Category Archives: Food

Japan Trip — Day 7

Friday, 22 December, 2017

Final day!

My sister wanted to take us to her favourite cafe for breakfast, but they didn’t have any sandwiches available because the bread didn’t get delivered (!!), so we went to another place.

For lunch, my sister took us to a Korean BBQ place near her work.

Tendan is a highly popular place that does not take bookings. So you have to turn up and hope for the best. We had to wait half an hour for a table and then when one was available were told that we had one hour to eat. Okay, boss.

Unlimited rice, salads, soup and stew. I could have filled up on this alone. The star of the show, however, is the grill in the middle. Each person got her own plate of meat which she grills until perfection.

My sister, the wonderful and gracious hostess with the mostest.

 

After lunch, it was time to head back to my sister’s place, get our bags and go to the airport. My sister got us a cab to Mita station and from there it was a direct line to Narita airport.

Some stations have this sign.

Other stations have this sign!

 

Not all of Japan is high buildings. Some fields along the way to the airport.

 

It’s been a short but activity-filled trip.

Many thanks to Rachel for hosting us and suggesting places to visit! Looking forward to doing it again!

 

Japan Trip — Days 1 and 2

Japan Trip — Day 3

Japan Trip — Day 4

Japan Trip — Day 5

Japan Trip — Day 6

Japan Trip — Day 7

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Japan Trip — Day 6

Thursday, 21 December, 2017

Mt Fuji Tour

Took the train to Shinjuku station and walked to the Keio Plaza Hotel for the meeting point. The directions said it was either a one-minute walk from the Shinjuku station or a five-minute walk from another station.

After yesterday’s experience of missing out on the miniature railway museum, I decided we better set out early so as to make it on time. Meeting time was 7.50am (for a 8am departure) and we made it to the place at 7.45am.

Susannah and I got seats right at the back of the bus.

Our tour guide was a lady called Yasue Ito. (I learned that “yasui” means “cheap” in Japanese and that she is “not pleased with that mispronunciation.”)

We saw snow on the way up.

Mount Fuji

 

Oshino Hakkai

A village with eight ponds, traditional houses, waterwheels, souvenir shops and restaurants. It is a tourist venue and many tourists were there taking photos. I’m not sure I would be happy living there with so many tourists poking around every day.

 

Shiraito Falls

Fujisan Hongu Sengen Taisha Shrine

Prayers written on wooden tablets and hung up here by visitors to the shrine. Visitors from other countries have put their prayers here.

 

 

 

At every stop, Yasue told us how long we had and impressed upon us the importance of being punctual. “If you are not back within ten minutes, we will assume you are finding your own way back to Tokyo,” she said at the beginning of the tour. I’m happy to report that we were all mindful of the time and no one was left behind.

Made it back to Tokyo Shinjuku station by 6.30pm and looked for something to eat.

Set Dinner with Tonkatsu (Breaded Pork Fillet) for me.

Set Dinner with Chicken for Susannah

 

Train back to Hiro-o and the uphill walk back to my sister’s place.

 

Japan Trip — Days 1 and 2

Japan Trip — Day 3

Japan Trip — Day 4

Japan Trip — Day 5

Japan Trip — Day 6

Japan Trip — Day 7

 

Japan Trip — Day 5

Wednesday, 20 December, 2017

Yokohama

Cup Noodles Museum

My sister insisted that we visit the Cup Noodles Museum in Yokohama.

Wait.

There’s a museum for cup noodles? Yes. Yes, there is.

Some history:

 

 

There was also a display of all the different instant noodles from around the world.

Guests had the opportunity to make their own cup noodles.

Decorate the cup before taking it to the factory where you choose what soup flavour and (up to four) ingredients you want.

The cup is then vacuumed sealed, which makes it permissible to take in to other countries that have strict laws about such things, like Australia.

The International Food Court on the 4th Floor is definitely worth a visit! The set-up is like an Asian night market with street food stalls. We were there for lunch and it definitely looked like night time.

Lagman from Kazakhstan

Laksa from Malaysia

Lanzhou Beef Ramen from China

Cold Ramen from Korea

Spaghetti from Italy

Mi Goreng (Fried Noodles) from Indonesia

Pho from Vietnam

Tom Yum Goong from Thailand

Ramen from Japan

At Y500 a bowl of noodles plus drink (with free refills), this was a good deal. Each bowl is only half-size because they want to encourage visitors to try more than one dish.

Susannah had the Beef Ramen from China…

…and I had the Tom Yum Goong from Thailand. Spicy and yummy!

Cosmo World

Not too far from the Cup Noodles Museum is an amusement park. Entry is free and you pay to go on the rides.

We decided to go on the Cosmo Clock 21, a giant ferris wheel. It takes 15 minutes to do one revolution and is a wonderful way to get a great view of Yokohama. You can also play a recording in the carriage (available in both English and Japanese) that gives information about the sights below.

The ferris wheel is slow and gentle and not a thrill-seeker ride.

Some of the other rides at Cosmo World

Chinatown

Although we could have taken a train (or something) to Chinatown, we decided to walk the 1.6km there.

Yokohama Chinatown is the largest Chinatown in Asia.

 

Lots of places selling food, especially dumplings, but we didn’t buy any.

We knew we couldn’t see everything, so after looking through the Yokohama Tourist Guide Map, we thought it might be cool to check out the Hara Model Railway Museum.  On the train back to the Yokohama station from Chinatown, we realised that the last entry into the museum is at 4.30pm for a 5pm closing time. It was going to be tight but we were hopeful in making it.

By the time we got back to Yokohama station, it was 4.25pm. Unfortunately, we couldn’t figure out which exit to take — it is a HUGE station — and by the time we got out of the station, we still couldn’t get our bearings.  We started walking in the right direction only to discover the museum was on the other side of the REALLY BIG HIGHWAY with no clear way of how to cross it!!

We missed the 4.30pm deadline.

Oh well.

Conclusion: Estimated walking time mentioned in maps and stuff refers to the correct station exit and NOT from the platforms inside. If you are travelling from another place, you need to allow for time to get from the platform to the station exit. This may very well add another five minutes to your travelling time.

Back to Tokyo then.

Roppongi

Met my sister and her daughters at the Toho Cinema and we watched Murder on the Orient Express (2017).

The movie was in English with Japanese subtitles.

Japanese cinemas are clean and quiet (no noisy patrons). I especially like how steep the different rows are. Even a short person like me (I’m 150cm/5ft tall) won’t have her vision blocked at all by anyone sitting in front of her. Clear view of the screen!

Good movie. Some scenes were not in the book and were probably done to make the movie more big-screen-worthy, but overall quite faithful to the book. I enjoyed it and would recommend it.

Walked around Roppongi after the movie before heading home.

Went to a Family Mart and bought some rice with beef for dinner, and sandwiches and sushi for our breakfast tomorrow.

 

Japan Trip — Days 1 and 2

Japan Trip — Day 3

Japan Trip — Day 4

Japan Trip — Day 5

Japan Trip — Day 6

Japan Trip — Day 7

 

Japan Trip — Day 4

Tuesday, 19 December, 2017

Tokyo Disney Sea

Tokyo has two Disney parks: Tokyo Disneyland and Tokyo Disney Sea. The former is the first Disney theme park outside of the United States and is very much modeled after the one in Anaheim. Since, we went to the one in Anaheim last year, we decided to check out Disney Sea. (Unlike the parks in the US, tickets are sold separately in Tokyo.)

We aimed and succeeded in getting there by opening time, 8am. The plan was to stay until closing time, 10pm. Yeah, ‘cos we’re like that. Why go all the way there only to not stay the whole time?

My sister told us one of the MUST RIDES is the Toy Story Mania ride. So, after going through the gate, we made a beeline for the Fast Pass tickets for the Toy Story Mania ride. The line for the Fast Pass itself was really long and it was half an hour before we finally got our Fast Pass tickets! Our allocated time for the ride was 15:10-16:10!

Sorry, not a good pic.

A hamburger and fries from Cape Cod Cook-Off in America Waterfront. It’s what’s for breakfast.

 

 

 

 

Lunch: Rice with three types of curry — chicken, beef and prawn — and naan bread. Casbah Food Court in the Arabian Coast. Nice!

 

 

It was a Tuesday, not holidays yet, so the park was not very crowded. Yet, some things did involve a long wait.

A couple of rides weren’t operating — Raging Spirits and Scuttle’s Scooters — and there were some we gave a miss because we had done it in Anaheim. We also did not ride ones which were geared more for young children.

Susannah got a Fast Pass ticket for this ride at around 11am which was valid for 7-8pm! She went at around 6pm, stood in line like a peasant for 80 minutes, rode it, and then immediately went through the Fast Pass lane and rode it again. I declined to ride this because roller coasters and I don’t get along.

We wanted to try some Japanese food for dinner, but by the time we got to the one we wanted, they were already closed for the night!

So, we lined up for an hour for the gondolas, our last ride for the day.

By the time we got back to our home station, it was late and many places were closing. When all else fails, there’s always McDonalds, so that’s what we did. Pathetic, I know.

(Note: McDonalds in Japan does not sell Quarter Pounders. It was discontinued in April 2017. The closest thing is the Double Cheeseburger.)

10.45pm order at a place that was going to close its doors at 11pm. Asked for a Eat In and promised we would eat quickly. At 11pm, we gathered up our still uneaten french fries and bolted out of there.

Japan Trip — Days 1 and 2

Japan Trip — Day 3

Japan Trip — Day 4

Japan Trip — Day 5

Japan Trip — Day 6

Japan Trip — Day 7

Japan Trip — Day 3

Monday, 18 December, 2017

Shibuya

After breakfast, Susannah and I walked around the local streets. The area is very hilly with many small lanes. Public transport is extremely accessible and one does not need a car to get around. Unlike Melbourne. Then again, Tokyo is several centuries older and several million more populous than Melbourne. There are more people living in Greater Tokyo (37 million) than there are in the whole of Australia (24 million).

My sister took us to Ginza to do a bit of clothes shopping. I am not a shopper by nature, and ended up only buying a turtleneck top. I found the prices comparable to those in Melbourne.

Lunch was shabu shabu, a kind of individual hotpot.

Ice skating was next! I last ice skated 35 years ago and Susannah had never ice skated. She took to it quite easily and I wasn’t too bad either. Didn’t fall once. And no, I wasn’t holding on to the rail!

A store we passed on the way to the ice skating rink. My sister told me there was a store I would love. She knows me well. The store has a website. The owners seem confused about the placement of the apostrophe on the website.

 

Some Engrish for you.

Had a quick snack at McDonalds — McDonalds is everywhere, too — and then Susannah and I braved our way on our own to Shibuya to see the famous crossing and Hachiko, the faithful dog.

When we arrived at the station and came out, we saw an intersection and wondered whether it was the intersection. After all, this is Tokyo and there could be a bigger one. We decided it was the one because there were lots of people standing around with their phones and cameras filming people crossing.

The crossing is crazy huge. When the Green Man came on, all the pedestrians crossed whichever way they wanted. Right, left, up, down, diagonally. Each cycle lasted about three minutes, and each time, the crossing was just as busy.

 

 

 

We walked around the streets of Shibuya, up and down little lanes, while trying to keep our bearings in check. The Shibuya Mark City is near the station, so we tried to keep that in view.

While walking down one of the little lanes, we came across a little noodle shop with cute plastic models of the dishes sold.

With prices ranging from Y300 to Y770, this was definitely something that caught our eye. The instructions on how to order were in English as well as Japanese, so that was also helpful:

  1. Choose the number from vending machine.
  2. Pay appropriate amount. Can pay with Suica (the public transport card).
  3. Take ticket to counter.
  4. Tell the person whether you want Udon or Soba noodles, and whether you want it Hot or Cold.

Easy!

We kept this place in mind while walking around more. Other places had more expensive fare, average price was at least Y1000 per person. So, we found our way back to this place and went in.

No. 33 for Y430. Udon noodles with chicken strips, seaweed, spinach, and broth. Served hot. Not bad.

No. 36 for Y470. Soba noodles with pork, seaweed, veggies, egg and broth. Served hot. Not bad either.

Y900 for the both of us is an extremely good price. Even my sister was surprised when we told her.

Japan Trip — Days 1 and 2

Japan Trip — Day 3

Japan Trip — Day 4

Japan Trip — Day 5

Japan Trip — Day 6

Japan Trip — Day 7

Japan Trip — Days 1 and 2

As some of you may know, my older daughter went to China for a three-week intensive Intermediate Chinese program in Shanghai.

After the initial bout of homesickness, she managed to find her way around, make some friends, and gorge on noodles and dumplings. She also found time to go to Shanghai Disney resort. Twice.

My sister, who lives in Tokyo, invited my daughter to go visit her before heading back to Melbourne. I decided to join her there. Just me. The rest of the family stayed in Melbourne.

First of all, my sister lives close to Haneda airport and there are NO direct flights from Melbourne to Haneda; all the flights involve a stopover of several hours. Taking that into consideration, I decided it was better to fly to Narita and take a bus/train/anything but a taxi to my sister’s place.

The flight from Melbourne to Narita takes a little over ten hours. While it is the start of summer here Down Under, it is almost winter in Japan. It gets dark by 5pm and it is cold. Not freezing cold, but still cold especially when the wind blows. BRR!

Susannah flew from Shanghai and arrived in Haneda at around 4.45pm. I arrived in Narita around 5.20pm. By the time I got through immigration and customs — I nearly went through without collecting my luggage!! — found an ATM and withdrew money, bought a Suica card, and found the airport limousine counter, it was 6.40pm. The next available bus was 7.30pm. Had I been more efficient, I could have caught the 6.30pm bus. Oh well!

The view while waiting for my airport limousine bus. It may have been cold and dark, but the atmosphere was busy and pleasant. Friendly staff approached me to ask when my bus was due.

Meanwhile, my ever-capable daughter took the monorail from Haneda Airport to Hamamatsucho station, changed to the subway at Daimon station and got off at Azabu Juban station. Not bad for a first-timer, eh?

Looks confusing, but is VERY well organised and maintained.

The ride from Narita Airport to the hotel where my sister was going to meet me took an hour and a half. Better than waiting around for six hours at a stopover airport.

Sister and Daughter met me at the hotel and we went for a late dinner (it was nearly 10pm by this time!). Then taxi back to my sister’s place.

Day 2 – Sunday, 17 December 2017

Walked my niece to her ballet school. It is a small one-studio school and her class only has two students. After dropping her off, we went to a Family Mart — there is a Family Mart on every block in Tokyo! — to have breakfast.

Onigiri with bits of seaweed and a cup of coffee.

Polished that off and went back for a steamed pork bun.

Tokyo Tower

Picked up my niece from her ballet class and went to visit Tokyo Tower.

View from under the Tower.

Some views from higher up:

 

Tokyo has lots…

…and lots…

…and lots of buildings!

 

A look down the tower.

New Tomorrow Cafe

Then, we went to New Tomorrow Cafe where we met up with my brother-in-law’s cousin and her family and had lunch together.

Entree/Appetizer/Starter/First Course

Main: Roast chicken with spaghetti bolognese

Dessert

 

Western cuisine, obviously, and very yummy! Highly recommended!

Susannah rushed off after lunch to meet up with an Australian church friend who is living in Tokyo working among university students. We walked her to the bus stop and my sister told her where to get off and what connection to take to her meeting point. (When I was 19 and still living at home, I would not have been able to take public transport to an unknown place — even with clear directions — if my life depended on it! But, it’s a new generation, new technology, and my daughter is pretty savvy and has more common sense than her mother.)

My sister and I took her two young daughters to a playground. The younger girl met a former school mate and his dad who were kicking a football back and forth. She joined in and for the next hour or so really showed her ball-handling skills. That girl is good!

Stopped by at a supermarket to buy ingredients for a cheesecake because my sister wanted me to show her how to make one. While we were making the cheesecake, we were expecting Susannah to call us to let us know she was back at the local subway station, when, lo and behold, she walked in the front door! How did she manage to find the house? Why, after she got off the train, she walked to a store that had free wi-fi, logged onto Google Maps, typed in the address, locked it in, and followed the directions, of course! Duh! I now know I don’t have to worry about her getting lost ever again.

Japan Trip — Days 1 and 2

Japan Trip — Day 3

Japan Trip — Day 4

Japan Trip — Day 5

Japan Trip — Day 6

Japan Trip — Day 7

 

Mango Cheesecake

Regular readers of my blog should know by now that my family loves cheesecake (link to other cheesecake recipes on my blog), that I like trying new recipes — experimenting and tweaking — and that I am cheap. ALDI brand for me and extra points if the ingredients are on Special.

It’s almost summer here and that means more fruits available at the stores. I saw mangoes at a great price, so I grabbed two. Just two.

It’s also birthday season at the Yewnique Farm and my older daughter saw the mangoes and asked what my plans were for those golden pieces of tropical deliciousness. I told her I wasn’t sure yet. Later, while talking with my younger daughter, I wondered if a Mango Cheesecake might be a good idea for older daughter’s birthday. Younger daughter affirmed, “That’s what she told me she wanted!”

In case anyone is wondering, yes, we do eat fruits as they are. They don’t always get turned into cakes.

So, the hunt was on for a mango cheesecake recipe — or, recipes — and the wherewithal to be creative and make it mine.

Read the rest of this entry

Japanese Strawberry Shortcake

The warmer months are upon us here in Melbourne, and with that, lots and lots of strawberries. My daughter put cream on the shopping list (“I thought of making ice cream.”) so I started having visions of Strawberry Shortcake. Wouldn’t you?

I absolutely love the internet because of the accessibility of information. Recipes galore, just by typing in keywords! And, unlike a conventional cookbook, these recipes have ratings and reviews. It’s great!

After looking at several recipes, I found a couple which looked great and easy to follow. Simplicity of instructions ranks high on my priority list when looking at recipes.

The following recipe is inspired by:

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Pandan Cheesecake with Pandan Kaya Topping

I’ve made cakes with pandan (screwpine leaves) flavour several times now.

I think I have finally found a way of making a Pandan Cheesecake with a topping that the whole family likes!

There are three parts to this cheesecake: the base, the cake, the topping. It is a relatively easy recipe, but it does take time, and there are some ‘exotic’ ingredients which some readers might find challenging to obtain. An Asian grocery store (or well-stocked cosmopolitan supermarket) should have these ingredients. (Then again, I may be spoiled and don’t know how good I have it!)

Base

  • a packet of sweet biscuits (like Marie), crushed to yield 2 cups
  • 2/3 cup of melted butter
  • 1 tsp (or so) of cocoa powder (optional)

Note: Most recipes I’ve looked at call for 1 cup of crushed biscuits and 1/3 cup of melted butter. To me, the base ends up too thin and sometimes rather crumbly and does not hold well. I decided to double the amount here — 2 cups crushed biscuits, 2/3 cup melted butter — and I am extremely satisfied with the result. Your mileage may vary.

Method:

Combine crushed biscuits and melted butter until well combined. Press firmly into base of a 22cm (9-in) spring form pan. Chill until firm.

Filling

  • 2 Tbsp. gelatine, dissolved in 1/3 cup water (sprinkle gelatine over cold water, stir to combine, and then microwave on high for 45 seconds)
  • 2 x 250g packet cream cheese, softened at room temperature
  • 1 x 400ml can sweetened condensed milk
  • 1/2 cup coconut milk
  • 4-5 drops of pandan paste
  • 4-5 drops of pandan essence

 

Method:

Beat cream cheese with electric mixer until smooth.

Add sweetened condensed milk, coconut milk, pandan paste, and pandan essence and beat again until smooth.

Add gelatine mixture and beat again until smooth.

Pour into crumb base. Return to refrigerator and chill until firm. This will take several hours.

Topping:

I got the recipe for the kaya topping from this blog. That recipe is for a pandan kaya layer cake. I just looked at the kaya part for the topping. I tweaked the pandan juice part and the coconut milk part because I lazy (yes, I meant to write it that way). I used pandan paste and *gasp* canned coconut milk! Hey, it worked, okay?

  • 300 g water
  • 1/2 tsp white agar-agar powder
  • 40 g sugar
  • 25 g unsalted butter
  • 40 ml pandan juice (4-5 drops of pandan paste into 40 ml of water)
  • 1/8 tsp salt

Place all the above into a big enough saucepan and let sit for at least 30 minutes. That’s right. Just let it sit. Don’t stir, don’t beat, don’t heat. Just let it be.

  • 120 g coconut milk
  • 35 g white hun kwee powder

In a big enough bowl, combine the coconut milk and white hun kwee powder until well combined. Refrigerate until ready to use.

Hun Kwee Powder

Hun Kwee Powder

Hun Kwee powder, sometimes spelled Hoen Kwe  or Hun Kwe, is mung bean flour (starch). This might be the most challenging to obtain. I had to visit three different Asian grocery stores before I found this. (I have purchased this before, so I knew which particular store had it, but I thought I’d try my luck at a couple of others before making the trip there.)

According to a forum, you can use corn flour/starch in place of hun kwee powder. I have not tried this, so I can’t tell you how successful it will be.

  • 5 drops pandan paste
  • 1 big drop yellow food colour

 

Method:

Place saucepan over low heat and stir agar-agar mixture till agar-agar powder dissolves. (Mixture is now very hot but not boiling.)

Turn off heat. Add coconut milk mixture. Stir thoroughly. Add 5 drops pandan paste and 1 big drop egg yellow food colour. Stir thoroughly.

Turn on heat to medium-low. Cook and stir agar-agar mixture till thick enough to coat sides of pot thinly. Turn off heat. Stir till residual heat dissipates. (Mixture should now be thick enough to coat sides of pot thickly but thin enough to flow smoothly.)

Pour over cheesecake and chill until firm.

************************************

Without all the la-di-da:

Base

  • a packet of sweet biscuits (like Marie), crushed to yield 2 cups
  • 2/3 cup of melted butter
  • 1 tsp (or so) of cocoa powder (optional)

Filling

  • 2 Tbsp. gelatine, dissolved in 1/3 cup water (sprinkle gelatine over cold water, stir to combine, and then microwave on high for 45 seconds)
  • 2 x 250g packet cream cheese, softened at room temperature
  • 1 x 400ml can sweetened condensed milk
  • 1/2 cup coconut milk
  • 4-5 drops of pandan paste
  • 4-5 drops of pandan essence

Topping:

Part 1:

  • 300 g water
  • 1/2 tsp white agar-agar powder
  • 40 g sugar
  • 25 g unsalted butter
  • 40 ml pandan juice (4-5 drops of pandan paste into 40 ml of water)
  • 1/8 tsp salt

Part 2:

  • 120 g coconut milk
  • 35 g white hun kwee powder

Part 3:

  • 5 drops pandan paste
  • 1 big drop yellow food colour

Method:

Base

  1. Combine crushed biscuits and melted butter until well combined. Press firmly into base of a 22cm (9-in) spring form pan. Chill until firm.

Filling

  1. Beat cream cheese with electric mixer until smooth.
  2. Add sweetened condensed milk, coconut milk, pandan paste, and pandan essence and beat again until smooth.
  3. Add gelatine mixture and beat again until smooth.
  4. Pour into crumb base. Return to refrigerator and chill until firm. This will take several hours.

Topping

  1. Place Part 1 into a saucepan and leave for at least 30 minutes.
  2. Combine ingredients in Part 2 and refrigerate until ready to use.
  3. Place saucepan over low heat and stir agar-agar mixture till agar-agar powder dissolves. (Mixture is now very hot but not boiling.)
  4. Turn off heat. Add coconut milk mixture. Stir thoroughly. Add Part 3. Stir thoroughly.
  5. Turn on heat to medium-low. Cook and stir agar-agar mixture till thick enough to coat sides of pot thinly. Turn off heat. Stir till residual heat dissipates. (Mixture should now be thick enough to coat sides of pot thickly but thin enough to flow smoothly.)
  6. Pour over cheesecake and chill until firm.

*******************************

Enjoy!

 

 

 

Birthday Time Again

There are six people in our family and three of them have birthdays within 38 days (inclusive) of each other.

Today is our youngest’s birthday, which also happens to be my younger sister’s birthday. My daughter’s due date was October 31 and I fully expected her to be born a few days before that because all her siblings were born before their due dates. October would have been a good month, too, because then we would all each have our own birth month.

Older daughter was due 3rd December but made her appearance, with some urgency, on the 30th of November. Had she been born on her due date, she would have shared a birth month with her father. When younger daughter missed her due date, and continued to ‘bake’ for another six days, I was beginning to wonder if we had somehow miscalculated her Estimated Time of Arrival. Nope, not only did she want to share a birth month with her older sister, she had to share a birthday with my sister.

Read the rest of this entry

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