What have you been doing lately? (Part 2)

Aaa~nd we’re back! I’m wholly determined to get back into this blog. At least… I’m determined for as long as the fancy to write is instilled within me. I’m the kind of person who will drop things for years at a time before picking them back up again. A prime example: A quilt I started back around 2012. I still have it. In a Ziploc bag. Ready to be stitched together. I even brought it to Japan with me thinking I’d have all the free time in the world to finish it!

Mmhm.

…sure.

I focus when it interests me. How self-centered is that?

Whatever. #mood

Friends of a Feather

When I came to Japan, the very first piece of advice everyone around me told me was to make friends as soon as possible. “Find at least ONE PERSON who shares something in common with you. You’ll feel a lot more at ease here.” Sports groups, knitting circles, art get-togethers, park walkers… anything. Many of you will agree, yes?

BUT!

True to my character, I refused. I shunned the idea and thought, “Pfft, why do I need to go find people? They should come to me!” I mean, that’s what my family was always going on about whenever I’d have a falling out with love. Shouldn’t it work the same way with friends? God, what a pompous noodle butt I was… am?

Mr. Yearly the Groundskeeper

At one of my elementary schools, I had the pleasure of becoming acquainted with the groundskeeper. Let’s call him Mr. Yearly. An easy-going man, he was a comfort to me in my new environment when I was first put into that school. We became friendly and I was surprised when he asked me if I had any plans for the New Year.

“Well… no. Not exactly,” I told him. “Why?”

“Oh, I thought maybe you’d like to come over for dinner with me and my wife. By the way, what Japanese food do you like?”

“Um… I guess traditional foods? I really like nikku jyaga.” Truly, I was at a loss for ideas. I don’t do well when people come to me all of a sudden with questions that have too many possible answers.

Fast-forward a few months and I was back again at his house to enjoy some okonomiyaki. It’s a popular enough dish, even outside of Japan, but if you’re unfamiliar with it, all you need to know is that it’s to die for. Side note: I had the opportunity to try true Hiroshima-style okonomiyaki one year for Christmas. I might just have to go back!

His wife was graciously eager to help me out with some unit origami that I was attempting in order to settle my anxiety. But at that moment, I was about ready to scrap the whole project and throw it out the window. Who knew working with something so delicate could be so frustrating!

Oh. Speaking of delicate somethings.

Mrs. Yearly is an exceptionally skilled egg carver. Until now, I had only seen a single documentary about it. That’s where I learned that the dust from an eggshell is toxic. In truth, despite the risks that arts present to their makers, they are a look into the human experience. In the end, Mrs. Yearly was kind enough to remove some of her creations from their cabinet so I could take some photos.

Can you believe that she did all of these herself?!

The rest of that afternoon was spent watching a segment on TV about a teenage correctional program out of Oklahoma, of all things.

I’m starting to see more and more as I take ginger steps out of my uptight bubble that time with friends and loved ones is so incredibly important.

Blueberries for Days

Another outing I’ve had recently involved some down time at a local blueberry farm. Now, if this ain’t a first world problem, I don’t know what is. I was under the impression that blueberries came from bushes. Squat, dense, leafy things! Not these 6-foot-plus trees crowded into a hot greenhouse. No, certainly not.

My image of what a blueberry bu- no — tree — has effectively been shattered.

Anyway, I went with a coworker and her two children. It was funny because the youngest was so in love with them while the oldest didn’t want to have anything to do with them. She pulled a couple of sly ones on me — a few of the blueberries she gave me in an attempt to share were bitter!

We concluded our day with homemade blueberry ice cream (made by yours truly — I’ll share the recipe, along with some others, another time), a simple beef broth soup, and sandwiches. I’m embarrassed to say that the excitement of it all had me passed out on the floor, snoozing.

A Weekend Diary: Dilly-dallying Depression and Fried Food

This weekend was interesting in that I tasted the rainbow when it came to emotions… and I didn’t even have to eat any Skittles!

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Usually, I’m preparing and giving an English lesson on Saturdays except that this time, my student e-mailed me to explain that her daughter was placed in in-home quarantine. If you’re thinking Gasp! It’s the coronavirus! you’d be right… but also wrong. The daughter is completely fine, but because of the insane amount of paranoia running rampant in this country… cue the eye roll.

I was antsy, energetic and desperately wanted to get out of the apartment on Saturday. So, I did something weird: I donned some earrings, my denim jacket, and boogied on to the mall that’s FOREVER AWAY but whatever.

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Once I got there, a sense of apathy rolled over me. The lights were on but no one was home. When I saw the puppies in the pet shop though, I perked up a smidge. Every one loves them a puppy.

Over the course of a few hours, I leveled up my life experience by cruising the whole length of the mall, eating some good tonkatsu (sorry, no photo), and gorging myself on some bomb donuts from Mr. Donuts (Dunkin’ Donuts for the rest of you). Unfortunately, I think being out and exposed overstimulated my system and I arrived home with a splitting headache.

Sunday, too, had me in bed with a headache, but for a different reason. I won’t go into it here; however, tears were shed on two different occasions. Depression man… Just when I think I’ve got it under control and have achieved some kind of stability, it comes RIGHT ON BACK. Seriously, I wasn’t expecting it. As I tried to work through it, I suddenly had a craving for some 唐揚げ (からあげ, karaage).

Not a little craving. A BIG craving.

Coming home the night before, I had seen a place that looked newly open. It was hoppin’, too. Well, needless to say, I hunted it down on Google Maps. It’s a place dedicated to fried chicken goodness, からやま (Karayama). It hails from my favorite area in Tokyo, Asakusa, and I wasn’t disappointed by what I ordered.

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The meal included 4 pcs. of lemon-sized chicken, oh-so crispy and juicy! Rice and miso soup was there too. A larger order of rice could be handed to me for free, but I ain’t into rice that much. The sauces that came with it were a kind of sesame seed something, and some spicy-sweet oil. In the last well, I blooped out some mayonnaise. (Never thought it would be good? You should give it a shot. I mean, ya’ll be dipping your Tostino’s pizza rolls in ranch! …wait. Maybe that’s a me-only thing?). The french fries weren’t part of the package. I ordered them separately.

The grand total for all of that? About $10. And I left completely stuffed and sated. I’ll definitely be back. I got a ¥100 coupon to use!

Cold, Cold, Aa-choo!

We’ve all been there. I was there earlier this month. Whenever sudden symptoms crop up, we rush to the internet and research them. 99.9% of the time, it tells us we have some rare form of cancer when in actuality, it’s a cold. Next, we look up “easy ways to get over a cold” or “quick cold remedies.” I get a rhino in the room every year it seems, so I think I’ve got my routine down pat, but what about you?

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We all know that someone somewhere has got some whacky home cure to give you. You’re also probably feeling just bad enough that you’re willing to try it. In my case, I’ve gargled apple cider vinegar, drank a rancid lime and garlic tea, and have even taken shots of honey and lemon juice with a dash of pepper.

Crazy, right? But what does Japan have to offer?

First, the internet said (pages linked are in Japanese):

Probiotic foods
Found on Google that was linked to this page on probiotic health.

(Source #1): Dr. Mako

 

        • Go to bed early and get a good night’s sleep
        • Do a sinus rinse
        • Drink an herbal tea
        • Try some Chinese medicine
        • Gargle salt water
        • Don’t go nuts with OTC drugs
        • Suck on some throat drops
        • Take care of your gut with probiotics
          • For example, yogurt, kimchi, miso, etc. (A.K.A fermented foods)

(Source #2): Meiji Food Co.

        • Get some good rest
          • If you snore or can’t breathe, use a breathing strip so your sleep isn’t interrupted
        • Relax and quiet your body
        • Eat nutritious foods (high in vitamins, minerals, and protein)
          • Specifically easy to eat foods, like yogurt, fruit slices, and Jello, if your throat is hurting
          • Suggested Meal #1: Hot pot
              • Recommended because the nutrients from the vegetables and meat bleed into the broth. Eating hot pot ensures you’re getting all of it and not just some of it
          • Suggested Meal #2: Miso (instant or otherwise)
              • Recommended because it’s chalk-full of amino acids, vitamins, and minerals
          • Suggested Meal #3: Rice porridge
              • Recommended because it’s easy to swallow and is hot, helping you get some water (especially if you’ve got a fever)
        • Drink water along with a sports drink to get electrolytes

I went around and asked some of my friends and acquaintances, seeing if they could provide any novel advice. Here’s what they said:

  1. Drink sports drinks
  2. Sleep… a lot
  3. Drink Kakkonto*
  4. Drink Yunker**
  5. Gargle with green tea***
  6. Soak a long time in a hot bath
  7. Drink water
  8. Encourage sweating through hot foods like spicy curry with lots of garlic
  9. Drink warm milk and honey
  10. Eat vegetable soup with grated daikon root drizzled with ponzu

Basically… it’s all common sense.

As for my personal methods, I pound back black tea with lemon and honey, use my NetiPot religiously, gargle salt water whenever my throat starts feeling thick and sore, swallow way too much cold medicine, and take A LOT of hot baths. A phone call to the family telling them how miserable I am always seems to help, too.

What do you do when you get sick? Bye for now.

 

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*Kakkonto contains the following: (1) puerira root – improves antioxidant function, among other things, (2) ephedra herb – treats membrane inflammation, (3) jujube – packed with minerals and vitamins, it is used to relax the body, (4) cinnamon bark – a Chinese medicinal serve-all, (5) peony root – another medicinal favorite, this helps with inflammation and spasms, (6) glycyrrhiza (aka licorice) – acts as a biological adhesive helping other medicinal components get through the body more efficiently… plus it adds flavor for an unpalatable medicine!

**This English website provides drop-down boxes explaining what the herbs they use do. It’s very convenient.

***Rumor has it is that this is something only people in Shizuoka may do.

School Lunch, Ep. 7

I’m a week behind in getting the school lunches to you, the adoring public. This post will be abbreviated and not detail my reactions and opinions. It’s not like you need them anyway, lol.

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April 15, 2019

  • たけのこご飯 (takenoko gohan, rice with bamboo root and peas)
  • さばじゃがメンチコロッケ (saba jyaga menchi korokke, ground and fried mackerel patty)
  • さやえんどうの和え物 (sayaendo no aemono, vegetables with bonito flakes)
  • 玉ねぎのみそ汁 (tamanegi no miso shiru, onion miso soup)

 

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April 16, 2019

  • ご飯 (gohan, rice)
  • 白身魚の甘辛だれ (shiromi zakana no amakara dare, white fish with sweet and sour sauce)
  • 大豆とひじきの炒め煮 (daizu to hijiki no itameni, white beans stir fried with seaweed)
  • 若竹汁 (waka take shiru, young bamboo miso soup)

 

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April 17, 2019

  • 食パン (shoku pan, sliced bread)
  • イチゴジャム (ichigo jamu, strawberry jelly)
  • タンドリーチキン (tandorii chikin, tandori chicken)
  • ポテトサラダ (poteto sarada, potato salad)
  • 野菜スープ (yasai suupu, vegetable soup)

 

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April 18, 2019

  • ご飯 (gohan, rice)
  • サーモンフライ (saamon furai, fried salmon)
  • たけのことあらめの煮物 (takenoko to arame no nimono, simmered bamboo with vegetables)
  • かきたま汁 (kakitama shiru, egg flour soup)

 

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April 19, 2019

  • うどん (udon, udon noodles)
  • 山菜汁 (sansan shiru, mountain vegetable soup)
  • 揚げ出し豆腐の野菜あんかけ (agedashi tofu no yasai ankake, fried tofu with vegetable sauce)
  • さくら蒸しパン (sakura mushi pan, steamed bread with sweet potatoes inside)

 

**If you haven’t read the previous episodes on school lunch, please be sure to check out Episode 1 and work your way forward!** See you next time!

goodbye

School Lunch, Ep. 8

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April 22, 2019

  • ご飯 (gohan, rice)
  • ポークカレー (pohku kare, pork curry)
  • 大豆のコロッケ (daizu no korokke, bean corquette)
  • 青じそサラダ (aojiso sarada, vegetable salad with Japanese basil dressing)

 

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April 23, 2019

  • ご飯 (gohan, rice)
  • きびなごのごまフライ(kibinago no goma furai, fried herring)
  • たけのことあらめの煮物 (takenoko to arameno nimono, simmered bamboo with vegetables)
  • かきたま汁 (kakitama shiru, egg flower soup)
  • あまなつ (amanatsu, Japanese grapefruit)

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April 24, 2019

  • 丸パン (maru pan, bread roll)
  • 鶏肉のトマト煮 (toribiku no tomatoni, simmered chicken with tomato sauce)
  • コールスローサラダ (kohrusuroh sarada, coleslaw salad)
  • かぼちゃのミルクスープ (kabocha no miruku suupu, creamy kabocha soup)

 

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April 25, 2019 (Elementary School Day, no menu information)

  • ご飯 (gohan, rice)
  • ししゃも揚げ (shishamo age, fried smelt)
  • 親子丼 (oyakodon, chicken and eggs simmered together with potatoes)
  • きゅうり (kyuuri, pickled cucumbers)
  • みそ汁 (miso shiru, miso soup)

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April 26, 2019

  • さけちらし (sakechirashi, rice mixed with salmon and edamame)
  • 鶏肉のお茶揚げ (toriniku no ocha age, green tea battered fried chicken)
  • すまし汁 (sumashi shiru, a traditional clear-brothed soup)
  • お茶プリン (ocha purin, green tea flavored pudding)
  • Fun fact: There was so much rice left over from the teachers’ table that I took it upon myself to make rice balls and stash them in the office fridge. I hope they got eaten.

**If you haven’t read the previous episodes on school lunch, please be sure to check out Episode 1 and work your way forward!** See you next time!

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School Lunch, Ep. 6

Hello, again! It’s me with your school lunch update. You’ll have to excuse my tardiness. On Fridays, I want to ignore everything I’m meant to be doing. Unfortunately, that means remaining in a stale state, staring dumbly off into the distance.

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Thursday’s Lunch

It’s Monday again and I need to shake off the funk. I present to you Thursday’s and Friday’s lunches! Let’s kickstart today’s entry with Thursday. That day, I was at one of my elementary schools and was once again, greeted with sekihan (see here). Can you guess at the other items on my tray?

Fried Fish
It’s fried fish. What more can I say about it? Can one even cook it poorly? I suppose, if I recollect hard enough, I have overcooked fish before. But that’s for another time and is an incident I hope to never repeat.

Anyway, the fish is always nice and tender in the school lunches. This time around, there were no bones to unpleasantly poke my gums, either. Ashley Rating: 7/10shake it off

Clear Vegetable Soup
The joys of not having the menu in front of me means I get to come up with some Original Titles and Names for these foods. Is “clear vegetable soup” catching on yet? No? Well, maybe some day.

 

This soup had seaweed (wakame), carrots, enoki mushrooms, fish cakes, and… a kind of green. I think it’s 小松菜 (komatsuna), Japanese mustard greens. The broth must have been fish-based as well. If I ignore the fact that my lunch was cold by the time students were done dishing themselves up, it was quite good. Ashley Rating: 7/10

Cherry Blossom Goodness
This dessert is among my favorites that appear in kyushoku. It’s a very simple affair, really. Frozen, cut up strawberries mixed into a strawberry Jell-O and topped with a precious dollop of whipped cream. You can guarantee I hoard that cream until the last possible moment so it’s the only flavor lingering on my tongue. Need I mention that, among the students, the Rock-Scissors-Paper competition is fierce when there are some cups left over? Ashley Rating: 9/10

Overall rating: 7.8/10

Thank you for sticking with me up to this point! Are you ready for Friday’s lunch?

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Friday’s Lunch

That soup looks rather unpleasant, doesn’t it? I wasn’t too offput because it had pork in it and my Southern upbringing can’t refuse anything pig-related. This time, I DO have the menu description with me.

  • 小松菜ご飯 (komatsuna gohan, rice mixed with mustard greens and carrot)
  • 花形和風ハンバーグ (hana-gatachi wah-fuu hanbaagu, flower-shaped Japanese-style hamburger)
  • キャベツのみそ汁 (kyabetsu miso shiru, miso soup with cabbage and pork)
  • 桜ぜリー (sakura zehrii, cherry blossom Jell-O)

Rice with Mustard Greens and Carrot
I enjoy mixed-up rice. Takes the boredom with plain rice away. I also feel the rice becomes a little bit healthier for me when there’s goodies in it. Ashley Rating: 7/10

america
OK, so Stephen isn’t holding a hamburger, but a hot dog is close enough.

Japanese-style Hamburger
Japanese-styled anything American-related is fun for me. I still crave the 100% beefy wonderland that is one of the symbols of the US, but Japan does try. This hamburger patty, though filled with nourishment, was not one of my favorites flavor-wise. I wonder if the recipe changed?

Anyway, you can put money down that it had tofu in it. Ground chicken, bean flour, onion, carrots, and ginger were also mixed in. Ashley Rating: 6/10

Going off on a tangent here, but there is a young celebrity named Mr. Shachihoko (Maeda Teruyoshi) whose wife, Miharu, fiercely enjoys cooking on a budget. I kid you not when this woman made a whole appetizer, entree, and side menu deal with daikon as the main ingredient. It’s kind of insane when you make something mimic something else. Did I mention she’s 23 years older than him? That still blows my mind, but love is love, right? Moving on.

Cabbage-pork Miso
The disturbing color is from the miso that was used. Don’t let it upset you too much. The taste was pretty basic, albeit a little sweet. The sweetness was surely from the cabbage. With the pork thrown in, it was rather hearty. For me personally, I prefer something palette-ly refreshing to wash out the starch of the rice and the thickness of the burger. Overall, it wasn’t my favorite miso to date. Ashley Rating: 6/10

Cherry Blossom Jell-O
Please don’t confuse this with the Cherry Blossom Goodness. This had no whipped cream, but was truer to the flavor. All this was was cherry blossom-flavored Jell-O with small bits of cherry in it. It was a light and revitalizing way to finish off the lunch. Ashley Rating: 8/10

Overall rating: 8.3/10

Please be sure to catch up on the latest School Lunch episodes by cruising Cuisine of the Middle Class. and either searching for “school lunch” or looking at Most Recent on the right.

See you next time!

goodbye

School Lunch, Ep. 5

Good afternoon, everyone! We’re finally getting a bit of those April showers here in Japan. The downside to that is that it’s chilly. Soon we’ll be wishing it back when summer beats down on us.blerf

Anyway, I hope your lunch hour went well. What did you eat? I remember eating fried chicken and potato salad the majority of the time when I was working my previous job. Remembering that grease fest makes my stomach churn.

The meal I ate today was relatively vegetarian friendly. Let’s take a closer look!

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Today’s lunch:

  • White bread
  • Tofu nuggets (mashed tofu mixed with various vegetables)
  • Pickled cabbage
  • Minestrone soup
  • Banana

White Bread
I have yet to see anything but white bread step up to the lunch plate. Sometimes, we’ll get rolls with raisins or chunks of apple inside, but that’s about as classy as a student lunch gets. Since I’ve been trying to eat healthily for the past month (or thereabouts), I really wasn’t looking forward to choking the processed wheat down. Ashley Rating: 5/10

Tofu Nuggets
It’s certainly not unusual to see tofu-based products be served. In fact, I really enjoy the tofu hamburger my school makes. The combo today was carrots, ground chicken, hijiki (a kind of black seaweed), and leek. They were dipped in an egg-flour wash to be fried up and topped with ketchup. Ashley Rating: 7/10

Pickled Cabbage
Pickles are pickles. I briefly researched pickling methods in Japan and one of the favorite ways to do it via salt, but today’s menu says only sugar was used. My belief system is sketchy. (You can learn more about the common Japanese pickles here.) While some might appreciate the sour crunch, I couldn’t handle the squeak on my teeth. Ashley Rating: 6/10

Minestrone Soup
I’m an amateur soup eater. If I’m hungry, just about anything will taste good. Compared to most professional soups, the school’s soup is very plain. The flavor that greeted my tongue was lackluster and basic. Perhaps the bacon was its only redeeming factor. Ashley Rating: 7/10

Have you read the latest episode? Be sure to follow me or check back every day for a new lunch! See you next time and happy eating!

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School Lunch, Ep. 4

Before we get started, have you read my other entries on school lunch? Please be sure to catch up by reading Episodes One, Two, and Three.

And awa~y we go~!

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School lunch is back! And bo~y am I grateful. Just because a new school year starts doesn’t mean school lunches are immediately in effect. When they do kick into gear, the first lunch of the year is typically a kind of Good Luck fiesta. All of the best dishes come into play.

And, just between you and I, I don’t like being responsible for bringing my lunch to school. ¥281 (about $3.00) for a full meal is very convincing and, not to mention, cheap!

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Today’s lunch was:

  • Sekihan (赤飯, sweet red sticky rice with adzuki beans)
  • Teriyaki chicken
  • Isobe-ae (磯辺和え, pickled vegetables with roasted seaweed)
  • Sumashi jiru (すまし汁, a clear broth soup)
  • Strawberry stick cake

Sekihan
Red sticky rice is a fun upgrade from the every day white sticky rice. I’m still trying to figure out if it’s even healthy to eat. To bring out the sweetness, salt and black sesame seeds are added. Hefty, textured, complemented the soup nicely. Ashley Rating: 8/10

Teriyaki Chicken
I wish I could say that I have yet to meet anyone who doesn’t like teriyaki chicken, bu~t you should never count your chickens before they hatch. I watched a boy sitting next to me at the lunch table struggle to eat his. He’s not the first I’ve seen to shy away from The Original White Meat. Ashley Rating: 8/10

Isobe-ae
Either these vegetables were cooked in vinegar water or they weren’t pickled for very long. Any vegetables can be used, but today’s lunch included lotus root, cabbage, and carrots. I honestly felt today’s salad was more of a boiled vegetable medley more than anything. Ashley Rating: 5/10

Sumashi-jiru
For me personally, clear broth soups are a pain for me to achieve. I’m sure there’s a trick that only being raised in Japan can give you. The soup itself is normally very deep tasting and takes on the ingredients’ personalities. Today’s was very earthy as it used mushrooms and onions. Unfortunately, mine tasted… interesting. There was a lingering something that remained on my tongue. Ashley Rating: 6/10

Strawberry Stick Cake
The texture was good — nice and spongy. My only complaint is that it was too sweet. Because I don’t think it has appeared in school lunch up to this point, for now, I’m not a fan. Ashley Rating: 4/10

What kind of things did you look forward to when you ate school lunch? Did you even eat school lunch or did you bring your mom’s homemade goodness? In my case, it was my dad’s slap-it-together fun boxes. I’ll have to introduce you to the PBB&J sandwich.

Thank you for reading and stay tuned for the next update!

If you’d like to stay more on top of what’s going on, please follow me on Instagram @ashleyinjapan and on Facebook Page Ashley in Japan: From Sin City

goodbye

Osechi: Cooking for Good Luck

Good afternoon! I was just about to post these pictures on Instagram but thought I’d better talk about them here first. While there are plenty of websites that explain what osechi (お節料理) is, this entry will detail my firsthand experience cooking authentic Japanese foods. Here we go!

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This is what $80 at the supermarket looks like. It’s unusual for me to spend this much in one trip, but when it’s the holiday season, you’re just about obligated to. Do you recognize some of the foods you see? All of these ingredients went into making osechi, or “good luck” cooking.

Osechi is a traditional form of Japanese celebration for the new year. Each dish represents something related to prosperity, riches, good health, and longevity. What’s even better is that they are not meant to be refrigerated. Compare that to an American holiday feast where you are bombarded with casserole dishes, giant hunks of meat, and pies once that door opens.

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Here’s a list of what I made. Granted, they were the easiest of what my research coughed up. Disclaimer: you are not bound by osechi rules, therefore only making osechi items. You’re welcome to throw in the foods you like the best like fried chicken, rice cakes, desserts, vegetable salads, etc.

  • 海老の旨煮 (ebi no umani, simmered shrimp)
  • お雑煮 (ozoni, simmered medley soup)
  • きんぴらごぼう (kinpira gobo, burdock and carrot salad)
  • 酢蓮 (subasu, pickled lotus root)
  • 栗きんとん (kurikinton, mashed sweet potato with chestnuts)
  • 筑前煮 (chikuseni, simmered chicken with vegetables)
  • 伊達巻 (datemaki, rolled egg)
  • 茶碗蒸し (chawanmushi, steamed egg with vegetables)

Of course, I did make some mistakes. My Japanese ability is little to none most days and trying to read a full-on Japanese recipe is difficult without taking the time to sit down and translate. And no, while Google Translate is useful sometimes, it does not do a thorough enough job.

Mistake #1: The shrimp
They didn’t come out tasting like the sweet soy sauce I cooked them in. Why? I checked the recipe while eating and saw the words “Ziploc bag” and “refrigerator.” I concluded that these bad boys were supposed to be marinating after being cooked. Whoops!

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Mistake #2: Ozoni
So, I don’t know if this is a rule or something that goes by everyone’s’ tastes, but I needed to grill the rice cake before pouring the hot soup over it. Also, is rice cake supposed get grainy?

Mistake 3: Chikuseni
My girlfriend wanted to eat ramen along with everything else (or later in the night… I’m not sure which) and so, I didn’t have the chicken that was required. Ground chicken balls worked just as well. Wait… does that count as a mistake?

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Mistake #4: Datemaki
This… is why it’s useful to have some idea of what you’re making instead of depending on the sidelined photos to cook by. A normal egg roll is merely a thin layer of scrambled eggs, rolled within another layer. Datemaki is a single layer that has been whipped and bubbled up before pouring it into the frying pan. It was a lot trickier than I was led to believe.

Off camera, I attempted a castella cake. What is castella cake? Ask the Portuguese. That’s where Japan got it from. I ended up scraping one batch and trying again but still… made a disaster. The particular recipe I was following necessitated a frying pan and instead of making a very fluffy cake, I made this rather flat and sad-looking pancake. I thought I could hide it by burying it under a bunch of sliced strawberries and green tea flavored whipped cream.

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All in all, this experience taught me how crucial details are to the Japanese people; how painstakingly they put something together to appeal to all the senses. I’m glad osechi only happens once a year.

Happy New Year, everyone!

School Lunch, Ep. 2

Good afternoon, everyone. I hope your day is going well. I’m making use of this blog today in order to fight the after-lunch sleep crunch. As an ALT, I do not participate in student-teacher-parent conferences and… that’s what’s going on this week before Winter Break starts. My afternoons are totally and utterly free.

Here is a lunch I ate last week.

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It consists of fried fish, rice, and miso soup. But this day was a bit special due to the presence of a Japanese dessert and Goody Rice (no, Goody Rice is not a thing. It’s just my thing).

  • Japanese dessert: くずまんじゅう(kuzumanju); kuzu is a kind of plant that gives its roots to be dried and powered. When water is added, it creates a starch and then is used to surround a filling; in this case, matcha paste. It was a little too… プニプニ (poo-nee poo-nee, squishy) for my taste and I’m not a fan of matcha even though I can tolerate drinking green tea. Ashley Rating: 6/10.
  • Goody Rice: 揚げ豆腐 (agedoufu) and corn; this is usually a relatively plain tasting Goody Rice but is decent where nutrients are involved. Ashley Rating: 6/10.
  • Main dish: fried fish; I think cornstarch is the main boss in the batter. It wasn’t heavy like flour is. I can’t recall if there was seasoning or not. But c’mon, it’s fried fish. Fried anything is delicious! Ashley Rating: 8/10.
  • Miso soup: 豚汁 (tonjiru); miso soup with vegetables, pork, and tofu. A typical tonjiru contains burdock root, carrots, and daikon. When made well, it’s my favorite thing to eat in the winter. Ashley Rating: 9/10