31 05 2009

Oishi – delicious (word of the day for Sunday).

Homemade Vegan Gyoza

Homemade Vegan Gyoza

Crispy Pan-fried Homemade Vegan Gyoza

Crispy Pan-fried Homemade Vegan Gyoza

Gyoza was next on our list of Japanese foods to try to make at home. We found some gyoza wrappers in the fridge of the supermarket and Benno bought some  TVP (soy mince) in Tokyo this week.

The filling was made from a mixture of:

1/2 cup soy mince (rehydrated in 1/2 cup hot water)
1/2 cup cabbage, shredded and boiled in the pan
150g mushrooms, diced
1 tablespoon each diced garlic and ginger
5 spring onions, diced
2 tablespoons soy sauce
salt and pepper
2 tablespoons vegan dashi sauce
2 tablespoons plain flour

To make the gyoza,
1. Place about a teaspoon of the filling in the centre of a wrapper.
2. Wet the edge of the wrapper with water.
3. Fold the wrapper in half and pleat the edges so that the bottom of the gyoza is flat and the top is rounded.
4. Heat 1 tablespoon vegetable oil in a saucepan. Cook the gyoza (flat-bottom down) for one minute. Then add 1/2 cup water. Put the lid on, turn the heat down and simmer for 4 minutes. Remove lid, turn up heat and cook for 1-2 minutes to evaporate the water and crisp up the bottoms.
Serve with dipping sauce (2 T soy sauce, 1 T rice vinegar, 1/4 t chili oil).

Yummy Peach Crumble

Yummy Peach Crumble

Benno made a dessert of peach crumble. It was so yummy – I feel like we haven’t eaten peaches in ages!

Earlier in the afternoon Lara made some more fluffy white cupcakes and turned some into red bean butterfly cakes with a peppermint chocolate pastille stuck between the wings. We gave these to our neighbours when we introduced ourselves (finally). They seem very nice – perhaps not too much older than us, with a small baby. Hopefully we will get to see more of them and maybe even practice our Japanese language skills with them!

Monday's Bento Lunch

Monday's Bento Lunch

Leftover gyoza were saved for Monday’s lunch. Here is Lara’s bento. It features an onigiri smiley face with steamed broccoli, apple triangles and a choc-chip vanilla cupcake. In the bottom layer is a heart onigiri (rice ball/triangle) with lettuce, cucumber flowers, soy-mince gyoza and an elephant bottle of dipping sauce.


30 05 2009

mendokusai – the students’ favourite saying when they can’t be bothered, roughly translated as ‘difficult’ or ‘i can’t be bothered’. Lazy bums.

saturdaybentoSaturday’s bento

I have a long way to go before I have bento looking as pretty as o-bento’s. However, my bento are vegan and don’t contain quail’s eggs. Satuday I had (from left to right) peppermint chocolates, leftover miso pasta with a triangle yaki-onigiri (grilled rice cake), a fluffy white cupcake (with heart strawberry) and popped corn, flower peanut butter sandwiches, strawberries and chocolate cake penguin(?!) with kiwi fruit belly.

Tofu Tonkatsu

Tofu Tonkatsu

To add to our list of Japanese foods we have tried (miso, onigiri, umeboshi, okonomiyaki) on Saturday we made tofu tonkatsu (tofu pork cutlets). We basically followed the recipe from here and they were pretty good. We don’t know how authentic they tasted, but they were yummy and successfully dirtied every plate/dish in our kitchen in the making.

The weather this week was a little dreary – raining most days. However it didn’t stop Benno from having an excursion in Tokyo to see MxPx in concert at the LiquidRoom in Shibuya-ku and going to an Australian Embassy party for Adelaide University graduates. Thanks to Atsu for showing Benno around and letting him stay!

Lunch Buffet at Saishoku Kenbi.

Lunch Buffet at Saishoku Kenbi.

Benno enjoyed a gyoza.

Thanks to everyone who Sykped us for Lara’s birthday or for SSS – we enjoyed catching up over the phone with our Australian friends and family this week!

Camera Alert

30 05 2009

I was wondering why there were people with cameras coming into my classes three times in the past week, and now I know why.

si_0905_lang001Lara teaching the H-1 class science.

bento happiness

24 05 2009

This week at school was busy with revision, followed by 3 days of mid-term exams. So I was writing tests, photocopying, supervising study lessons and exams, marking, calculating grades and getting ready for mid-term reports and newsletters.

Swine Flu is still on the front page everyday of The Japan Times newspaper that comes to the Inter department. The school called a 3 hour meeting for students on Saturday afternoon to go over the drills for a flu pandemic (and a flu outbreak coupled with a fire, and a flu outbreak with a lockdown etc). Luckily I wasn’t required to attend the meeting. I also got to go home early 3 days this week (on the days when there were exams- exams only went for the first 4 periods). They were much needed afternoon’s off!

During my afternoons off we went bento shopping (for my birthday).

My cute bento and accessories!

My cute bento and accessories!

We now have 2 triangle onigiri makers with stencils for the toppings (heart, star, music note, faces), animal sauce bottles, small cutters for fancy shapped vegetables etc, colourful animal picks for eating small fruits and my bento lid with the top section. Benno also has a large bento for his lunches. It is black and boring whereas the smaller lady-sized bento are cute and colourful.

My first attempt at making onigiri, ready in the second layer of my bento for lunch tomorrow.

My first attempt at making onigiri, ready in the second layer of my bento for lunch tomorrow. There's a heart, a smiley face and a star topping.

The weather has been all over the place – typical for spring. Wednesay was 26 degrees with 60% humidity while Sunday morning was dreary and pouring rain.

Saturday night we had dinner at Apita’s Italian restaurant with the other Inter staff. It was complementary, thanks to Kocho (the principal), except he wasn’t even there as he was in hospital this week with illness. We thought we had found a vegan option, the waitress said it was fine. The salad seemed ok, but the mushroom pasta was distinctly fishy. They must have added fish stock to the sauce. Bugger. The Japanese never seem to understand or even realise that fish stock (dashi) is not cool. However the grapefruit sorbet was delicious. After the meal we rode our bikes to a karaoke place where we sang some songs with the younger inter staff.

Sunday morning Benno got up and made pancakes while I did some marking of exams. We had red bean jam (adzuki bean paste) on some, maple syrup on some and lemon and sugar on the rest of the pancakes. Yum! Then Benno surprised me with birthday presents! He had snuck out of bed in the middle of the night and made a lemon and coconut mousse and a chocolate mousse in cute heart shaped dishes. We ate them after pancakes, and then he gave me a present of an oven-mit. So good, as I’ve burnt myself 3 times this week trying to remove things from our small convection microwave oven with a folded-up tea towel. So now I feel spoilt! I made cupcakes to take to school on Monday to celebrate my birthday with the other Inter staff. I hope they like them!

Lara's Birthday cupcakes. Fluffy white sponge cupcakes. Some made into butterfly cakes with red bean jam, some with lemon icing and strawberries and choc chips.

Lara's Birthday cupcakes. Fluffy white sponge cupcakes. Some made into butterfly cakes with red bean jam, some with lemon icing and strawberries and choc chips.

Vegan Strawberry Cupcake.

Vegan Strawberry Cupcake.

Inside the fluffy sponge cupcakes, showing the red bean jam inside.

Inside the fluffy sponge cupcakes, showing the red bean jam inside.

Vegan Okonomiyaki

16 05 2009

Tonight we made vegan okonomiyaki (savory pancake). It doesn’t look fantastic but it tasted great.

Our homemade vegan okonomiyaki.

Our homemade vegan okonomiyaki.

Here’s how we did it:

2 cups plain flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon vegie stock powder
1 tablespoon miso paste
1 cup water (or more).

1/4 red cabbage, chopped
1/2 brown onion, diced
5 spring onions, chopped
1 clove garlic, diced
1/4 cauliflower, cut into small florets

1. Mix up batter by putting the flour, baking powder, stock and miso in a large mixing bowl. Add water until a pancake-like batter consistency has been reached.

2. Add the fillings (we used cabbage, onion and cauliflower but you could use any vegetables) and mix through the batter.

3. Heat vegetable oil in a saucepan and spoon batter into the pan. Cook on both sides until slightly golden (about 2 minutes both sides).

4. Serve with ketchup and mayo and cucumber on the side.

This recipe makes enough for 4 savory pancakes and they are very filling so that was all we needed for dinner. You could also try other fillings and toppings such as corn, nori, v.tonkatsu sauce etc.

Indicator Time

16 05 2009

We’ve now been in Japan for 2 months! Time has gone by so quickly.

This week we experimented with miso in our cooking with some awesome miso eggplant and tofu. I entered our average daily food into fitday.com and we seem to have almost ‘by the book’ nutrition – we consume 60% of our 1800 calories from carbohydrates, 30% from fat and 10% from protein.

At school we had 2 groups of prospectives come view lessons. On Thursday 40 5th and 6th grade elementary students came to watch my Senior High School lesson (on electromagnetism) as there were no Junior high lessons when they came – talk about bad timing! So my classroom was invaded and no work or teaching could be done for 10 minutes while noisy children gathered and looked around the rather boring room. Then on Saturday the 5th grade parents came. We had been told that they would come in block 4. So they came in block 3. My students were stunned into silence by the 20 parents in the room staring at them and with all the complicated science vocab on the board I’m sure they looked like the most diligent students that have ever graced this planet. How far from the truth!

I managed several experiments this week- an acid and base reactions practical; red cabbage, litmus and UI paper tests (where the students all brought something from the dorm like milk, soda, shampoo, washing liquid etc to test its acidity); density practical and lighting a bunsen burner with the J-1 kids. It’s more effort as I have to set up the prac and clean it up myself, but the students have so much fun it’s worth it.

The students have mid-term tests/exams next week so the teachers are busy with revision, supervising after school study sessions, writing test papers and preparing for reports. Also this week I had Day Duty for the first time- one teacher each day has to write in a school diary the weather and absentees then lock up the two high school buildings after 5.30pm, ensuring that windows are shut and lights are off.

There seems to be a desire to shorten English words that can’t be shortened. for example, a supermarket and home centre was called “Super and Home”. If you look at a hairdressers you will often find prices for a “sham and cut”. Also in Japanese is a tendency to use English words in ways that we don’t – for examples dresses are called a one-piece.

An Introduction to Kisarazu

10 05 2009

Today we rode our bikes around Kisarazu, following the temples and filming sites from the TV show Kisarazu Cat’s Eye.

We rode up a hill past a video rental store, and then beyond the train station with a statue of a tanuki and to a small temple called Komyo-ji Temple. Not that exciting- on to the next one.

Yatsurugi Hachiman-jinga shrine seemed quite popular- several young Japanese were offering prayers. The shrine contains one of the largest portable shrines (mikoshi) all coated in gold and used in festivals around July. Out the front of the shrine was a small fish pond with one of the largest koi we have seen. It totally dwarfed the rest of the gold fish in the pond.

We went down the “Mimachi Shopping Street” which was used for a lot a filming in the Kisarazu Cat’s Eye show. Unfortunately most of the shops that featured in the show are non-existant now. It’s a bit said to see all the closed shops and empty streets. One thing that has stayed are the little stone statues of Kisarazu’s animal mascot, the Tanuki. Every statue features large balls. The statue of Ozzy the Tanuki (from the show) is still in the street.

We had a little rest in the Shojo-ji Temple where we looked at the large bell they ring.

Then we crossed the river thinking we might see the strip club from the TV show, but all we saw in the street were closed-up shops and houses. We rode on past the fake chapel for getting married in and past Hotel Christmas (huh?) to the Red Bridge (Nakanoshima Ohashi Bridge). The bridge doesn’t really go anywhere- just to a made made island that is a park for people to picnic in. It seemed to be a popular spot as there were many families with picnic baskets and fisherman lined up by the water. There were some stalls and we ate a toffee apple. It was really warm spring weather today – about 24 degrees and humid but nice weather for a leisurely cruise around the city.

We rode back home past the Kisarazu Touei cinema (it also featured in the TV show and is looking very neglected now, although it was open).

We had miso-seasoned grilled eggplant with carrot flowers, cauliflower and rice for dinner. I also made peanut butter and banana biscuits for our lunches this week.


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