Category Archives: FOOD

Cheesy Lion Bento

Yesterday I taught two bento classes for a company here in Honolulu, which was fun, since it had been a while since I taught a class. It’s intensely stressful when prepping for things like this because I have to plan, design, shop, cook, wash, cut, and pack every single thing I may need. It’s exhausting, but the class itself is fun, simply because people love seeing how cute bento come together.

We made two bento—one for adults and one charaben—and after the last class, while my students were making their charabens, I played around with my cutters and made a lion, then picked at the leftover food to make this impromptu bento.

Packed in with the lion are pieces of pan-fried salmon, cutie slices, a tomato with a washi tape flag, broccoli, and pear. There’s a slice of turkey under the lion.

I brought it home and my little one, Mr. Destruction, kept telling me it’s a bear. I tried to tell him it’s a lion, but he insisted, and he probably thinks I need proper animal schooling.

To make the lion, I painted food coloring (1 drop red, 1 drop green, 3 drops yellow) on the scalloped oval. I didn’t bring yellow cheese to the class, so the bear’s face is painted yellow. I cut the snout out with a bubble tea straw and rounded the edges, then placed the nori details with a toothpick.

Something new I discovered during the class: cutting cutie slices flat like you see above. I used to do wedges, and these thin slices are WAY easier to arrange. I’m not sure why I never thought of cutting them this way before. Just goes to show you that you can still learn things even seven …continue reading


Izumi Curry: Suidobashi


This old-fashioned Osaka-based shop serves up richly flavored curry with meaty main ingredients like stewed pork belly and chicken cutlet. The pork belly is particularly recommended – the curry is topped with a thick, fairly large slab of naturally fatty meat that’s tender enough to fall apart on your fork. It’s nicely complemented by the curry roux, which has a pleasing combination of exotic spices and a good dose of heat.

Izumi’s curries come in three sizes, but even the medium size is quite filling – you might want to go for the small if you don’t have a huge appetite. Numerous optional toppings – ranging from seasonal vegetables and cheese to deep-fried pork cutlets – will add some variety to your dish, and classic fukushinzuke pickles will give it a bit of extra crunch.

The brightly lit shop has mostly counter seating, plus a couple of tables for groups. Non-stop J-pop plays in the background for your musical enjoyment, and take-out is available. Curries average around Y1000. …continue reading


Paczki: Chofu


Maybe it’s the lace doilies and bud vases on the tables, or the antique cabinets and crammed bookshelves, but this tiny Polish bakery-cafe has a certain Old World charm. You can pick up a bag of doughnuts and cake to go, as most customers do, or grab one of the cafe’s three small tables and enjoy your dessert here with a cup of Polish coffee. If you want something more substantial, they’ve got tasty kielbasa-style sausages with fried potatoes, and platters of pierogies stuffed with meat, tuna or cottage cheese and potatoes.

Polish soups and a sandwich or two round out the tiny menu, along with drinks like banana milk and fruit smoothies. Desserts seem to vary by the day – the standard doughnut fillings are rose jelly, raspberry jelly and chocolate cream, and these are sometimes supplemented by flavors like hojicha cream (one of our favorites) and plum jam. There’s also a very good banana cake.

While you’re waiting for your order you can enjoy the cafe’s more eccentric attractions, like the Polish dictionary sitting open on a stand, and the vintage Polish pop music playing in the background. On the counter you’ll find tins of smoked sardines ready to take out, and there’s also a wide assortment of modern Polish ceramics – teapots, coffee cups, egg cups and other tableware.

In addition to the pastries (and tinned sardines), you can pick up bags of ten or twenty frozen pierogies to go. The shop is located about five minutes from Shibasaki Station on the Keio line. …continue reading


Monz Cafe: Monzennakacho


Listed on all the gourmet-coffee maps of Tokyo, Monz Cafe is located along the shopping street leading up to Fukagawa Fudo, a local temple that attracts its share of tourists. The cafe is equipped with a La Marzocco espresso machine, and coffee beans are from the nearby Allpress roastery.

Seating in the cafe is adequate but not exactly luxurious – the best seats are out in front of the shop, or you can get your coffee to go. Most beverages are priced at Y400-500, and they also serve several dessert variations and panini sandwiches, at least until they run out. Cash only. …continue reading


Outstanding Chicken Ramen in Sangenjaya: Garyu


For ramen in Sangejaya, Menya Garyu is first-rate. Their additive-free chicken ramen is as clean tasting as it is scrumptious.

Cozy 8 Seater

First-Rate Chicken Ramen

Garyu specializes in tori paitan (rich and often thick chicken ramen). But their rendition of this style is lighter and more delicate.

Chicken Ramen: ¥800

The broth is still packed with wonderful chicken flavor, owing partially to the use of game fowl. It’s clean tasting and has slight hints of shio and fish between sips.

Broiled Pork Slices

If you upgrade your bowl, you can get 3 lovely slices of broiled pork chashu slices (the ramen to order is the “Aburi Chashu Men”). These slices have a uniquely gamey taste – perhaps in line with the game fowl in the broth.

Chicken Ramen with Broiled Pork Slices: ¥1,050

Chicken Miso Tsukemen, Ramen

They also have miso ramen and tsukemen variations. The miso tsukemen is all about sweet raiyu chili oil. It almost looks and tastes like hinabe, or Chinese hot pot.

There’s a zesty peppery flavor alongside an oily sweetness. Sesame seeds decoratively float about in the broth too. In short, the tsukemen is a solid bowl. But the chicken ramen is undoubtedly the star attraction.

I love how Ganryu feels – the interior and exterior. It brings me back to my childhood. This coupled with a modernly flavorful chicken ramen makes for a wonderful ramen experience.

<img src="×683.jpg" alt="" srcset="×683.jpg 1024w, …continue reading