Tuesday, April 30, 2013

baby star

Apparently this is one of the top 10 snacks (or you could call it junk food!) in Japan.

Translated into "English", it's called Baby Star. You can read a bit more about the snack by a Japanese snack reviewer here!

Anyways, I've started stashing snacks in my food larder for 2 reasons :
1) When I get hungry in the middle of the night and need something light to stop the growling (there's no mamak!)
2) In case some natural disaster happens and I need food (well, I also have instant rice, instant noodles, instant porridge)

Found these fascinating coz they come in a variety of flavours, and look quite cute actually. From the top (left to right) : yakisoba, chicken ramen, delicious salty ramen, and miso ramen.

They are actually dried ramen in mini sizes.

Maybe Baby Star to the Japanese is what Mamee is to us. Cheap, quite tasty, temporarily filling, but not healthy! >.<

Sunday, April 28, 2013

the rain that brought memories

The smell of rain reminds me of home. My olfactory sense maps the smell of a rainy day to the tropics, and in that sense, the scent of South East Asia.

There is a certain feeling of moist in countries where humidity levels are high, which could be a good or bad thing. So when it had rained the whole day Wednesday, I could feel it on my skin. It was quite a nostalgic feeling.

I didn't realise until I felt a little homesick!

As I enjoyed the humidity, I could almost imagine frogs croaking. Just as it would after a heavy rain.

Here, it wasn't a tropical thunderstorm, but relatively light rain throughout the day. The train windows got fogged up, which doesn't happen too often.

I walked off thanking God for the rain. It's true that the sense of smell is tied to memories.

Saturday, April 27, 2013

chinese chives

I tend to buy "new ingredients" time to time. Just to play around with variety in food, and also to learn how to cook different dishes.

One ingredient that I avoid like the plague is "ku chai", also known as chinese chives. Never found them fascinating, because they are quite tasteless and don't seem to have any nutritional value. Used to think chives were like onions and garlic.

That was until I started cooking myself, and realised what difference onions and garlic make to a dish! Onions for subtle sweetness, and garlic when fried for added flavour and the benefit of warding off the cold.

But chives?? I have not figured out why we eat chives, other than the fact that they add colour to an otherwise plain looking dish. So I decided to buy a bunch of chives early this month.

It was so much that I could cook 3 dishes (and more actually!)

The first is chijimi, or some might call it Korean pancake. Started raving about this when I had a really good one in an izakaya in Tokyo. Hyun also made it in one of my home parties, so I figured I could make it myself too.

My personal favourite of a savoury seafood pancake, this can be an appetiser too. Goes well with a sour-salty-spicy sauce (preferably with Korean chili paste, soy sauce and vinegar).

The week after, I decided to make something my mum would cook when she's busy but need a balanced meal - omelette with vege. Her usual ingredient would be onions actually but I figured chives might be a good alternative too. Very simple dish and can be yummy with hot steaming rice.

And another week after, I tried chapjae, another Korean dish. (I'm beginning to think that Koreans love chives!) For some strange reason I found a new like with Korean food since coming to Japan. Never liked it before, perhaps the ones I had in Malaysia don't taste so good! Maybe there's many Korean restaurants, dishes and food packages that it's relatively easy to survive on Korean food.

Chapjae is a stir fried glass noodle dish with strips of beef, carrot and mushrooms. Cooked this with sesame oil and garlic, another 2 essential ingredients in Korean dishes.

Quite happy with my chinese chives experiment, though it took me a whole month to finish a bunch of it. The dishes above were all first attempts. I think I'll attempt chives again... probably next year!

Sunday, April 14, 2013

kobe earthquake

We are okay here in Kobe.

The dawn earthquake woke me up unexpectedly. I was quite annoyed being awoken at that hour, especially when I was trying to catch up with sleep.

As I opened my eyes, it was still dark but I could make out that the bed was shaking. It was not as bad as the Niigata quake because there was not much noise.

Telling myself it was just a dream, I made myself go back to sleep hoping it was all just a dream. Soon enough the shaking stopped.

I only realised it was an actual earthquake when I checked the news the next morning. >.<

Saturday, April 06, 2013

birthday and white day

The birthday celebration continued next day with the KBF grrls. Since it was getting slightly warmer, I was happy to shed the thick layers and eskimo-down-jacket and went for something lighter.

Erike had invited us to this Iranian restaurant near Toa Road. Apparently it was owned by a church member, an Iranian who married a Japanese. Have not seen them in church because they were busy running the business and having to take care of the kids themselves.

Erike and I have just started Bible Study with the 2 of us since we live quite close to each other. Since she had invited Akari and Jamie, we decided to do the BS together with them too. So after a warm Middle Eastern meal, we studied Ephesians 3 together.

They had lovely gifts too! A Naomi Tozaki pouch from Erike, which was very timely since my cosmetic pouch was getting spotty (mouldy might sound too gross! But it's something I've had for many years in Malaysia), a pack of Celestial Tea from Jamie (didn't know this brand has sooo many flavours!) and a very delicate Quatre Saisons flower vase from Akari (so delicate and petite I thought it was a tea strainer at first lol).

I felt truly blessed to be able to celebrate my first birthday in Kobe with thoughtful colleagues and friends.

To add to the cherry blossom festivities, Ms Barbie sent some gifts few days in advance too. It was a package of grrly sakura themed gifts, thought it was delivered to a wrong address at first! Apparently due to a typo, the package was delivered to my neighbour on the same floor. The delivery guy was surprised it was rejected, so decided to call the sender, and after some quick clarification, it arrived correctly the next day.

Bet that neighbour must be a Japanese. Thankful that he/she was honest! Maybe in Malaysia, it would be gone, disappeared! No one would know the better, especially if it's meant to be a surprise delivery.

After a busy birthday weekened, and following that a week of hectic workshops, I decided to pamper myself with some relaxing tea. Strawberries are in season now, so what better way to have this African rooibos, strawberry and vanilla flavoured tea than with fresh strawberries.

Oh, just to cap off the month of March, we had the White Day on 14 March. Just a month before, Valentine's Day is celebrated, but quite differently from the rest of the world. In Japan (and Korea too!), you will see scores of ladies in chocolate and gift stores buying for the men, and the men would reciprocate one month later.

This has become so commercialised, that everyone buys for everyone. In my department, the grrls forked out JPY1,000 each to buy chocolates for the guy colleagues. It's more of a gesture than actual emotional feelings usually associated with Valentine's Day. Since the guys outnumber grrls, we bought many various types of little candy, snacks and chocs and wrapped them up together. (I never got to see how this was "celebrated" as I was away in Amsterdam)

The next month, the guy colleagues bought chocolates for us. March 14 is called White Day, also celebrated in both Japan and Korea. I was delighted to find this on my table when I returned to my desk (I was also away for workshops when this happened!) Not only did we get a collective gift from all the guys, but some of the managers also bought additional candies for us.