Category Archives: Food

I LOVE JAPAN ❤ 日本の今を伝えたい!- Yokohama –

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Today, I want to talk about my city of residence: Yokohama.

Why? Because I feel like it’s sometimes overshadowed by its neighboring city, Tokyo, despite its many offerings in terms of cultural sites and modern shopping districts.
Although Tokyo is the most popular city by far with foreign tourists, Yokohama remains an alluring attraction for domestic travelers.

I’ll start with the most central area of the city, Minatomirai.
Minatomirai is the central shopping district in Yokohama, and overlooks the iconic Ferris wheel.
From the station exits (either Minatomirai Station on Minatomirai Line or Sakuragicho Station on JR Negishi Line), there are a number of well-known tourist attractions within fairly short walking distance.

Yamashita-koen is a park that stretches along the waterfront by the port and leads to Osanbashi pier, the place of embarkation for luxury cruise ships such as Queen Elizabeth 2.
It’s a structure that manages to blend the old shipbuilding tradition of wooden planks and a sleek, modern design.
It’s a popular spot for romantic walks for couples and on clear days, you can see Mt. Fuji from the pier.

Close to Yamashita-koen is the historical Red Brick Warehouse building.
Having served as a storage facility during the wartime, it’s now a busy shopping & dining area.
There’s a shop that specializes in curry-filled buns, and I usually stop by for one if I’m in the area.
You’ll also find a jazz bar/restaurant Motion Blue on the second floor.
It’s a sister establishment of Blue Note Tokyo, and regularly features some of the most highly regarded musicians and artists in Tokyo area.

Another location that’s constantly bustling with visitors from outside of Yokohama is Chinatown.
Meat buns are popular there, and you’ll see people lining up to get some from the popular shops.

If you’re visiting Japan, you might also be thinking of trying some ramen.
What you may not have known though, is that there are many different types (the chief ones being pork, salt, and soy sauce) in addition to regional variations of each.
And unless you’ve tried a bunch of different restaurants for comparison, it’s not really possible to fully appreciate this popular Japanese dish.

Well, if you’re in Yokohama area, you’re in luck because close to Shin-Yokohama Station (about 10 minutes by train from Yokohama Station on Yokohama Line), you’ll find Ramen Museum.
Its interior is decorated like post-war Tokyo, and conveys kind of a busy, chaotic atmosphere.
While it’s obvious that the creators of the museum paid a lot of attention to historical details, the main attraction isn’t what’s preserved from the past but rather the current snapshot of the famous ramen makers from all over Japan.

Ramen Museum features eight famous ramen houses from around the country, each representing its region and distinctive style.
You can also order half portions from the vendors, which is nice because that makes it easier for you to try at least a few different restaurants.

I’m going to stop here for now, but some of the other notable places around Yokohama include Kamakura (famous for its shrines, kind of reminiscent of Kyoto in terms of historical vibe but smaller), Enoshima (a seaside town close to Kamakura), and Sankei-en (traditional Japanese garden).

If you ever come to Tokyo, then by all means, enjoy what the city has to offer. But don’t forget that Yokohama is an amazing city in its own right…!

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I LOVE JAPAN ❤ 日本の今を伝えたい!- How to find good food in Japan –

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One thing I noticed immediately after coming to Japan was that most Japanese food restaurants specialized in a particular style of food.
A ramen restaurant served only ramen (and sometimes “gyoza,” a popular side dish), an udon house served only variants of udon, a sushi bar
served only sushi (unless you go to “kaitenzushi,” which is conveyor sushi restaurant), and tonkatsu (Japanese deep fried pork cutlet, similar to schnitzel) place only had deep fried meat.

This was kind of strange to me.
In Vancouver (as of 2008 when I left*), most Japanese restaurants had pretty much all kinds of Japanese food.
If you walked into a Japanese restaurant, you could always find sushi on the menu.
And it wasn’t weird to go into a Japanese restaurant with a picture of sushi on the street sign and finding “katsudon” (tonkatsu on rice with onion and eggs) on the menu.
In fact, one of the more popular all-you-can-eat sushi restaurants also had Korean and Chinese food on the menu.

At the time, it wasn’t really clear to me why the restaurants here didn’t bother trying to appeal to a wider customer base.
But then I learned that food in general is one of the most popular topic with the general public, and that “good food” is highly sought-after.
So for a restaurant to become and stay popular, it paid off to advertise itself as a specialist rather than jack-of-all-trades kind of restaurants.

So how do you know if a restaurant’s actually good rather than just trending at the moment after being featured in a variety show on TV?
There’s a website: Tabelog (http://tabelog.com/en/).

It’s the most popular restaurant guide in Japan, and it aggregates user reviews on a scale of one to five stars.
The site used be in Japanese only, and using it meant tabbing between Google to search for the kanjis I needed so I could copy-and-paste them in the search field.
And then switching tabs again so Google Translate could make sense of the reviews for me.

The good news is that the site is now also (partly) in English, and is fairly foreigner-friendly.
One oddity about the English version though, is that you can only search for restaurants by location (but not the name of the restaurant). I have no idea why the search function is missing such a basic feature, but the site’s still useful for tourists and for those interested in exploring new restaurants.

If you know the name of the area you’ll be close to (e.g. Shibuya), type that in the “Location” field at the top right corner on the main page.
If you know that you’ll be close to a major station, click that from the names list that appears (e.g. Shibuya Station).
I found that I tend to get better results that way.
You’ll now see a list of the restaurants in the area with reviews, which can be sorted according to “Standard,” “Overall ranking,” or “Reviews.”
I don’t really know which factors “Standard” takes into account, but after a quick search of restaurants near my home station, I can say I agree with the ratings for the most part (with either “Overall ranking” or “Reviews”).
Just a quick note–if a restaurant has reasonable number of reviews (say, 50-100) and the average of the scores is above 3.4 stars, then you can be assured of above-average quality.

The user reviews are displayed in their original language (Japanese).
If you want to know what people wrote about the restaurant you’re thinking of visiting, you still have to put your faith in the veritable gateway to knowledge that is Google Translate.

That’s about it for this post.
So get out there, and find something new restaurants!
If you find a good one, be sure to let others know in the comments section.
Happy eating!

*It’s different in Vancouver now, and the idea of specialized restaurants took off in popularity a few years ago.
When I went back last year, there were popular sushi bars and ramen houses that served only dishes they were experts at cooking.

I LOVE JAPAN ❤ 日本の今を伝えたい! 天日干し野菜・きのこのすすめ! Sundried Vegetables & Mushrooms!

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天日干し野菜を始めませんか?

Why don’t we start eating sun-dried vegetables?

長期保存ができ、栄養価も高いといわれる「干し野菜」は昔ながらの知恵です。
冷凍庫や冷蔵庫のなかった時代には保存できる食材として重宝されていて、
長旅の食糧としても活用されていました。
人々の生活の中で生まれた知恵である「干し野菜」は、保存食として今もなお私たちの生活を豊かにしてくれています。

So-called “sun-dried vegetables” with a long shelf life  and high nutritional value are an age-old wisdom. In times when refrigerators and freezers were non-existent, foods that could be preserved were particularly invaluable and were also used for long trips.  Born from the lives of people ages ago, the ingenuity of sun-dried vegetables as preserved foods can also benefit the lives of those living today.

 

天日干しの干し野菜にする事で、余分な水分がなくなり、
野菜に含まれるビタミンD・ビタミンB群・カルシウム・鉄分・ナイアシンがアップします。
日光の紫外線に長期間当たる事で成分が変化する野菜がみつかったり、
ダイエット脂肪燃焼に効果を発揮する干し野菜も報告されています。

During the drying portion of the process, extra liquid is extracted from the vegetables through evaporation and the natural occurring vitamin D, vitamin B group, calcium, iron, and niacin in the vegetable increases. It has been found that prolonged exposure to the sun’s ultra violet rays change the chemical composition of the plant.  It is also reported that some dried vegetables are effective for dieting and burning fat.

 

旬の食材をたっぷりと収穫して保存、きちんと使い切る昔ながらの知恵のひとつです。
天日に干すだけですので塩漬けや砂糖漬けなどより手間いらずで単純な保存法です。
世界中にさまざまな乾物が生まれているのもその手軽さゆえでしょう。

Preserving vegetables after a harvest when seasonal crops are plentiful and using exactly as much as one could spare over the year is another age-old wisdom of the past. Since for sun-drying one only needs to use the sun and air, you can preserve foodstuffs simply without the use of salts or sugars. Throughout the world many types of sundried food have been produced due to the simplicity of process.

 

乾物には他の保存法にはない優れた付加価値があります。
それは、天日乾燥することで、旨みや香り栄養が増すということです。
きのこ類も旨味がさらに凝縮します。
天日干ししたきのこで出汁をひいたり、炒めたりなどオススメです。
調理時間がとても短くなり、調味料も少なめでしっかりと味がつき、
普段食事に時間をかけれない忙しい方々にも簡単で栄養のある食事をいただくことができますのでオススメです。

For dried foods there are other benefits which are not seen in other preservation methods. In the process of  sun drying umami flavor, aroma, and nutritional value are enhanced.  For mushrooms, umami taste is further condensed after they are dehydrated. I strongly recommend using sun-dried mushrooms for making dashi soup or broth, or frying them as ingredients for fried foods.  Dried foods make the cooking time shorter and the amount of seasonings smaller to get  distinctive taste. Even for busy people who have little time for preparing every day meals, I would recommend trying dried foods to have easy-to-prepare and nutricous meals.

 

キビ麺パスタ (天日干ししたmushroomを使ったパスタ)

Kibi millet Pasta with Sundried Mushroom

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By Yumi, Heathy Food Stylist

I LOVE JAPAN ❤ 日本の今を伝えたい! 健康と食事 Health & Foods

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Japanese cuisine has for a long time, been considered one of the healthiest in the world. Here are some health facts about three foods that we eat in Japan that you may not have known about:

Gobo (Burdock Root)

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Gobo is used in Japan as a vegetable and in China as medicine. This vegetable is a good source of fiber and potassium and is low in sodium and calories. It is good for detoxifying the body and contains lots of antioxidants that help to prevent dangerous illnesses in the body.

 

Konnyaku (Konjac)

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We often eat Konjac in Japanese stews (Niku-jaga, Oden) or less commonly as Sashimi. Konjac has almost no calories but is very high in fiber. This makes it a great diet food like Tofu. In addition to this, it can aid digestion and relieve constipation!

Konjac substances are also used in facial care products, particularly in Korea!

 

Matcha (powdered green tea)

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Some studies show that a substance called Theanine, which can be found in Japanese Green Tea can help to reduce moderate mental stress. Matcha is especially rich in antioxidants because the whole of the tea leaf is used. It is also supposed to keep your appetite stable! Great for those who are dieting!

 

It’s good to know that so many readily available foods are so healthy for us! You don’t have to look far to get Gobo tea, Konnyaku or Matcha!