Category Archives: FOOD

Mochi Mochi Nippon! All You Need to Know about Japan’s Ubiquitous Rice Cakes

Source: Gaijin Pot
Mochi Mochi Nippon! All You Need to Know about Japan's Ubiquitous Rice Cakes

If you visit Japan, you’re sure to come across mochi (sticky rice cake) in some form or other. This soft, chewy snack can be found in pretty much every supermarket and convenience store in the country, as well as more upmarket versions in specialist sweets shops. It’s staple nosh at most Japanese festivals and used as a food for special occasions.

What is it?

Simply put, mochi is a sticky rice cake. Its main ingredient is a special type of rice known as mochigome (short-grain, glutinous rice). This is what gives mochi its unique gooey texture. First the rice is soaked overnight and steamed, then it’s pounded until it forms a dough.

Although nowadays this can be done with machines, the traditional method — still practiced today — is to use kine, or wood mallets, in a wooden mortar (called an usu). It’s a two-person job, with one wielding the mallet and the other adding water and turning the mixture by hand.

This method is known as mochitsuki and can be quite the spectacle. The two participants have to keep perfectly in time with each other in order to avoid injuring the hands of the person doing the mixing.

If you fancy seeing mochitsuki in action, head to the Nakatanidou mochi shop in Nara City. Said to be the home of the nation’s fastest mochi pounders, they entertain the crowd outside their shop daily with dramatic performances and breathtaking skills.

Variations on a theme

Ichigo (strawberry) daifuku, a Japanese confection stuffed with sweetened red bean and a whole fresh strawberry.

Once this process is complete, a host of different flavors and fillings can be added to make a seemingly endless variety of mochi.

The most common filling is a sweet bean paste made from either anko (sweet red bean paste) or …continue reading

    

Dining Diary - Eight's Burger: Shimo-Kitazawa

Source: bento.com

This popular neighborhood burger joint offers a number of spicy burger options, livened up with chili beans, jalapenos and home-made salsa. The chili bacon cheeseburger is fairly typical, bringing together a combination of distinctive flavors that work well together, with raw onions adding some bite and the chili providing a spicy kicker. The patty is firm and more well-done than average, and the accompanying fries are crisp and well salted.

Burgers come in single and double sizes, with the double patties weighing in at a hefty 270g. There’s also a selection of interesting side dishes such as marinated anchovy-marinated broccoli, vanilla-oil marinated raw ham and pumpkin, and chili-cheese stew.

The eclectic soft-drinks menu includes caramel popcorn latte, strawberry milk, cherry coke and guava juice. Japanese craft beers such as Minoh, Baird, and Far Yeast are served by the bottle.

The background music tends towards blues, and the dining space is pleasantly rustic, with some outdoor terrace seating and four counter seats in back, facing the kitchen. Their specialty “Eight” burgers are priced in the Y980-1480 range (for a single patty), while side dishes are Y380-580 and bottled beers are Y800. …continue reading

    

Cascina: Ebisu

Source: bento.com

Standing out from the ever-growing crowd of Tokyo cheese-specialty restaurants, Cheese Tavern Cascina takes a more sophisticated approach than average, supplementing the usual fondue and raclette dishes with creative starters that showcase their impressive cheese selection. The menu also features cheese-enhanced fresh pasta dishes and a serious main-dish section that focuses on premium-grade grilled meats.

The cheese-themed starters are all very appealing, with the various cheeses acting in supporting roles rather than appearing as main ingredients. They’re organized according to wine pairing suggstions – dishes like “Mimolette with Marinated Salmon, Orange and Cumin” and “Pecorino with Fresh Mushroom Salad” for white-wine drinkers and “Gorgonzola with Roasted Figs and Proscuitto” and “Feta with Roast Beets, Radish and Pomegranate” to go with reds.

Our feta and beet combination was particularly effective, but all our starters served to properly whet the appetite and prepare the way for more cheeses to come.
The fondue pot was next to arrive – a captivating black truffle cheese fondue with seasonal vegetables, chicken and ham.
It turns out that adding truffle flavoring to a fondue is a fantastic idea, and it really sets Cascina’s version apart from the many other fondues around town.

Our followup meat course of grilled Yonezawa pork was well prepared and quite tasty, but it seemed somewhat subdued in comparison after all that cheese – it felt like it could have used a few mounds of rock salt for dipping.
The cheese platter finale was good but not as exceptional as the Y2800 price tag might lead you to expect. (This was surprising, since most of the other dishes here are more normally priced.)

Cascina’s rather interesting wine list covers the map, with some unexpected bottles from Bulgaria, Hungary and Greece as well as …continue reading

    

Vegan Recipe: Plain And Beetroot White Miso Hummus

Apart from its countless health benefits, one of the best things about miso is that it can be used to cook pretty much whatever your heart desires. Soups (of course), pastes, fillings and sauces are standard, but using a little bit of creativity, you can turn this staple Japanese ingredient into a yummy local favorite, regardless of where you are based.

To my utter excitement, an all-Japanese foods supermarket recently opened in my hometown in New Zealand. There are plenty of Japanese ingredients which I have been desperately lusting for since leaving Japan. Excited to spice up my daily washoku routine, I ended up buying an organic white miso paste, which I used to make a healthy, vegan, and gluten-free miso hummus two ways: plain and with beetroots that make up for a photo-perfect pink color.

Not only does miso taste surprisingly good in hummus, but it’s also a wonderful source of zinc, protein, vitamin K, manganese, and copper. Furthermore, because miso is fermented, it is also rich in enzymes, which means it’s packed with probiotics that are great for your gut. Here’s how to make those delicious goodies for your next afternoon snack or house party.

Plain, white miso hummus

Ingredients:

  • 1 can chickpeas, drained
  • 2 raw garlic cloves, peeled
  • ¼ cup olive oil
  • Juice of half a lemon
  • 1 tsp tahini
  • 2 tsp white miso paste
  • 1 tbsp water
  • Big pinch of salt
  • Pinch of paprika
  • Sesame seeds to top (optional)

Beetroot miso hummus

Ingredients:

  • 1 can chickpeas, drained
  • 2 raw garlic cloves, peeled
  • ¼ cup olive oil
  • Juice of half a lemon
  • 1 tsp peanut butter
  • 2 tsp white miso paste
  • 1 Tbsp water
  • Big pinch of salt
  • Pinch of paprika
  • Parsley to top (optional)

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Craft Beer Bars Japan - Antenna America: Yokohama Sta.

Source: bento.com

Located inside the Isetan food court in Yokohama Station’s Joinus department store, this combination bottle shop and bar offers an impressive selection of US craft beers by the bottle or can, to drink here or take home. They also have ten taps of draft beer from a rotating list of American breweries like Firestone Walker, Figueroa Mountain and Three Weavers, although they tend to not list the names of breweries on their tap menu.

The small food menu features Buffalo chicken wings and other bar snacks, although we probably wouldn’t come here just for the food. Draft beer is Y900-1000 for a 295ml pour, and most regular-size bottles and cans are priced around Y500-750 (+tax). There are also several fridges stocked with large premium bottles in the Y2500-3000 range, for those special occasions. …continue reading