Archive for the 'Food' Category

Crazy Shakes

Thursday, July 7th, 2016

Tonight we queued for about an hour at Black Tap, Soho, so that we could try their popular milkshakes.  I had told my niece that you could get any food you wanted in NYC and she asked me to find the best milkshake.  “Best” can be defined in many ways, and I’ve certainly had a milkshakes that tasted better than tonights, but it was the most over-the-top milkshake I have ever had.  Mine was called “The Cookie” and was a vanilla shake with quite a few cookies.

The Cookie Milkshake, by Black Tap, Soho

The Cookie Milkshake, by Black Tap, Soho


Cotton Candy

Cotton Candy Milkshake by Black Tap, Soho

Traditional Food

Wednesday, March 23rd, 2016

My Japanese friends have strange ideas about the food eaten in Northern Ireland.  It was St. Patrick’s Day last week and I was asked what I was cooking.  I made Irish Stew, or at least I made what I call Irish Stew.  I tried to find a picture to show my friends but most of what I found on the internet was American food or something that looked much too pretty or deconstructed for me to call it a stew.  The stew I learnt to make in Belfast looks rather yucky in comparison.  It also saddened my friends to discover that we don’t make green desserts.  That things like mint brownies aren’t even slightly Irish, and the thought of dying food green disgusts me.

I did find a recipe that is similar to the stew I make in the Belfast Telegraph.  I can’t buy the same cuts of meat in Japan, but I also don’t want to spend hours waiting on meat to soften, so I substitute traditional meat with steak.

Irish Stew

Traditional Irish Stew


Eating Out

Friday, December 4th, 2015

I still get amused by the concept of food courses in Tokyo.  Last night I had a nine course meal.  We started eating at around 7pm but by the time I got home shortly after midnight I was feeling hungry again.  The food was lovely, but the courses were incredibly small.  I’m not sure that in Northern Ireland you would get away with describing one small mushroom as a course.  Or one grilled scallion, or two tablespoons of shredded radish, or six ginkgo nuts.  Thankfully the eel, which was the main part of the dinner, was a decent size.

I wonder if the “no photographs” policy was to ensure that pictures of the tiny courses didn’t appear on the Internet?



Gluten-Free Food at LinuxCon, Tokyo

Saturday, May 24th, 2014

I was really surprised that there were gluten-free bento boxes at LinuxCon.  I had selected this option when registering but getting gluten-free food in Japan can be difficult.  The bento box I received on the first day was incredibly good, good enough that I’ve looked up the company it came from so I can buy from them in the future.  There was a problem with box labels on the second day but the conference organisers went out of their way to fix that for me.  And on the third day one of the conference staff, when they couldn’t find me in the lunch room,  brought my lunch to me as I was sitting outside the room I was going to speak in.  A conference lunch that made me want to say “wow”.

Great Gift

Tuesday, May 6th, 2014

My favourite type of sushi is “aburi hotate”(炙りホタテ), scallops cooked with a flame.   Scallops are expensive and having the sushi chef use a blow torch adds a 100 円 (about $1) a plate to the cost.  I used to eat these these about once a week but now I get to eat them every other day thanks to one of my favourite Christmas gifts. I love my blowtorch.  Not only do I get to eat one of my favourite things, I get to have fun making them.

Blowtorched Sushi!

Blowtorched Sushi!


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.