Apple Custard Pie – Ringo

applepie

If I get to choose between chocolate cake and apple pie, I would probably choose chocolate cake. To me, chocolate cake is a little more appealing than apple pie. However, if I see the Apple Custard Pie I’m going to introduce you today, I would definitely change my mind.

Putting a new spin on the classic dessert, the new Apple Custard Pie will debut in Ikebukuro, Tokyo, on March 4. Actually, the store ‘Ringo (apple in Japanese)’ carried out a test launch and sold 10,000 pieces in one week.

The recipe of Ringo’s Apple Custard Pie is unique. They bake a small apple pie first, then, inject custard cream inside. It makes the pie crispy outside and creamy inside.

This is how they make the Apple Custard Pie:

Ringo won’t do batch baking. The store is also the pie bakery, so you can get really fresh baked Apple Custard Pie in Ringo. The classic but new sweet will bring Spring to Ikebukuro!

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Takoyaki – The king of Japanese street food

Takoyaki
Photo credit: Keith Pomakis

I know some people don’t like eating octopus, because of the chewy texture. But, we, Japanese, enjoy the texture and use octopus for many different dishes. Today’s topic, Takoyaki, is probably the most popular Japanese food with octopus.

Takoyaki is a very simple ball-shaped snack and you can often find it in street stalls during any festivals. The ingredients are flavoured batter, diced octopus, pickled-ginger, and green onion. After mixing all ingredients, we cooked in a takoyaki pan, pour takoyaki sauce and mayonnaise, and sprinkle aonori (green laver) and katsuobushi (dried bonito). Chewy but crunchy octopus and juicy batter create a great harmony.

You can also enjoy Takoyaki at home. When I go back to Japan, my friends often invite me for a Takoyaki party. All you need are the ingredients I mentioned above, a Takoyaki pan and one or two Takoyaki picks to turn Takoyaki balls. Takoyaki pan has half-spherical molds. You pour batter in the molds, turn the batter when the bottom part is cooked, and make it ball-like shape. Street vendors in stalls usually use big griddle, but for home electric version of Takoyaki pan is available.

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Takoyaki_pick

In my opinion, Takoyaki is the king of Japanese street food and is an easy and fun home party food.

Yaki Gyoza – Pan-fried dumplings

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Today is Chinese New Year. Chinese food culture has had huge influence on Japanese food culture. To celebrate 2016 Chinese New Year, I’d like to put spotlight on the most popular Chinese food in Japan; precisely speaking, it is the most popular Japanese-style Chinese food — Yaki Gyoza.

In China, Gyoza (Jiaozi in Chinese) is usually boiled. We enjoy boiled dumplings (Sui Gyoza) as well, but Yaki Gyoza is way more popular in Japan. There are a few differences between Jiaozi and Gyoza. While Jiaozi uses thick wrapper, Yaki Gyoza uses much thinner wrapper. Also, Yaki Gyoza has rich garlic aroma, which is not found in Jiaozi.

The main ingredients of Yaki Gyoza are: ground pork or chicken, minced vegetables (cabbage, green onion or Asian chives, garlic, ginger), soy sauce, sake, sesame oil, and dumpling wrappers (Gyoza skin). After frying Gyoza, you enjoy them with dipping sauce — soy sauce, rice vinegar and chili oil. It’s crispy outside and juicy inside. For those who are interested in making Gyoza at home, check out the site: www.japanesecooking101.com. Making Gyoza is not difficult and quite fun!

Here’s one piece of advice for you when you eat Yaki Gyoza. It is served very hot and has meat juice inside. Wait a little bit before enjoying it; otherwise, you will burn yourself!

I wish you all a Happy Chinese New Year 2016!

Have you heard of Kombucha?

The other day, one of my coworkers said to me, “I’m drinking ‘Kombucha’! It’s very healthy.” So I said, “Oh, it’s Japanese. It’s a bit salty, isn’t it? It’s made of seaweed, so maybe it’s good for health.” Then she went, “No, it’s sweet. There are many flavours, but Gingerade is my favourite!”, and showed me one of these this bottles.

kombucha

I was totally confused, because “Kombucha” I know and any Japanese know is this.

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Japanese Kombucha is powdered kombu — edible kelp — and you mix it with hot water to drink. It’s slightly salty, but has a savory taste, “Umami”. We enjoy as is or use it for cooking as seasoning. Obviously the Kombucha my coworker was talking about was not the same thing. So I did some research on it.

According to Wikipedia, in Western countries “Kombucha” refers to any of a variety of fermented, lightly effervescent sweetened black or green tea drinks. Unlike the name “Kombucha”, it doesn’t contain any kelp, but it contains tea fungus originated from east Mongolia and later drunk in Siberia. I see, mystery solved.

Actually, tea fungus was a huge health fad in 70’s and 80’s in Japan. Apparently, people were growing tea fungus at home. Later, it disappeared completely from Media, but it changed the name to “Kombucha” and it has been making another fad in the US. Very interesting.

I haven’t tried “Kombucha” yet, and I am still having a hard time not associating the word “Kombucha” with our “Kombucha”. Has anyone tried “Kombucha” yet?

Ichigo (strawberry) Daifuku

Most traditional Japanese sweets use red bean paste (anko in Japanese). To tell you the truth, I am not a big fan of anko. It is made of red azuki beans and sugar, so you really taste red beans when you eat traditional Japanese sweets. If you like red beans, you will love traditional Japanese sweets, and if you don’t like red beans like me, you might not like it. I’ve always preferred cakes, cookies and chocolates to traditional Japanese sweets.

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However, there is one Japanese sweet with anko I can really enjoy, which is today’s topic — Ichigo Daifuku. Ichigo Daifuku consists of round mochi (soft rice cake) stuffed with anko and one whole strawberry. It was invented in the 1980s and became very popular. When I first heard about Ichigo Daifuku, I couldn’t imagine the taste. I couldn’t associate anko with strawberry. Then I tried and it just blew my mind. Soft mochi, anko and juicy strawberry make a great combination.

If you like cooking, you can make your own Ichigo Daifuku as well. All you need are a can of red bean paste, shiratamako (glutinous rice flour), sugar, water, cornstarch and strawberry. There are two types of red bean pastes: koshian (beans are mashed completely) and tsubuan (beans are half mashed). Koshian is smoother and I think it suits well with Ichigo Daifuku. Enjoy!

Kanazawa Curry

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Some of you might not like curry, but I cannot talk about Japanese food without mentioning it. So please bear with me.

Curry is definitely one of the most popular dishes in Japan. We usually serve curry in three forms: curry rice (curry over rice), curry udon (curry over noodles), and curry bread (pasty filled with curry). However, when we hear “curry”, we simply associate it with curry rice, and that is today’s topic.

Until recently, I didn’t know that my hometown, Kanazawa, is famous for curry rice, Kanazawa Curry. I ate curry rice at restaurants from time to time, when I was in Japan. But I never found something special about it, and most likely I was eating “Kanazawa Curry” without noticing it. Since the new launch of Shinkansen (Bullet Train) in March 2015, Kanazawa has been in the news and became so popular about many things including its curry rice. I was surprised when I found a Wikipedia page (in Japanese) dedicated to Kanazawa curry.

According to the Wikipedia page, there are several characteristics in Kanazawa curry:

  • Curry roux is rich and very thick
  • Shredded cabbage on the side
  • Served on a stainless steel plate
  • Eat it with fork or spork (hybrid of spoon and fork)
  • Put breaded pork cutlet on the roux and pour worcestershire sauce over it
  • Pour roux all over the rice without showing existence of rice

spork

By the way, have you used spork? I have and I think spork is very unusable as cutlery. When I was in elementary school, we ate school lunch with spork. Being hybrid of spoon and fork, it was supposed to work well for both piercing and scooping. However, it is a “He who runs after two hares will catch neither” type of tool; Piercing food with the tip of the spork is not easy and eating soup with a spork is almost impossible. I wonder how difficult it would be to eat shredded cabbage with spork.

Going back to Kanazawa Curry, crispy pork cutlet goes very well with rich spicy curry roux. Shredded cabbage gives the dish mildness. It’s tasty and satisfying. Each curry restaurant in Kanazawa serves slightly different curry. Some of them are even selling their curry roux packages online. Kanazawa Curry is going strong…

Chocolate Beer in a chocolate glass

I don’t drink, but I want to sip a little bit when I find something interesting. This is the one of them.

SanktGallen Brewery, a Japanese microbrewery, has been producing a lineup of sweet beer since 2003.

The founder and president of SanktGallen Brewery, Nobuhisa Iwakmoto, is a pioneer of microbrewery in Japan. He opened a brewery pub called “Café Pacifica” in San Francisco in 1993 with his father. At that time, microbreweries in Japan could not get a license unless they produced at least 2 million liters of beer per year. After coming back to Japan, he opened a restaurant “SanktGallen” in Tokyo and he was reverse importing his beer from the US. After Japan changed the requirement for brewery, he finally obtained the license and opened the microbrewery “SanktGallen” in 1997.

SanktGallen’s imperial chocolate stout became available in the market in 2006 and all 6,000 bottles were sold out in one week. It won the Monde Selection Grand Gold in 2008. Despite the name “chocolate stout”, the beer doesn’t contain cacao or chocolate; it creates chocolate like aroma with only regular beer ingredients. With 9% of alcohol, this rich black beer can be matured up to 2 years.

The imperial chocolate stout actually goes well with real chocolate. For Valentine’s Day only, a special glass made of chocolate comes with the imperial chocolate stout. The chocolate glass won’t melt even after drinking 5 glasses of beer. SanktGallen’s chocolate stout family has three other members: Strawberry Chocolate Stout, Orange Chocolate Stout, and Sweet Vanilla Stout. The pioneer Iwamoto’s journey continues…

http://www.sanktgallenbrewery.com/