Tag Archives: tokyo

Toraya: A King of Kakigori

Although I’ve only been in the states for a couple weeks, I’m already craving the delicate and immaculately prepared foodstuffs of Japan. My mouth waters for saikyo-yaki fish and miso seared vegetable, for crispy seaweed strips and for the wagashi (traditional Japanese sweets) flavors of matcha and anko.

When it comes to consuming those mildly sweet, subtle wagashi treats, in my mind, there is only one place to go. Toraya.

DSC_4720

In Japan, kakigori are a signature of summer. Although similarly composed of shaved ice and flavored syrup, these treats are a totally other animal from your average county fair sno-cone. Traditionally, kakigori are marketed as street food. Strawberry, melon, or blue hawaii – take your pick!

Unsurprisingly, Toraya puts a refined touch on an old favorite. During the summer months, at any Toraya franchise (to the best of my knowledge), one can order the mountainous creation pictured above. A daunting mass of the most exquisite shaved ice is doused with a subtly sweet matcha syrup. It sits atop a layer of anko where it can and should be supplemented with chewy mochi rounds.

Demolishing one of these summery treats is a unique and unparalleled eating experience. The flavors complement each other flawlessly, and the textures to boot! Available until mid-September, one these kakigori is worth a trip to Toraya any time, any day.

DSC_4755

In a country that thrives on seasonal specials, Toraya reaches a new extreme. Yes, that’s right, the summer specials vary from shop to shop. While Tokyo Midtown offers only matcha, Akasaka has an apricot variety on tap, Ginza a strawberry sensation.

After sampling the original at Midtown and then realizing that there was an apricot option (one of my mother’s favorite flavors), we had to go back for more. So, the day for I hopped on a plane for the US, not to return until long after kakigori season, we headed down to Akasaka for that final hit of wagashi.

The original stood its ground, but I will admit that the tart tang of apricot almost gave it a run for its money!

Tagged , , , , , , , , ,

Farmers’ Market @ UNU Tokyo

DSC_4322

Every Saturday and Sunday, a sizable farmers’ market sprawls out in the middle of Tokyo. Situated in front of UN University in Aoyama, this market boasts fabulous produce and cottage industry food items. From unusual Japanese citrus and interesting vegetables like gobo (burdock root) and manganji (peppers indigenous to the Kansai region) to freshly baked bread, frozen yogurt, and newly picked greens, this collection of covered vendors seems to have it all. In Tokyo this summer? Looking for incredible ingredients? This is the place to be.

DSC_4299

Farm-fresh-froyo

DSC_4305

Sweet and sour citrus (with samples!)

DSC_4311

 

Tagged , , , , ,

Three Cookies

 

I find making cookies to be immensely satisfying. Not only is dough doable in 20 minutes, but the the ingredients they call for rarely requires a trip to the supermarket and they’re ready to go after a mere 10 min in the oven! Over the past couple weeks, I’ve taken a few recipes for test drives. Here are my results:

No. 1: Ghirardelli Milk-Chocolate-Chip Cookies

DSC_3408

I rarely cook with any chocolate other than bittersweet. But with a couple bags of milk chocolate chips in the freezer, I thought, why not?

Although the cookies on their own were nothing special, they turned out to be exceptional ice cream vehicles. A chocolate chip cookie eaten on its own must to be jam-packed with chocolate in to be delicious in my book. However, add a little vanilla (or better yet, hokey pokey!) ice cream to mix, and they become otherworldly. These cookies are chewy, but at the same time just stiff enough to hold their own against a sandwiched scoop of melty ice cream.

You can find the recipe here. My only advice: add extra vanilla, chocolate, and pecans, while decreasing the white sugar by at least a quarter cup.

DSC_3445

 

No. 2: Donna Hay’s (Relatively Healthy) Chocolate Chip Cookies

DSC_3446

Let me be frank. Never, ever, use a chocolate chip cookie recipe that calls for oil instead of butter. In theory, these cookies sound great. No butter, a limited quantity of sugar, some of the flour replaced with oats. In reality, if you’re going to bake cookies, make the real thing, not some sort of facsimile.

DSC_3460

The dough looked great, but even at that stage it seemed like something was off. The taste wasn’t quite right. When the cookies came out, they were cute-looking and bite sized, but lacked that essential cookie chewiness, not to mention that gooey chocolatey, buttery, flavor. I should probably hedge this by conceding that I did not use high quality chocolate for this batch, as it was another attempt to deplete my freezer full of chocolate. Nonetheless, even the dough itself was unsatisfactory. When it comes down to good old chocolate chip cookies, the Joy of Cooking recipe is the way to go.

DSC_3469

No. 3: Peanut Butter Blossoms

DSC_3948

A couple days ago, I was twiddling my thumbs looking for something to bake, when I ran across a bag of mini hershey’s kisses stashed away at the bottom of a drawer. Turning the package over, I found the directions for peanut butter blossoms, one of my all time favorite cookies. Tweaking the recipe to suit my taste (and the contents of my fridge), I baked my third batch of cookies in two weeks. These cookies were sensational. Nutty, sweet, chewy, and of course chocolatey, they were perfect. Here is my take on peanut butter blossoms. Enjoy!

Recipe: Peanut Butter Blossoms

Adapted from Hershey’s

You’ll need…

  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter
  • 3/4 cup crunchy natural peanut butter
  • 1/3 cup white sugar (plus extra for rolling)
  • 1/3 cup brown sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 2 tbsp nonfat milk
  • 1-1/2 cups flour (sifted)
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • at least a tbsp of vanilla extract
  • Hershey’s kisses–full sized or mini

1. Preheat the oven to 190ºC (375ºF).

2. Beat together the butter and peanut butter. Add the sugars, followed by the egg, milk, and vanilla. Slowly add in the flour, salt, and baking soda.

3. Roll the dough into 1-in sized balls. (They will expand quite a bit so keeping the size small is key.) Roll each dough ball in white sugar to coat it. Place them on a cookie sheet, leaving plenty of space.

4. Press kisses into the tops of each cookie–one if they’re normal sized, three if they’re mini.

5. Bake for 9-10 min. Allow to cool on the cookie sheet for at least 5 min before transferring.

(Note: the photograph above does not display a full batch of cookies. You can expect to make roughly 45 from this recipe.)

 

Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Tokyo’s Little Slice of France: A Tale of Two Dinner Dates

Foodies are fun. There’s no doubt about it. Thus, when I discovered that a fellow debater was equally into eats, we had to hang out. Following a few–mostly successful–cooking sessions, we decided to go out to eat.

DSC_2966

Tucked into a quiet second story nook, Le Soufflé is one of Tokyo best-kept secrets. Although they have more to offer than simply soufflés, you can’t dine there without ordering at least one–or six in our case. (My sister came too, trust me, we were as reasonable as possible.)

DSC_2963

At each place setting, preserved under a glass table top is a series of diagrams illustrating the proper way in which to consume one of these creations. We followed these guidelines… more or less.

DSC_2967

The soufflés at Le Soufflé puff up out of their ramekins unlike any soufflé I’d seen before. Aerated and light, yet packed with flavor, they are sinfully good.

DSC_2973

For the savory portion of the meal, the three of us narrowed our choices down to three: mushroom, carrot, and salmon. These were promptly passed around until their disappearance. The salmon was unusual, but a little overwhelming, flavor-wise. The mushroom was tasty, but, taking us by surprise, the carrot stole the show. Slightly sweet, and thus perfect when eaten with a touch of the accompanying cream, it was dainty and delectable.

DSC_2976

After the success of our savory strategy, the three of us didn’t think twice before ordering three soufflés to split, once again: lemon, cassis, and praline. This time, not only was the soufflé itself flavored, but the accompanying sauce as well. Lemon and praline outshone cassis in my book, but it was a tough call, and one that we three debaters simply had to discuss at length.

DSC_2977

On to dinner number two. The cuisine? Once again French. This time, the crêpe place my French foodie friend goes to for a taste of home: Le Bretagne.

DSC_3394

We sat down at our little outdoor table, enjoying the cool June-night air that’ll disappear the second that rainy season, or tsuyu, hits. Boy, do we think alike. One savory galette and sweet crêpes it was. Not buts about it. The tomato-zucchini-cheese number disappeared rapidly, leaving us lying excitedly in wait for the main events: Valrhona chocolate with caramelized banana and “caramel complete,” salted butter caramel sauce and ice cream.

DSC_3400

You really can’t go wrong with caramel at crêperie. It’s always so perfectly sweet and salty. Just irresistible.

DSC_3404

Although we’ll be on separate continents come August, at the end of the evening, it wasn’t really goodbye–I see more foodie-fests in our future.

 

Tagged , , , , , , ,

Peanut Butter Nutella Cupcakes

DSC_2954

Smooth, moist peanut butter cupcakes crowned with nutella buttercream. If chocolate and peanut butter are a match made in heaven, then adding hazelnut to the mix makes this a combo forged in outer space.

DSC_2936

The recipe I used comes from here. It’s great on its own, but filling these cakes with something gooey and peanut buttery would only add to the effect. Next time, I’m planning on whipping some peanut butter up with cream cheese and a splash of vanilla (natch!) and piping that into their centers. Mmm, mmm, mmm.

DSC_2956

Tagged , , , , , , , ,

Sluts and Man-Whores

DSC_2422

What, you didn’t think I was talking about people, did you?

One typical Friday night, a couple friends and I decided to do a little baking. But this wasn’t just any cooking affair. We went all out with Slutty Brownies and Man-Whore Bars–sinful smorgasbords of chocolate confection.

IMG_2882

As evidenced by the above assembly, our only concern was loading up on sugar.

IMG_2890

Slutty brownies first: a chocolate chip cookie layer, topped with oreos, finished off with fudgey brownie.

45280_4127107716517_1300458954_n

Next up, man-whore bars: chocolate chip cookie, followed by chocolate ganache, rice crispy treat, reese’s pieces, oreos, more rice crispy treat, more chocolate ganache, and extra chocolate chip cookie crumbs.

536985_4127108636540_1471555413_n

We bought LOTS of marshmallows for an optimal marshmallow to rice crispy ratio.

IMG_2899

The finished products were delicious, yet a little overwhelming. But, then again, that was the point, wasn’t it?

IMG_2901

The slutty brownies were based on a recipe from one of my all time lifestyle blogs: the Londoner.

You’ll need one batch of chocolate chip cookie dough, one batch of brownie batter (chewy, not cakey, if you please), 16 oreos, and an 8×8 baking pan. I used the classic Joy of Cooking recipes–always a safe bet.

The procedure is simple. Preheat the oven to 350ºF. Spread the cookie dough along the base of a greased 8×8 pan. Lay out the oreos in a neat grid, and pour the brownie batter over them evenly. Stick ’em in the oven for half an hour, or a little longer if the brownies still seem raw when tested with a toothpick.

DSC_2417

Man-whore bars are just as straightforward, with a few more bits and pieces.

The recipe is based on this gorgeous blog post.

The procedure is simple.

1. Bake a batch of cookies–the Joy of Cooking formula is the best in my opinion. (However, I recommend decreasing the butter just a touch–it’ll make for a less gooey cookie crust, something to your advantage, in this particular case). Spread a thin layer–about 1/4 in thick along the base of an 8×8 baking tin. Bake the rest of the dough on a cookie sheet–you’ll need it for the top layer of the bars. Bake them until golden, or according to whatever recipe you choose to use.

2. Next up: chocolate ganache. Melt 8 oz dark chocolate, 2 tbsp butter, and 3/4 cups cream in a double boiler. Let it simmer a bit and stir the mixture over the heat until it becomes shiny. Let it cool. After a few minutes, you can stick the bowl in the fridge to speed the process. At this point, spread half of the mixture evenly over your chocolate chip cookie base.

3. For the rice crispy treats, melt 3 tbsp butter in a large saucepan. Then add in 10 oz marshmallows. When those are all liquefied, mix in 4.5 cups of rice crispies.

4. Rice crispy treats solidify quickly so this stage is critical. Spread half of them over the chocolate ganache layer, then hurriedly sprinkle on the reece’s pieces or peanut butter cups. Lay out a grid of oreos on top of that and then cover that with the remaining rice crispy treat mix.

5. The the finishing touch, spread out the remaining chocolate ganache and press the cookie crumbs on top.

Et c’est tout! Bon appétit!

DSC_2414

Tagged , , , , , , , , , , ,

Butternut Squash Soup

IMG_2917

You may recall that a couple weeks ago I was in Canada, eating an exquisite meal at Araxi, pouring over the cookbook longingly. Days later, that dinner was still fresh in my mind – that dark molten chocolate cake interior, those pickled beets, the texture of that incredible butternut squash soup. By Saturday, I could wait no longer.

IMG_2902 IMG_2907 IMG_2910 IMG_2911 IMG_2914

Recipe:

Adapted from Araxi: Seasonal Recipes from the Celebrated Whistler Restaurant

You’ll need…

  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 2 sliced shallots
  • 5 lb butternut squash
  • 7 cups vegetable stock
  • 3/4 cup grated Parmesan
  • 1/4 cup whipped cream
  • 2 tbsp toasted pumpkin seeds
  • 1 tbsp chopped chives
  • salt and white pepper

1. Heat the butter in a large saucepan (you’ll have to add in all of the squash later on) and sauté the shallots until they’ve become slightly browned.

2. Add in the squash and some salt and white pepper for seasoning, cover the pot, and cook for 20 minutes over low heat, or until the squash is soft.

3. Pour the stock in and let the mixture simmer for 5 minutes or so.

4. Stir in 1/2 cup of parmesan and then remove the soup from the heat after a couple minutes.

5. Pureé the soup thoroughly and pour it through a mesh sieve.

6. Stir in the whipped cream and add more seasoning as necessary.

7. Serve out portions, topping each portion with a bit of parmesan, a few pumpkin seeds, and a pinch of chopped chives.

Bon Appetit!

IMG_2916

Tagged , , , , ,

Wasted on Chocolate

I know I haven’t posted in a little while… But now I’m back! And trust me, this cake well and truly makes up for my online absence.

DSC_1792

Dubbed Chocolate Wasted Cake, this sugary tour de force is deliciously decadent.

DSC_1790

I found this recipe while trolling around on what is perhaps one of my favorite buzzfeed lists ever: 71 Reasons Candy Hearts are Stupid, a string of 71 images of mouthwatering chocolate creations cleverly set to Marvin Gaye’s “Let’s Get it On.”

DSC_1787

Chocolate Wasted Cake is constructed as follows. Two layers of chocolate cake, each soaked with a bit of liqueur, are glued together and coated with chocolate icing. Next, the sides of the cake are tiled with chocolate chips, the top with candy pieces. The final touch is a drizzle of chocolate ganache. Are you drooling yet?

DSC_1708

As I made minimal changes to the original recipe, I’ll leave you to refer directly to those directions.

DSC_1713

You’ll need LOTS of these.

DSC_1721

For the top of your masterpiece, the candy selection is up to you. The original recipe suggest kit kats, twix bars, and kisses. But butterfingers, snickers, and malted milk balls also make for a pretty heavenly combo.

DSC_1724 DSC_1748

Hazelnuts and chocolate must be one of the best duos of all time. Frangelico is a liqueur that literally tastes like nutella. Why soak your cake with anything else?

DSC_1776 DSC_1765DSC_1793

One slice of this baby and you’ll be wasted on chocolate goodness in no time.

Tagged , , , , , ,

Spectacular Sakura

DSC_2138

It’s truly spring in Tokyo. Sakura are everywhere: in every park, down every back street, lining every avenue. Today, I played hooky from school and went out to admire the blossoms before whisking off on a plane to Canada that night. A easy, breezy walk away, Aoyama Bochi (Aoyama Cemetary) has some of the prettiest blooms. I couldn’t stop snapping pictures, so here are a few favorites:

DSC_2140 DSC_2148 DSC_2153 DSC_2154 DSC_2157 DSC_2158 DSC_2160 DSC_2167

Even though it was a sleepy Friday morning, I was not the only enamored flower admirer with a camera.

DSC_2168

Ohanami, or flower-viewing, is a spring tradition. The Bochi is a popular spot, with picnickers flooding its pathways every weekend. I couldn’t believe how lucky I was to get it all (or almost all) to myself.

DSC_2174

Sakura season is ephemeral. The cherry blossoms bloom and then disappear within two weeks, leaving behind piles of petals for a few more days before those, too, vanish to make room for more summery specimens.

DSC_2182 DSC_2187DSC_2119

My sister loves the photo. (She insisted I include it in my sakura-sum-up.)

DSC_2190

Wandering away from the Bochi, I passed my favorite art museum in the city: the National Art Center, Tokyo. It brings in exhibits from major galleries around the world and is less than a hop, skip, and a jump from home. With an architect for a mother, I can’t help but absolutely adore the space’s sleek silhouette and dramatic interior.

DSC_2200 DSC_2201 DSC_2208

The current exhibit: California Design – 1930~1965. I had to see it. With furniture, objects, and even swimsuits from that period, the show was enthralling. I have already promised to return with my mother and sister before it closes in June. If you’re in Tokyo and appreciate classy design, I highly recommend it!

DSC_2214DSC_2176

All in all, it was sunny, splendid day!

Tagged , , , , , , ,

Salsita and Singing

Last night, after a lengthy but enjoyable day of singing, my musical friends and I indulged in a marvelous mexican meal. Following the all-day choral festival, we honor choir members had an additional rehearsal for our concert this evening.

I absolutely adore singing, especially in large well balance choirs of talented musicians. The sound is simply incredible. Hands down, the center of a choir is my favorite place to listen to music. There, the strength of the fortes and the hush of the pianissimos are practically palpable. Every time, it amazes me that eighty different voices of different timbres, textures, and tones can produce a such unified, striking sound.

Our concert program for tonight includes music from classical style to gospel, 18th c. to contemporary. The whole set is splendid but, of course, I have a few favorites. Morten Lauridsen’s Dirait-on is stunning. It makes me swoon inside every time. On the other end of the spectrum, Giedrius Svilainis’ Vox Populi has a gorgeous forte fanfare of huge chords followed by a dance of intertwining and rhythmic vocal lines. The Sounding Sea, by Eric Barnum is something else entirely. A piece with wonderful text painting, it truly evokes the ocean. Listening until the very end is a must. It’s magical.

2012 kanto choir birdseye

A birds-eye view of last year’s group.

Alright, without further ado, back to the food.

DSC_1668

Located in Hiroo, Tokyo, Salsita is a mexican restaurant I’ve been meaning to try.

DSC_1657

A fairly small establishment, Salsita is a B1 restaurant with a cozy atmosphere.

DSC_1658

We started with chips and guacamole, an appetizer one of my friends who’s been to Salsita swears by. They did not disappoint.

DSC_1659

We also split these tortille vessel creations. I honestly don’t really remember what was in them, but whatever it was, it sure tasted good!

DSC_1660

We enjoyed Salsita’s festive placemats.

DSC_1663

I had enchiladas for my main. They were a bit spicy, but it’s basically impossible to go wrong with any dish where melted cheese is the main event.

DSC_1666

At the end of the evening, we grabbed ice cream before heading home. (Sorry, no picture, it disappeared too fast!)

DSC_1670

How better to end a night ended than with a little choir dress baking?

Tagged , , , , ,
%d bloggers like this: