in Yokohama this weekend. For some reason this particular store always has random products and flavors that we never see anywhere else, so we think it might be a product testing area. Whatever the case, I'm not complaining!
  This time we came across Maple Kit Kats, but after the first bite, it was unfortunately rather obvious as to why we'd never seen this particular flavor in other stores. For starters, I couldn't actually taste any hint of maple. Plus, they used white chocolate instead of dark or even milk, another minus in my book. Overall, I'd give this flavor a 3 out of 10...tasted ok for white chocolate Kit Kats, but definitely didn't taste ok for something labeled 'maple'.
 Wasabi had a blast pulling them out of the bag one by one, however! I think that most of them are now sporting little kitty teeth puncture wounds. Who needs to buy cat toys when you can just let the little rodent dig through the snack cupboard??

     Happy kitty

          Caught in the act!

Creepy Katana

Posted on Tuesday, February 09, 2010 | 0 comments

  We got to see the family katana this weekend. It was Yuki's grandfather's sword, and he carried it during the war. It was likely crafted at the end of the Edo era, although nobody's too sure whose it was before his grandfather came into possession of it.
  I admittedly know absolutely nothing about swords and in particular even less about katana, but this thing is a work of art. The craftsmanship is gorgeous, and the pictures below don't really do it justice. (Note the flower on the handle--it's the Kuwabara family house mark).
 That being said...the thing creeped me out! Anything that's designed solely for killing another human being kind of makes my skin crawl in the first place, and this sword just seemed so dangerous! I was feeling kind of silly for having these thoughts, but it turned out that the rest of the family agreed with me. I guess you'd have to see it in person for yourself to know what I mean, but...yikes!
  Nobody feels comfortable hanging onto it, so it'll be sold to a collector soon (katana also require a lot of care---frequent cleaning, airing, and inspection to prevent rust/mold, etc). As beautiful as it is, it's also a bit too deadly to keep in the house!

                          Otousan and the beast 

                              Note the family house mark