Monday, February 24, 2014

the beach from yesteryear

So I was trying to see why there are still some drafts sitting in my blog, I found the following images which was probably uploaded in 2008.

I'm still trying to figure out why these were significant enough to be shared. Or maybe it's some long-forgotten story that I had meant to tell.

5 minutes after reading this, I'm thinking perhaps I wanted to show what kind of beaches we have in Japan!

Friday, February 21, 2014

going for gyoza

One of the new recipes I tried for the first time was making gyoza, the Chinese dumpling that the Japanese love. I've had lots of it especially at ramen stalls, and recently in Kobe at a little restaurant specialising in just gyoza. So I decided to give it a try thinking it shouldn't be that difficult.

Just need to have some minced pork, which you should marinade with salt, pepper and sesame oil. I added garlic paste for added oomph. You can also add in soy sauce or oyster sauce but I decided to make it simple first. Then mix in the chopped cabbage and spring onions.

I didn't know there were many types of dumpling skin until I tried buying them at the supermarket. This is for the fried dumpling type. After letting the marinaded mix stand for about half an hour, I wet the edges of the skin slightly, then put a tablespoon of the mix in the middle. This really depends on how much you want to get in, but usually the fatter it is, the better. Just be careful when folding it.

On medium fire, put about 1 tablespoon of vegetable oil in the frying pan, fry the dumpling. It looks quite dry at this stage, but try to get a little brown on both sides of the skin like the above. The meat should be half cooked by then.

After about 10 minutes, pour a little water at the base of the pan. The dumpling should soak up the water pretty quickly. Then add a little more and cover the pan to steam up the dumpling. Wait for about 10-15 minutes for the meat to thoroughly cook, and the dumpling should now be a little moist but with crispy skin at the edge. Your dumpling is now ready!

I made a 2nd batch using prawns instead but with the same ingredients as above as I had leftover skin. It had a different texture, but still as nice. Both goes well with sambal vinegar dip, my improvisation of the usual vinegar spicy oil sauce.

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

keep me warm

Since electricity bill has gone up last year probably due to the minimised use of nuclear reactors and dependence on limited resources, I decided to explore the Japanese methods of keeping warm.

Wearing thick socks is a no-brainer, but one will be amazed at the number of colourful and cute socks in Japan. I had gotten these as birthday gifts from Yuri last year, so they were very timely.

I had seen these haramaki pants for some time now but never really thought of getting them until a conversation with Hyun when she was preparing to head back to Korea for the New Year's. Basically these are like warm woolly shorts that you wear on top of your undies. I guess this is the Japanese version of long johns.

Directly translated to "belly wrapper", you can get them for as cheap as JPY100. The cuter ones or with better materials are usually more expensive. These were on sale because they were trying to clear last year's inventory!

The other suggestion was the yutanpo, which is commonly known as hot water bottle. I was really happy to see these at the 100yen shop since I was just trying it out. I thought it was quite cute, with a little woolen pouch.

I just slip these under the comforter before going to sleep. It does a reasonable job of keeping the bed warm, so now I don't need an electric blanket!

I think these conscious efforts are kinda paying off since my electricity bill is lower than what it was this time last year. :)

Saturday, February 15, 2014

valentine's in japan

Along with Christmas, Valentine's Day has become somewhat so commercialised that everyone is cashing in on these events. In a country like Japan that loves novelty and has a culture of gift-giving, these are perfect opportunities for retailers.

I'm really astonished by the many creative ideas for gifts and lovely merchandises that they come up for these events. Each elaborately packaged that I'd buy just because they look pretty!

However, Valentine's Day is celebrated a little differently in Japan, and also South Korea. On Feb 14, the grrls get gifts (usually chocolates) for the guys. There are 2 types - one is the usual where if the grrl likes a guy, she would give presents to express her feelings, and the other is called "obligatory" chocolates for female colleagues to give to their male colleagues.

One month later on Mar 13, it will be the guys' turn. In the 1st scenario if the guy is interested in the grrl, he would get her gifts. Then the grrl would know for sure how he felt. Please don't ask me why it takes 1 month for the guy to respond!

This year as with previous year, the IT grrls pooled some money and bought "obligatory" chocolates to the guys in the IT department. Since usually guys outnumber grrls, we had to spend a bit to ensure the guys don't get measly chocolates.

It became such a topic of contention because some felt it was not fair, another pointed out this year's cost was higher because more guys joined the department recently. One even suggested we should just call it off if no one really wanted to give, just because it's a "culture".

I told the organiser, that it's the thoughts that count. Trying to explain this phrase, I illustrated by saying, even if the gift was handmade and not necessarily expensive, I'm sure the recipient would appreciate it.

Friday, February 14, 2014

fluff from above

Just as Sochi was opening the 2014 Winter Olympics, 5 time zones away it started to snow in Kobe. Newscasters had reported that this would be the first time in almost 20 years that there would be this much snow. More so in the Kantou areas such as Tokyo, but considerably less in Kansai region.

Nevertheless, I was quite happy to brave the cold to see the white fluffy snow come down from the sky.

I love it when it snows. Not only because I don't get much of it here, but the snow makes the cold more bearable!

Today, it started to snow again. I thought it was a nice Valentine's Day gift from above as I woke up to a flurry of more whiteness this morning. Pardon my commentary, it was really freezing trying to capture it on video. It might look more like rain when I tried taking pictures, too bad they didn't stay long enough on the ground to build up.