Posts Tagged ‘Japanese food’

Photo report: FOODEX Japan 2013

Wednesday, March 13th, 2013

FoodEx is the largest trade exhibition for food and drinks in Asia, with about 70,000 visitors checking out the products presented by hundreds of participating companies. I was lucky to enter as press; otherwise, visitors must be affiliated with the food industry — and pay ¥5,000 — to enter.

The FoodEx menu is global, including everything from  cherry beer from Germany and premium Mexican tequila to top-class French and Chinese dumplings. The event was a rare chance to try out both well-known and exotic foods and even see professionals making them.

In addition to booths offering traditional Japanese favorites such as udon and maguro sashimi, there were plenty of innovative twists, such as dorayaki, a sweet snack made of two pancakes and a red-bean filling, that came in coffee and tomato flavors.

While I was there I was lucky to catch the World Sushi Cup Japan 2013, where top chefs from around the world were competing … and presenting a wide range of styles that you would not normally see in Japan, like the flower makizushi above.

Can Japan swallow a salty yogurt boom?

Friday, August 17th, 2012

Fancy some salt yogurt soup, some fried pork marinated in salt yogurt, or perhaps some salt yogurt mayonnaise? Over the last month or so, a variety of cookbooks featuring salted yogurt as a main ingredient have come on to the market. Until now in Japan, yogurt has been seen as a healthy food to be eaten on its own or with fruit for breakfast, but now it seems publishers are trying to stir up a yogurt cooking craze to rival the salt koji boom that hit the culinary scene last year.

The white stuff: A mixture of yogurt and salt can be used in a wide range of dishes

Over the last month, according to Nikkei Trendy, following a micro-trend of recipes calling for strained yogurt as an ingredient, five cookbooks featuring salted yogurt have been published in Japan. One of these was “Let’s Get Started With Salt Yogurt” by Wakako Sato. Published by Bunshun publishing company, the recipes in the book were created by researching international yogurt-based recipes and adapting them for the Japanese palate.

But we think the recipes are also heavily influenced by salt koji recipes. The cover of Sato’s book exclaims that using salt yogurt is “even simpler than shio koji,” drawing the connection clearly. Salted yogurt is touted as being a great marinade for vegetables, meat or fish. Just like salt koji, marinating meat in salt yogurt is said to soften the flesh and bring out savory umami flavors. Once you’ve finished with your marinade, add some sake and put it on the boil to use as a base for a creamy soup.

Indeed, making salt yogurt is even easier than making your own koji: Simply add salt or miso to plain, unsweetened yogurt and off you go. To make marinades or soups, use the yogurt as it is, or, to make mayonnaise or cream cheese substitutes, place the yogurt in a coffee strainer and drain off the liquid. The cream cheese substitute is simply the strained yogurt cooled overnight in the fridge. Making mayonnaise involves adding olive oil, salt, pepper and a little lemon juice.

While unsweetened yogurt on its own is seen by the Japanese as a little bit like Marmite (you either love it or you hate it), the publishers of “Let’s Get Started With Salt Yogurt” reckon that even the haters might like yogurt if it’s used as an ingredient in Japanese-style dishes. The fact that alleged health benefits include helping to maintain a healthy digestive tract and giving a boost to the immune system might be just enough to sway those who might otherwise prefer to steer clear.

Pulsations (07.20.12)

Friday, July 20th, 2012

Here are the latest Pulsations, links to fresh stories and visuals about Japan, shout-outs to fellow bloggers, and highly clickable stuff that we think you might enjoy.

In no particular order, they are . . .

  • On Japan’s excessive use of cones  (from Shoot Tokyo): Tokyo based photo-blogger Dave Powell, otherwise known as Shoot Tokyo, takes us on a visual tour of a land where the cone is king. Be sure to take a look at some of Dave’s other entertaining posts with stunning photography from Japan and abroad.
  • Former yakuza busted in nationwide sting (from Tokyo Reporter): A story with all the makings of a mob classic, but this time it’s for real. Kenichiro Nakao, a former member of the Dojin-kai criminal organization, claims he had nothing to do with the fraudulent activity he’s been arrested for — big surprise there. The more you read, the more “former gangster” sounds like an oxymoron.
  • Homemade hayashi chuuka bento (from Being A Broad): Hiyashi chuuka is a healthy dish perfect for taking to school or the office. Here is a simple recipe with different combinations of meat and vegetables as well as detailed instructions on how to prepare it. Simple, delicious and inexpensive.
  • The life of director Ichikawa Kon (from Japan Navigator): Japanese culture blog Japan Navigator profiles the long life and career of film director Ichikawa Kon, active in the industry from 1936 until his death in 2008. Within his extensive filmography he is best known for “The Burmese Harp” (1956), “Alone in the Pacific” (1963), and “The Tokyo Olympiad” (1965). A must-read for fans of Japanese cinema.

Visual pulse:

J-vlogger Ciaela and her friends translated Adele’s hit “Someone Like You” into Japanese. The result is completely professional — and just as likely as the original to get stuck in your head.

Today’s J-blip: robot-made inari-zushi

Wednesday, June 13th, 2012

While the nation’s robots might not have been up to the task of nuclear-diaster reconnaissance, Japan’s androids are making strides in the kitchen. Suzumo Machinery Co., Ltd. has unveiled a robot capable of creating 2,500 inari-zushi rolls an hour. All the user (read: human) has to do is fill the rice hopper and place fried tofu rolls on a turntable. While we doubt anyone will be consuming that much inari-zushi any time soon, that type of efficiency is indeed impressive. Of course, this isn’t the first robot capable of dishing up Japanese food; in fact, robotics engineers seem to have a fair amount of pride in the national cuisine and program their creations to prepare all sorts of dishes,  from ramen and sushi to the potentially messy okonomiyaki. Yes, half the fun of this savory pancake is preparing it yourself, but watching a robot make it, and sing at the same time, is pretty cool, too.

 

Pulsations (04.27.12)

Friday, April 27th, 2012

Here are the latest Pulsations, links to fresh stories and visuals about Japan, shout-outs to fellow bloggers, and highly clickable stuff that we think you might enjoy.

In no particular order, they are  . . .

  • On Making Ice Cream Out of Plastic in Japan (from This Japanese Life): Japan is world-famous for its varied cuisine, and pictures just aren’t enough.  This Japanese Life goes through the history and production method of Japan’s fake plastic foods.
  • The end of the line (from The Adventures of a Foreign Salaryman in Tokyo): In an unexpected break, Mr. Salaryman finds himself in a park alongside a homeless guy and another salaryman, who is looking sad. From this, the author draws an extreme conclusion.
  • Turntable Rider lets bike riders be DJs (from Spoon & Tamago): You know the feeling — you’re riding through Yoyogi Park, doing kick flips on your BMX, but it’s just not enough street cred for you. Why not DJ at the same time? Leave it to the Japanese to make “being cool” more time efficient.
  • Japanese astrology and warrior robot condoms (from Japan Sugoi): Some people choose their partner based on his or her zodiac sign. Of course, if you go this far, you might as well go all the way and choose your birth control by zodiac sign, too.

Fresh nabe ideas bubbling up

Friday, January 20th, 2012

Konabe Shabu Shabu Dining Nabe Sennin, where customers get to create their own nabe

Cuisine featuring nabe, the traditional Japanese hot pot, has been at to the top of the dining trends in recent years. Curry nabe, tomato nabe, collagen nabe, pizza nabe . . . They’re all popular nabe trends that have bubbled up. Since we covered the topic in 2010, according to Nikkei Woman Online, nabe trends have stayed hot during the winter months, especially on the restaurant scene. Here are a couple of restaurants who are rewriting the rule book:

The use of Western ingredients like tomato sauce and cheese has been one of the most noticeable trends in nabe, so it comes as no surprize that Koshitsu Modern Dining in Tachikawa, Tokyo, has come up with a shabu shabu broth that contains red wine. The fish-based soup is designed to be used for cooking wagyu (Japanese beef) in. The red wine soup is served alongside a cheese fondue style dipping sauce, making this a distinctly Western-style dish.

The dish, which costs ¥1,800, is designed to be consumed with a glass of wine and the restaurant carries a decent selection of domestically produced wines. Adapting traditional Japanese dishes to make them a better match for wine has been in vogue for some time and we’ve seen restaurants such as Kappo Odajima craft their menus to create a culinary harmony between Japanese food and wine. It seems only natural then that nabe also get this treatment. Domestic wines, which tend to have more delicate flavours that blend well with Japanese cuisine, are also proving increasingly popular, so we think Koshitsu’s nabe dovetails well with both these trends.

Rather than try to come up with a totally new nabe variety, one restaurant is letting customers do it themselves. At Konabe Shabu Shabu Dining Nabe Sennin in Shibuya, Tokyo, diners begin by choosing from a variety of 15 basic nabe soups, then on to a basic dipping sauce such as sesame or ponzu to which they can mix in a range of 30 spices. In the final stage, they can select extra ingredients — veggies, meat or fish — for their nabe at a self-service counter. Popular nabe soups include: Cloudy Chicken Wing Collagen Nabe and Pork Kimchee Gochujang (spicy Korean sauce) Nabe. According to Nikkei Woman Online, this winter popular seasonings are Asian ginseng and ginger, both of which are purported to be good for boosting the immune system.

Part of the fun of nabe in a restaurant is  that you are the cook, preparing it on a portable stove at your table. Though staff are on hand to give advice if needed, we’re guessing that customers will only have themselves to blame if they cook up something really stomach-churning.

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