Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Nameko's Adventures in Hokkaido, Part 1: Sapporo

After taking the night train from Aomori to Sapporo and arriving bright and early (around 6am), Nameko started off his trip at the Sapporo-Shi Chuo Oroshi Urishijou Jougai Shijou (札幌市中央卸売市場場外市場 a.k.a. the Sapporo Fish Jyogai Market).
Sapporo Fish Market
Sapporo Fish Market Kaisen Don
He enjoyed kaisen-don (a bowl of rice topped with seafood--usually raw) and crab miso soup. While wandering around the market, he narrowly avoided becoming breakfast himself!
Sapporo Fish Market
After that narrow miss, he decided to go somewhere safer and headed to Hokkaido Jingu (北海道神宮 Hokkaido Shrine) in Maruyama Koen (円山公園 Maruyama Park).
 Hokkaido Jinju Shrine
 Hokkaido Jingu ShrineHokkaido Jingu Shrine
 Next he headed to the Hokkaido Museum of Modern Art (北海道立近代美術館). (Unfortunately he forgot to take a selfie there...)
Hokkaido Museum of Modern Art
 When he finally finished admiring the artwork, it was lunch time, so he headed over to the Sapporo Beer Garden (サッポロガーデンパーク).
Sapporo Beer Garden
At the Garden Grill Sapporo restaurant, he enjoyed:
- Sapporo Beer
- Genghis Khan (barbequed mutton) lunch set (with soup and appetizer)
- Ezo Shika (a type of Japanese deer, i.e. venison) sauteed with ginger (蝦夷鹿ショルダーのジンジャーソテー)
- baked potato with butter (じゃがバター)
- Dorobuta (a local Hokkaido brand of free range pork) chorizo sausages (どろ豚チョリソー)
- and a crema catalana (Spanish burnt cream custard) with homemade ice cream and haskap (edible blue honeysuckle) sauce (道産ハスカップカタラーナ自家製牛乳アイス添え ).
Garden Grill SapporoGarden Grill SapporoSapporo Beer
 Genghis Khan barbequed muttonGenghis Khan barbequed mutton lunch set soup and appetizer
 Grilled Ezo Shika Japanese deer venison
 jagabutter baked potato with butter
 Dorobuta Hokkaido free range pork chorizo sausage
 Garden Grill Sapporo food
 crema catalana homemade ice cream and haskap sauce
After lunch, Nameko headed to the Sapporo Beer Museum (サッポロビール博物館).
Sapporo Beer Museum
 At the end of his time at the museum, he had a 3-beer sampler set with Black Label, Classic*, and Kaitakushi* (only 500yen and comes with choice of snack--cheese or crackers) and Ribbon Napolin* soda  (100yen and choice of snack--white chocolate or crackers). (*Only available in Hokkaido.)
Sapporo Beer Museum Ribbon Napolin and Beer Sampler
After the Sapporo Beer Garden, Nameko headed down to Odori Park to check out the Sapporo White Illumination that had fortuitously just started that weekend!
Sapporo White Illumination 2014
 Sapporo White Illumination 2014
Sapporo White Illumination 2014
 Sapporo White Illumination 2014
Next Nameko headed to Tanuki Kouji (狸小路 Tanuki Shopping Arcade).
Sapporo Tanuki Kouji Shopping Arcade
It was late so a lot of the shops and restaurants were closed, but he managed to find a soup curry restaurant called World Kitchen A-Style (ワールドキッチンA-Style(アジアンスタイル)). He tried chicken soup curry and bacon soup curry.
World Kitchen A-Style soup curry restaurant
 chicken soup curry
 bacon soup curry
Having walked over 20,000 steps over the course of the day, Nameko was exhausted and headed back to the hotel for the night. But he did make sure to stop at a 7-Eleven on the way back to pick up some Haagen-Dazs Japonais Ichigo Azuki (strawberry red bean) ice cream to eat at the hotel! (The Japonais line of Haagen-Dazs is only available at 7-Elevens, but there aren't any stores in Aomori!)
Haagen Dazs Japonais Ichigo Azuki strawberry red bean 7-Eleven limited
 And that was the end of Nameko's first day of adventures in Hokkaido (Sapporo)!

Sapporo Fish Jyogai Market: http://www.sapporo-tourguides.com/news/sapporo-fish-market.html 
Maruyama Park: http://www.welcome.city.sapporo.jp/find/nature-and-parks/maruyama_park/?lang=en
Hokkaido Jingu: http://www.hokkaidojingu.or.jp/eng/
Hokkaido Museum of Modern Art: http://www.welcome.city.sapporo.jp/find/art/museum_of_modern_art/?lang=en
Sapporo Beer Garden: http://www.sapporo-bier-garten.jp/foreign/english.php
Sapporo White Illumination: http://white-illumination.jp/en-us/
Tanuki Kouji: http://www.welcome.city.sapporo.jp/find/shops/tanukikoji_shopping_arcade/?lang=en
World Kitchen A-Style: Japanese Facebook Page

Friday, November 14, 2014

Pokka Coffee Potato Chips Taste Test

I don't even like coffee, but nonetheless I couldn't resist when I found Pokka Coffee* Potato Chips (149yen)at the local Mini Stop. (Incidentally, I couldn't find the chips at grocery stores or other convenience stores--only Mini Stop.)

*Pokka Coffee is a Japanese brand of (sweetened) canned coffee that was first produced in 1972.

Pokka Coffee Potato ChipsPokka Coffee Potato Chips
Pokka Coffee Potato Chips
There was distinct coffee smell upon opening the bag, but thankfully it didn't actually taste like coffee. It was more like a slightly bitter caramel taste. I thought the slight saltiness of the chips worked well to balance out the sweetness. It felt a bit strange to be eating sweet potato chips, but at the time they were actually strangely addictive. My husband and I polished off the bag in short order.

I probably wouldn't go out of my way to buy the chips again, but if I had them in front of me I would definitely eat them--and probably polish off the entire bag, too!

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Instant tonjiru udon taste test

Tonjiru (豚汁) is a hearty type of miso soup made with pork and vegetables that is considered a staple of Japanese home cooking. Ingredients vary from household to household and person to person, but (along with the pork) most recipes include carrots, gobou (burdock root), and konnyaku (konjac or devil's tongue) among other ingredients.

I love tonjiru and usually make mine with pork, carrots, potatoes, onions, gobou, konnyaku, and shiitake. Throw in some udon and tonjiru is also an awesome meal on its own!

homemade tonjiru udon
homemade tonjiru udon

So when I saw instant tonjiru udon available at the grocery store, I knew I had to try it! There were two brands available, so I bought both and did a taste test.

maruchan nissin instant tonjiru udon

Left: Maruchan "Atsu Atsu Tonjiru Udon"
Price: 108yen
Net Wt.: ~109g
Toppings: pork, aburaage, gobou, potatoes, carrots, leeks
425kcal; 6.1g sodium

Right: Nissin "Donbei Tonjiru Udon"
Price: 138yen
Net Wt.: ~99g
Toppings: pork, aburaage, gobou, carrots, leeks
416kcal; 5.1g sodium

Maruchan Atsu Atsu Tonjiru Udon Nissin Donbei Tonjiru Udon

Inside both packages, there were pieces of aburaage (a type of fried tofu), a package of toppings (kayaku かやく) and soup (ekitai soup 液体スープ), but the Nissin one also had a package of shichimi spices (七味).

The preparation instructions were also pretty much the same for both:
1. open up the lid halfway and remove the topping/soup/spice packages
2. add the toppings to the noodles
3. fill with hot water up to the line inside the bowl (~350mL for Maruchan, and ~370mL for Nissin)
4. close the lid, place the soup package on top of the lid (to warm up the soup), and let sit for 5min
5. remove the lid, add the soup (and spices for Nissin), mix and enjoy!

instant tonjiru udon prepared just add water
just add water!
Maruchan Atsu Atsu Tonjiru Udon
Maruchan Atsu Atsu Tonjiru Udon
Nissin Donbei Tonjiru Udon
Nissin Donbei Tonjiru Udon

 Both were pretty tasty, but the Maruchan soup had a stronger miso taste, and the toppings were in bigger pieces and had a bit more variety than the Nissin version, so the taste of the toppings was more obvious.

The Nissin soup was a bit lighter so you could appreciate the addition of the shichimi spices. Since I tend to use a lighter hand with the miso when making my own tonjiru, the Nissin soup was closer to the taste of my tonjiru than the Maruchan soup. I also preferred the Nissin noodles since the texture was a bit...softer? They tasted/felt closer to regular udon than the Maruchan noodles, which were more rubbery/firm and obviously instant noodles.

So, here are my picks for the better brand based on various criteria:
Price/Value: Maruchan
Health: Nissin
Toppings: Maruchan
Noodles: Nissin
Soup: Tie (really a matter of preference, both were equally good)

As you can see, each is good in its own way, but if I had to pick, I would choose the Maruchan Atsu Atsu Tonjiru Udon for the value and the very clear "tonjiru!" taste from the stronger miso taste and size and variety of the toppings.

Monday, September 1, 2014

2014 Towada Aki Matsuri

2014 Towada Aki Matsuri (Fall Festival)
(Flyer - Japanese)

Date: September 5-7, 2014
Location: Central Towada (various)

September 5 (Friday)

(Float) Parade 
[Old Rte. 4 from Rte. 102 to Sanbongi SHS 旧国道4号・国道102号交差点~三本木高校前]

Mikoshi, Yosakoi, Hip-Hop Dance, etc.
[Kanchogai Dori 官庁街通り]

September 6 (Saturday)

10th Anniversary (of the Merger with Towadako Machi) Parade  
[Kanchogai Dori 官庁街通り]


Towada Bayashi (Festival Music) Competition 
[Sumo Dohyo 相撲所]

Kids' Performances
[Kanchogai Dori 官庁街通り]

Kenka Daiko (Japanese Taiko Drums)
[Kanchogai Dori 官庁街通り]

Mikoshi (Portable Shrine), Nishi Akane-Kai Nagashi Odori Dance, Twilight Dashi (Float) Parade 
[Kanchogai Dori 官庁街通り]

Umagin Parade ウマジンパレード
[Kanchogai Dori 官庁街通り]

Night Dashi (Float) Parade
[Kanchogai Dori 官庁街通り]

September 7 (Sunday)

Tokyo Disney Resort Special Parade, (Float) Parade 
[Old Rte. 4 from Rte. 102 to Sanbongi SHS 旧国道4号・国道102号交差点~三本木高校前]
(*Tokyo Disney Resort Special Parade is only from 8-Chome to 1-Chome 東京ディズニーリゾートスペシャルパレードの運行区間は8丁目交差点から1丁目交差点まで)

Aki Matsuri Finale Song Show
[Komakko Hiroba (Across from Art Station Towada) 駒っこ広場]