Monday, August 31, 2009

Goya Chanpuru

I'd mentioned earlier in the month that I wasn't a big fan of bitter melon, so what showed up in our CSA box recently? A lovely goya of course. And we try to eat everything we get in our box, so I set out to try and make a palatable dinner with it.

I'd read that it helps to temper the goya's bitterness to slice it thinly, rub it with salt, let it rest either as is or in cold water, and then rinse the salt off.

So I did that and then used it to make goya chanpuru. Chanpuru is a popular Okinawan stir-fry dish, and the word itself is Okinawan for "something mixed." The dish generally contains vegetables, tofu, some type of meat or fish (ours did not), and sometimes eggs.

Let's just say that not all dinners turn out to be keepers, and this was was definitely a bust. The salting didn't seem to do anything to temper the bitterness, and I was not a member of the clean plate club that night.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Tortillas for 'Dillas

Sometimes I think we buy packaged foods not only because it is fast and easy, but also because we just don't think about making certain items ourselves. I was lucky to have A living upstairs for the last year for a number of reasons, one of which was all of the delicious types of breads and baked goods she managed to produce out of her fish broiler. Thanks to her I learned that it was possible to make English Muffins in a skillet, and she inspired me to try making my own flour tortillas.

They were surprisingly fast and easy to make, and definitely tasted better than the packaged ones at the store. Some got filled with enoki mushrooms and cheddar, and others with green olives, homemade soysage, and cheddar. Yum.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Seitan Gumbo

Unlike my cousin, I can't say that I share his self-professed fetish for southern comfort food, but when I was looking for a new way to use the okra that is showing up in our CSA box weekly, I decided to go with gumbo.

I based this on Vegan Dad's Gumbo with Vegan Andouille Sausage and then adapted it to what we had on hand. That meant more green pepper, no celery or sweet onion, homemade seitan instead of the vegan sausage, and moroheiya instead of spinach, and wow was it delicious. First night it was served over rice, and then leftovers just got mixed directly with the rice for a bowl of gumbo goodness. I might be a convert to southern cooking.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009


After the Ramune KitKat debacle was finally solved, I was determined to try the beverage after which the KitKats were named. The packaging is pretty fun - the glass bottle is sealed with a marble, and comes with a little plastic device for pushing the marble into the bottle, thus opening the beverage for you to drink it. The flavor tasted faintly like bubblegum, the KitKats were actually pretty spot-on with capturing the taste. All in all it was okay. Glad I tried it, but probably won't be purchasing again.

And if you want more info on Ramune, the all-knowing Wikipedia has you covered:

"Ramune is widely known for the distinctive design of its bottle, often called Codd-neck bottles after the inventor, Hiram Codd. They are made of glass and sealed with a marble; the codd head is held in place by the pressure of the carbonation in the drink. To open the bottle, a device to push the marble inward is provided with the bottle. The marble is pushed inside the neck of the bottle where it rattles around while drinking.

People trying Ramune for the first time sometimes find it difficult to drink, as it takes practice to learn to stop the marble from blocking the flow. In the new version of the bottle (2006), little slots were added to the cap where the marble was originally held. This prevented the flow from obstruction if the marble falls back into the cap.

Ramune is one of the modern symbols of summer in Japan and is widely consumed during warm festival days and nights.

The bottle's design creates a special attraction to children who clamor to see the "alien head" image that is formed from the ball and indentations on the bottle neck. This provides a unique form of endearing brand recognition, even for children who don't remember the product's name."

Sunday, August 23, 2009

I Need This

Or maybe just really really want it, but come on, a spiral staircase + wine? Adding this to my dream home wishlist. I'm confident that it will remain just as impressive when filled with Two Buck Chuck and Cook's.

From dornob

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Fishy Feet

One of the fun activities we did last week while my father and younger brother were visiting was to go to the Nagoya Castle festival. There were foods from different regions to try, lots of dancing - M jumped into the group and quickly picked up the moves, and my favorite, fish pedicures!

I had been wanted to try this, so I was pretty excited about the opportunity to have little fish nibble on my feet. G and I both dunked our feet in (about $5 USD for just over 5 minutes) and although it was a really strange sensation at first we both quickly adjusted. The fish don't have teeth, so there is no worry of them chomping off any of your live skin, they just go for the dead flaky calloused skin. Mmmmm tasty. But boy did my feet feel great! I'm still trying to talk M into getting some as pets so I can indulge in daily maintenance for my feet!

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

English T-shirts

T-shirts are a never-ending source of entertainment for me here. They often are covered in English - some of which is misspelled and/or combined in a manner that makes absolutely no sense. But the ones that are spelled correctly and do make sense can be just as hilarious.

We saw this young boy (maybe 8 years old?) on the subway one day last week and all about fell out of our seats. Dad did manage to capture a photo though while the rest of us sat with our mouths gaping open.

"Sexual Playmates Wanted"

Monday, August 17, 2009

Late Delivery

I know I've mentioned this before, but I just love how great customer service is here. Everyone is so polite, and that carries over into service industries, making for some really pleasant experiences. The last time we ordered a pizza, Domino's was swamped, so they told us it would be 45 minutes for delivery, quite a bit longer than normal. Our pizza ended up arriving after an hour, but they apologized profusely for the delay and gave us a coupon for about $5 USD off of our next order - a big deal when a plain cheese pizza can run us around $20 USD!

And I can't quite believe it, but today marks one year of blogging for me. I never thought I'd have a blog, much less keep at it for a year, so Happy Birthday to Herban Girl!

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Rinse and Repeat

This drinking fountain has two pedals, the one on the right for cold water, and the one on the left for "gargle" - which when pressed produces a diluted mouthwash. M was familiar with these as he has them in his office, but I had never seen them before and was pretty taken with the idea of them. Fresh breath for everyone!

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Garden vs Us = Tie?

Our garden has been moderately more successful than our attempts to grow veggies last year, in that our plants weren't totally overtaken by bugs. Unfortunately though we waited too long to start planting a lot of things, so we ended up with one stunted cucumber and no tomatoes - we're trying to look at it as just a lot of good practice for the point when we are able to grown veggies somewhere other than in pots!

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Shiso Pepsi

Another funky Pepsi flavor! This one is shiso flavored (the herb is also called perilla). Shiso is a member of the mint family, and in Japan it is often eaten with sashimi, or cut into strips and added to pizza, salads, or other dishes.

The taste was.....interesting. Let's just say that I didn't finish the bottle.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Veggie Delight

Our CSA box has been overflowing for the past few weeks with loads of delicious summer veggies. The meal below includes a warm okra, pepper, corn and feta salad and then Martha's quinoa burgers over a green salad with tahini dressing. A big thanks to A for the quinoa, when she was getting ready to move back she came down with bags of goodies to pass on to us, and some quinoa was one of the treats!

Friday, August 7, 2009

Bitter Melon Beer

While in Naha one day during our Okinawa trip, we went to Helio's - a pub and microbrewery. They had five craft beer options (although they were out of the two I really wanted to try), one of which was a goya beer. We can find goya (or bitter melon) in Nagoya, but it is really popular in Okinawa, and shows up in a number of dishes.

I've tried cooking with goya before, and I can't say that it turned me into a bitter melon fan, so I was a bit hesitant to try the goya beer. We finally caved though and bought one in the airport before our flight home. It was fine, and didn't have much of a distinguishable goya taste, but I'd still probably go for one of Helio's other tasty options!

Wednesday, August 5, 2009


This picture may not look like much, but M and I were both extremely impressed with our experience in the Naha airport (Naha is the capital city of Okinawa prefecture). Perhaps it's a bit nerdy, but we both love to see systems that are efficient, organized, and run smoothly.

First of all, there was a red line on the floor around the baggage conveyor belt, which no one crossed unless they were grabbing their bag. This completely eliminated the headache of people who stand with their shins pressed up against the belt, making it impossible to see if your bag is coming, and then forcing you to wedge your way in between people to grab it if you do see it.

Second, every single bag came out like those in the picture, with the handle facing outward, so everyone could quickly and easily grab their bag. How nice is that?!

And finally, you know the baggage claim tickets that you always get? They are usually stuffed in with your ticket, and you just end up tossing them when you get home. Well, they actually collected them as you exited the baggage claim area, presumably helping to reduce the number of times people grab the wrong bag.

Monday, August 3, 2009

Anniversary Trip to Okinawa

best. husband. ever.
i heart odette.

view from our hotel room.

hiji waterfall, recommended to us by friends of a friend. they also took us out to dinner at a favorite local spot - Pizza in the Sky - delicious meal and fabulous company!

sniff. last day and time to head home!

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Neighborhood Lovelies

a doorknob i'm fond of in the area