Tuesday, 5 October 2010

2010 Hyper Japan London

I still have to blog about the Matsuri 2 weeks ago :) but I'm back to London for another event.
It's near where the Matsuri was , so I get to park for free again at White Rows , where the whole second floor is reserved for motorbikes only. Bikers rule !

I'm meeting a couple of friends on the show : April, Lyuba, Hong and Francesco.

Lyuba and Hong 2010 Hyper Japan
From left to right : Lyuba and Hong
Really lovely kimonos they've got on !

Lovely pattern on the footwear
Interesting geta Hong is wearing. I wondered why she looked so much taller :)
That's a very pretty flower motif. Actually , they're not geta they're okobo.
Let's get you fitted out
Francesco is going to get fitted into samurai warlord gear ! I don't know if that's an obi, but April will definitely tell me what it is. It looks really pretty.
Getting dressed up

Getting ready for war is like getting ready to ride a bike. Tedious minutes of getting dressed just right because once you're riding, you can't adjust it anymore.
Don't want any arrows getting through  :)

Getting dressed up
Getting the helm fitted . It's really shiny.

Seriously in the mood
Ready for war ! Bring them on ! Better yet, bring my horse : we'll go get them.

Francesco-sama and Hong-hime

Francesco-sama and Hong-hime

They look totally lovely together, don't they ? 

My hero! "Must you really go off to war?"
"A man's got to do what a man's got to do, Hong-san."
This is my favourite picture : totally natural, no posing.
(I uploaded this picture to Picasa  click on the picture to get a really large version )  

After the show ,we went to eat something near Japan Center.As it began to rain umbrellas came out and Hong put on a rain garment to protect her kimono. I HAD to take a few shots.

"Wat are you taking pictures of me for ? "
 Lovely looking fabric , that is. I never knew such a garment existed : I learn something new every day.

Aha ! Food : glorious food ! And good company too, what more can you ask for ?

 My seafood sushi : yellowtail, tuna , mackerel, salmon , salmon roe , tuna , octopus and my first ever sea urchin( the yellow bits in the middle ). It was very tasty!
Hong's deep fried "somethings".

Lyubas tempura

Francescos salmon 'carpaccio ?'

Click here for the set on Flickr ( if you need the full size version of any, mail me )

Part of the Hyper Japan dealt with modern fashion and Lolita is a big part of that. These models come from all over. There's even a few from Japan to answer everybodies questions.

Lolita overload ! All the models crowding together on the stage.

Day 2 on the Hyper Japan.

At the kimono fitting stall , I saw this young woman. That's a very nice green.

While on the other side of the world , lots of Japanese are discovering Western fastfood and takeaway (which is not so good for their health) ,
Atsuko-san (from my cooking lessons) is over here in the UK trying to win us over to Japanese healthy cooking.There's a certain irony there.

I'm going to tell you all about this wonderful Japanese way of packed lunch!

I caught a fish THIS BIG yesterday ! ( OK, That's NOT what she was saying, haha :)

Can YOU spot the Pikachu in this picture ?

Behold. The mighty Bento box!

You put the rice in the bottom half.
The other goodies go in the top half.

The models from the Lolita event are joining in to have a go at bento making. Their abilities ranged from "I can cook an egg", " I only prepare spaghetti" to " I never cook" ( the Japanese girl on the right ! ). At least they were totally honest about it.  The blond girl on the left is a Belgian ! We're everywhere these days :)

Sunday, 26 September 2010

2010 Japan Art Festival

The Japan Art Festival moved from 'faraway' Richmond to Central London, which suits me fine, because it's a lot easier to get to.

I had a go at Origami ( Paperfolding ) ( go on ! ask me what a valley fold is ! )  took a  Calligraphy lesson ( I can draw the kanji for tree !) .

My favourite lesson of the day was the Bento cooking lesson though , given by Atsuko and Masami from Atsuko's Kitchen. Their lessons are always a lot of fun and you get to eat the food you prepare afterwards.

Hello everybody! We're going to make Bento !

The ingredients : steamed corn, chicken teriyaki,cooked egg, grilled broccoli, lettuce, tomatoes, edamame, ham and cheese, beans in a freshly made sesame sauce and ofcourse Japanese rice, freshly cooked.
Bento isn't just some rice and a few vegetables and meat, fish or chicken you chuck together.

For it to be a balanced meal , you should have half rice, half other ingredients : some meat or chicken or fish and vegetables.

The ingredients should be yellow, red, green , black , white, brown . They should be fresh and preferably in season , for the highest nutritional value.

A good Bento should contain a boiled, a steamed, a grilled, a fried and a marinaded ingredient to keep it interesting to eat. Some raw vegetable is good too.

Cool down the cooked foods well before closing the box : slowly cooling food will give germs plenty of time to multiply. Don't use watery or soupy dishes for the same reason.

Keeping it cooled is very important , since it's usually prepared in the morning ( to save time , you can cook some of the dishes the day before ) and you will be eating it at noon.

Because the food is cool when you eat it,the flavour will be less than when you eat it  warm or hot, so slightly increase the amount of spice or herbs used.
Presentation is important too : just like us Belgians :)  , Japanese eat with their eyes first and arranging the food is just as important as cooking it right.

The ingredients : steamed corn, chicken teriyaki, boiled egg, grilled broccoli, raw lettuce, tomatoes, edamame, ham and cheese, boiled beans in a freshly made sesame sauce and of course Japanese steamed rice, freshly cooked.

The right ingredients are important : Masami showing the mirin ( sweet sake ) that was used for the sesame sauce

The sauce is made like this :
  • 1 Tablespoon of white roasted sesame seeds
  • 1/2 Tablespoon of mirin
  • 1/2 Tablespoon of sugar
  • 1 teaspoon of soy sauce
If you don’t have pre-roasted sesame seeds, roast the seeds briefly in a small dry frying pan.
Then grind the seeds in a large suribachi (Japanese mortar) for five minutes till the sesame oil comes out and it turns into a paste. Add the sugar and crush some more. Add the mirin and soy sauce and mix.

Here we mixed the sauce with the cooked beans.
Bento Box 1 : the 'purple' rice has a mixture of dried red shiso mixed through it.
It all looks so tasty : doesn't it make you hungry?

Bento box 2 : the little rolls are made by putting a square slice of cheese on a square slice of ham , roll them up , cut in half and keep together with a cute cocktail stick. Kawaii !

Bento box 3 : Actually one of these 3 boxes was made by me : can YOU guess which one ? :)
I had a lot of fun making my bento and even more fun eating it. In fact , I immediately signed up for another lesson on the next day :) Double fun !

Friday, 23 July 2010

Japanese vegetables

After neglecting my vegetable garden for years ( well I do plant potatoes in them each year ! ), I decided to start again this year.

I bought seed for  a few vegetables I never grew before , just for the fun of it.
These are the seed packages : European long white radish ( not really "daikon", but still 10 to 15 cm long ) and "negi" : Ichikura onions ( look a lot like leek, but thinner ) . I can still sow the radish, but for the onions I'm 2 months late :(   Ah well, next year for sure!

These are the seed packets for Green Pak Choy ( well known in China but also used in Japan ) and Mizuna ( which I'd never seen before in any shop here ).

3 weeks ago I sowed a small row of Mizuna ( right of the picture ) and 1 week ago half a row of Pak Choy and resowed Mizuna in those spots where the first didn't show : to be honest the first seed was 2 years old , haha!

It's been terribly hot and dry the past few weeks (30 °C and more ) so I water them well once a week.
Pak Choy shoots on the left, Mizuna on the right

The 3 week old Mizuna is growing pretty well , almost 20 cm tall , although I have no clue when to harvest it , since I've never seen it before. I also need to look for recipes : only my tsukemono cookbook (pickling recipes) refers to them as Kyo-na ( Kyoto greens) used in Kyo-na Shio-zuke ( salted Kyo-na greens : a traditional winter recipe ?!) .
The smaller ones are only a week old : surprisingly unaffected by snails ( maybe they don't like Japanese ? )

The Pak Choy shoots are also unharmed ( although if it rains next week the snails may reappear )

This is New Zealand Spinach ( some species of which are native to Japan ). This is the edible species  Tetragonia tetragonioides ( which I'm sure you knew already ).
It's one of my favourites , because it's actually a succulent, grows also in hot weather and the slugs and snails avoid it like the plague :)

Pick the leaves, wash all the sand off and you got a great alternative to regular spinach. It doesn't wilt in hot summer weather like regular spinach.

Friday, 12 February 2010

Ngamantha Khayanchinthi si Piyan.

This is a very easy and tasty Vietnamese dish that's a favourite of mine and that I haven't made in a long time , but now it's making a comeback. In my kitchen anyway.

You need ( for 4 small eaters or 2 rather large ones )

2 small sharks (about 600 grams)
about 2 teaspoons of salt
2-3 tablespoons of oil (I use olive oil )

4-5 cloves garlic, crushed
( the ones in the picture aren't crushed yet )

1/2 tablespoon chopped fresh coriander
tablespoons tomato puree ( about 2 of these small cans )

the fresh juice of one lime ( I like adding a bit more like one and a half)

1 teaspoon chili flakes or 1 knife-point of powdered chili

2- 3 tablespoons or 70-100 ml water

In the example I use half of these to cook for 2 portions : this dish can be kept in the fridge for several days. If you restrain yourself from eating it all right away, that is.

This is the shark ( in Belgium it's called a dog shark , in fact it's the smallest of the cat shark family :)

For a very long time in Belgium it was usual to sell it as 'sea eel' (which is also more expensive) but that's illegal. Of course every good cook ( like me) knew it was shark all along ( eel doesn't have those telltale two fins on the back ).

Preheat an oven to 200 degrees Celsius.

Rub (massage ) your shark firmly all over with salt.

Cut it into equal pieces , about a finger long.

Oil a deep baking dish with about 1 tablespoon of oil. The dish needs to be deep enough so 3-4 cm remain unfilled to put the sauce on top.

I always push the fish cuts in vertically till the dish is filled ,

but if using only one shark, you can just arrange them in the bottom.

Heat a tablespoon of oil in a pan over medium heat ( electric 6-7)

and fry the garlic until the tips start to turn golden (light brownish). Not any longer because they'll fry on till you add the tomato puree. (Click on the picture for a closer look )

Add coriander ( it'll wilt and turn brown immediately), keep stirring for a minute

and then add tomato puree and lime juice.

Keep stirring on a medium heat for about 5 to 6 minutes.

Soon the sauce will give off an irresistible aroma, which "will create total confidence in the cook" (quote from original recipe ).
Taste and stir in a bit more lime juice if you like.

Pour a few tablespoons of water in the dish , enough so it'll cook the fish.

Use a spoon and a spatula to arrange the sauce on top of the fish.

TIP : This is a messy sauce. Do NOT DO this wearing your finest silk blouse or kimono, you'll never get the spots out.

Sprinkle over the chili flakes or powder.

I use chili pepper I bought in Mexico, it's very hot so one (large) knife tip is enough.

Set the oven to 220 degrees Celsius and bake for 25 - 30 minutes. This smaller amount only takes 20 minutes.

The exact cooking time will depend on the size of the pieces of shark, but you can tell when the dish is ready by probing the flesh with a bamboo skewer: if it slides in easily all the way, it's done.
Done ! You can see a few brighter spots where the water has been bubbling through from below.

The meat is moist and melts in your mouth and it goes so well with the slightly spicy- slightly limy tomato sauce. Delicious ! ( click on picture for a larger view : ah! I wish you could smell it : )

I find this dish is even delicious cold straight out of the fridge ( I used to eat it between loafs of bread in the summer )

As much as I like eating shark, after seeing the horror stories of sharks having their fins cut off and left to die in the sea, I will never eat or tolerate the eating of shark fin soup for the rest of my life. If you need to kill an animal ,do it swiftly and eat all of it.