Food

Pigeon’s Recipes for Busy/Lazy People: One Seasoning Mexican-Japanese Rice and Beans

One thing we don’t eat in my household is beans. I heated up a can of imported refried beans once and my husband didn’t like them (who doesn’t like refried beans??). But I do make tacos regularly, and I wanted a side dish to go with them. So I threw this one together.

I used:

  • mixed beans
  • cooked rice (normal, sticky-ish, Japanese rice)
  • garlic
  • green peppers
  • taco seasoning
  • mitsuba (ミツバ)
  • a tomato

As usual, these ingredients are just a guide.

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1. Cut your stuff up. Put oil in the frying pan and heat up your garlic.

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2. Add your green peppers and beans. Fry.

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I used this can of mixed beans, which contains garbanzo beans (ガルバンゾ), marrowfat peas (マローファットピース), and red kidney beans (レッドキドニー). And lots of fiber (食物繊維/shokumotsu sen’i).

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3. Add your taco seasoning powder and mix well.

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I used this Japanese brand, S&B. I find that Japanese import stores and sometimes supermarkets have basic Old El Paso brand products, but they’re expensive, since they’re imported.

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Add your rice. Try to fight through the stickiness and get the beans and taco seasoning thoroughly mixed in with the rice.

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Finally, add your tomatoes and mitsuba. You want these to be only slightly cooked, so maybe turn off the heat soon after adding them and cook them with leftover heat as you stir them into your rice.

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And that’s it! This is an easy way to enjoy Mexican food if you live in Japan and can’t get to/can’t afford to go to a Mexican restaurant here.

By the way, my husband balked when he saw this dish (“Beeeeeans??”), but he ate the whole bowl! Ha!

This Year’s Trend in Japan is 1% Alcoholic Drinks for Some Godforsaken Reason

A week or so ago, I noticed that Kirin was running weird commercials advertising a new drink called Butterfly (バタフライ), which contains 1% alcohol.

The flavors of Butterfly available are “Take It Easy! Apple” (気楽にいこう!アップル/Kiraku ni ikou! Apple), “Let’s Go! Ginger” (ゆけ、ゆけ!ジンジャー/Yuke, yuke! Ginger), and “Happy-Go-Lucky Tea” (のんきに紅茶/Nonki ni koucha). They sound good, but unfortunately I can’t sample them, because they’re full of artificial sweeteners, which I am allergic to.

While I was wondering what kind of people would drink 1% alcoholic beverages (lightweights, I guess), I noticed that Suntory also had its own 1% alcohol, “The O.N.E.,” with commercials starring Lily Franky (リリー・フランキー) and Kiko Mizuhara (水原希子):

Does two make a trend?

By the way, The O.N.E. doesn’t have artificial sweeteners, so I could drink it, but the only flavors available are lemon (レモン) and grapefruit (グレープフルーツ), which are pretty standard, so it doesn’t seem worth it to drink them for only 1% of drunk.

But if you’re someone who usually can’t handle the booze, you might want to check these out.

Pigeon’s Recipes for Busy/Lazy People: Umeboshi Chicken Burger

This recipe is probably the most important accomplishment of my life.

It came about when I heard about the “Kishuu plum burger” (紀州梅バーガー/Kishuu ume burger) sold by a bakery called Kawa in Wakayama prefecture. I really like umeboshi, so I thought it sounded good, but I also felt like the execution could be improved. And while I still haven’t tried the original, I’m pretty sure mine is better.

This recipe is probably the easiest one I’ve posted on here so far, but the ingredients might be hard to find if you don’t live in Japan, so plan/substitute accordingly.

I use:

-Chicken breast (I use skinless)

-Honey umeboshi (ハチミツ梅干し/hachimitsu umeboshi)

-Mild salt umeboshi (うす塩梅干し/usushio umeboshi)

-Mizkan brand “Ponjure” ponzu jelly (ぽんジュレ)

-Shiso/perilla/ooba leaf (しそ/大葉)

-Mayonnaise

-Soy sauce

-Cooking sake

-Tomato

-Onion

-English muffins

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1. First, cut the chicken breast up into patty-ish shapes. Try to flatten them out a bit so they’ll sit nicely on the bun. Season the patties with soy sauce.

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2. Heat up some oil in a frying pan. Put the chicken breast patties in and cook one side for about a minute. Then, flip them over, pour some cooking sake in, and put a lid on. Steam them until they’re done (depends on thickness).

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3. Make the umeboshi tartar sauce: Remove the pits from some of the salt umeboshi (about 1-2 per burger). Chop/smash them up with your knife until you have a ball of umeboshi goop. Put the goop in a bowl and mix it with mayonnaise (I think about a 1:1 ratio by volume is good, but taste as you go).

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4. Prepare the toppings: Remove the pits from some honey umeboshi (1 per burger); leave them whole. Slice the tomato and onion. Wash the shiso leaves.

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5. Mizkan’s ponzu jelly is a really good sauce for this. If you can’t find it, I recommend something light and fruity as an alternative. Maybe marmalade?

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6. When your chicken is done steaming, stack all of the ingredients on half of an English muffin: chicken, shiso, tomato, onion, tartar sauce, honey umeboshi, ponzu jelly.

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7. Put the other half of the English muffin on top, squish it down, and enjoy!

Chocolate Natural Tofu is Chocolatey, Delicious, Tofu

I’m a big fan of tofu. Recently I’ve been eating a lot of “Mascarpone no You na Natural Tofu” (マスカルポーネのようなナチュラルとうふ/Mascarpone-like Natural Tofu), made by Sagamiya (相模屋). While I wouldn’t necessarily compare it to cheese, it’s soft and tasty and is especially good with a drizzling of olive oil. But today, when I went to pick some up at the supermarket, I found something new on the shelf:

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“Mascarpone no You na Natural Tofu: Chocolate Aji (チョコレート味/Chocolate flavor)”!

Of course I had to buy it. I felt a little trepidation as I used the included plastic spoon to plop it out of the container onto the conveniently enclosed styrofoam plate:

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The consistency was a little watery. But the taste was…

REALLY GOOD!

It was something like a semi-sweet chocolate pudding, or a very squishy chocolate cake. There was only a slight hint of tofu flavor. It actually reminded me of a vegan cake.

Actually, as far as I can tell from the ingredients, this product appears to be vegan? So maybe give it a shot if you’re a vegan craving chocolate this Valentine’s! (I’m not a vegan, though, so I don’t know all the ins and outs of what is and isn’t vegan, so please check yourself if you’re a vegan planning to eat this.)

I give “Mascarpone no You na Natural Tofu: Chocolate Aji” two thumbs up (wayyyyyy better than Spoon Vege). It’s a seasonal item so it’ll probably disappear soon, so if you see it at your local supermarket, grab it while you still can!

Pigeon’s Recipes for Busy/Lazy People: One Pot, One Bowl Pasta Salad

Here’s the third entry in my ongoing quick and dirty recipe series. Today’s recipe is the quickest and dirtiest one yet: pasta salad you can make even when you just do not feel like cooking. As always, the ingredients pictured are what I felt like using the day of the photo shoot. Change things up and make it your own.

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First, start boiling your eggs, since that’ll take a while. I like it best when the yoiks are runny. You know what a pain hard-boiling eggs the way you want them can be. Experiment.

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While your eggs are boiling, cut up your salad stuff. I always choose vegetables that don’t have to be cooked. If you want to complicate this by cooking your vegetables, go right ahead.

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If you really want to make this as meal-like as possible, add a can of tuna for a meat-ish and protein-y touch.

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Cheese is always a plus. I usually go with these cubes of gouda. (Open bag, dump into bowl.)

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Put everything in a big bowl. Cut/rip up your boiled eggs (take the shells off first) and put them in, too.

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Next, we boil the pasta. PROTIP: Boil the pasta in the same pot you just boiled the eggs in. I think tube-shaped pasta (macaroni, etc.) absorbs the flavors best. Boil the pasta for one minute LONGER than it says on the package.

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When the pasta’s done boiling, drain it and run it under cold water to cool it off. Add it to the bowl with the other ingredients.

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Dressing: my go-to dressing is vinegar + olive oil  + Krazy Mixed-Up Salt. If you do this, add, mix, taste, and add more if necessary.

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All done! Everything’s in one bowl, it’s a semi-balanced meal, and you only dirtied one pot. Pretty good!

Hida Beef Burgers at Lotteria: Tender, Juicy, and Expensive

I’ve been to the Hida (飛騨) area in Gifu Prefecture (岐阜県/Gifu-ken) twice now, and I highly recommended it. Shirakawa-go (白川郷) and Gero Onsen (下呂温泉) are amazing, and if you’re looking for a place to travel in Japan that’s just a little out of the way, you should check them out. But the best thing about Hida is the Hida beef (飛騨牛/Hida gyuu). This is Hida beef:

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Hida beef often comes served in the “hooba miso (朴葉味噌)” style, where slices of beef and tofu are laid on top of miso, which is spread over a kind of leaf (you don’t eat the leaf).

So when I saw that Lotteria, home of all the weird burgers, was selling a Hida beef burger with hooba miso sauce, I knew I had to give it a try.

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As you can see, the price is a rather steep ¥1,300. As this includes a drink OR a salad OR french fries, it’s not quite a bargain. Still, my husband and I shelled out for two of them.

As I entered my local Lotteria, I saw a sign above the counter proclaiming that the Hida beef burger was “10食限定 (juushoku gentei/limited to 10 servings).” I was able to take 2 home.

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As the box explains, Lotteria is currently in the middle of a campaign where a burger made from a different brand of Japanese beef goes on sale on the 29th of each month (肉の日[niku no hi/meat day]).

Let’s take a look at the Hida beef burger:

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Who put this thing together?

Lopsidedness aside, the burger was pretty straightforward. The patty was big and thick, and there was miso sauce on top, and some kind of different sauce on the bottom. There were no vegetables.

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The hamburger was a hamburg steak (ハンバーグ), with onions inside it. It was soft and juicy, and really good. The miso was sweet; the bit of bread left after I finished the burger (thanks to the lopsided construction) was soaked in the miso sauce and became a nice dessert. But I don’t know if it was worth ¥1300. Maybe about ¥800 or so. My husband pointed out that hamburg steaks usually contain egg, breadcrumbs, and other ingredients meant to make the patty thick and soft, so we don’t even know how much of this was actually Hida beef.

Like all of Lotteria’s crazy items, it’s something to try just for the sake of trying. I’m thinking of trying the Kobe beef (神戸牛/Kobe gyuu) burger when it comes out in January 2015. But I won’t be eating the Hida beef burger again. I can’t wait to go back to Gifu and eat real Hida beef.

Pigeon’s Recipes for Busy/Lazy People: No-Effort Doria

“Doria.”

By the way, did you know that doria is not Italian food? I just found that out.

Anyways, this doria recipe is what happens when I have to cook dinner at 11:00 at night and don’t feel like doing it.

1. First of all, we need some rice, so fire up your rice cooker or get some instant rice or whatever. Dribble some olive oil on a paper towel and coat the inside of a oven-safe pan thingy, and put the rice in it.

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2. Usually, if I made doria, I would make a tomato sauce similar to the one I introduced before, but today I don’t feel like doing anything, so these are my ingredients:

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We have eggplant and two kinds of mushrooms, which is what I could get at the supermarket at 10:00 at night. There’s onion, which was in the fridge, and some chopped green onions, which were also in fridge and had expired the day before (one day won’t kill you). There’s some basil, which is my way of trying to make it look like I’m making an effort. There’s also prosciutto (生ハム/nama ham), which I chose because it’s meat that you don’t have to cook.

I was determined not to use the frying pan this day.

3. Chop up/rip up all that stuff and throw it on top of the rice, thusly:

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4. I didn’t feel like cooking a sauce today, so instead I invited my new friend over:

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That’s Kagome Kakeru Tomato (かけるトマト/Pour-On Tomato) in tomato & basil (トマト&バジル) flavor.

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Pour it on. Maybe use the back of a spoon to try to get some even coverage, but don’t kill yourself over it, it’s not that big of a deal.

5. Cover the whole damn thing in cheese.

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6. Now the cooking part is up in the air, so I’ll leave that to you. Today, I cooked it for 30 minutes under the “grill” function of my oven. You could try baking it. You could even microwave it if you really don’t give a crap.

7. While it’s cooking, maybe make a fresh salad to go with it.

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Did I say “fresh”? I meant “one tomato and some vegetables that come in envelopes.” Throw it in a bowl and splash some olive oil and vinegar on top and there, it’s salad.

8. All done!

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The onions were still kind of raw but at this point it was 12:30 and any craps I gave were officially gone. Bon appetit!

Exciting Sushi at Sushiro

I finally went to Sushiro (スシロー) for the first time. Sushiro is a popular conveyor-belt sushi (回転寿司/kaiten zushi) chain. I’ve only started eating sushi fairly recently, so the only conveyor-belt sushi chain I had had experience with was Daiki Suisan (大紀水産), where I mainly eat 300-yen salmon and 500-yen crab. The reason I wanted to check out Sushiro was because I’ve been hearing a lot about their french fries which, you know, is kind of weird for a sushi place. But I found so much more at Sushiro.

For one thing, Sushiro is cheap! Most of the sushi there cost 100 or 180 yen. At Daiki Suisan, about the only thing that’s that cheap is the egg sushi! But at Sushiro, I had this amazing salmon roe (いくら/ikura) and my husband had huge scallops (帆立/hotate) for 180 yen each.

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Sushiro also had a lot of what’s often called “sousaku zushi” (創作寿司/creative sushi). A lot of this creative sushi comes about because it’s, well, cheap. But it’s still good! Here’s Sushiro’s take on salmon: nice salmon with roe (left), normal salmon (right), and salmon with a piece of avocado and a bunch of mayonnaise on top (middle).

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There was also scorched salmon with basil and cheese (right), and a prosciutto (生ハム/nama ham) sushi with onions and mayonnaise (left). There was a lot of mayonnaise.

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And shrimp tempura (えび天ぷら/ebi tempura) sushi:

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Besides all the interesting menu items, another exciting thing about Sushiro is the touchscreen ordering device at each table. You can use this device to order any variety of sushi, of course, but you can also get items as diverse as ramen, udon, desserts, drinks…and french fries.

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When you order something from the touchscreen, it comes around on the conveyor belt in little dishes marked with your table’s color (so other people won’t steal it!). The touchscreen sounds an alarm and a voice tells you a few moments before your order comes by, so you won’t miss it.

Here’s what came when we ordered 4 servings of miso soup with clams (蛤の赤だし/hamaguri no akadashi).

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As you can see, we were at the green (緑/midori) table!

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For dessert, I ate a parfait with soda-flavored jelly and ramune (ラムネ) candy pieces, but I forgot to take a picture until I was almost finished.

Oh, and I also ordered the french fries:

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…twice. They were crispy and hot.

By the end of our meal, the table was covered with piles of dishes:

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The bill was only around 5000 yen! That’s nuts!

If there’s a Sushiro near you, definitely go check it out!

Haagen-Dazs Spoon Vege Ice Cream: Why?

Recently, my husband and I “enjoyed” both flavors of Haagen-Dazs’s new Spoon Vege ice cream, which went on sale in Japan on May 12.

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The first flavor we tried was Carrot-Orange (キャロットオレンジ), which we determined likely to be the less horrible of the two.

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Nice color! Looks like sherbert.

The taste was like a modified orange, like a kind of mango or something. It wasn’t bad at all…until the aftertaste hit.

BITTER. So bitter. The aftertaste was like licking earwax. Are carrots bitter??

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I washed it down with this: Kirin’s Kajitsu to Peel no Osake (果実とピールのお酒/Fruit Juice and Peel Alcohol), a canned vodka cocktail made with acerola fruit juice and orange peel. It was nice and fruity, and also got me a bit buzzed, so that I could get up the courage to try…

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…Tomato-Cherry (トマトチェリー). Come on. There’s no way anyone thought this could possibly taste good.

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That color sure is…interesting.

While Carrot-Orange didn’t taste much like carrot, Tomato-Cherry’s taste was undeniably tomato. Tomato and cream. It was like a tomato latte, with a shot of grenadine. Yeah.

Why even make these flavors, anyway? It’s not like they’re good for you. They still both had 200-some calories (Tomato-Cherry had 216 and Carrot-Orange had 206; a mini cup of the divine Caramel Crush [キャラメルクラッシュ] has 262 calories). The main ingredient of both of them was still “cream.”

I understand Gari-Gari Kun (ガリガリ君) making spaghetti and stew flavored popsicles as gag/cult items, but come on, Haagen-Dazs. Your products cost almost 3 times what Gari-Gari Kun’s do. You’re supposed to be better than that.

If you’d like to try Spoon Vege for yourself for some reason, check out your local conbini or supermarket.

Haagen-Dazs Spoon Vege Official Site