Food & Cooking

Japanese style mixed bean pilaf

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
Serves 4

Ingredients
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
1 Avocado
Fresh parsley to taste

Directions

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!

xx Caitlyn

Food & Cooking · Reviews · Seen/Heard/Tried · Tried

Tsuta Ramen: the first ever ramen shop to receive a Michelin Star

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.
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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!
IMG_3995Fortunately 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!
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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.
IMG_3999If 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!
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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.
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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.       IMG_4053Around 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. IMG_4054We 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. IMG_4055 IMG_4056A 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. IMG_4057
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.

Take care!
xx Caitlyn

Around Town · Food & Cooking

Around Town: Gotoo Restaurant in Otsuka

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.
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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.Photo 11-7-15, 7 01 33 PMYesterday we were seated at the bar, where you can see two to three chefs working away, usually smiling while they’re doing it! Photo 11-7-15, 7 01 38 PM
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.
Photo 11-7-15, 7 04 57 PMChad 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!Photo 11-7-15, 7 01 43 PM(1)Tired boy after our hike…! Photo 11-7-15, 7 04 26 PM 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.Photo 11-7-15, 7 07 44 PM 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!
xxCaitlyn

Seen/Heard/Tried · Travel

Weekend Trip to Hakone

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!IMG_2213 IMG_2218Lunch after arriving in Hakone: Tempura Soba Set IMG_2227So 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.) IMG_2229This was taken about a quarter of the way up, before I realized that we were only a quarter of the way upIMG_2230Finally, 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? IMG_2232It 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. IMG_2242I 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).  IMG_2243                                                   Chad ordered a steak meal.IMG_2244Here’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.IMG_2248The next day, we woke up for our breakfast at our hotel. Above you can see dried horse mackerel being reheated on a little grill.  IMG_2249 IMG_2250Here is the list of everything included in our breakfast. IMG_2253This is our hotel from the outside. IMG_2254I 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. IMG_2262 This exhibit showed music through bamboo. It was really neat.IMG_2265 Light, shadows and sound.IMG_2268From the other side… IMG_2269 IMG_2277A labyrinth! IMG_2281I 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! IMG_2290Fortunately there was a foot bath located about halfway through the museum.IMG_2298This was a Symphony of Glass tower. I wasn’t super psyched to climb it, but it was really pretty in the end.  IMG_2291 IMG_2292The view from the top of the tower. IMG_2295 IMG_2296Pretty glass inside.  IMG_2305
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!

xx Caitlyn

Seen/Heard/Tried · Spring Bucket List

My week (and a few days) in pictures

IMG_1694                                              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!).IMG_1617                                                                  kimchi

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This guy *swoons*

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I also got around to doing some hand lettering after being inspired by the cute bag from this post.IMG_1653After 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.IMG_1659On 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!IMG_1671
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.IMG_1672Despite 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.
IMG_1673I’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.IMG_1674IMG_1675 IMG_1682
When we left, we saw this cool street art above. I love how so many shop doors are painted in Japan.
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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.

IMG_1687Here 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.IMG_1693Lastly, 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!
xxCaitlyn

Around Town

Trams, Fortunes, and Ferris Wheels

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.IMG_1530We got on the tram at Ostukaekimae station.IMG_1536 IMG_1537 IMG_1541                                                        Watch your fingers!IMG_1543Beautiful roses grow along nearly the entire tram line.
IMG_1548IMG_1544 We got off at the end of the line at Minowa Station.
IMG_1597IMG_1551 IMG_1555 IMG_1556I 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!
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A market in the shopping arcade.IMG_1563 IMG_1578 IMG_1580
After wandering around a bit, we stumbled across a very old style restaurant called Parlor Orange.
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After looking at the fake food display outside, we decided to give it a try.    IMG_1585 IMG_1586 IMG_1587 IMG_1591 IMG_1594
I ordered the ebi fry (or fried shrimp) lunch set. It came with miso soup, rice, tsukemono (pickled veggies), and coffee for 800 yen.IMG_1596                                                                 Miso soup!
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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.IMG_1602
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!IMG_1603As we sipped our coffees after lunch, we decided that we must have chosen a rather auspicious restaurant! IMG_1608
After lunch, we decided to walk around Arakawa Yuen Theme Park. Because it was Children’s Day, we got to go in for free!IMG_1610 IMG_1611
See the Koi Nobori (Carp Kites) flying in front of the Ferris Wheel for Boy’s Day?IMG_1613 IMG_1615
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?
xx Caitlyn

Around Town · Food & Cooking

Around Town: Kikanbo Ramen

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.IMG_1267 Chad thought I should show this picture to illustrate my point about the queue…
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First you buy your ticket with your choice of ramen, and then you take the ticket and stand in line.
IMG_1249While 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.

IMG_1245Outside the ramen shop, there is a giant oni, or ogre, club.IMG_1247
Inside the shop, there are several ogre masks, as well as ogre figurines and more clubs.IMG_1248 IMG_1250 IMG_1251 IMG_1252
It’s fun watching everything being prepared in the kitchen while you wait to be served.IMG_1253 IMG_1254 There is also drumming music to add to the ambiance. IMG_1259
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.
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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.  IMG_1261The 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. IMG_1262
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!
xx Caitlyn