When I was staying at Aikku Hospital after having Lily, one of my favorite meals was on Setsubun: a bean pilaf, cabbage and seaweed soup, salad, drinkable yogurt, fruit salad, orange ice and a pack of setsubun beans. One day a couple weeks after coming home I was telling Chad how much I wanted to eat the pilaf again, and he threw together an awesome bean pilaf of his own.
I begged him to make it again the other day, and though I had to pull an arm and a leg to get ingredient approximations for a recipe to share with you, I’m proud to say I was successful!In the background you can see field mustard. Chad has been whipping up this simple green by boiling it and serving with ponzu and bonito flakes. Back home, field mustard is often considered a weed, but in Japan it’s a semi-expensive veggie side dish! Japanese Style Bean Pilaf
2 1/2 c rice
2 bouillon cubes (we used chicken)
1 Tbs butter
1/2 onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, crushed & diced
Salt to taste
2 tsp Oregano
1 Leek, thinly sliced
2 Tbs Rice vinegar
1 Tbs Lemon juice
1 can bean salad (or mixed beans of choice)
1/2 cup Corn
Fresh parsley to taste
Prepare rice in rice maker and add crushed bouillon cubes to the water. We use Japanese rice, and prepare it in a rice maker, but you can choose your favorite rice and preparation method.
While the rice is cooking, sauté the onion & garlic in butter. Add the remaining ingredients except for parsley & avocado, and heat through.
Add finished rice and stir before folding in avocado and parsley.
Note: The bean pilaf I had at the hospital was served with a sliced boiled egg on top–a nice bit of additional protein! Also, this recipe is great because you can really be flexible with how much of each ingredient you add based on your personal tastes. We’re going to try adding edamame next time! It’s easy and delicious!
Ever since we heard the news about Tsuta Ramen shop receiving a Michelin Star, we knew we had to give it a try. Our first attempt was one Friday after work, when we learned that the shop closes at 4:00 PM. Yeah, what? Chad called to confirm the shop was really already closed for the night to learn that not only are the hours incredibly limited (11:00 AM-4:00 PM), but that you have to get a placeholder ticket by 10:30 or 11:00 in the morning in order to get a bowl as well.
Last Monday, Chad decided to take off the upcoming Wednesday from work to surprise me and go with me to Tsuta during the limited open hours. Much to our dismay, after getting the day-off request approved, he discovered Tsuta is closed on Wednesdays! Strike two!
Fortunately for us, now Chad is on vacation, so yesterday (Tuesday) we were able to scurry down toward Sugamo Station to get a ticket from Tsuta. We got there around 10:15, and were able to get tickets to reserve a spot for eating around 3:00. Unfortunately, all that was on offer for the day was Tsuta’s miso ramen, which I was especially bummed about because I tend to go for shoyu (soy based) or shio (salt based) ramen. Of course, that didn’t change our minds about giving the shop a try!
Approaching the shop, you are greeted with several signs explaining the placeholder tickets. The tickets are color-coded, and the time you arrive to get a ticket determines the time you can come back to eat.
If you’re on a Tsuta ramen mission, don’t go sit in line to get your placeholder ticket! Open the door to talk to someone–if there is a line of people outside, they are already waiting for their dining time slot!
You are advised to arrive a half an hour or so before your time slot, and if you miss your time or lose your ticket, you forfeit the 1000 yen deposit you give for your placeholder ticket.
Once we got our placeholder tickets, we had to decide how to spend the next several hours. We came up with a few really nice ideas, which I’ll share in a future post. For now, the important thing to know is that if you’re in town to try Tsuta ramen, you really have to plan a day around it. We recommend going to the shop for a placeholder ticket around 7:30 or 8:00 AM to ensure you can have a bigger selection of ramen dishes, and so that you can get a more convenient time than we did. Around 2:15 or so we came back to Tsuta Ramen and joined a line of several other customers. We slowly moved forward in the queue until we were welcomed inside and given our deposits back so we could chose our ramen. We had three choices: normal miso ramen, miso ramen with egg, and miso ramen with extra chicken. We chose the latter two options (which came to exactly 2000 yen total), and then continued to wait in the indoor line for seats to open up. We were pretty excited when our ramen was served. We were ready for new flavors–we’d never had chickpeas, sliced onions or chicken in our ramen before. A good egg is usually a huge indication of my overall rating when it comes to ramen: it shouldn’t be completely hard boiled, but the yolk should be slightly cooked. My egg was spot-on. I liked the noodles, too, but sometimes the texture was a little grainy for me. I couldn’t tell whether that sensation was from the soba noodles themselves, or from the noodles being coated in miso broth. The ramen didn’t disappoint, but I would personally like to go back and try a bowl of the shoyu ramen.
Tsuta’s miso ramen is not my favorite ramen in Japan, but that could just be due to my lack of enthusiasm for miso based-ramen. Chad was quite impressed, so we’ll have to do some future investigation next time we can plan around Tsuta’s rather inconvenient hours. Either way, I’m glad we got a chance to try it! For information on hours and days in which Tsuta is open, click here.
Yesterday, as you may have seen on instagram, we decided to hike Mt. Takao. After a long but fun day out of the city, we were very ready to eat when we got back to Tokyo. We decided to revisit a restaurant we tried for the first time a couple of weeks ago called Gotoo.
Gotoo is about a two minute walk from Otsuka station, has a review of 4 out of 5 stars on yelp, and always has a line when we walk by. Despite the small size of the restaurant, the wait usually isn’t much longer than 15 minutes, and the friendly staff take your order while you’re waiting so that your meal is ready close to the time you sit down.Yesterday we were seated at the bar, where you can see two to three chefs working away, usually smiling while they’re doing it!
I ordered the same meal I got the last time I went because it was fantastic: the Combination B Set of ebi (shrimp) fries, kani cream korrokke (crab cream croquette), cabbage, noodle salad, rice and miso soup.
Chad chose a Japanese-style hamburger set, which he said wasn’t as good as the ginger pork he got the last time. He still liked it well enough to eat every last bit, though!Tired boy after our hike…! Anyway, let’s get back to my meal, which was amazing, in case you forgot already. Look at that bite out of my first ebi fry–see how big and beautiful the shrimp is? And despite being fried, the ebi fries at Gotoo taste light with a very nice crunch. Something that really adds to the flavor is the tartar sauce. Unlike tartar sauces I am used to with pickles and mayonnaise, this tartar sauce has no pickles at all. Instead, it includes ingredients like cabbage and green onion. The tartar sauce is seriously delicious, and I am on the lookout for a recipe for a similar sauce. The next important part of the meal is the crab cream croquette. It is so easy for crab cream croquettes to be too fishy tasting, or too mayonnaise-filled, but this crab cream croquette is the best I’ve ever had. The balance is perfect, and I could eat ten of them. Right now. And this isn’t pregnancy talking. (I think?)
If you’re in the Tokyo area and you’re looking for a new restaurant to try, I would recommend giving Gotoo a try. It can be a little pricey (my meal was 1200 yen), but if you are into ebi fries and croquettes, the money is totally worth it. If you’re NOT in the Tokyo area, consider checking out some recipes for croquettes! I never had them before living in Japan and they are one of my favorite foods (on the less healthy spectrum 😉 ).
Have a great start to your week!
Last weekend for our anniversary we decided to visit Hakone, an area known for hot springs and its active volcano (which will possibly erupt any day now…). I know that may same like a strange choice of local, but Chad loves hot springs and I was ready to have a getaway with pretty scenery. Little did I know that I was in for some serious uphill climbing before the relaxing part would come! Lunch after arriving in Hakone: Tempura Soba Set So in the above picture, you can see a cable car that could take you up the mountain to your hotel or ryokan (Japanese style inn) of choice. Chad mistakenly thought taking the cable car was expensive, so we proceeded on foot. Later, after I almost died from climbing, we found out that the cable car was only around 170 yen… I handled this very gracefully because I am perfect. (I actually almost cried haha.) This was taken about a quarter of the way up, before I realized that we were only a quarter of the way up. Finally, we arrived at our ryokan. It was pretty creepy to be honest, but the room was nice enough. We were able to relax and be together, and that was the most important thing. Well, besides dinner. Dinner, dinner, dinner. Where could we find dinner? It turned out that nearly the entire area around us had absolutely no restaurants or shops or anything. We found one place that was expensive, and several others that were closed, so we decided to go all the way back down to the station to see if any restaurants were open down there. I was super tired, but I tried to be positive and happy (and that part really is true). When we got to the station, everything that had been open earlier had closed. The time being only 7:00, we started to feel a bit defeated. Fortunately, we were able to make the last cable car of the day (which was at 7:05!), and we headed back up to the one expensive restaurant we had seen that was thankfully still open. I ordered a tempura set (I know, second one of the day! But it looked better than the other options). Above were some of the sides: delicious tofu, gel fish (which I thought had a strange texture and passed along to Chad), and tsukemono (pickled vegetables). Chad ordered a steak meal.Here’s my tempura set. It was really nice. Once our bellies were full, we headed back to the hotel where Chad enjoyed the hot springs while I relaxed in our room before bed.The next day, we woke up for our breakfast at our hotel. Above you can see dried horse mackerel being reheated on a little grill. Here is the list of everything included in our breakfast. This is our hotel from the outside. I don’t know if this gives you a clear enough idea of how steep our climb up was, but I get sore just looking at it. After descending the mountain again, we headed to the Hakone Open Air Museum, which was my favorite part of our trip. There are loads of sculptures outside, as well as a few inside exhibits. This exhibit showed music through bamboo. It was really neat. Light, shadows and sound.From the other side… A labyrinth! I really enjoyed the indoor Picasso exhibit–it reminded me of when we went to the Picasso museum in Barcelona years ago. Picasso had a really interesting life! Fortunately there was a foot bath located about halfway through the museum.This was a Symphony of Glass tower. I wasn’t super psyched to climb it, but it was really pretty in the end. The view from the top of the tower. Pretty glass inside.
Chad and I both really loved the Open Air Museum. We had a convenient store lunch afterwards on a bench outside, hopped on a train, and headed home to relax some more. The entire time, no matter how physically tired I got, I felt immensely thankful that I was able to celebrate our 7th wedding anniversary together. There is no one for me like my Chad, who lifts me up and loves me always.
I hope you enjoyed seeing pictures from our little weekend getaway, and that you’ve been able to get some relaxing in yourself!
Above: My last week in art journaling
After our tram ride journey, we had just one more day of break before returning to school. We decided to go for a yakiniku lunch at a place called Ikebukuro Yakiniku Stadium, and it was super delicious (and only 900 yen each!). kimchi
This guy *swoons*
I also got around to doing some hand lettering after being inspired by the cute bag from this post.After two days of school, it was already the weekend. Saturday was super cloudy, so we went for coffee at Starbucks and I started reading Yes Please by Amy Poehler. (This means I’m on book two out of three for my Spring Bucket List!) I’ve really been enjoying the book so far.On Sunday we had sunny weather, so we decided to head out to Setagaya to go to the famous Bear Pond Espresso. I first heard of the cafe when we watched A Film About Coffee back in the states, and had been dying to try it ever since. On the way there, we saw this giant ape above a Family Mart!
The cafe is a bit inconspicuous–we actually walked right by it at first. I tried to covertly take a picture of the outside, having read that there are strict rules on photography there.Despite the rules in place, the owners do allow some pictures if you ask first, so I happily took pictures of our lattes when we were inside.
I’m sure if you’re anything like me, you’re dying to know the verdict. And the verdict is… amazing. Super nice flavor with the espresso really standing on its own. Chad pointed out that BPE espresso is a bit more citrusy than the espresso at Streamers, which I’ve got to admit still has my favorite lattes so far. BPE’s latte was a close second.
When we left, we saw this cool street art above. I love how so many shop doors are painted in Japan.
Above is my art journaling for this week so far. Last week I was running every weekday for at least 1.5 miles or more, and I’d been keeping to my goal of running at least a mile each weekday for about a month. This week, however, I was feeling a bit under the weather, so I only ran on Thursday. On the bright side, I felt creative this week and had a lot of fun in my classroom.
Here is the pretty piece of cake I chose from several our manager got for us. It was a really nice balance of chocolate and orange flavors.Lastly, we’ve been sashimi crazy as of late. I think we’ve been having it for dinner two or three times a week, and we still love it! I feel lucky that we can take advantage of easy access to quality sashimi in Japan.
I hope you enjoyed a peek at what I’ve been up to lately. We’ve got some more fun planned this weekend that I can’t wait to share with you soon. Hope you have a great, inspiring weekend, Little Snail darlings!
Yesterday we decided to go for a tram ride on the Toden Arakawa Line with our friend Tomo. It was a gorgeous, blue-sky day, and we had a lot of fun seeing old-style parts of Tokyo.We got on the tram at Ostukaekimae station. Watch your fingers!Beautiful roses grow along nearly the entire tram line.
We got off at the end of the line at Minowa Station.
I absolutely love the atmosphere around Minowa station. Just near the station is an old shopping arcade that reminded us of living in Yokkaichi. So much so, in fact, that I kept expecting to see a giant Onyudo-san!
A market in the shopping arcade.
After wandering around a bit, we stumbled across a very old style restaurant called Parlor Orange.
After looking at the fake food display outside, we decided to give it a try.
I ordered the ebi fry (or fried shrimp) lunch set. It came with miso soup, rice, tsukemono (pickled veggies), and coffee for 800 yen. Miso soup!
Chad got the tonkatsu set (deep fried pork cutlet). At first glance, this seemed like a sort of hole-in-the-wall restaurant that might turn out to have some pretty tasty lunch. Upon eating our meals, however, we found that the food was not only quite good, but that we were also in the presence of a semi-celebrity.
See that gentlemen in the background behind Chad? He’s recently been featured in several Japanese articles for being an amazing fortune teller. In fact, he did two palm readings during our lunch, complete with crystal balls, stone beads and rings, and lots of touching and gazing. His advice has become so sought after that appointments with him are completely booked through October 2017! Whether you subscribe to that sort of thing or not, you’ve got to admit he’s got quite an impressive following!As we sipped our coffees after lunch, we decided that we must have chosen a rather auspicious restaurant!
After lunch, we decided to walk around Arakawa Yuen Theme Park. Because it was Children’s Day, we got to go in for free!
See the Koi Nobori (Carp Kites) flying in front of the Ferris Wheel for Boy’s Day?
After walking along the river, we took the tram back to Otsukaekimae. We had purchased an all-day tram pass for 400 yen, and out of that got a nice little journey around parts of Tokyo we’d never before seen.
Have you made any interesting local discoveries recently?
We often go wandering around Ikebukuro, and when we do on weekends, we also often end up eating ramen. We’ve found several great ramen shops, but recently we decided to try one that always has a line of at least three people waiting every time we walk by: Kikanbo Ramen. Chad thought I should show this picture to illustrate my point about the queue…
First you buy your ticket with your choice of ramen, and then you take the ticket and stand in line.
While you’re waiting in line, one of the employees asks you what spiciness level you would prefer for your kara shibi ramen. The “kara” spice is made up of 12 different spices, and the “shibi” is ground Chinese numbing pepper, apparently. We chose “futsu” or average spice, for both of our bowls.
Outside the ramen shop, there is a giant oni, or ogre, club.
Inside the shop, there are several ogre masks, as well as ogre figurines and more clubs.
It’s fun watching everything being prepared in the kitchen while you wait to be served. There is also drumming music to add to the ambiance.
After several minutes, my hunger was growing and I was starting to feel like an ogre myself. Fortunately it wasn’t too much later that we were each presented with a wonderful looking bowl of ramen.
When our ramen arrived, we were most excited about the hefty piece of pork inside. It just fell apart in our mouths and was definitely the part of this meal worth savoring. As for the broth, it was quite peppery, and the spiciness cut through the oiliness of it. I tend to prefer ramen with a more buttery broth, but the “futsu” level of spice worked for me. The noodles were of an al dente texture, and a bit thicker than a lot of ramen we’ve tried, but I liked them a lot.
Overall, I would say that Kikanbo Ramen is worth a try. Would I go back, though? Not necessarily. After all, there are so many ramen shops I am obsessed with, not to mention the many more I want to try!
Hope you’re having a good week–mine’s almost over!
Today is a rather fun holiday in Japan called Setsubun, in which you throw beans at ogres and eat large sushi rolls. That’s a pretty basic explanation, but more can be found in a post I did all the way back in 2011 on my former blog. Pretty amazing how different I look now from then!
Sadly, I haven’t been able to get the videos to work from that post. It’s really a bummer, because I remember them being quite clever (at least in my opinion), and now they may be lost for all time.At the very least, I’ve got an Asahi to drown my sorrows, and I had a pretty delicious dinner. Also, I had fun watching my students at school. We made several fun crafts for the day: Chad made cute ogre hats for the kids to wear, one of our teaching partners helped students make little ogre cups to hold the beans, and our other partner helped the kids make Eho-Maki, the special Setstubun sushi.
We had Eho-Maki for dinner
I hope we were able to drive out the oni, or ogres, today with our bean throwing, and that good fortune is on its way! Have a happy day!
P.S. Isn’t the clipart in this post freaking ADORABLE!? It also happens to be free, which is amazing. Find the pictures in this post and more on fumira.jp (it’s in Japanese, but if all else fails, I think the google translate version should be able to help you if necessary)!
Yippee! One week after moving into our new apartment, we finally have internet. It took some patience on our part in trying our best to do things in Japanese, and also some patience on the parts of the kind people assisting us, but the important thing is: we did it! 🙂 Now that I’ve got access to internet on my laptop, I’ve got all sorts of posts planned for you. In the meantime, I’ll catch you up on a few fun parts of my week in pictures.Sunday we made omurice, which is basically an omelet filled with tomato-ey rice and chicken. There are all sorts of variations, but we chose an easy (delicious) basic one that provided lots of leftovers for lunch. Yum! Tuesday was a bento night, and I was super excited to find a place that had an EbiKara bento set! The “ebi” part is shrimp tempura, and the “kara” part is karaage (fried chicken). Not necessarily the healthiest, and in this case it was a little burnt, but good nevertheless!
We’ve been drinking a ton of this Kagome fruit and veggie juice. I like it better than V-8 juice, and I think that’s because the base leans more on carrots than tomatoes. It’s always fun to make things fancy by using a little glass to drink from!Speaking of lovely drink-ware, I’ve been drinking peppermint tea out of this pretty mug one of my besties made for me ❤ And speaking of besties, I set up a picture of some of my girls and I in the kitchen (a place all of us love!), along with the first pretty plant of our apartment. I think I’ll be adding more plants soon!Next up: cake heaven. We were spoiled at work, and decided to janken (or rock, paper, scissors) for our choice of cake. Chad got the one above. My partner chose this one, which had coffee and chocolate notes.I got the one pictured above: a light, dreamy strawberry cake. My goal is to be able to make pretty cakes like these by the end of this year!Some of you may have seen this picture on instagram, but we were really excited to see snow in Tokyo. I know everyone in Michigan is rolling their eyes at me, but our experience with snow in Japan is pretty rare, so we had fun with it!Chad was king of the castle on Friday, feeling extremely happy to have a beer at the end of the week 😉I was feeling pretty happy on Friday too, because I have a really fun teaching partner! Love her! 🙂 Last but not least, Saturday night’s snack. Yuki no Yado Senbei (sweet rice crackers) and milk tea ❤
What are some fun things you enjoyed over the last week?
Last weekend Chad and I stumbled across a bakery/cafe called Paul in Shinjuku, and from the amazing smell permeating the air alone, I knew I would have to visit soon. Fortunately, “soon” came this afternoon. We were trying to decide where to go for a walk, and I asked, “How about we walk to that bakery with that giant heart thing?”
These sandwiches looked just like the ones we had in France…
The massive heart “thing” (a palmier) I had my eyes on last weekend can be seen above on the bottom shelf! Drooling yet?
I loved the look of this bakery, both outside and in. Gorgeous glass windows showcased bread and a few pastries to view from outside, and the glass cases inside tempted us with everything else. Additionally, the ceiling was made of really pretty wood, there were simple prints throughout the bakery, and very subtle splashes of soft color.
After arriving home for the day, I researched a little bit about Paul and found out that it is a chain that started in France. The corporate history is kind of neat, and there’s other information on the international site if you’re interested, too.Chad and I decided to split a raspberry frangipane tartlet, and it was quite lovely.
The balance of the almond crust with the creamy cheesecake-like filling and the juiciness of the raspberries made for a delightful afternoon dessert. We decided to get the chocolate covered palmier to go for tea time later. Apparently, palmiers are made with puff pastry in a similar way to croissants, but without yeast. You know how much I love a good croissant, but I also really appreciate the light, flaky, crunchy texture of a good palmier. And now, rather than referring to them as heart-things, I will remember the actual pastry name!
Have you tried any new cafes lately?