Tuesday, November 29, 2011

My crazy neighbour and her stinky, rotting daikon!

For the past 2 weeks or so, as I go down the stairs of our apartment building, I'm greeted by a foul smell.  My crazy neighbour (she is really crazy when she drinks...which is everyday) LOVES to make Japanese pickles. A lot of people like to make pickles but I think she is either obsessed and out of control or she sells them.....or perhaps both. She is constantly making pickles...she even uses the little house in the parking lot as a pickle making room.

But now she is preparing the daikon (Japanese radish) outside ....basically they smell like they are rotting and as it is unusually warm these days so  the smell is horrible!

Basically she is trying to make "takuan" ...pickled daikon.

When I first came to Japan, I basically couldn't eat any of the pickles...they take some getting used to. Now, I actually really like takuan (call me crazy but they are really good with pork chops!) but really...does she have to make them in the parking lot? 

If you are interested in more information about takuan and how to make it...click here.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

We went to the shrine on top of the train station/shopping mall!

This year, the newly renovated Hakata train station opened. In case you didn't know, Hakata station is the largest train station on Kyushu island.  It was always a busy place but now it is just crazy! 

Anyway, we went today to meet a friend whom I hadn't seen in 10 years!  It was great fun catching up and meeting his daughter and seeing his parents again. We had wonderful curry, chatted and laughed a lot. When they left, my husband and I decided to check out the station a bit more and I wanted to see the shrine that is on top of the building. So, first we tried to take an elevator...yeah...that was impossible. If you  have never been to Japan, let me tell you something....we had closets in our house that were bigger than some of the elevators in this country! You would think that in the department stores within the island's busiest train station that they would have made the elevators bigger ...nope!  So, we found an escalator and slowly made our way up to the 10th floor. Then we had to find the next escalator to the roof. Finally!  The roof has a little play area for kids including a little train that goes around. There is an area for dogs. From the highest point you can see the city and of course, there is the shrine along with little shops selling hot food and kids toys etc.  So here are the pictures!

Today was super cloudy and I didn't get a good picture of the outside of the building. So, this first picture is from the JR station's site.

My husband (with the yellow bag).

You should wash your hands before going to the shrine.

There is a great (but cloudy) view of the city.

Back in the mall-on the 9th and 10th floors are many restaurants and the decor is beautiful.

My husband really wanted to try a Krisy Kreme donut but that line is insane! Next time....maybe.

Then  he saw this and said "this is my dream" sadly there was no place to sit.

All in all we had a good time. Sadly, it was as hot and humid as JUNE!!!!  After we got home, it cooled right down! 

Friday, November 18, 2011

Daigaku Imo - Japanese University Sweet Potatoes

Tonight I tried some "daigaku imo" for the first time. They were DELICIOUS!!!  My student's mom not only made them fresh today but her family also grew the special potatoes for them. Apparently the potatoes they used are not so common and I was told that I can't buy them at most supermarkets.  Remi  (my student) was shocked that I had never tried them as I have lived  here for more than 13 years and they are a very common snack but honestly, they just never appealed to me. I'm not big on my mixing sweet tastes with ...not so sweet ones. I hate glazed carrots and that salad with mandarin orange slices and I just lumped this potato snack in with them.  When she brought them to school today I took one because she had come back to school 2 hours after her class finished- in the rain- just to bring them to me...how could I not try them?! Well...thank God I did...they were amazing!!!!  They were sweet and a bit salty and the sugar was caramelized and crunchy and I really had to stop myself from eating them all!

Here is the picture of what she brought me....the picture isn't very good because it is from my cell phone and it was at night. The 2nd picture will give you a better idea of what they look like.

These are called university (daigaku) sweet potatoes (imo) because they were originally a cheap snack sold to university students  during the Taisho (1912-1926) and Showa (1926-1989) period.  For more information and a great recipe (all of Maki's recipes are amazing) click here .

Remi said she might bring more next week...I'm keeping my fingers crossed! 

Friday, November 11, 2011

Pepsi Pink! Strawberry and milk flavored Pepsi!

I'm pretty sure this is only in Japan. Pink Pepsi. Yeah...I did a double take when I saw it at the supermarket but of course we picked it up to try it!

I have to say it isn't bad! It isn't Pepsi by any means (and that is ok in my books as I'm not a big cola lover). It isn't super super sweet and the taste really was  strawberry milk. I would buy it again.  My husband said it was just ok but I'm not sure he is a big fan of strawberry flavored anything. 

This is only available for a limited time-which I might point out is very annoying and very common in Japan. I have to say I hate it when I find something I really like and then after a few months it is never to be seen again!

Here is a picture of it!

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Gluten free, grain free and delicious...pizza!

Recently I blogged about this gluten free, grain free cheese bread . I mentioned in the blog post that I wanted to use the recipe to make pizza-I did and it is great! 

Here is how I made it.

1 cup tapioca starch
1/4 cup olive oil (or melted butter etc)
1 egg
1 cup shredded cheese

I mixed the starch, oil, egg and herbs first. Then I added the cheese. It will appear kind of dry so get your hands into the dough and really mix it well and it will form a moist ball of dough (if it is still too dry and won't form a ball, you can add a bit more oil). Then I rolled it out between parchment paper. You can roll it out as thick or thin as you like. I baked it at 220 degrees Celsius for 10 minutes.

While it was baking I cooked the pizza toppings. When the crust was ready I added the pizza sauce, mushrooms, green pepper, bacon and cheese. I put it back in the oven until the cheese melted.

This is very delicious. My husband is sooo  happy with it and he ate it all!

Here are some pictures. Sorry but I took them at night in my kitchen so they aren't the best but it will give you an idea. Oh and this made, I'm guessing as I haven't seen a North American sized pizza in a while, 1 medium sized pizza. So you can double the recipe if you want it to be bigger.

Here it is about to go in the oven.

 Here it after being baked for 10 minutes.

Here it is with all the toppings.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Butter is $9.5 USD a pound....if you can find it.

For the last 3 weeks I haven't been able to find butter at the supermarket. There is margarine (if you like liquid plastic-my personal opinion of the stuff) but no butter. This happened 3 years ago but this time, part of the problem is due to the earthquake/tsunami/nuclear disaster that happened back in March.  In March and April, 40,000 tons of raw milk was thrown out in Eastern Japan  due to the disaster.  And then the summer was really hot and apparently the cows didn't produce enough milk.  Now, in the big scheme of things a butter shortage isn't a big thing but ....I love butter. I bake with butter. I miss butter! 

As a Canadian it is painful to pay $9.5 for a pound (500 grams) of butter but I'm totally willing to do it....I just can't find it. Some of my students  laughed but I told them...imagine there was a soy sauce shortage. They stopped laughing. That is what it feels like to me. And before you start thinking...crazy Canadian and her butter, Japanese consume 80,000 tons of butter per year. They love butter, too!

Oh and for more shocking dairy prices.... shredded cheese is about $5 for 8 oz (1/2 pound or 230 grams). For a 30 gram or 1 ounce piece of cheddar cheese it is $3 and no, I don't buy my cheddar cheese at the supermarket. Thankfully there is costco and companies that shop for you from costco so I can get a 2 pound block (about 1 kg) for $13.

Thank God for costco. As I'm typing this, I'm waiting for a delivery of cheese and 4 pounds of butter. I figure I better stock up in case I can't even buy it at costco!


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