Posts filed under ‘Japanese Foods’

Tokyo Chills with Fro-Yo

Trends can take a couple years to traverse the Pacific. So as frozen yogurt wanes in the U.S., Japan is just starting to take its first bite.

This year, three shops have moved into the scattered cubbyholes of Tokyo, each offering its own addicting blend of dairy goodness.

At Pure Berry in Shibuya, it’s all about accessorizing. Customers can fashion their cup of yogurt with over 20 different toppings, including chocolate sprinkles, jelly beans, gummy bears and Teddy Grahams. Piled high, it’s either a monstrosity or a work of art. As an special bonus, this fro-yo is collagen-infused.

Not to be undersold, Golden Spoon dishes out over 15 original flavors like peanut butter and chocolate coconut. It’s part of a west coast U.S. chain that claims to be as tasty as ice cream. Just like with lipstick — Maybelline, CoverGirl, and the like — American brands have a certain aura of coolness that Japanese don’t mind dishing a few extra cents for. In three years, they plan to open 100 branches across the country.

And then there’s PinkSweetBerry, which sounds suspiciously similar to U.S.-born chain. (Hmmm~) Here it’s all about fresh fruit — kiwis, strawberries, pineapples, bananas, mangoes. If you’ve ever lived in Japan you know what a rare commodity fruits are. A three-topping cup is about $5; the price of a large cup at Pinkberry. Not bad if you ask me.

Japanese people seem to take to the palate-cleansing treat especially after a night of hard drinking. And especially after a heavy dinner of Korean grilled beef. Heart burn can be a real buzz-killer.
Frozen yogurt might be old news in the U.S. but thanks to new franchises like these, it’s become the coolest scene in Tokyo. (^o^)

Himawari

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JPBizDirect, a Los Angeles based company, provides practical solutions for U.S. ? Japan business projects. Our experienced Japanese staff will support all phases of your business project to seize business opportunities and turn your vision into a reality. >> Learn more

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August 26, 2008 at 10:31 am

What to Do with Your $600 Tax Rebate

During these shaky times when airline companies are folding by the minute, travel companies have to really think of enticing reasons to get you packing. One of my friends just signed up for a hiking tour through Croatia. For two weeks, she’ll be scaling mountains and inhaling nature in the company of strangers. Another friend just got a ticket to Italy where he’s dishing out $100 to sit in on a family dinner. At that price I’m sure they’ll tell him to stay for dessert.

If Japan is your preferred destination, a pop culture tour is the way to go. I found one called Intermixi that takes you to Osaka, Kyoto and Tokyo for $2,300. Hotel and airfare are included in this seven-day excursion. And aside from the traditional temple sightseeing they take you to cool hangouts like Harajuku (as in Gwen Stefani’s Mecca) and Akihabara, where geeks go to shower in electronics and anime.

I read on their site that they also visit some of Japan’s vast collection of odd-themed restaurants. The one I’ve been to was inspired by purgatory. Customers dine within the confines of a jail cell and must walk through dark corridors to get relieve themselves in hell (the bathroom). There’s also a J-Pop cafe, a ninja restaurant, and one where the waiters look like mortuary attendants and you eat your dinner in silence. Believe me, it got awkward quickly. Not recommended for first-dates.

If I were to go on one of these Japan tours I’d ruin it for everyone by unloading too much of my better judgment. My friend who went to Japan recently for the first time decided to try different rice balls at the convenience store. When she bit into one stuffed with a sour pickled plum (ume), she gasped and patooeyed it in her hand. I’m sure she’ll always remember that day. Imagine what a party pooper I’d be if I was there to warn her.

But if you’ve ever wanted to visit Japan and hoped for more than just temple-hopping I recommend one of these alternative tours. They seem like a lot of fun and, heck, it’ll help stimulate our staggering world economy.

Himawari

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Thinking of doing business in Japan? We can make it easy for you!
JPBizDirect, a Los Angeles based company, provides practical solutions for U.S. ? Japan business projects. Our experienced Japanese staff will support all phases of your business project to seize business opportunities and turn your vision into a reality. >> Learn more
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May 28, 2008 at 10:42 am

Fresh, not Fishy

What comes to mind when you think of FRESH food? How about a slice of fish twitching on your plate? That’s what I encountered last month while dining on fugu (blowfish) at a Tokyo restaurant with a friend. We ordered a cut of the poisonous creature for our hot-pot broth. But before I could grab a piece with my chopsticks it started moving around, looking for a quick exit. Don’t worry, that fish was officially dead. It just took a few minutes for the nerve endings to catch on.

Freshness is no joke in Japan. No respectable sushi bar will serve day-old fish. At Tokyo’s Tsukiji Market you can seat yourself in front of a sashimi breakfast while fishermen next door haul in the catch of the day. The video above is an extreme example of fresh food. Believe me, most Japanese people have and never will see a chef slice through a live fish and release it back into the tank, seemingly harm-free. That’s just bizarre.

Though of course with high demand comes high cost. And in this economic recession freshness can be a luxury. I’m not a sushi connoisseur (can’t stand raw fish), so I prefer the 150-yen-a-dish conveyor belt sushi joints (a.k.a. kaiten sushi) scattered throughout Japan. The fish comes a tad dry and lifeless (though that’s a given), but if it’s between that or a McDonalds combo meal I’ll take the flounder. For 1,000 yen (just under 10 bucks) you can get 5 to 6 plates plus a bowl of miso soup. That’s more than enough to fill your stomach.

Though they might not move on your plate, there are all kinds of other fresh fish dishes like salt-roasted mackerel (saba no shioyaki), teriyaki sauce-soaked yellowtail (buri no teriyaki), and everyone’s favorite black cod with miso glaze (tara no saikyoyaki). I recommend any of them. They’re packed with so much flavor you wouldn’t guess it just emerged from the sea. Van de Kamps’ ain’t got nothin’ on them~ \(^_^)/

Himawari

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Thinking of doing business in Japan? We can make it easy for you!
JPBizDirect, a Los Angeles based company, provides practical solutions for U.S. ? Japan business projects. Our experienced Japanese staff will support all phases of your business project to seize business opportunities and turn your vision into a reality. >> Learn more
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May 13, 2008 at 9:55 am

Tiny Girl Eats Tokyo

Japan has an unhealthy obsession with food.

That was my friend’s assessment of our favorite country after visiting for the first time. It didn’t help that she spent most of her trip cooped up in a Tokyo hotel room, afraid of getting ‘lost in translation’ once outside. So she watched a lot of TV - food shows mostly because they were easiest to understand. One was a cooking competition with cute boys in white aprons. Another featured foods of different regions.

The show that sent her jaw to the ground featured a skinny, young woman with bleached blond hair who could eat any amount of food placed before her. Gluttony Girl, as some call her, weighs no more than 90 pounds but could finish off a vat of curry rice twice her size. And unlike Kobayashi, her Coney dog-eating compatriot whose focus was intense, this girl smiles and giggles as she spoons it all down.

In Japan they call her Gal So-ne, the latter being her last name, and “gal” describing the blond locks, glittery eyes, and Lee Press-On’s she sports. Most gals don’t eat more than a wafer for lunch. Gal So-ne will eat a wafer….and 5,000 more.

So of course, being a remarkable young lady, she’s climbed the ranks of quasi-celebrity, appearing on daily variety shows and hosting her own specials where she travels the world, consuming enough to feed all of Africa. And as a celebrity of sorts she gets to also a release an album, regardless of whether or not she can sing. In this one she also dances, though hopefully not after a big meal:

Many people wonder how a girl of chopstick girth can consume so much food. (To be exact, she’s 5’3” and 92 lbs.) So a team of doctors decided to put her in back of an X-ray screen as she ate. They found that her stomach had rubber band flexibility, increasing over 10 times its original size. And as to how she can stay so thin, they noticed her body temperature increased by 35°F as she ate, particularly around the spine. Truthfully, I think she just spews it up when no ones looking.

As for my friend, she’s still traumatized. She’s had her own personal battles with food in the past. And so while the consumers may be fun, she prefers rooting for the losers on American TV.

Himawari

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Thinking of doing business in Japan? We can make it easy for you!
JPBizDirect, a Los Angeles based company, provides practical solutions for U.S. ? Japan business projects. Our experienced Japanese staff will support all phases of your business project to seize business opportunities and turn your vision into a reality. >> Learn more
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April 22, 2008 at 4:07 pm 1 comment

Why Yes, That Comes in Green Tea Flavor

Last year on this blog I confessed my fondness (okay, “obsession” might be a better word) for Haagen-Dazs green tea ice cream from Japan. I even wrote the company and asked why it wasn’t available stateside. They sent me a couple of coupons in the mail and told me they didn’t have plans to release that flavor in the U.S. anytime soon. But now, at long last: success!! From January to August, grocery stores across the country will be stocked with limited edition green tea ice cream.

 

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The flavor is more popular than ever. J-list Side Blog recently offered up a new treat: green tea mint gum. Not sure I’d like the taste of that; I worry the mint part will overpower the subtleness of the tea flavor (sort of like when Lipton adds lemon to their iced teas; I think they should leave it alone).

Apparently there is no product that can’t be flavored with green tea. Kaboodle.com sells green tea pretzels (with “black honey syrup flavor”), green tea caramels, green tea Pocky and green tea Nestlé Kit Kats! You can read a not-so-favorable assessment of the Kit Kats at Chocolate Review, which may be the best blog idea ever and is run by a British university student.

 

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Here in L.A., Trader Joe’s sells green tea muffin mix, which is simple to bake at home. I really like them but I admit they’re an acquired taste.

For you daring types, here’s a recipe for green tea pudding. The finished product looks surprisingly scrumptious!

But the one I really want to eat is green tea pound cake.

With some actual green tea to wash it all down, of course.

Sarah S.

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Thinking of doing business in Japan? We can make it easy for you!
JPBizDirect, a Los Angeles based company, provides practical solutions for U.S. – Japan business projects. Our experienced Japanese staff will support all phases of your business project to seize business opportunities and turn your vision into a reality. >> Learn more
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March 28, 2008 at 7:35 am 3 comments

Made in China = Paranoia?

ALERT! ALERT! Throw out your Chinese pork buns! Burn your kid’s toys! Do it or DIE!

That’s the message spreading across the globe about Chinese exports. In the U.S., it started with a major toy recall after discovering parts were detailed with lead-based paint. Now in Japan they’ve found pesticides mixed into imported meat buns (nikuman) and dumplings (gyoza). Mainstream media has been quick to jump on this international scandal and consumers are equally on their toes, scouring their cabinets for anything that looks remotely “Made in China.”

gyoza.gif

It’s a scary thing to realize you’ve just ingested fertilizer which is why I try as much as possible to eat homegrown vegetables and organics from the local health food store. But when I’m bombarded with news about this so-called Chinese peril, I can’t help but to worry for how we Japanese and Americans will start treating Chinese people.

The other day I found my Japanese friend rummaging through a basket of condiments he’d accumulated from weekly trips to Yoshinoya. “This one’s Chinese, too…ugh,” he muttered to himself as he tossed each red pepper flake packet into the trash.

Other friends who’ve heeded media warnings have boycotted China altogether, despite the fact that only a handful products have been cited. Instead of being wary of certain products from certain manufacturers, we’ve learned to nurture caution xenophobically.

Back in the ‘90s when Japanese cars were outselling the U.S., I’d get a lot of evil stares from white-bread Americans because I looked like the enemy. Luckily I drove a Chevy, so that threw them for a loop. Other Asians weren’t as lucky. One guy named Vincent Chin was bludgeoned to death in 1982 by a bat carried by two laid-off auto workers; They thought he was the root of their misfortune.

Especially in a homogenous society like Japan, it’s easy to develop an “us” vs. “them” mentality. The line between the two is drawn thickly. So it scares me when news reports seem to accuse an entire population of wrongdoing.

Sure I worry about how my Chinese pork buns are made, but I also worry about the manure-tainted spinach recalls from Northern California. Though that doesn’t mean I’ll start boycotting everything north of the Sierras.

So unless there’s a food recall, I’ll take my chances on my store-bought pork buns. They’re mighty tasty, despite the freezer burn. (^_^)/

Himawari

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Thinking of doing business in Japan? We can make it easy for you!
JPBizDirect, a Los Angeles based company, provides practical solutions for U.S. – Japan business projects. Our experienced Japanese staff will support all phases of your business project to seize business opportunities and turn your vision into a reality. >> Learn more
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March 17, 2008 at 7:49 am

Taking a Test? Have a Pocky!

Right now, millions of Japanese school kids are sharpening their pencils and putting their brains into gear for entrance exam season.

With the academic year beginning in April, students are preparing now for a seat in a good school. The competition is stiff so it’s common practice for parents to dish out part of their income for after-school test prep classes, called juku. In the U.S., we have Kaplan and Princeton Review, but those begin at the college level. In Japan, it starts as young as kindergarten.

Back in the day, I was a nervous wreck taking the SATs, which is the standardized college test in the U.S. No matter how hard I studied I never felt fully prepared. I even tried hypnosis and daily affirmations to boost my confidence. Any amount of encouragement was necessary to overcome that uphill battle.

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In Japan, encouragement comes by way of candy. Walk down the aisle of any grocery store and you’ll see several of your favorite sweets – Kit Kats, Pocky and the like – printed with cheers like “You can do it!” and “We’re rooting for you!” They’re called gokaku (passing the exam) goods and though the price and content are the same, to the ambitious student these god-sent gems look like bona fide assurances of success. If I were a student I’d buy every box of gokaku candy I find and then slowly consume each one as I stay up all night studying.

Japanese consumers love matching their mood with their food. That’s why so many products change their look to fit the season. In the summer you’ll see bright yellow colors and a proliferation of thirst-quenching citrus. During fall and winter there’s shades of sweet-potato brown and milky white. Springtime adds cherry blossoms to both chocolate and potato chips.

So when entrance exam season comes around the only thing students are in the mood to know is that in a few months they’ll pass with flying colors. That’s why they have Pocky on their side. Just in case.

Himawari

—————————————————————————
Thinking of doing business in Japan? We can make it easy for you!
JPBizDirect, a Los Angeles based company, provides practical solutions for U.S. – Japan business projects. Our experienced Japanese staff will support all phases of your business project to seize business opportunities and turn your vision into a reality. >> Learn more
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March 3, 2008 at 9:50 am 1 comment

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