Friday, September 19, 2008

Taiyaki for BREAKFAST

"Whatcha doing Mr. Volcano?"
"I'm filling my taiyaki with sausagicity!"
(if that makes no sense click here...or for a sillier version try this one)
Hehe, one of treats I miss most from Japan is definitely taiyaki. Tai, also known as snapper, is a kind of fish and is considered good luck in Japan. Taiyaki though is not grilled fish but a yummy fish shaped waffle filled most often with sweetened red bean goodness. These delicious treats can be found at festivals or sometimes random little stalls around town. When I was living in Kakegawa I used to pass a super cute little Taiyaki stall every day while walking to work. It never failed to bring a little smile to face.

Unfortunately I have yet to find a place in LA to buy freshly made taiyaki (if you know of one, oshiete kudasai!). So I figured the best way to satisfy my craving would be to make them myself. Due to the wonders of the internet, I was able to find a simple taiyaki maker online. For some reason, it was from Korea (is taiyaki popular in Korea?) and all the instructions were in Korean. This wasn't much of a problem since the taiyaki maker was just a simple old school waffle iron with snapper-shaped molds. Just heat, fill, close and flip (repeat if desired).
For a good recipe and write up check out Anime Blog. I, however, am a little bit lazy (while I love to cook, I hate to clean) and after reading about Batter Blasters on a few blogs thought that might be the perfect easy solution for making quick and easy taiyaki. I was a little nervous at first but it turned out great. Since I love anko (sweetened red bean paste) my initial attempt was the traditional style with the sweetened bean paste filling. It took me a couple tries to get the temperature and the timing just right but soon I was turning out yummy taiyaki in no time.The morning after my super successful Taiyaki night, Dave had the idea to make a version of “pigs in blanket” or as I like to say “soy in a snapper.” Using the batter blasters and frozen vegan sausages these were simple to make and fun to eat. What a wonderful way to start off the day!!What would you want in your Taiyaki??

Saturday, August 09, 2008

You down with RFD - yeah you know me ^_~

I have been dying to try Real Food Daily in Santa Monica since, well, probably since the first time I ever saw it about 4 years ago (back when it was next to Blueberry - a super yum breakfast place that is not longer *tear*). I'm not sure why I put it off for so long but if nothing else good comes of my little vegan experiment at least it finally got me into this delicious restaurant. One thing I hate about many "vegan" restaurants (i.e. California Vegan) is that the majority of the entrees are full of funky fake meat products. Rather than offering creative dishes featuring the amazing flavors of natural vegan products they just have standard dishes made with smeat in place of real meat. No worries at RFD though, they have a menu packed of interested and fresh creative dishes. So many that it is hard make a decision but the food here is definitely worth a trip back.

We started off the meal with the Nori Maki small plate. I don't usually get appetizers but I had been wanting to try these for a while. I just love the look of brown rice sushi, it projects an image wholesome yumminess. Also, as a sushi fiend, I'm taking every chance I can to get a little sushi fix during this vegan experiment. In proper Japanese style, the sushi came beautiful presented.I especially liked the leaf shaped wasabi blob. I love details like that. The taste was decent, I especially liked the addition of umeboshi, which is one of the flavors I miss teribley from Japan. It could have done without the addition of avacado. Maybe my year in Japan had caused me to question the use of avacodo in sushi especially right next to the umeboshi. Overall, it was pretty good but I'm not sure if it would win in a head to head with the brown rice sushi rolls from M Cafe and I must admit it"s not even in the same league as real sushi from places like Echigo.

Dave got the tac-o'the town, which is actually, according to some online interview, Moby's favorite dish (they should like totally mention that on the menu ^_^).
I can understand why, the tacos were delicious. I was a little surprised that they were hard shell tacos which totally reminded me of taco night from when I was little. The seasoned seitan mixture that the shells were stuffed with had a great Mexican flavor. Unfortunately the beans and rice paled in comparison. They tasted completely unseasoned and did nothing to enhance the taco. While a little disappointing, the two tacos packed enough flavor to carry the dish and were filling enough on their own.

Not to brag or anything but the star dish of the night was without a doubt the entree that I ordered (you're the winner...^_^).
I was a little apprehensive about ordering since I really wanted something with tempeh it but I am so glad that I did. Not only was the presentation stunning but every component had its own unique flavor that was good alone and also in combination....I couldn't stop eating it! The title of the dish was, in honor of the olympics, Go for the Gold and is described as: Spicy pistachio crusted tofu, caramelized golden beet and citrus sauce, sauteed black kale and zucchini, creamy garlic mashed sweet potatoes, phyllo crisps. was so delicious I am inspired to try to make the Pistachio Crusted Tofu recipe off of the FatFreeVegan blog...yum!!

Overall I was super satisfied...way more than I thought I would be. This along with M Cafe de Chaya is mos def one of my new favs in LA!

The Good: fresh, natural ingredients, creative recipes,
beautiful presentation, new specials every couple of weeks

The Bad: the rice had no spice! sushi was only "okay", a little pricey

The Yummy: the tacos were yum, and my special dish was delish


Thursday, August 07, 2008

My Venture into Veganism

Well, I have finally jumped on the vegan bandwagon and wahoo! what a fun ride it has been. First I must say that being vegan for only 3 days has given me a new found appreciation for anyone who engages in this lifestyle. I read a ton of vegan blogs but never truely realized how much effort it takes to eat a vegan diet. Of course it also causes me to ask the question of why, but that question has been answered on many sites around the web so I don't feel any reason to expound apon it here. While I don't fully agree with all of the veganistic ideals I still have an appreciation for people who can feel so strongly about something to modify there behavior in such an extreme way. And super duper props to anyone who started years ago before all these (yucky) fake smeat and cheeze products were out there.

Let me note that I am doing this more as an experiment and have no plans to continue this diet for the rest of my life. (I was inspired by a meat-eating friend who took on vegan challenge and ate a vegan diet for a few month) Right now, my plan is to eat vegan at least through the end of August. Already, adopting a vegan diet has made me realize how much milk and fish products I used to eat. It will be interesting to see how this affects my overall health. I'm hoping eating this way will force me to cook more often and try some of the yummy recipes I am always finding. Not only does eating this way give me a new apprciation for vegans but for anyone who make drastic changes in their diet. I converted to vegetarianism almost 15 years ago. Perhaps being younger and not set in my ways made it much easier but I don't remember it being that difficult of a change.

Expect to see many more posts about vegan recipes and of course some vegan ice cream! I hope this will last much longer than my little south beach excursion (well, actually now that I think about it, it already has!)

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Wednesday, July 02, 2008

Bye Bye South Beach...nice visit (well not really)

Well...two days in and I already fell off the bandwagon. It was an interesting experiment but just a little too tough for me. The first day was not too bad; actually I wasn't hungry most of the day and didn't really feel like I was missing anything. By the end of the day though I had almost no energy and went to bed early. Tuesday morning I woke up starving and was so weak I could barely pull myself out of bed. I started my morning off with a scoop of peanut butter just to give me the strength to make a pot of coffee. After my mushroom and spinach omelet I was feeling pretty good and spent much of the afternoon giving a friend a walking tour of Santa Monica with no problems. Then came the downfall...I got home around 4PM and was starving. My head was spinning and I felt quite faint. Not sure what to do, I started shoving various protein and veggie items into my mouth but nothing seemed to take away my symptoms. All I could do was just mope lying on the couch. I couldn't even muster up enough energy to read. The rest of the evening was shot. While tasty, dinner was quite unfulfilling and nothing could seem to pull me out of my funk. My bf fell asleep at 9PM but I was in such pain I couldn't even sleep. Finally around 10:30 I went to bed and had crazy dreams all about food. I had such hunger pains that I actually got out of bed in the middle of the night and ate peanut butter and string cheese from the fridge. Now that is not normal behavior.

While for some people I believe that the South Beach Diet might be a great way to lose a few pounds. My parents did it and seemed to be okay. I think I am going to skip to a more phase 2 like plan. Whether it is because I am almost vegetarian, don't have a lot of weight to lose, or some other reason, a lower carbohydrate does not suit my body chemistry.

Anyways...on a happier note I am super excited because after months of searching I finally got a job! Among many other things, one of the reasons I am so excited is that I get to start making myself bentos!! Yay! I bought a few super cute bento boxes in Japan and can't wait to put them to some good use. Look forward to some fun and excitng bento box posts!


Saturday, June 28, 2008

Foodie Cutie takes a South Beach

As a life long dieter it is funny that I have never actually gone on a "real" diet. I have always just obsessed, read diet books, created my own diets and counted calories on my own. I packed on a couple pounds while in Japan and then in my return to American cuisine packed on a couple more and have found it so hard to lose any! So I have decide to jump on the low-carbohydrate (I refuse to use that other word, c&*b) bandwagon and try out the South Beach Diet. It might be a little tough since I have a super sharp sweet tooth, but I think it might be an interesting experience as well. Wish me luck! Gambarimasu!

Monday, February 19, 2007

Valentine's Day Goodies: Heart Shaped Sushi and Ramen

I would consider myself to be pretty low key about Valentine's Day. I'm not really much into cards, flowers or even...gasp...jewlery (it'll just get lost in my room ^_^;); however when I spotted an ad in the Mitsuwa flyer for heart shaped sushi I knew that my Valentines day wouldn't be complete without it!! Luckily Dave is such a sweetie and graciously drove me all the way to Little Tokyo in downtown LA on Saturday to pick some up. The package was just so cute, I could hardly calm myself down while in the grocery store. It came with four pieces, two spicy tuna and two some kind of mild fish. They were made using green and pink rice paper instead ofnori. While the rice paper added nice color and made the sushi easy to bite, I really missed the toasty flavor that comes from the nori. The sushi itself was alright, the rolls were a little big making it hard to eat but it was still a ton of fun. We made some miso soup and steamed veggies to have on the side and served it with some cold sake. It was a great little Valentine's celebration!

Then, on Sunday night, I got to have my first taste of Real Ramen (or at least a real as it comes in Southern California ^_^). My boyfriend has been to handful of different ramen places Los Angeles and had nothing but good things to say about Asahi, a small Ramen house located in the little Japanese area along Sawtelle. This little strip of Sawtelle is super cute with lots of Japanese restaurants and other businesses. It's one of those parts of the city that I don't go to very often, but every time I do, I think "I should go here more often." Hopefully I will get a chance to try the cream puffs from Papa Beard before I leave!Mmmm...cream puff....anyway, that's for another post...back to Sunday night ramen...There was a small wait to get in to the restaurant, which in my opinion is always a good sign! Asahi was very clean and had some nice decorations giving it a nice ambiance without overdoing it. As soon as you are seated you presented with a little appetizer of spicy sesame marinated cucumbers, very yum!

The menu was pretty straight forward, basically ramen and then some other non noodle dishes. Many of the ramen dishes came with pieces of pork but there were a couple with out. The main reason I haven't tried ramen is that it is almost always made with pork or chicken stock. Since I don't eat meat, I usually avoid soups made with meat stock, but I decided to make an exception forramen . However, while I will allow the stock to be made from meat, I don't think I would be able to take big pieces of meat floating around in there. I ordered thewakame ramen , one of few non meat choices, and added a boiled egg since I heard that it is really yummy with the boiled egg and plus, it looks prettier in the pictures that way. Dave I guess felt like picking up the slack for mymeatlessness and ordered Chashu ramen which is just Shoyu ramen with extra pork.

As with most ramen places, the portions were huge! There were plenty of noodles but what I liked the best were the toppings. Mine came with spring onions, a generous portion ofwakame seaweed, sprouts, bamboo shots, and a hard boiled egg which had been cut in half. Each of the toppings added a unique taste and texture to the soup. I loved the sweetness of the bamboo shots and the crunch from the bean sprouts. The seaweed was soft and slippery with a mild bitter flavor. I especially liked the boiled egg. I had fun getting a little yolk on my spoon and then letting it sop up some of the buttery broth and then taking a big bite. The flavor combination was just amazing. The broth was rich and soothing and the noodles had a nice flavor and bite to them. Since this is my firstramen place I have little to compare with but I would definitely recommend highly recommend Asahi. This ramen experience was a lot fun and will definitely not be my last. I haven't quite perfected my slurping technique, but I'm not worried...I'll have plenty of chances to practice! Can't Wait!!!

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Super Update

Okay, so I have been a lazy bum...Since class and interviews have been over for a while I don't even have a good excuse for not posting other than I haven't gotten around to it. Well, I also haven't really made any thing worth posting about recently which is only another example of why I have been a lazy bum. But that's okay, if we fall down we can just get up again so cheers to a new year of blog posts,wahoo!! Anyway, before I get started on anything new I just wanted to do a quick recap of exciting foodie events since my last post.

Thanksgiving: My friend Dan invited Dave and me up to his house in Santa Barbara. OMG, they have such a beautiful view from their backyard and we all watched the sun set into the ocean. It was truly stunning. The food wasdelich , Dan is a great cook. My favorite was a simple dish he made with roasted beets, goat cheese and toasted walnuts. Since it was also my birthday I made a Pumpkin Cheese"birthday"cake using recipe I found in Cooking Light. It was super simple and turned out great. The texture was nice and creamy and it had a great pumpkin flavor. It was hard to believe that it was low fat. I would definitely make it again. My friendUlea made her amazing Tiramisu which was super yumm . While I definitely missed some of the traditional dishes I share with my family (especially since my mom does a stunning Thanksgiving spread), it was a fun day with lot of great food and great friends.

Birthday Dinner: Since my birthday fell on Thanksgiving technically the post above would be my "birthday dinner", but the next night, Dave took me to this Japanese restaurant that I have been dying to try called Kiriko. It's located on Sawtelle in that area which has become like a new Little Tokyo (maybe Little Osaka or something...). Kiriko was a lot smaller than I had imagined, but very cute and cozy. Dave and I had a little table next to the window which was nice andromatical. The menu was a little challenging since I didn't really recognize any of the dishes. It was probably the most Japanese place I have been to. We started off with a couple pieces of sushi which were excellent. I would come back here just for the sushi. Dave ordered 白身魚のカルパッチョ(White fish carpacchio) which is described on the menu as "Thin sliced white fish of the day on top of Julienne vegetables." It was definitely not what we expected. The dish was served cold and the fish was served raw and sliced very thin. It was stunningly plated with a the red vegetables making a flower like image on top of the fish (I think Dave took a pic, I'll have to get it from him). It had a strong lemon flavor which Dave didn't like. I thought the flavor was rather interesting, complex, and quite enjoyable even though I'm not a huge fan of lemon either. For my dish, I ordered 梅紫蘇しらすパスタサラダ (Ume shiso shirasu pasta salad, Chilled Angel hair with arugula, sour plum and daikon radish and Shirasu (boiled baby sardine) fish). This dish was actually warmer than than Dave's. I was a little nervous about the sardines but they were actually really good. They were white and stringy and the flavor kind of reminded me of crab. It had a light dressing, which pulled together the sourness of the plum and peppery arugula perfectly. While I really enjoyed the experience at Kiriko and thought it was a lot of fun I think it was just a bit out of Dave's comfort zone.

Christmas: I spent Christmas in Vegas with my family. It was a lot of fun but I found the food in Vegas to be overpriced and not overly impressive. My favorite place by far was Mon Ami Gabi, which was a little french Bistro in the Paris casino. It had an awesome location right across from the Bellagio, and made the best drink, an amazing pomegranate martini. On our first full day in Vegas, my family and I stopped in there for an early afternoon cocktail and a little bite to eat. We split a cheese plate which featured 3 different kinds of cheese plus apple slices and toasted walnuts. It was super yum and went great with the mini baguettes the restaurant provided. My family enjoyed our experience there so much that we made reservations to come back for a mid afternoon lunch on Christmas day. The weather on Christmas was just beautiful and we managed to get a table outside so could we could enjoy the sun and watch the Bellagio fountain show across the street. The food was very good but not super memorable (I had seared tuna nicoise salad). We also had dinner off the strip at a place called Rosemary's which was really nice and had the Christmas Buffet at the Mirage. My family and I had a fabulous time and the highlight of the trip was with out a doubt getting to watch the Cirque Du Soliel production LOVE. Thanks mom for setting us this wonderful trip!!

My future goals include dining at Josie's and also attempting to make some pumpkin diafuku. Yum!!