What to Eat in Hokkaido: Jingisukan

September 23, 2017 § 1 Comment

JingisukanCredits: Jsprague TW Dialog template; papers by Splendid Finns’ You are Awesome and Sus Design’s Saving Memories Kit.

Named after the Mongolian ruler, Genghis Khan, Jingisukan is essentially Hokkaido-style Yakiniku.

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In a dome-shaped cast iron looking a lot like the helmet of the Mongolian soldiers, thinly sliced meat (in this case, lamb or mutton) is grilled on the table and shared family style much like how the Koreans do it. It also reminded me of the Laotian Barbecue (sans the soup) I so enjoyed in Luang Prabang some years back. An unforgettable meal, that was. Come to think of it, Asian cuisines although diverse in flavors have a lot of similarities, especially in how meals are cooked and shared.

On our last night in Asahikawa, we chose a restaurant close to our hotel, highly recommended on Foursquare.

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The line was not visible when we arrived because it was so long, the weather so cold; we were asked to wait in a room across the restaurant.   It was worth the wait. Right off the grill and dipped in a soy-based sauce, the lamb was superb.

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It was tender and flavorful and not gamey at all. We ordered several cuts and all were satisfying. Do find your way to a Jingisukan place when in Hokkaido. Better yet, if you find yourself in Asahikawa, make sure to look for Jingisukan Daikokuya. It could be your best meal in Hokkaido.

Other Must-Eats when in Hokkaido:

The island of winter sports, hanging cliffs, and endless lavender fields is also known to offer the best food adventures in Japan.

seafood

In fact, it is one of its biggest attractions, specifically its seafood and agricultural products grown on its extensive farmlands.

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The prefecture has a massive dairy industry that produces about half of Japan’s milk and other dairy products like butter, cheese, yogurt and ice cream.

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The best melon in Japan is grown here too, making it quite a popular flavor for milk and ice cream.

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And of course, don’t forget to grab some of Hokkaido’s famous cheesecake.

Jingisukan Daikokuya
5 Chome 4-jodori,3,4 Naka, Asahikawa
+81 188-24-2424
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Korea On My Mind

August 22, 2017 § Leave a comment

I’m almost halfway through my Korean visa, and I should make better use of that 5 years that they’ve given me. So here I am planning a mini Korean holiday that is getting me more excited by the minute.

Seoul-Food

I imagine chicken and beer or chimek, mageoli, kimbap, fresh kimchi, samgyeopsal, deep-fried mandu, haemul pajeon, bingsu… My mouth water at the thought of grilled Hanwoo beef that melts in the mouth and I remember our incredible meal in Hongdae. And then my mind wanders to the other food I have to yet to have. I promised to go back for— jjajangmyeon, samyetang, soy sauce crab, sundae (not the frozen dessert but Korea’s blood sausage that got my attention because of these twins) and much more that I’m still not aware of.

So now I crave Japchae. That’s a Korean-style noodle dish that is usually served as a side dish consisting of vermicelli noodles, meat, and assorted vegetables sautéed in soy sauce. This version is without meat, and even my meat-loving hubby gave his thumbs up.

Japchae

Japchae (Korean Style Noodles)

Adapted from this recipe in Epicurious

What You Need:

  • 5-6 ounces Korean vermicelli noodles
  • ½ cup soy sauce
  • 3 Tbsp. Sesame oil
  • 3 Tbsp. sugar
  • 2 cloves chopped garlic
  • 1 Tbsp. oil
  • 1 med onion sliced lengthwise 1/8 inch thick (1 ½ cups)
  • 3 medium carrots, cut into 1/8 inch thick matchsticks
  • 1 ½ cup mushrooms, trimmed and sliced thick
  • 1 ½ cup snow peas (recipe called for spinach but I didn’t have that)

What you do:

  1. Soak noodles in a bowl of warm water to cover until softened, about 10 minutes, then drain in a colander. Cook noodles in a 3-4 quart pot of boiling water until tender, about 2 minutes, then drain in a colander and rinse under cold water until cool.
  2. Blend soy sauce, sesame oil, sugar, and garlic in a blender until smooth.
  3. Heat oil in a deep 12-inch heavy skillet over high heat until it just begins to smoke, then stir-fry onion and carrots until onion is softened. About 3 minutes.
  4. Add mushrooms and stir-fry until softened, about 3 minutes.
  5. Add snow peas and stir-fry 30 seconds, then add noodles and soy sauce mixture and toss to coat.
  6. Simmer, occasionally stirring, until most liquid is absorbed, 3-5 minutes.
  7. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Ramen

July 14, 2017 § 1 Comment

In a corridor lined with ramen joints, we randomly picked one that could sit all 7 of us.

Kumakichi-Ramen-Chef

We chose an empty shop and hoped for the best. What we had was a white translucent  soup, rich and nutty, accented with pork slices, bamboo shoots, seaweeds, ginger, garlic, half a soft boiled egg, corn and topped with a small piece of butter.

 

Sapporo-Ramen

Strange but hey, it is their specialty, they say. I enjoyed it mainly because I love corn and adore butter. The richness of the broth calls for sharing and I’m glad we did. It was the perfect size to pair with a side order of gyoza.

gyoza

Miso Butter Corn Ramen at Sapporo Ramen Kumakichi; 3 Chome – 8 Minami 5 Jonishi

Believe me when I say that it is the one thing that would get a group of seven to quickly agree on a meal. I mean, who doesn’t like ramen? Even if you weren’t head-over-heels in love with it, hot broth, noodles, and pork would appeal to anyone on any frosty day. And that was how we ended up in the Ramen Alley in Susukino.

Ganso-Ramen-Yokocho

I’ve always been drawn to noodles. It has always been a staple in our house when I was growing up. Though I discovered ramen a while back, I only learned to appreciate it in 2013, on my very first trip to Japan. Even back then ramen alleys are big. It may not offer the best, but it is the easiest way to get your fix. Because Hokkaido is ramen mecca, ramen clusters are everywhere.

Asahikawa Ramen at Ramen Village

So we were on our way back from the Asahikawa Zoo, and we saw a sign pointing the Asahikawa Ramen Village.

Asahikawa-Zoo

And because it is nearly lunchtime, we detoured to find ourselves in the midst of eight of Asahikawa’s popular ramen shops, once again at a lost for which one to enter.

Asahikawa-Ramen-Village

Considered one of the three top ramens in Hokkaido, it is a blend of pork, chicken and a seafood broth flavored with soy sauce. This makes for a rich and complex soup best paired with curly noodles. It also has a top layer of lard to prevent the soup from cooling too quickly in the frigid Hokkaido weather.

 

 

Asahikawa-Ramen

This. This was amazingly satisfying. So glad we spotted that sign on the highway. It was the best detour we had even if we had to ask a store owner who can speak English to call us a cab to get back to the town center.

Tenkin-Asahikawa

 

 

Asahikawa ramen at Tenkin; Nagayama 11-jyo, 4-chome

Actually, there is a third famous Hokkaido type ramen, but it is found down south, in Hakodate, the city of gourmet foods. Another trip to Hokkaido is called for, perhaps sometime in spring so we can explore the southern part of Hokkaido and its ramen, among other things.

My Tuna Sandwich

June 2, 2017 § Leave a comment

Just back from a month-long trip, which hopefully explains why this blog went without a post for so long, I thought it fitting to share a simple favorite to start the momentum going again (crossing my fingers).

You see, before a long journey, I try to do as much work as possible in the hopes that when I get back, I won’t have too much of a backlog. But we all know that that never actually happens, right? So I try to catch up.

Which means no lunch outs for at least a week (which usually happens pre and post travel), but that’s ok. I had this most of last week.

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You should know by now that canned tuna never fails me and no matter what, it has to come with capers and dill. And so it goes without saying that my version of the tuna sandwich/salad – whatever you want to call it has both and more. See?

IMG_4221that’s tuna, capers, dill, mayo, salt and pepper to taste.

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That’s pimento to add a hint of smokiness to it.

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So there you have it… my tuna sandwich. Simple, I told you, and different, in a good way. Have a great weekend, you guys!

Chocolate and Orange

March 16, 2017 § Leave a comment

Chocolate-and-Orange

A combination that the hubby absolutely adores, and I have, through him, learned to love as well. I’m not exactly a chocolate kind of girl but this union has made me crave it at times.   It’s now my combination of choice when it comes to chocolate. If you’re wary of the fusion, one taste of this will make you a believer.

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The recipe I found was weak in orange flavor, so I added grated orange and orange liqueur, preferably Grand Marnier, on the frosting.

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And because a quarter has almost past that I’ve been silent on the blog front, here’s the recipe without further ado…

Chocolate Orange Cupcakes (tweaked from a Williams-Sonoma Cake Recipe)

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What You’ll Need:

  • 3 tablespoons Dutch-processed cocoa powder
  • ¼ cup hot water
  • 1 ¼ cups unbleached all-purpose flour
  • ½ teaspoon each baking powder and baking soda
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • 1 -2 oranges (depending on the size; I used 1 large orange)
  • 2 large eggs, at room temperature
  • ¾ cup granulated sugar
  • ½ cup buttermilk, at room temperature
  • ½ teaspoon vanilla extract / essence
  • ¼ cup unsalted butter, melted and cooled to room temperature

For the Frosting

  • 6oz. (170g) bittersweet chocolate
  • 1 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 2 cups confectioner’s (icing) sugar
  •    2 tablespoons orange liqueur
  • 1 tablespoon orange zest

What You Do:

  1. Preheat the oven to 350ºF (180ºC). Line 12 standard muffin cups with paper liners.
  2. In a small bowl, stir the cocoa powder into the hot water until dissolved; set aside. Sift the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt together into a bowl. Grate the zest from the orange into the bowl. Set aside.
  3. In a large bowl, whisk together the eggs and granulated sugar until well combined. Whisk in the buttermilk and vanilla, then the dissolved cocoa. Whisk in the melted butter, then the dry ingredients.
  4. Using a tablespoon, divide the batter among the muffin cups, filling each about half full. Bake until the cupcakes are puffed, and a skewer inserted into the center of one comes out clean 15-20 minutes. Let cool completely on a wire rack. Remove the cupcakes from the pan.2013-03-10-11.48.07
  5. To make the frosting, melt the chocolate and let cook to room temperature. Meanwhile, using a stand mixer, beat the butter and confectioner’s sugar with the paddle on medium speed until creamy and smooth, about 3 minutes. Beat in the melted chocolate, orange liqueur, and zest until combined. Fill a pastry bag fitted with a ½ inch (12mm) star tip with the frosting and pipe a spiral on top of each cupcake. Refrigerate the cupcakes for 30 minutes before serving to set the frosting. Makes 12 cupcakes.

Melting Chocolate

To melt chocolates, chop it into small pieces and put it in a stainless-steel bowl. Set the bowl in a saucepan over but not touching, barely simmering water. Heat until the chocolate melts, stirring occasionally. Do not allow any water or steam to come in contact with the chocolate, or it will become stiff and grainy. Or, chop the chocolate into large pieces, place in a microwave-safe dish, and microwave on low for 1 minute. Continue to microwave if necessary, checking every 20 seconds, until the chocolate looks softened, then stir until smooth and liquid.

What to Eat in Kunming: Across the Bridge Noodle Soup

January 16, 2017 § Leave a comment

Yunnan-Eats.jpgCredits: JSprague Digi In Deeper Course Material

This noodle soup dish has a typical Yunnan local flavor that could only be had in some parts of Yunnan and carries with it a love story. A scholar, preparing for the imperial exams retreated to an island in a lake. The wife delivers lunch to him daily, crossing a long wooden bridge. Dismayed that she couldn’t keep it warm, figured out that adding a thin layer of fat on top prevents the heat from escaping. And by doing this, she discovered that she could bring the broth across the bridge and cook the rest of her Noodle Soup there.

And with that, I had our driver bring us to Qiao Xiang Yuan, a restaurant chain famous for its Guo Qiao Mi Xian, which translates to Across the Bridge or Crossing Bridge Rice Noodle.

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Driver Wang ordered for us. Minutes later an attractive mix of ingredients laid before us. There were slices of lightly cooked (some raw) meats, Yunnan ham, strips of bean curd sheets, mushrooms, vegetables, rice noodles (of course) and a piping hot broth with a layer of chicken fat and oil glistening on top, the key to this noodle soup. The meat sliced wafer thin so that it will cook almost immediately when added to the broth. Once the vegetables and noodles are added, stir it a bit, and the Guo Qiao Mi Xian is ready to eat.

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A must try when in Kunming.

To read more about Kunming and Yunnan, read this and this.

Qiao Xiang Yuan: Shulin Jie, Wenhua District, near Jinbi Guang Cheng

Fennel Salad with Green Apple and Parmesan

November 26, 2016 § Leave a comment

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This salad made me a fan of fennel. Crunchy and has a fresh, sweetly musky taste similar to liquorice and anise. Paired with apple, it masks the licorice flavor (perfect for those not keen on its taste) and adds to the freshness of this salad. Packed with many health benefits from relieving anemia to improving eye care, this salad was my intro to this herb.

fried-chickenGood as a side dish — I like it with fried or grilled meats.

In fact, it has opened the door to many more delicious Fennel recipes, which I will share with you eventually.

In the meantime, here’s the recipe adapted from Molly Wizenberg’s book, A Homemade Life.

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What you need:

  • 1 medium fennel bulb, about 10 ounces
  • 1 small Green Apple
  • Olive oil
  • Lemon
  • Sea Salt
  • Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
  • Freshly ground black pepper

What you do:

Prepare the fennel:

  1. Cut off and discard the stalks and fronds.
  2. Using a vegetable peel or a small knife, trim away any bruises or brown spots on the bulb’s outermost layer of skin.
  3. Cut it in half from root to stalk, and trim the root end.
  4. Using a sharp knife or a mandolin and working with the one-half of the bulb at a time, slice the fennel very thinly, 1/8-1/4 inch thick. Set aside.

Prepare the Green Apple:

  1. Using an apple core, remove and discard core.
  2. Then cut the apple in half from top to bottom.
  3. Using a sharp knife or a mandolin, slice it very thinly, just like the fennel. Set aside.

Assembling the Salad:

  1. Make a layer of fennel slices. Drizzle lightly with olive oil.
  2. Then place a layer of apple on top of the fennel. Sprinkle lightly with lemon juice, and season with salt.
  3. Shave thin ribbons of cheese. Drizzle with oil.
  4. Repeat and finish with a good sprinkle of lemon juice, a generous splash of oil and a few shavings of cheese to garnish.
  5. Serve with salt and pepper to taste.