Friday, March 27, 2009

Ocean Terrace

There's a place in Niigata called Ocean Terrace. As far as I know, there are only three locations, but it's one of my favourite pasta joints. They've got this Hawaiian theme going on, but regardless of the strange atmosphere, the food there is incredible.

Garlic fries that are like mashed potatoes on the inside, with a crispy golden outside. Actually, these are the best fries I've ever had. Whenever I go to Japan, this is one of the places I have to eat.

Starter salad with huge shrimp.

This was a simple omlette served on top of a sauce similar to the sauce often found on Hambagu. Looks simple, but tasted great!

Thursday, March 5, 2009

I love oysters

I love oysters, just like the title says. I can eat oysters in just about any form, whether they're raw, steamed, baked, deep fried, scrabbled in eggs, or whatever. I just love oysters. I found these ones here in a restaraunt called Fisherman's Village in Steveston village. The restaraunt is no longer there, but I had good memories of the place. Here we've got these huge oysters, very fresh, and steamed to perfection with some minced garlic, black bean sauce, and green onions. Here are a some more steamed in with green onions, ginger and garlic. The sauce is basicall a bit of soy suace, sugar, and cooking wine. I was a complete pig that night and I think I must have had about a dozen of these monsters by myself.
One of my dad's favourites is a mix of stuff cooked in a stone pot. This one had tofu, Chinese BBQ pork, squid, prawns, scallops, and a bunch of other stuff.
According to my parents, honey garlic spareribs is right up there with sweet and sour pork and chop suey.......made for westerners. Oh well, whatever, tastes good to me. This place made it really good because the pork was very tender on the inside, and very crispy on the outside, even when drowned in honey garlic sauce. It's really too bad this place isn't around anymore.
More oysters, of the deep fried variety. This plate was just for me.
With all the oysters I had, I smelled like the ocean the next day. One of these days, I'll post an awesome recipe for Kaki Motoyaki. If it doesn't stop your heart first, it will defintely blow your mind.

How to make kabocha

This was the first time I made kabocha and maybe by a complete fluke, it turned out ok. I didn't even have the proper ingredients, but it tasted ok.

First, you start off with a kabocha, or butternut squash. Clean the outside thuroughly because you're going to cook it with the skin. Chop it down into small pieces, there's no rule. I prefer little triagular shapes. The, throw in some some oil in a pot, high heat and throw your kabocha into it. Stir fry it around for a bit and then when ever piece is shiny with oil, pour in a bowl of soy sauce and mirin (a 50/50 mix is good, but flavour is up to you). I actually didn't have mirin so I poured in some Gekkeikan sake that had been sitting in my fridge for too long. Add some water so that the kabocha is just sticking out of the water and cook covered for about 10 to 15 minutes depending on the size of your kabocha. You can test if their ready if you can cut a peice in half with your chop sticks (for cooking, I use thicker Chinese chopsticks so keep this in mind when your testing if they're ready).

After you decide they're done, carefully pick them out of the pot, maybe pour a bit of sauce from the pot. Kabocha can be served hot or cold, but either way, they make an awesome side dish with a hot, steaming bowl of rice.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Yes, another Japan trip....and some outrageous prices in Yokohama Chinatown.

In September, I found myself flying over the Pacific again, bringing a couple of friends with me. No upgrades this time, and the economy class food wasn't worth taking a picture of. The most notable food from this trip has to be this. It's kind of a crappy picture, and it tasted way better than it looks. Mentaiko-pan, or spicy pollock roe on a toasted bun. Maybe I was just hungry, but it was the best thing I had on this trip. I found it in a small bakery in Shinjuku station and to this day, I have not had it this good. I've made feeble attempts to find this bakery whenever I go back, but it's a pretty big station and I've had no luck so far. I hope it's still in business. Yokohama Chinatown, reputed to be the cleanest China town in the world. Yeah, I'll give it that, but if you're expecting the world's best Chinese food, you'll be disappointed. The food is pretty average, at best on par with Chinese food in Vancouver. What will kill you is the outrageous prices! It was hilarious to see all those tourists, myself included, shelling out their hard earned Yen for a nikumon (just a standard steamed pork bun).

I don't know if you can see from the picture below, but these guys (and other shops in the area) were charging 500 Yen for one steamed pork bun!!!!! At the time, the exchange rate would put that at about $7.50 CAD each. Highway robbery would be an understatement. You can get eight for that price at T & T Supermarket.
Yes, I was one of those stupid tourists. I thought that for 500 Yen, it probably tastes like heaven, but in complete honesty, my mother makes them better. In fact, when I came back and told her my story of the 500 Yen steamed pork bun, she made it a point to spend $7.50 CAD to make about 20. I mean, these things were alright, but you're out of your mind if you think they're worth 500 Yen each.
BBQ pork buns, of the variety you see at dim sum. Do you see the price???? 2,400 Yen for a box of five. WTF? Chinese people are making a killing over in Yokohama. 2,400 Yen???? That was over $30 CAD at the time....actually, with today's exchange rate, it would be about that as well. $30 could easily cover 3 people at dim sum.
Bubble tea. Yes, they tried to market bubble tea in Yokohama. And believe it or not, I was stupid enough to try it. They only had plain, regular bubble tea, which came in a cup less than half the size of a standard size cup here. They were all pre-made and must have been sitting in the fridge all day, because the tapioca pearls were all bloated and soggy. It was an aweful mess and again, way overpriced for what you get. If Bubbleworld opened up shop there, they would clean house. Any of you thinking about going to Japan to be an English teacher, forget it. Bubble Tea will make you rich there if you can make it the same way we do here. I remember when bubble tea first came to Vancouver, it swept through like a firestorm. How many bubbletea shops are there now? More than Starbucks?
Back to dim sum items. Here we have the steamed shrimp dumplings (hagow, shiajiao, or ebi siumai, depending on your background). 650 Yen for 4. I did not go into this restaraunt.

More overpriced madness. Shaolongbao, 3 for 650 yen. There's a place on Granville in Vancouver called Shanghai Palace, you can get a whole tray of them for about the same price.

I actually had dinner in one of these places, against my will of course. Sure, it looked fancier than Hon's Wun-Tun House back in Richmond, but in the end, it was just another Chinese restaraunt, albiet overpriced. When I first went to Japan, I experienced a bit of culture shock in that service on every level was delivered with a smile and some friendly phrases that I didn't quite understand. There's a lot of bowing and nodding in Japan to make the customer feel welcome and comfortable. When I walked into this restaraunt, I was back home. The grumpy looking waitress greeted us with a grimace and tossed our menus on the table and walked away. Don't get me wrong, I go to Hon's, Alleluia, Glocester's Cafe, or even Kent's Kitchen in Chinatown Vancouver quite often, not for the pleasant converstaion with the staff, but fot the cheap, tasty food. I don't have a problem with the lack of smiles, or the curt attitude from some of the staff, but then again, I'm not paying $8.50 for 3 shaolongbao.
My verdict on Chinatown Yokohama is two thumbs down, don't go there. Unless of course, (A)you want to see the cleanest Chinatown in the world (it really is clean, not a single cigarette butt on the ground), (B) you want to have a good drinking story for the future, (C) you don't know what else to do with your money, (D) you're in Japan and you want a quick getaway from the overwhelming politeness, smiles, nods and bowing, or (E) you want to write a blog about it someday.

Monday, March 2, 2009

Guess where I went again?

Yes, I went to Japan again about 10 days after that one-nighter in Osaka. I ended up in economy class this time and I have to say the food was rancid. I took a picture of it, but I don't think it's worth posting. Here's a picture of something unheard of here in Canada. When I was little, we used to get milk delivered, but to get beer delivered to your door?? That's awesome.

I went to a kaiten sushi place and I have to tell you that it was pretty damn good for kaiten sushi. The toro was nice and fatty, very fresh and I'm getting hungry just looking at these pictures....time for lunch.

Here's something I ran into quite a bit in Japan but never here. Occasionally, I request the chef here to do it. It's basically salmon nigiri sushi with a blob of kewpie mayo, and shredded onions. It's magic and if you can, you should try it.
There wasn't a lot of uni, but it was damn fresh, and worth paying the gold-plate price.
Here's a shot of the local unagi, which was also very good.
I usually prefer eating toro fresh, but gave the grilled one a try and it was ok, but I tasted more propane than toro.

The best ramen I have ever eaten is in Nakanoshima (now Nagaoka, Niigata-ken). It's called Jun Ramen and I have never tasted anything to be even considered equal. Sorry I don't have a good shot of the shop exterior. As far as I know, there are only two locations. I seriously considered working there to learn their secrets and open up shop here in Vancouver.

I always order the same thing. Miso chashu ramen with extra fat in the broth. It is from heaven, made by God's own hands. It most certainly will clog your arteries, but when you die, you'll say it was all worth it. The combination of broth that is brewed from magical ingredients, the ring of fat around the chashu, extra thick noodles, all that extra fat floating in the broth, which is just salty enough to make you appreciate an ice cold glass of water is all enough to satisfy you until your next craving of this wholesome goodness. On one of my trips, I went there nearly ever night because I just simply can't get anything remotely close to this heart-stopping bowl of noodles.

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