Archive for the 'Food' Category

Christmas Lunch

Thursday, December 26th, 2013

Christmas Day is not a holiday in Japan.  Even though I have been here for 7 years it still feels odd not having a traditional Christmas with traditional food.  I have been able to buy a turkey and ham and we are going to cook those for our friends at the weekend.  We would have done this sooner but Marty is working all week.

Yesterday, I went Marty’s work to meet him for lunch.  We didn’t try to find anything Western to eat and went out for my favourite sushi.  It’s an odd looking Christmas lunch but it tasted amazing.

Christmas Day Lunch in Tokyo

Christmas Day Lunch in Tokyo

Gluten Free Bread Found in Tokyo

Wednesday, December 11th, 2013

I had never managed to buy gluten-free bread in Japan.  There are shops that sell bread made with rice flour but any I have seen also contain wheat flour. Yesterday, when I was out looking for cranberries, I came across gluten-free bread.  I was stunned to see the bread and then I saw a whole shelf of gluten-free products.  The biscuits cost more than $10 a packet, so I didn’t buy them, but it was great to see that I had the option.  The bread I bought is made with rice flour and states clearly on it that it is gluten-free.  It was in the freezer in the store, and was still rather hard when I defrosted it, but it made great stuffing.

I was shopping in Nissin World Delicatessen in Higashi-azabu.  It can be expensive, but it is sometimes the only place to buy certain foreign food.  Like parsnips, which I do miss.  But I didn’t buy the ones I saw yesterday as the concept of paying up to 1,000 円 ($10, £6) for a single parsnip is outrageous.

I managed to take a blurry picture of the shelf of gluten-free products, but if anyone is interested, blurry or not, it gives you an idea of what you can buy.

Gluten Free Products

Gluten Free Products

Food, Glorious Food

Wednesday, June 26th, 2013

Fruit is expensive in Tokyo.  I am tormented when I enter the store by the smell of peaches but I don’t want them badly enough to pay 780 Yen ($8, £5.20) for one.  They will come down in price but by then it will be the pears that mock me with their perfection and ridiculous prices.   I always check the price of fruit before I buy it but I should remember that tomatoes are also a fruit.  Yesterday I was in a hurry and I nearly bought the wrong tomatoes.  They were 980 Yen ($10, £6.50) for a packet of five medium sized tomatoes.  I was horrified.  I assume that there is something special about them but they didn’t look particularly good.  I think I’ll be waiting a while before I make tomato soup again.

Expensive Tomatoes

Expensive Tomatoes



Christmas Cooking

Monday, December 24th, 2012

I’m not cooking a turkey this year, but I am supposed to be making Christmas desserts.  This is not going well.  The Anzac Biscuits I have made are great but I can only bake six at a time in my little oven and Marty keeps eating them.  I made shortbread and it was a disaster.  It wasn’t the lovely light golden colour it should have been and it disintegrates with the slightest touch.

I then tried to make a fruit cake. When I started this there was no try, just do, as I have been making these for years.  Instead of being all puffed up in the middle, showing off the almond decorations, it was sad and sunken.  I was not happy but I could have rescued that with a meringue icing that is supposed to look like fluffy snow.  But then I noticed that the edges of the cake were hard, so hard that I wasn’t sure I could cut it.  I miss wheat flour and gluten.  This was the first time I had tried to bake with self raising non-gluten flour and it did not go well.  If I was staying at home I would turn it into some sort of Christmas trifle, but I have no easy way to transport that on a train.  I had wanted something that would look pretty, but I have now cut the useable parts of the cake into fruit cake slices.  They taste fine, but don’t look like the Christmas present I was hoping to make.

Since I have to take a cake to my friend’s house today I’m going to make a chocolate-chip cake with wheat flour.  It’s not exactly traditional but I have the ingredients and I no longer care that I won’t be able to eat it.  At least I’ll have something pretty to take with me.  Marty is also baking.  He’s attempting to make  a chocolate roulade, which if nothing else smells beautiful.  It has to cool for three hours and then we will get to see how it goes.  If it fails to roll I think we’ll buy some strawberries, mix in the whiskey cream, and break the meringue up in pieces.  We’ll call it Christmas mess, as that has to be better than Christmas fail.

Christmas Food

Sunday, December 16th, 2012

We are not going to cook Christmas dinner this year.  Marty wasn’t able to get the day off work so we decided it would be easier to go out for a meal.  I cooked dinner the last couple of years and it was a challenge finding the ingredients I wanted.  This year we have a new one – I’m on a gluten-free diet.  There is a theory that eating gluten makes my thyroid disease worse.   I have a thyroid hormone that has not been improving with medication and it’s possible that changing my diet will help.  I’ve been gluten-free for a couple of months now and I’m certainly doing a lot better than I did this time last year.

Being gluten-free in Japan is not easy.  I never thought of wheat as an ingredient in Japanese cooking but it’s everywhere.  The main problem is that there is gluten in soy sauce.  There is even gluten in most tamari, though I have often heard it described as wheat-free soy sauce.   Eating out has become a challenge.  I can’t eat noodles, tempura, ton katsu, or yakitori. I have been avoiding my favourite French restaurant as the smell of the bread drives me mad.  I can still eat Indian food, but I really do miss pasta and pizza.

Bread is becoming very popular in Japan.  The coffee shop I study in on weekdays does not contain a single thing that I can eat.   I can bake my own things but I need to be careful about the flour I use.  Rice flour is naturally gluten-free but lots of the rice flour here has gluten added to it to make it easier to bake with. There are no gluten-free bread or pasta products in the local shops  I was told that that it is possible to buy bread made with rice flour but all the ones I have seen also contain wheat.  I have been able to find a few things online but they are expensive and since I do cook a lot of my own food I have just made other things.

I did order a couple of things from the UK and I am looking forward to trying my gluten free Christmas cake.   I also ordered a packet of gluten-free rolls, the type that you bake in the over, but they were horrible.  I was going to throw them out but I ground them up and made stuffing with them which wasn’t bad at all.  I should really try to make gluten-free shortbread for Christmas but I haven’t had the energy to do that.  It’s time consuming and I worry that I will spend ages fiddling with it only to find it tastes bad.  Maybe this year we’ll have gluten-free cupcakes instead as I know they taste good.


Wednesday, December 5th, 2012

Even though I have been living in Tokyo for just over six years I still see food in the supermarket that I don’t recognise.  The types of fruit you can buy change with the seasons and winter citrus season has arrived.  Today I could have bought a 4 kilo box of mikans. This may seem like an odd thing to comment on but fruit is very expensive in Japan.  The concept of buying so much of it at one time now seems like madness to me.  I did stop to admire it though and the other citrus fruits.  I have known about oranges, grapefruits, lemons, and limes, for most of my life but I did not know that so many other citrus fruits exist.

When I first moved I discovered yuzu, which tastes somewhere between a lemon and a lime and is excellent in dressings and with fish.  Last year I discovered dekopon which is a wonderful sweet orange-like fruit.  Today I saw something called a kabosu and another fruit called merogourudo.  The kabosu was small and a darkish green.  It looked like it might be bitter and since it cost about 200 円 ($2.40) I decided not to buy one.  But the merogourudo thing was fascinating.  It looked like a large mutant grapefruit.  It’s English name is Melogold Grapefruit and it’s the biggest grapefruit I have ever seen.  Reading about it online suggests it may turn out to be the sweetest one I have eaten.  It was 238 円 ($2.90) and seemed much better value than the tiny fruit.  I have not eaten it yet as I will have to wait until I feel hungry enough to tackle such a large grapefruit.

A Large Mikan and a Melogold Grapefruit

A Large Mikan and a Melogold Grapefruit

Valentine Surprise

Tuesday, February 28th, 2012

I have decided that today should be Valentine’s Day as I wasn’t at home on the 14th.  I did leave Marty a gift but he didn’t get the meal I had planned and he won’t be expecting it today.  You might think that if I want to surprise my husband that I shouldn’t write about it on my blog but he’s not really into the Internet.  I think he only discovered YouTube last week.  (I’ll admit that’s not a completely fair statement, he knew it existed but he hadn’t realised that you could use it without Flash).  He might read this post at some point over the next year, but I won’t count on it.

Surprise dinners can go badly wrong when people ring to say that they’ve forgotten to leave work so I am going to make food that doesn’t rely on him arriving home on time.  I’m planning on making carrot and tomato soup, chicken a mushroom skewers in a chili marinade, shepherds pie, and for dessert I will bake heart shaped strawberries and cream cupcakes.

I have also picked a movie for us to watch – Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy.  This may not be considered a romantic movie but there would be nothing romantic in arranging an evening for Marty and expecting him to watch a romantic comedy.  I’m hoping that my choice works for both of us, that it’s intriguing enough to interest him even if it doesn’t have lots of death, explosions, or giant killer robots.  I know he’s talked about watching Real Steel but I don’t know if he realizes that the robots in that appear to just thump each other in a boxing ring and don’t actually go on killing sprees in the hope to destroy humanity, and even the lure of watching Hugh Jackman wasn’t enough to entice me to buy that.

Hopefully he will be pleased.

McDonald’s Christmas

Saturday, December 24th, 2011

Last year we decided it would be fun to have a traditional Japanese KFC Christmas dinner.  This year McDonald’s has started to offer a Christmas box set, though we weren’t tempted to try this.

iCon Box Sets

iCon Box Sets

No Roasted Parsnip

Thursday, December 22nd, 2011

Last year I hunted for parsnips to roast for Christmas dinner, but I couldn’t find them.  This year I’ve found them at Nissin World Delicatessen but I’m not going to buy them.  I do love roasted parsnip but they were 280 円 (€2.70 EUR, £2.20 GBP, $3.58 USD) per 100 grams! If I was making dinner just for myself I may consider a special parsnippy treat, but would my guests really like it that much?  I’m just back from Europe and I find myself converting currencies when I look at prices.  You can imagine how horrified I was when the one parsnip I picked up was 691 円 (€6.80 EUR,  £5.60 GBP, $8.81 USD).  Who would expect the vegetables to cost more than the turkey?

Expensive Parsnips

Expensive Parsnips

Fish Market

Tuesday, October 18th, 2011

I went to Tsukiji fish market this morning for breakfast.  This was my first visit though I’ve been living in Japan for nearly 5 years.  I’ve considered it before but always liked the idea of sleeping more than fish eating.  Since it is a friend’s last day in the city I decided to make the effort and got out of bed at 6am.

The sushi was scrumptious.  We ordered the chef’s recommendation and I ended up with more than I could eat.  That worked well as I was able to leave a couple of pieces that I’m not overly fond of.  When I first moved to Japan I didn’t eat sushi at all.  Now I like sushi enough that I eat it for lunch three days a week but there are still some types of sushi that I avoid.  This morning I was served sea urchin, which I find it hard to look at never mind eat.  I’m also not fond of fish eggs, but I did manage to eat one roll that contained these.

I would consider going back as the fresh sushi was certainly worth getting up for, and given how often I travel, it may be the perfect breakfast treat when I’m jet lagged.