I had a great time at my cupcake event on Sunday. The kids had a great time – especially when decorating. They unleashed their creative sides, as you can see from the pictures above. Most of those were done by the children. I showed them print outs of a couple of designs like a Santa hat, a snowman and a Christmas tree, and then let them go free.
This is the most notable design, done by a girl who looked no more than eight.
The mothers requested I do more events in the future so it looks like there will be more family events on the horizon.
A couple of weeks ago I picked up three cooking magazines at the local bookstore, カラダ温めレシピ (recipes to warm you up), Esse Special edition of their most popular bentos and 楽々スープジャーレシピ (thermos recipes). Now I have tons of ideas for lunches. I found the thermos recipe book the most interesting, conceptually. Almost everything is cooked in the microwave but I can easily make everything on the stove.
This recipe is the second one I tried from the warming recipes magazine. The first one I tried was carrot and ginger rice and none of us liked it. This one, on the other had, was delicious. I used orange fleshed yams (annouimo安納芋 あんのういも) instead of sweet potato and I don’t think I can go back to regular sweet potatoes. The yams were so smooth.
Goma shio is a mixture of salt and black sesame and is a common rice topping. To mix, use one part salt to ten parts black sesame seeds, by volume.
Sweet Potato and Black Rice Takikomi Gohan
1/2 sweet potato (I used about 70 grams) 1 cup uncooked rice 1 tablespoon black rice 1/3 teaspoon salt goma shio for topping
Wash the rice, add the appropriate amount of water and let sit for at least thirty minutes. Chop, but don’t peel, the sweet potato into small cubes and soak in water for about fifteen minutes. Drain and rinse the sweet potato and it and the salt to the rice. Give it a quick stir and then put it in the rice cooker and cook on the regular white rice setting. I haven’t tried the quick setting but it is probably okay if you are in a pinch for time. If you don’t have a rice cooker, cook it the same way you would rice. Serve topped with goma shio.
American Thanksgiving is next week and Christmas is in a month so I thought I would repost this information from last year for my new readers.
—Edited repost begins here
For the first couple of Thanksgivings and Christmases it didn’t even occur to me to miss turkey. All of a sudden, about a week before my third Christmas here, I felt I had to roast a turkey. Since rarely went out of my way to get food that wasn’t sold in the local supermarket, I had no idea where to look. I was in Shinjuku that evening so I decided to pop into the basement of Isetan and check out the meat shop. I was lucky. They happened to have these tiny one and two kilogram turkeys for 3500 yen and 5000 yen respectively. They were imported from France. Not knowing where else to look, I bought one of the little ones and took it home. It was the best turkey I had ever had and worth the price. Thanksgiving the next year was a bit more of a challenge because while turkeys aren’t hard to find around American Thanksgiving Day in November, Canadian Thanksgiving Day is a full month earlier. Luckily Nissin had one the right size.
The next Christmas I happened upon one in the supermarket in the Meguro station the day before I was going to go off in search of one. Lucky. Eventually I learned about TheMeatGuy and that solved all of my problems. You can order a couple months in advance and have it delivered the day you would have taken it out of the freezer so you don’t have to worry about freezer space.
The second easiest option is to ask at your local supermarket. They might be able to order one for you. This will likely have to be done in Japanese but at least you won’t have to travel far if you don’t want to pay for shipping.
Where to find turkeys in Tokyo
Nissin has turkeys year round from 3-4lbs to the huge 20+lbs
National Azabu had turkeys before it shut down. They should have them again now.
Meat counters of large upscale department stores – only around Christmas
Some upscale supermarkets will carry them at Christmas time – ask at the meat department.
A friend buys her Christmas turkey from her local Hanamasa (website: Japanese language only) but I have never seen one at the ones I’ve visited so you would have to ask. Ask for ターキー(taakii) not 七面鳥 (shichimenchou) as many people associate the roasted bird with the English word and the live bird in the wild with the Japanese word.
Costco - you can actually call and ask them before you make the trip out (they won’t tell you the price but will tell you if they have something)
How to find a turkey on the internet in Japan
TheMeatGuy - they have them in stock by Thanksgiving
AmazonJapan - they have a few different sizes of turkeys in stock now
Note: if you have an average (read tiny) sized microwave/oven you will probably want to go for a 1-2kg bird but be sure to measure the inside of your oven to check. I now have a 30L oven and find a 5kg is a great size.
I logged into Facebook yesterday to discover two Christmas workshops, in addition to my own, happening right near my old house in Chigasaki.
First up, as a reminder, my Christmas Cupcake Family Afternoon on December 1st at Serendipity Cafe. (Japanese details on their site). If you would like to join, please head here to the Facebook event and RSVP. Maximum of six families. As of right now there is only one spot left.
And third up is a Balloon Christmas tree workshop at Bunchkins English Playroom on December 4th. What a creative way to use balloons. Contact the email address in the picture below for more information.
I just about had to ditch writing this post. I went on to Amazon to get the link to the 1kg bag of yellow split peas I bought last month and I couldn’t find it. I searched for イエロースプリットピーズ instead of イエロースプリットピース and the difference in the final character made a huge difference. Then I went on to Rakuten to see if they had any (using the incorrect search term) and nothing. I checked Tengu Natural Foods as well. Nada. I can’t post a recipe if you can’t get the main ingredient relatively easily. Luckily I just googled it and google suggested the correct spelling. Phew.
Anyway, this is one of my favorite winter soups. It might even rank higher than mykabocha soup. Maybe because it is special because I have to order one of the ingredients. It’s usually made with a ham bone but I have had to improvise since I have never even seen one for sale here (not that I’ve ever thought to look).
This soup tastes fantastic the next day and is great in a thermos for lunch.
Split Pea Soup
250mL cup of yellow split peas 750mL water 3 slices of bacon, sliced thinly 1 small onion, diced 1/2 carrot, cut into slices 10-15cm of celery, cut into slices 1 bay leaf salt and pepper, to taste optional, 1 bullion/consomme cube
Fry the bacon in the bottom of your soup pot. When browned, take out and saute the onion in the bacon fat. Add everything and bring to a boil. Turn the heat down and simmer on low, covered, until the split peas are soft. Take out the bay leaf and puree. You may want to let it cool a bit first. Reheat, if necessary, and season to taste. If you like thinner soup you may want to add water but wait until after you puree as it will appear thicker at first. Serve with a hearty good bread.