Monday, June 1, 2015

Kusa Mochi Azuki Monaka Ice Cream Sandwich

Monaka is a popular Japanese sweet (和菓子 wagashi) traditionally "made of azuki bean filling sandwiched between two thin crisp wafers made from sticky-rice." 
(Source: TORAYA, "Types of Wagashi")

The azuki paste can also be replaced with ice cream for a delicious Japanese-style ice cream sandwich. Monaka are one of my favourite types of ice cream treats because they are relatively clean to eat and easy to split for sharing (important since my husband and I usually share food).

The standard ice cream monaka has a plain wafer and vanilla ice cream. There are many different brands, but my personal favourite is Lotte's "Monaou." The name combines the words monaka (モナカ) and ou (=king) and means "Monaka King."
Monaou Monaka Ice Cream モナ王
 Monaou Monaka Ice Cream モナ王
 Monaou Monaka Ice Cream モナ王

Recently, however, I discovered a Kusa Mochi Azuki Monaka--intriguing as it combined two traditional Japanese sweets (kusa mochi and monaka) with an ice cream twist.
Kusa Mochi Azuki Monaka Ice Cream 草もち風あずきモナカ
(Mochi is a type of "rice cake" made by pounding sticky rice until it reaches a chewy, dough-like texture. Kusa mochi (草もち literally: "grass/weed mochi") is mochi made with yomogi (Japanese mugwort) which gives the mochi a distinctive green colour and slightly grassy flavour.)
Opening the package I was surprised to see the smooth texture of the wafers; it made it look much more like a traditional (non-ice-cream) monaka.
Kusa Mochi Azuki Monaka Ice Cream 草もち風あずきモナカ
Kusa Mochi Azuki Monaka Ice Cream
regular (non-ice-cream) monaka
Biting into the monaka, rather than the slightly grass-like taste of kusa mochi, I was surprised by a faint taste of cinnamon. The exact taste is hard to describe, but I really liked it and would definitely recommend it--in fact I went out and bought another two bars shortly after first trying it.

Sunday, May 17, 2015

Nameko's Adventures in Shichinohe

After enjoying cherry blossom viewing in Hirosaki and Towada, Nameko decided to check out the Tennou Azalea Festival (天王つつじまつり) at the Tennou Jinja (Shrine) in Shichinohe on May 3rd.

Of course no trip to Shichinohe would be complete without a visit to Namiki Gelato, so Nameko started off his adventures in Shichinohe with a black sesame and houji-cha double cone!
Namiki Gelato Shichinohe ナミキ・ジェラート 七戸町
Namiki Gelato Black Sesame & Houji-cha Double Cone Shichinohe ナミキ・ジェラート 黒ごま ほうじ茶 ダブルコーン 七戸町
Since it was a nice day, Nameko went outside to enjoy his gelato. After finishing his cone, he admired some of the many cow statues and tractors on display outside, as well as the lovely field of canola flowers. Some people were even taking (free) tractor rides through the fields.
 Namiki Gelato Cow Statue Shichinohe ナミキジェラート 牛の像 七戸町
Namiki Gelato Tractor Shichinohe ナミキジェラート トラクター 七戸町
Namiki Gelato Tractor Ride Shichinohe ナミキジェラート トラクター乗車体験 七戸町Namiki Gelato Canola Flower Field ナミキジェラート 菜の花畑
 Namiki Gelato Canola Flower Field ナミキジェラート 菜の花畑
 After Namiki, it was onto the main event, the Tennou Azalea Festival!
Shichinohe Tennou Jinja (Shrine) Azalea Festival 七戸町天王神社つつじまつり
 Shichinohe Tennou Jinja (Shrine) Azalea Festival 七戸町天王神社つつじまつり
 Shichinohe Tennou Jinja (Shrine) Azalea Festival 七戸町天王神社つつじまつり
 Shichinohe Tennou Jinja (Shrine) Azalea Festival 七戸町天王神社つつじまつり
 Shichinohe Tennou Jinja (Shrine) Azalea Festival 七戸町天王神社つつじまつり
 Shichinohe Tennou Jinja (Shrine) Azalea Festival 七戸町天王神社つつじまつり
 Shichinohe Tennou Jinja (Shrine) Azalea Festival 七戸町天王神社つつじまつり
 Shichinohe Tennou Jinja (Shrine) Azalea Festival 七戸町天王神社つつじまつり
 Shichinohe Tennou Jinja (Shrine) Azalea Festival 七戸町天王神社つつじまつり
 Shichinohe Tennou Jinja (Shrine) Azalea Festival 七戸町天王神社つつじまつり
 Shichinohe Tennou Jinja (Shrine) Azalea Festival 七戸町天王神社つつじまつり
Shichinohe Tennou Jinja (Shrine) Azalea Festival 七戸町天王神社つつじまつり
 Shichinohe Tennou Jinja (Shrine) Azalea Festival 七戸町天王神社つつじまつり
 
 Shichinohe Tennou Jinja (Shrine) Azalea Festival 七戸町天王神社つつじまつり
 Shichinohe Tennou Jinja (Shrine) Azalea Festival 七戸町天王神社つつじまつり
 Shichinohe Tennou Jinja (Shrine) Azalea Festival 七戸町天王神社つつじまつり
 Shichinohe Tennou Jinja (Shrine) Azalea Festival 七戸町天王神社つつじまつり

Shichinohe Tennou Jinja (Shrine) Azalea Festival 七戸町天王神社つつじまつり
Nameko thoroughly enjoyed his day out in Shichinohe!

Links:
Namiki Gelato (Japanese): http://www.namiki-gelato.com

Friday, May 15, 2015

NOT Cool Japan

This is an article that caught my eye when I happened to look over my husband's shoulder as he was reading the local newspaper, TooNippo (東奥日報) on May 5th, 2015.

It's about American Republican Party Presidential candidates, Dr. Ben Carson and Carly Fiorina.
What caught my eye, though, was not the content of the article, but the title, which basically starts with (reading from right to left): "WOMAN Ms. Fiorino, BLACK PERSON Mr. Carson"
Seriously?!

I am by no means a zealot for political correctness, but I feel like the presentation of the article essentially reduced Ms. Fiorino and Mr. Carson to just the most basic of their physical characteristics.

NOT cool, Japan, not cool.

Sunday, May 3, 2015

Nameko's Gudetama x Dohtonbori Cooking Adventures

On Tuesday, April 28, 2015 Nameko went to Dohtonbori, an okonomiyaki* chain restaurant because he heard that it currently has a special Gudetama collaboration campaign going on that allows you to make a dish with a "real" Gudetama. (As mentioned in an earlier post, Gudetama is one of Sanrio's newer characters, a lazy egg!)
Gudetama x Dohtonbori Collaboration Campaign 十和田市 ぐでたまx道頓堀コラブキャンペイン
 Gudetama x Dohtonbori Collaboration Campaign 十和田市 ぐでたまx道頓堀コラブキャンペイン

But before diving into Nameko's adventures, some information about the Gudetama x Dohtonbori Collaboration Campaign!

There are 4 different sets to choose from:
Gudetama x Dohtonbori Collaboration Campaign Menu 十和田市 ぐでたまx道頓堀コラブキャンペインメニュー
A) Gudetama Tororo Pack Okonomiyaki
    ぐでたまのとろろパックお好み焼き, Gudetama grated nagaimo pack okonomiyaki

B)Gudetama no Scramble Egg Ofuton-nose Monjayaki
     ぐでたまのスクランブルエッグお布団のせもんじゃ焼き, Gudetama scrambled egg monjayaki with a blanket (bacon!) on top

C) Gudetama no Shigarami ga Ooi Kamatama-fuu Yaki-Udon
    ぐでたまのしがらみが多い釜玉風焼きうどん, Gudetama All-Tangled Up Kamatama**-Style Grilled Udon

D) Gudetama no Gyuu-Suji Gohan
    ぐでたまの牛スジごはん, Gudetama Beef Tendon Rice

(Food Terminology
*okonomiyaki = a kind of Japanese pancake/pizza made with a special batter, cabbage, egg, and a variety of different toppings; you often grill it yourself on a hot plate, although some places may make it for you; the name literally means "grilled as you like"
 **kamatama = kamatama udon is a type of udon where a raw egg is added to the hot, cooked udon)
 
Each set is 1200yen (1296yen with tax) and comes with a free Gudetama mini towel (3 different designs; selection is blind and random) and choice of one of: soft drink drink bar; medium-sized stein of beer; or vanilla ice cream. Purchase 2 sets to get a free original Dohtonbori x Gudetama tote bag!
Gudetama x Dohtonbori Collaboration Campaign Explanation 十和田市 ぐでたまx道頓堀コラブキャンペイン説明

The campaign is on from April 14-June 14, 2015. More details can be found at the Dohtonbori campaign website (Japanese only) here: http://www.dohtonbori.co.jp/gudetama/

And now onto Nameko's adventures!

Since Nameko had to get the tote bag (he's a sucker for advertising and campaigns like this), he ordered two sets, Set A (okonomiyaki) and C (Udon).
Gudetama x Dohtonbori Collaboration Campaign Goods 十和田市 ぐでたまx道頓堀コラブキャンペインプレゼント
He was a little disappointed that both towels turned out to have the same design, but he was consoled by the fact that he got two of his favourite of the three designs. (Always looking on the bright side, is Nameko!)
Gudetama x Dohtonbori Collaboration Campaign Mini Towels 十和田市 ぐでたまx道頓堀コラブキャンペインミニタオル
The okonomiyaki came soon after the towels and tote bag. 
Gudetama x Dohtonbori Collaboration Campaign Okonomiyaki 十和田市 ぐでたまx道頓堀コラブキャンペインお好み焼き
First he greased up the cooking surface and started cooking the mochi.
Gudetama x Dohtonbori Collaboration Campaign Okonomiyaki 十和田市 ぐでたまx道頓堀コラブキャンペインお好み焼き
With the mochi cooking on the grill, he mixed up all of the ingredients in the big white bowl well and then poured it on top of the mochi, making it into a roughly plate-sized circle.
Gudetama x Dohtonbori Collaboration Campaign Okonomiyaki 十和田市 ぐでたまx道頓堀コラブキャンペインお好み焼きGudetama x Dohtonbori Collaboration Campaign Okonomiyaki 十和田市 ぐでたまx道頓堀コラブキャンペインお好み焼き
 Gudetama x Dohtonbori Collaboration Campaign Okonomiyaki 十和田市 ぐでたまx道頓堀コラブキャンペインお好み焼き
He then let it cook for five minutes before flipping (the store conveniently even provides a timer).
Gudetama x Dohtonbori Collaboration Campaign Okonomiyaki 十和田市 ぐでたまx道頓堀コラブキャンペインお好み焼き
Gudetama x Dohtonbori Collaboration Campaign Okonomiyaki 十和田市 ぐでたまx道頓堀コラブキャンペインお好み焼き
After another five minutes, he flipped it again and let it cook for a final five minutes (15min total cooking time). Once it was done cooking, he transferred it to a plate and applied a generous amount of sauce to one side. (If left on the grill, the okonomiyaki would be too hot and the egg might cook, or the sticker used for Gudetama's face might melt.)
Gudetama x Dohtonbori Collaboration Campaign Okonomiyaki 十和田市 ぐでたまx道頓堀コラブキャンペインお好み焼き
  Gudetama x Dohtonbori Collaboration Campaign Okonomiyaki 十和田市 ぐでたまx道頓堀コラブキャンペインお好み焼き
After the sauce, he poured the tororo (nagaimo yam paste) onto the okonomiyaki, leaving/making a space for the egg to be added on.
Gudetama x Dohtonbori Collaboration Campaign Okonomiyaki 十和田市 ぐでたまx道頓堀コラブキャンペインお好み焼き
He sprinkled on some nori seaweed flakes.
Gudetama x Dohtonbori Collaboration Campaign Okonomiyaki 十和田市 ぐでたまx道頓堀コラブキャンペインお好み焼き
Using the provided spoon, he scooped just the egg yolk from the bowl and gently placed it in the center of the tororo.
Gudetama x Dohtonbori Collaboration Campaign Okonomiyaki 十和田市 ぐでたまx道頓堀コラブキャンペインお好み焼き
Finally, he placed the Gudetama face edible sticker onto the egg yolk to complete the dish!

Gudetama x Dohtonbori Collaboration Campaign Okonomiyaki 十和田市 ぐでたまx道頓堀コラブキャンペインお好み焼き
Gudetama x Dohtonbori Collaboration Campaign Okonomiyaki 十和田市 ぐでたまx道頓堀コラブキャンペインお好み焼き
(Word of caution! Make sure to keep the sticker well away from the grill as it is very delicate and weak against heat. There is a white tab that you are supposed to use to remove the sticker from the backing, but it tore off (probably because the sticker was left a bit too close to the grill) and it was quite difficult to peel the sticker off of the backing without it!)

While the okonomiyaki was cooking, the udon also came, so instead of eating the okonomiyaki right away, Nameko decided to wait and cook the udon first.
Gudetama x Dohtonbori Collaboration Campaign Udon 十和田市 ぐでたまx道頓堀コラブキャンペイン焼きうどん
The udon was simpler and quicker to cook than the okonomiyaki. First he cooked the mentaiko (spicy cod roe) on the grill, using the spatulas to cut/break it up into small pieces.
Gudetama x Dohtonbori Collaboration Campaign Udon Spicy Cod Roe 十和田市 ぐでたまx道頓堀コラブキャンペイン焼きうどんの明太子
 Gudetama x Dohtonbori Collaboration Campaign Udon Spicy Cod Roe 十和田市 ぐでたまx道頓堀コラブキャンペイン焼きうどんの明太子
Once the mentaiko was heated through, he dumped the remaining contents of the big black bowl on top, add the water (in the silver kettle) and mentsuyu noodle sauce (in the little black pitcher), mixed it all up and let cook, stirring occasionally. (Nameko decided to add the water little by little, and added the mentsuyu last.)
Gudetama x Dohtonbori Collaboration Campaign Udon 十和田市 ぐでたまx道頓堀コラブキャンペイン焼きうどん
 Gudetama x Dohtonbori Collaboration Campaign Udon 十和田市 ぐでたまx道頓堀コラブキャンペイン焼きうどん
 Gudetama x Dohtonbori Collaboration Campaign Udon 十和田市 ぐでたまx道頓堀コラブキャンペイン焼きうどん
 Gudetama x Dohtonbori Collaboration Campaign Udon 十和田市 ぐでたまx道頓堀コラブキャンペイン焼きうどん
Gudetama x Dohtonbori Collaboration Campaign Udon 十和田市 ぐでたまx道頓堀コラブキャンペイン焼きうどん
 Gudetama x Dohtonbori Collaboration Campaign Udon 十和田市 ぐでたまx道頓堀コラブキャンペイン焼きうどん
(Here Nameko was wondering how long it would be until he could eat...)
Gudetama x Dohtonbori Collaboration Campaign Udon Okonomiyaki 十和田市 ぐでたまx道頓堀コラブキャンペイン焼きうどん お好み焼き
Once the udon was cooked, he transferred it all back into the big black bowl.
Gudetama x Dohtonbori Collaboration Campaign Udon 十和田市 ぐでたまx道頓堀コラブキャンペイン焼きうどん
 Gudetama x Dohtonbori Collaboration Campaign Udon 十和田市 ぐでたまx道頓堀コラブキャンペイン焼きうどん
Before adding the egg, he had to wait for the noodles to cool (so the egg wouldn't get cooked by the hot noodles), so he decided to dig into the okonomiyaki--and it was farewell Gudetama!
Gudetama x Dohtonbori Collaboration Campaign Okonomiyaki 十和田市 ぐでたまx道頓堀コラブキャンペインお好み焼き
 Gudetama x Dohtonbori Collaboration Campaign Okonomiyaki 十和田市 ぐでたまx道頓堀コラブキャンペインお好み焼き
 Gudetama x Dohtonbori Collaboration Campaign Okonomiyaki 十和田市 ぐでたまx道頓堀コラブキャンペインお好み焼き
It looked kind of messy, but was really delicious!

After eating the okonomiyaki, the noodles had cooled to add the yolk to the noodles. And of course Gudetama's face was added at the end.
Gudetama x Dohtonbori Collaboration Campaign Udon 十和田市 ぐでたまx道頓堀コラブキャンペイン焼きうどん
 Gudetama x Dohtonbori Collaboration Campaign Udon 十和田市 ぐでたまx道頓堀コラブキャンペイン焼きうどん
 Gudetama x Dohtonbori Collaboration Campaign Udon 十和田市 ぐでたまx道頓堀コラブキャンペイン焼きうどん
 Gudetama x Dohtonbori Collaboration Campaign Udon 十和田市 ぐでたまx道頓堀コラブキャンペイン焼きうどん
Sadly this Gudetama, unlike the okonomiyaki, lived a very short life and was mixed into the noodles pretty much right after the above photo was taken.
Gudetama x Dohtonbori Collaboration Campaign Udon 十和田市 ぐでたまx道頓堀コラブキャンペイン焼きうどん
Since it seemed like a waste to just throw the egg whites out, Nameko threw the egg whites onto the grill to make a fried egg white to add to the udon. Delicious!
Gudetama x Dohtonbori Collaboration Campaign Udon 十和田市 ぐでたまx道頓堀コラブキャンペイン焼きうどん
And that was the end of Gudetama...

But not the end of Nameko's cooking adventures! Amazingly enough, he was still hungry after the okonomiyaki and udon, so he decided to order another seasonal okonomiyaki: Midori no Gyuu-Suji Kabuki Dama (緑の牛スジ歌舞伎玉, literally, green beef tendon kabuki egg?!). (Cost: 950yen, 1026yen with tax.)
Dohtonbori Spring Kabuki Series Green Beef Tendon Egg Okonomiyaki 道頓堀十和田店 緑の牛スジ歌舞伎玉

It wasn't just the basil sauce that was green, either; the batter itself was green! The staff member who
brought the okonomiyaki kindly explained that the batter was green because it had matcha in it. Anyway, Nameko had it all mixed up and cooking on the grill in no time.
Dohtonbori Spring Kabuki Series Green Beef Tendon Egg Okonomiyaki 道頓堀十和田店 緑の牛スジ歌舞伎玉
 Dohtonbori Spring Kabuki Series Green Beef Tendon Egg Okonomiyaki 道頓堀十和田店 緑の牛スジ歌舞伎玉
Dohtonbori Spring Kabuki Series Green Beef Tendon Egg Okonomiyaki 道頓堀十和田店 緑の牛スジ歌舞伎玉
As with the Gudetama okonomiyaki, he let it cook for 5 minutes before flipping it.
Dohtonbori Spring Kabuki Series Green Beef Tendon Egg Okonomiyaki 道頓堀十和田店 緑の牛スジ歌舞伎玉
 Dohtonbori Spring Kabuki Series Green Beef Tendon Egg Okonomiyaki 道頓堀十和田店 緑の牛スジ歌舞伎玉
Let it cook for 5 minutes and then flipped it again.
Dohtonbori Spring Kabuki Series Green Beef Tendon Egg Okonomiyaki 道頓堀十和田店 緑の牛スジ歌舞伎玉
Dohtonbori Spring Kabuki Series Green Beef Tendon Egg Okonomiyaki 道頓堀十和田店 緑の牛スジ歌舞伎玉
 Then let it cook for a final five minutes before he added the sauce.
 Dohtonbori Spring Kabuki Series Green Beef Tendon Egg Okonomiyaki 道頓堀十和田店 緑の牛スジ歌舞伎玉
 Dohtonbori Spring Kabuki Series Green Beef Tendon Egg Okonomiyaki 道頓堀十和田店 緑の牛スジ歌舞伎玉
Dohtonbori Spring Kabuki Series Green Beef Tendon Egg Okonomiyaki 道頓堀十和田店 緑の牛スジ歌舞伎玉
Dohtonbori Spring Kabuki Series Green Beef Tendon Egg Okonomiyaki 道頓堀十和田店 緑の牛スジ歌舞伎玉
It was a bit overly salty, but otherwise delicious--both with and without mayonnaise (as recommended by a staff member).

But that wasn't the end of Nameko's gluttony! Since Nameko's owner had celebrated her birthday less than a week before, upon showing proof of her birth date, she was able to receive a free birthday dessert!
Towada Dohtonbori Birthday Dessert 道頓堀十和田店 誕生日サービスデザート
All in all a great cooking adventure for Nameko!