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.

ichigo_daifuku

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!

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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/

Chanko Nabe – Sumo wrestlers’ hot pot

It’s been so warm these last couple of days in Calgary. Yesterday the temperature hit a high of 11 C. Plus 11 C in January is pretty amazing, but we are still in the winter. Let me talk about Japan’s winter cuisine, “Nabe (hot pot)” and warm you up to get through the winter.

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One of the popular nabe is “Chanko Nabe”, a Japanese style stew or one-pot dish known as sumo wrestlers’ weight-gain diet. Chanko Nabe is actually very nutritious and balanced diet with protein sources (chicken, fish, tofu, beef, etc…) and lots of vegetables. Usually in sumo stables, wrestlers cook and eat Chanko Nabe with lots of rice after hard training and take a nap right away; that’s why they bulk up fast.

A great thing about Chanko Nabe is that there is no fixed recipe or ingredients, so you can easily cook it at home with whatever you want to add. You use chicken broth as base, but you can add miso (bean paste) or soy sauce to enjoy different taste. For ingredients, chicken, meatballs and Asian mushrooms (e.g. Shiitake, Enokitake) makes Chanko Nabe very tasty. But gain, you can use anything you like.

If you like to try authentic sumo wrestlers’ Chanko Nabe, there are many restaurants all over Japan owned by retired sumo wrestlers. Sumo wrestlers’ hot pot is becoming very popular these days. If you ever go to Japan, try one of the restaurants in Tokyo mentioned on the website: https://www.tsunagujapan.com/10-must-try-restaurants-in-tokyo-for-chanko-nabe-the-food-of-sumo-wrestlers/

Rice Burger

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Rice Burger is a good example to demonstrate how Japanese adopt something from different culture and put an interesting spin on it. Mos Burger, a Japanese fast-food restaurant chain, introduced the rice burger in 1987, and it has become popular in Japan and other East Asian countries. If I remember correctly, McDonald in Japan also had the rice burger around 2007. Among a few kinds of rice burger in Mos Burger, “Mos Rice Burger Yakiniku (Teriyaki BBQ beef)” was the most popular item. Due to Mad Cow Disease, it was taken off the menu in 2012, but because of many requests from customers, “Mos Rice Burger Yakiniku” will be back on the regular menu on February 9, 2016.

Literally, a rice burger uses a compressed rice cake — made of mixture of rice, barley and millet — instead of a hamburger bun. I tried it a couple of times when I was in Japan (long time ago). I was skeptical before eating, but it was actually tasty; Teriyaki BBQ beef goes well with the rice bun.

Mos Burger uses the method called “after order”that makes hamburgers when they are ordered. It takes more cooking time than any other fast food restaurants, but Mos Burger is famous for the taste and freshness. I can’t wait to taste the revived rice burger next time I go back to Japan.

 

Chouquettes at Tokyo Skytree

A French small cream puff, chouquette, has come to the tallest tower in the world. A chouquette is a small puff pastry sprinkled with pearl sugar, a simple yet tasty petit chou. Since its open on December 6, 2015, “Chouquettes Tokyo”, a cafeteria at the basement level of Tokyo Skytree has introduced the French traditional dessert to Tokyo.

Incidentally, Tokyo Skytree is one of the most popular landmarks and tourist attractions in Tokyo. It is measured at 634 m (2,080 ft) and ranks as the tallest tower in the world, authorized by the Guinness World Records.

At Couquettes Tokyo, you can enjoy fresh baked chouquettes in two ways: sweet and salty. Chouquette Sucrée comes with fresh cream and salted caramel, bitter chocolate or strawberry sauce. A cheese-flavoured Chouquette Salée can go with wine. A pasty chef Tomomii Chiba who has extensive experience in Paris working with Alain Ducasse produces the recipes.

Nikuman – Japanese winter snack

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One of the things I enjoyed when I was in junior high was buying a snack and eating it with friends after school. My go-to snack in winter was “Nikuman”, pork filling steamed bun. At that time, only two kinds of steamed buns were sold at convenience stores: red bean bun (“Anman”) and my favourite, Nikuman. Later, more choices became available, such as curry bun and pizza bun. But my pick was always Nikuman.

There was a heated display case in a store to keep steamed buns hot. When you split it in half, the steam rises up from inside. The meat filling is so juicy and the bun is soft and fluffy. After eating one, you would feel like eating one more.

Nowadays, there are so many different fillings and colour of buns. You can compare tastes in each convenience store. Most buns are around 130 yen. It warms up your soul and it’s gentle on your wallet.