What to Eat in Japan, and Where?

Posted April 29th, 2011 in Japan | 6 Comments »

When planning a trip to Japan, you might wonder where the best tourist destination is.  It totally depends on what you want to do there, and when you are going.  But, anywhere you go, one of the highlight of the trip will be experiencing delicious Japanese food.  Here  is a list of places and foods Japanese people enjoy when they travel within their own country.

Hokkaido Island

As the biggest prefecture in Japan and having many farms across the island, Hokkaido has many speciality food that are locally produced.  Dairy products, lamb meat, potatoes, corns, and seafoods…  There are so many choices of food to explore in Hokkaido, but Ramen Noodles (Miso Ramen in Sapporo, Shio Ramen in Hakodate, and Sho-yu Ramen in Asahikawa), Jingisukan (grilled mutton dish prepared on a convex metal skillet), crabs (Zuwai, Taraba, Ke-gani), Jaga-Butter (baked potato with melted butter), Soup Curry (Japanese curry with soupy consistency and lots of Hokkaido vegetables), Kaisen Donburi (sashimi donburi), Nama Caramel (raw caramel) are the must to try.  And, there’re well-known brand beer breweries such as Sapporo Beer and Asahi Beer (both originated in Hokkaido).  Even if you don’t drink beer, I recommend to visit beer gardens – they serve lots of local foods and they are cheap.  Although it’s not a Hokkaido beer, I’ve been to a beer garden inside the Kirin Beer brewery and I enjoyed all-you-can eat for almost all the foods I listed above.  Unlimited crabs and meat…. and of course freshly brewed beer.

Main Island

As a main island there are 34 prefectures and each prefecture has its own speciality food.  For example, Ise Ebi in Mie prefecture, Kobe beef in Hyogo prefecture, pickles in Nara prefecture, and Hiroshima-yaki in Hiroshima prefecture.  But, I think Kyoto, Osaka and Aichi prefectures have the most unique foods to enjoy.

Nagoya in Aichi prefecture is famous for Tenmusu (rice ball with tempura), Kishimen (flat udon noodle), Tebasaki (deep-fried chicken wings immersed in sweet sticky sauce), Miso Katsu (pork katsu with sweet red miso sauce), and An-kake Spaghetti (spaghetti with starchy tomato sauce.  The foods there are very well-seasoned, and thick taste.

On the other hand, Kyoto offers very traditional, thin taste foods.  The finest dining experience is kaiseki, a set meal where every course has been planned out to compliment and balance the others. Tofu foods are also famous in Kyoto, and is one of my favourite Kyoto food.  There’re some Japanese style restaurants offering a set menu of tofu foods, and that’s one of the food I recommend if you want to experience Japan!  And, don’t forget the sweets. You’ll probably find many cafes almost everywhere in Kyoto, offering some traditional Japanese sweets (wagashi).  Matcha green tea sweets are the most popular among all ages.

Osaka’s speciality foods are, needless to say, Takoyaki and Okonomiyaki. Some people say that you’ll find takoyaki shop every 3 minutes in Shinsaibashi and Nanba, the centre cities of Osaka.  They are more like take-away food, but there’re many eat-in takoyaki/okonomiyaki restaurants as well in Osaka offering a wide selection of menu items to choose from.  A takoyaki restaurant I’ve been to had more than 30 takoyaki menus.  Fugu and Kushi are also nice food to try.  Kushi is a skewered and deep-fried food, and the experience of deep-frying and eating the various foods at your table in a Kushi restaurant may be fun.

Shikoku Island

Shikoku, meaning “four countries”, has some famous speciality foods too.  Sanuki Udon in Kagawa prefecture, Katsuo-no-Tataki (seared raw bonito eaten with special tangy sauce along with garlic slices and condiments) in Tosa prefecture, and Mikan Orange in Ehime prefecture.

Kyushu Island

Kyushu island has unique food items thanks to Nagasaki port.  This port in Nagasaki prefecture was the first port where a foreign ship arrived in Japan in 1550, and the only port where trade with foreign countries was permitted during Japan’s period of isolation.  Nagasaki prefecture is famous for Chanpon (noodle dish with white soup, thick egg noodle, and lots of seafood/pork/vegetables) and Kasutera (Japanese sweet sponge cake).  I must say Chanpon is one of my favourite food in Japan.  Kyushu is also known for a wide range of Sho-chu.  Especially, Kagoshima prefecture is famous for Potato Sho-chu.  The sho-chu is very strong alcohol, and people in Kyushu are thought to be strong drinkers.

Okinawa Island

As an island located in the South, this prefecture has tropical climate and very unique culture.  You can read about this place here, but the famous Okinawan food are  Go-ya chanpuru, Rafuti, Mimigaa and Saataa andagi. (non of them sound like Japanese, are they?)  Awamori (alcohol made from rice) is also famous Okinawan item.


Coral Moon

Posted April 28th, 2011 in Japan, Ume and Baby | No Comments »

The other day we went out to get passport photo taken.  He (no, I) chose to wear the  UNIQLO suit we got from Hokkaido friend.  It was still little too big for Hiro, but it could fit.

Oh my gosh, I should have called up the photo place beforehand so that they could have prepared for the photo shoot for a newborn…. There’s only one staff there, and she took about 20 minutes to look for a white cloth and decide where to take photos.  Anyway, after several tries and milk spitting up, we could manage to take one ok photo.

As Hokkaido friend’s son(my former student)’s birthday is coming up, I have been searching for a nice gift – a birthday present, and also to say thanks for the gift for Hiro. The last email I received from her said that she uses Australian brand cosmetic called “Coral Moon”.  I’ve never heard the brand before, but after searching online I found that this brand is pretty famous in Japan (more search results in Japanese than in English).

Coral Moon is operated in Noosa, Queensland, producing the natural skin care and aromatherapy products.  I wonder if there is any shop selling Coral Moon products in Perth.  Their products looks good, I may want to try one. 🙂

I’m pretty sure I’ll buy one or two Coral Moon items for my friend, but I’ve gotta think about the gift for her son too.  He is turning 12 (I believe) this year….  Wow I can’t believe it.  He was so little when I was teaching English to him in Japan!

I think I will look for something Australian or English related item.  I wonder how good his English is… I know it’s very hard to keep track of other languages if you don’t use them.  But, Hakodate is a famous city in Hokkaido and I’m sure there’re many foreign people living/traveling around the area.  Maybe he’s got one or two English-speaking friend? 🙂  Hope to see them in Hokkaido or Perth sometime in near future.


Photos..

Posted April 27th, 2011 in Ume and Baby | 6 Comments »

When he is calm and quiet….

Sleeping in the capsule at Child Health Centre…

A friend sent a yukata from Japan.  It’s still too big for him, but I think he can wear it next summer 🙂

(He is not crying because he doesn’t like the yukata!)

Wrapped scones.  I use jute strings, and the recycled paper I make myself at home 🙂

Craving for chips…  so I made roasted potatoes instead.  Nice and crunchy!


Onsen Tamago

Posted April 26th, 2011 in Food | 4 Comments »

Onsen-tamago is like poached egg, but the egg is slowly cooked in hot water of about 65 – 75 ℃ until the egg white and yolk just set.  The name “onsen” means hot spring in Japanese, and as the name indicates, onsen-tamago is traditionally cooked in the hot spring.

Onsen-tamago is a typical breakfast menu in Japan.  When you stay at ryokan with hot spring, they usually serve this in the morning with rice, miso soup and other foods.  It’s eaten with sweet sauce made of dashi, soy sauce and mirin.  The egg white is not hard but cooked, and the yolk is paste-like.  You can also buy it from supermarkets and convenience stores.  It’s sold shell attached (looks just like a boiled egg), and comes with a sachet of sauce.

Why I’m writing about onsen-tamago is just because I have a craving for this. 🙂  I used the recipe for onsen-tamago (without onsen) from http://onsentamago.hoge2.info

  1. Boil 1 L of water in a pot.
  2. Once it comes to boil, turn off the heat.  Add 200ml of cold water and then eggs (eggs should be completely immersed in the water).   Place a lid, and wait for 15 minutes.

Ummm… it looks more like soft boiled egg :p  I think I left the egg in the water too long.  The yolk was just perfect to my liking though.

Just like poached egg, you can add it into salad, pasta, curry, udon, donburi … etc.


White Chicken Soup with Cheesy Bagel Toast

Posted April 25th, 2011 in Food | No Comments »

It’s been a little warm again the last few days, but yesterday was raining and the air was nicely cool.  This Easter holiday has been a nice and quiet one for me, as all in-laws are overseas and D and I don’t have any plan.  It’s good, I like days like this 🙂

I made some white soup with chicken and leftover vegetables.  I love eating soup all year around.  It’s hearty, and you can eat many kinds of vegetables at once.

<White Chicken Soup>

  • 300g chicken breast
  • 1 onion (large)
  • 1/2 zucchini
  • 2 potatoes
  • 1/2 cup frozen mixed vegetables
  • 2 cups chicken stock
  • 1 cup milk

* You can add/replace with any kinds of vegetables!

a

  1. Slice chicken into bite pieces.  Dice onion, zucchini and potatoes.
  2. Heat 1 tbs of oil in a deep pan, and cook chicken and onion until the onion is almost transparent.  Add zucchini, and pour chicken stock to the pan.  Add potatoes and bring to the gentle boil.  Turn down the heat and simmer for few minutes.
  3. Add the mixed vegetables and milk to the pan.  Season.  Simmer further few minutes.

a


6 Weeks Past

Posted April 20th, 2011 in Ume and Baby | 4 Comments »

We were wearing summer clothes just few weeks ago, but…

now, thick long sleeves and a blanket is a must at night. (He looks grumpy, I know!  He just woke up… )

Someone says that the baby will start to settle down after 6 weeks.  Hiro has been ok, he wakes up every 3~4 hours now, and drinks more milk.  At 6th week check-up, he weighed 4.4 kg.  He smiles sometimes, and he knows it’s a feeding time when we put a bib on his neck.  (he changes his mouth/lips into a sucking-shape)

Since he was born, we tried to make a routine – we wanted him to know that the night time is a sleeping time.  We bath him around 7pm every night, then dress him in pj, feed, and put him to sleep in the cot in a dark room.  During the day, we let him sleep in the living room.

But, he doesn’t want to go to sleep at night sometimes – and when we’re tired we just want to take him to the living room and let him sit on a rocking chair.  That’s what D did the other day, and that caused an argument between us.

After 7pm feed, Hiro didn’t want to sleep and kept crying in the cot.  D took him from the cot and brought him to the noisy living room, trying to settle him down.  Hiro wasn’t sleepy, his eyes were wide open, so D left him in the living room.  I thought “ok, just until his next feed”.  At 10pm Hiro was hungry again, and D fed him in the living room.  Then, without trying, D left Hiro in the chair in front of the tv.  I know D was just tired and wanted to go back watching tv and doing some work on the computer in the living room, but I didn’t want Hiro to be surrounded by the noise from tv and the blight light at night.

We argued, but then I started to wonder if it’s really necessary to make a routine – and make him stay in the dark and quiet room at night.  I sought for the answer, and yes, it’s actually important to let him know the difference between night and day.  So what we have been doing was right, after all.

It’s sometimes hard – he cries, and just doesn’t want to sleep sometimes.  And, I’m a tv person, but I haven’t been in front of tv enjoying the drama/movies at night for weeks.  I need to be impatient, I know, and now I think I’m starting to get the hang of it.  Hiro started to sleep by himself  if I leave him in the cot after settling down.  I think he is learning…!  and so am I.


Sakura Blossom

Posted April 19th, 2011 in Japan | No Comments »

A photo from my friend.  She said that sakura is at its peak in Shiga now.  This is taken around Hikone castle (near my house).  I remember going there every spring to enjoy hanami (sakura viewing)

Sakura blossom is one of the most beautiful things in the world!  I really like watching sakura in Hikone castle – the view is amazing.  (my another post about Hikore is here)

Did you know that there’re about 340 species of sakura trees in the world?  In Japan, the major one is “somei yoshino“, but there are many many other kinds of sakura.  And, cherry trees display various growing habits and come in different shapes and forms.  Some of them are called “shidare-zakura” (weeping cherry trees) – they have drooping branches because of the soft branches.


“Shidare-zakura” is my favourite one.  So beautiful…  Especially, in the light-up at night.


Autumn Talk…

Posted April 18th, 2011 in Ume's Thought | 6 Comments »

I know this must be the hormone that affects many women after having a baby, or just because of the daunting weather we had yesterday, but I just couldn’t help but think negative about everything yesterday. I was just tired of doing same things over and over everyday… I know it won’t be forever and I should be more concentrating on Hiro’s growth and be happy about having such a beautiful baby. But when I look at the calendar and clock I realize time passes so quickly and I feel like I’m missing something outside the world!

Before I was pregnant with Hiro, I was under lots of stress.  I didn’t know what I wanted to do in my life and should have been doing for the future.  I wasn’t really happy with my situation that time.  But then, I changed the view of thinking and realized that the worry I had was nothing but just my ego.  I realized what the most important thing in my life is, and since then I’ve been pretty happy with my life and more easygoing.  But yesterday, the feeling came back to me.  Not all of them, but some.

Why yesterday, but not today? Yeah it must be either my hormone or the weather.  I didn’t want to talk to anybody, not even with D (especially because we had a fight over a little thing the day before), so I went out for a drive by myself for a while.  Right after I left home, I started to feel much better.  Staying at home all the time is NOT good!  Then I went back home and emailed my mum and friends (still I wasn’t in the mood for talking). After chatting with them over the emails I felt much much better.  I wish my family and close friends were near I live.

Then I thought about my family and Japan.  The happy memories.  You know, actually the real life is tough.  We dream things, but the reality is not exactly the same as what we dreamed.  I keep saying that “I miss Japan” “I can’t wait to go back to my home”, but the things are not the same as it used to be.  My family use to be 6 people, but now there’re only 3.  My mum doesn’t live there anymore.  My dog and cat are dead.  And everyone is getting old…  Writing this makes me feel depressed, but it’s the reality.  Yet I still live in my memory and want to go back there – the place where reminds me of the life I had before.

Anyway, I’m sure it’s just an Autumn talk… We’ve gotta live!


Quick Beef Bowl

Posted April 17th, 2011 in Food | 3 Comments »

Beef donburi, gyu-don, is one of Japanese popular donburi dish.  I’m sure you sometimes order this  at Japanese restaurants (if you like beef).

Normally, gyu-don is simmered beef and onion dish in sweet soy sauce flavoured dashi broth. This recipe, however, doesn’t require dashi broth and simmering process. It’s more like a stir-fried dish (with plenty of sauce/broth/juice from the beef and onions).  It’s a quick meal, and taste great 🙂

<Quick Beef Bowl>  serves 4~8

  • 500g beef, thinly sliced
  • 2 onions (medium size)
  • 4 cloves garlic
  • 1 tbs sesame oil
  • 2 tbs sugar
  • 1 tbs sake (cooking wine)
  • 2 tbs mirin
  • 2 tbs soy sauce

a

  1. Slice the onions and garlic thinly.
  2. Heat the sesame oil in a sauce pan.  Add garlic and onion, and stir-fry until the onions are almost transparent.
  3. Add beef, and cook for 2~3 minutes.  Add sugar, sake, mirin and soy sauce.
  4. Turn down the heat to low, and cook further 5 minutes.

a

Enjoy with steamed rice and some vegetables!


White Nests for Easter Eggs

Posted April 15th, 2011 in Food | 2 Comments »

Easter is just around the corner!  … Well, there is nothing particular to do for me on this holiday, but I do get influenced by all the marketings from the shops – Easter eggs, chocolate, bunnies…

This “white nest” is nothing special, but everyone does love them, especially with white chocolate.  Does anyone hate white chocolate?  Maybe?  Personally I love white chocolate.  It’s sweeter than milk chocolate, and looks so cute when used in cooking.  D loves white chocolate (he doesn’t like milk/dark chocolate) and has been eating this nest everyday since I made!

<White Nests for Easter Eggs> makes around 15

  • 200g white chocolate
  • 50g Kellogg rice bubbles
  • 30g desiccated coconut
  1. Melt chocolate in a bowl, over a pan of hot water.  Be careful that the bottom of the bowl holding the chocolate does not touch the hot water.
  2. Stir in rice bubbles and coconuts, and mix through.
  3. Using two spoons, drop the mixture on baking sheet – shaping into circle and make a dent in the centre.  Repeat with remaining.
  4. When it’s set, place an Easter egg on each nest.