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FOOD

Japan is a country especially proud of its four distinct seasons. So much so that seasonality of food is especially important. If you are lucky enough to be in Japan during the colder months, be sure to treat yourself to these winter delights.

Nabe

Nabe is firm favorite with Japanese people at wintertime! Nabe (or nabemono) is a staple dish which consists of a variety of ingredients (such as meat, fish and vegetables) cooked in a stew. Nabe has a warm, traditional feel as it is usually served in an iron or clay pot. As a typically healthy Japanese food, it is also low in calories!
Nabe is a great for family gatherings, as it can be eaten as a group. Friends and family can eat communally, by picking their favorite raw ingredients separately and then dishing out their portions of the soup from the main pot.

There are many varieties of nabe available to suit all tastes. One of the most popular styles is sukiyaki. Thinly sliced meat, tofu and vegetables are simmered in a simple ‘warishita’ soup. Once cooked, each ingredient is separately dipped in bowl of raw egg and eaten. Sukiyaki is a fun eating experience and can help you develop a full appreciation of the various flavors.

My personal favorite nabe is shabu-shabu. Similar to sukiyaki, you can dip meat, tofu or vegetables into the broth and cook to your own taste. However, shabu shabu is served with an array of dipping sauces, rather than just an egg mixture. Also, I like saying ‘shabu shabu’. It is an onomatopoeic way of saying ‘swish swish’ in Japanese. It’s fun to say.

Oden

Sometimes called ‘fish cake stew’ in the west, Oden is a traditional kind of Japanese hot pot. It usually contains daikon (radish), renkon (lotus root) and a mix of …continue reading

    

More salt in the very salty wounds of McDonald’s.

As we’ve seen over the past month, the global supply crisis and other factors have taken a huge toll on the supply of potatoes scheduled for the thousands of McDonald’s locations in Japan. What started as a week-or-two prohibition on anything bigger than a small order of fries has worsened into a month-long potato austerity which has more recently included a rapidly dwindling supply of hash browns too.

To make matters even worse for the major fast food chain, the competition have smelled blood in the water and are capitalizing on McDonald’s moment of weakness. Rival chain Freshness Burger boldly launched the We’ve Got Potatoes! campaign and increased their regular and large orders of fries by 25 percent without changing the price at all.

Now even convenience stores are getting in on the action with Ministop announcing the Bucket Potato, which boasts three times the regular amount of their X Fried Potatoes for 641 yen (US$5.64). These fries are given such a name because of the lengthwise ridge on each side that gives them an X-shape on the tips.

The reason that Ministop can pull this off while McDonald’s is struggling with their own potato supply from North America is because Ministop’s Agria potatoes arrive through a completely different trade route and are sourced from Europe, mainly Germany. Ministop makes no mention about McDonald’s when promoting this product, instead saying that the Bucket Potato was in response to a popular 50-percent increase in size that was held over the New Year’s holiday. The timing, however, is highly suspicious and in their press release the chain declared that they will continue to sell fries in the …continue reading

    

Cherry blossoms are set to bloom in Lindt stores for the very first time this year.

As we enter a new year in Japan, companies are already looking forward to spring, giving us a taste of what we can expect when the cherry blossom season arrives in a couple of months.

This year, Lindt is one of the first companies off the mark, announcing today that they’ll be giving us………..”the world’s first Sakura Lindor”!

While Lindt has dabbled in sakura-flavoured drinks and macarons in Japan during hanami season, this is the first time ever for the Swiss chocolatier to add a sakura flavoured chocolate to their world-famous Lindor chocolate ball range.

▼ Judging by the photos released today, the new flavour looks set to be a celebration of pink creamy deliciousness.

The new sakura flavour is said to “delicately express Japan’s beautiful spring season“, with a cherry-flavoured filling encased in a white chocolate shell containing strawberry powder.

Despite having branches in over 120 countries around the world, Lindt says this new chocolate will only be sold in Japan. It can be purchased on its own (sold by weight, at 781 yen [US$6.82] per 100 grams [3.5 ounces]), or in special sets with exclusive sakura packaging.

▼ The 16-piece assorted Lindor Sakura Gift Box will retail for 2,160 yen

▼ The 8-piece assorted Lindor Sakura Gift Bag will retail for 1,080 yen

There’ll also be sakura gift bags and gift boxes available …continue reading

    

Pounded rice may be delicious, but it can be incredibly risky—especially in our current circumstances.

The pounded mochi rice cake is a staple of Japanese New Year. You can find mochi in several osechi dishes traditionally eaten over the period. Every meal in an osechi spread has an auspicious meaning for the coming year: glossy kuromame black beans represent protection against evil spirits, and the golden color of kuri-kinton, or mashed chestnuts, is said to invite good luck with money. Mochi stars in ozoni rice cake soup, which used to be the main osechi dish and the luckiest of all. You can also find mochi in the traditional kagami-mochi cake, which has two round orbs of mochi topped with a mandarin.

Despite its reputation as a New Year item and a portent of good luck in the coming year, there is a dark side to mochi. Every year there are awareness initiatives spread to ensure people know that they should cut their mochi into small pieces and chew thoroughly before swallowing it. This was of particular concern this year, as the COVID-19 pandemic continues to fill beds at hospitals and lower the likelihood that people with other medical emergencies can be addressed in a prompt manner.

Unfortunately the same was true of January 2022. The Tokyo Fire Department reported 19 hospital admissions of individuals aged from 38 to 100 years old, four of which ended in death, as of the end of the New Year’s holiday period on January 3. All four of the women who died were in their 80s.

As people age and their muscles weaken, it can be difficult to swallow the mochi, and once it swells halfway down the throat it can block the airways and result in suffocation. This is why it’s vital to cut mochi into …continue reading

    

Recently, work drinking parties (飲(の)み会(かい)) have been curbed due to the pandemic. Many of the usual year-end parties (bōnenkai) have been cancelled this year. But the new year is always an excellent excuse for a little over-indulgence! If you are planning to splurge on the spirits, you may benefit from learning about Japan’s culture of hangover drinks.

All over the world, we debate the best hangover cure for the morning after. Pizza. A bloody Mary. As a UK representative, my personal favorite is a full English breakfast with a strong cup of tea. Russians recommends a kind of pickled cabbage water. But Japan opts to focus on hangover prevention, rather than a post-drinking cure. Therefore, your hangover drink of choice should be drunk before hitting the bar, not after.

Japan Hangover Drinks

Hangover cure products are big business. The worldwide market was estimated at 1.56 billion USD in 2020, with the Asia Pacific making up 50% of the market share. With increased alcohol consumption during the pandemic, the hangover cure market is forecasted to grow 14.6% by 2028.

You will undoubtably see rows and rows of little glass bottles and aluminum cans when you go to the konbini in Japan. At first, I assumed these were all health drinks, designed to meet daily vitamins and nutrient requirements. But look a little closer and you will see many of these are designed to prevent that deathly feeling of nausea after drinking alcohol.

Most hangover cures in the west are focused on replenishing salts and rehydration. But Japan’s theory is that building the strength of the liver is the best way to stop alcohol having an adverse effect.

There are 2 main ingredients in most hangover drinks. The first is turmeric root extract. The name of Ukon no Chikara translates as ‘the …continue reading

    

It’s not sushi, but it’s the next best thing.

As we saw earlier, with Yoshinoya’s year-end lucky bag, or “fukubukuro,” the recent social upheaval caused by COVID-19 had given birth to the lucky box, or “fukubako” as we like to call it. This is where, instead of going to a store during the New Year’s holiday to fight the crowds, anyone can simply order a limited-time pack of goods at a discounted price over the Internet.

Major revolving sushi chain Kurazushi — or “Kura Sushi” depending on how you like to pronounce things — has also gone the lucky box route and our resident Kurazushi fan Seiji Nakazawa picked one up.

However, anyone who’s been to the restaurant will tell you that sushi is but a fraction of the dishes they have to offer. So it should come as no surprise that this case contains absolutely no raw fish, or even sushi rice for that matter. This luckiest of lucky boxes is filled to the brim with nothing but cake!

To be exact, this lucky box contains 32 pieces of cake regularly sold at Kurazushi, and it retails for 3,780 yen (US$33). Inside we have: 12 slices of cheesecake, 12 slices of chocolate cake, and eight Hokkaido “mille crepes” which is like a mille-feuille but with layers of crepe instead of other pastry. The regular retail price for all these cakes would normally come to 4,320 yen ($38), which means you get it all delivered right to your door and at a discount.

Mille crepes

The beauty of it all is that …continue reading

    

Source: bento.com

You can choose from several types of soup at this popular Hokkaido soup-curry specialist, including bouillon-based “black soup”, soy-based “white soup” and tomato-based “red soup.” Chicken, pork, minced pork, Hamburg steak, bacon, bacon-cabbage, vegetable, and duck are some of the main options for curry ingredients.

The tomato-based soup incorporates some distinctive fresh herbs and spices, and it really brings out the flavor of the flash-fried vegetables, in particular the big chunks of tender burdock root. The regular pork version comes with hunks of tasty stewed pork, not quite the kakuni style that’s typical of this dish but still tender and meaty.

As usual there’s a wide assortment of optional add-on toppings available for a small surcharge. Soup curries start at under Y1,000 a bowl, and there are lunch specials served until 1:30pm. …continue reading

    

Park Hyatt's New York Grill

If you’ll be spending Christmas in the city and don’t feel like cooking (or picking up a bucket of KFC), check out these Christmas dinner offerings at some of Tokyo’s best hotel restaurants. From fancy French courses and Chinese dim-sum sets to a traditional turkey dinner, there are plenty of options available, but read on for some of our top picks.

Park Hyatt Tokyo’s New York Grill

The New York Grill will be serving a decadent course this Christmas including dishes such as foie gras terrine, smoked salmon king crab roulade, grilled sustainable Canadian lobster, grilled A5 Toriyama sirloin and Fromage blanc with pain d’epices ice cream. Park Hyatt’s other restaurants Girandole, Kozue and The Peak Lounge will also be offering special Christmas dinner menus too. Enjoy the festive season with a special dinner while gazing at the stunning Tokyo lights.

When: Fri, Dec. 17-Sat, Dec. 25, 2021
How much: ¥27,500 per person
Reservations: Online or call 03-5323-3458

ANA InterContinental Tokyo’s Cascade Cafe

ANA InterContinental Tokyo's Cascade Cafe

Cascade Café’s legendary Christmas and New Year lunch and dinner buffets are excellent value for money, with a wide variety of buffet-style dishes, as well as a trolley service of special Christmas dishes. Enjoy a delicious and joyful holiday meal with a variety of special seasonal dishes. Don’t forget to check out ANA Intercontinental’s other holiday offerings including Christmas cake collections and special afternoon tea sets.

When: Fri, Dec. 24-Sun, Dec. 26, 2021, Fri, Dec. 31, 2021-Sun, Jan. 2, 2022
How much: ¥6,215 per person for lunch; ¥11,809 per person for dinner (special child prices also available)
Reservations: Online or call 03-3505-1185

…continue reading

    

Surprise find leads to even more surprises.

Ever since we fell in love with the chocolate Santa Bearista customisation at Starbucks in Japan, our trips to the chain have become significantly more frequent. That’s why, on one of our recent visits, we let our eye wander over to the food menu, where we found, to our surprise, a new product called the “Soy Hamburg English Muffin“.

In Japan, “hamburg” refers to Hamburg steak, which is made from minced meat, egg, breadcrumbs, and chopped onion. While it looks like a hamburger patty, it’s usually served with rice and veggies on the side instead of hamburger buns, so we were curious to see what a Starbucks take on this western-inspired Japanese favourite would look like.

▼ So we ordered it.

There are a few things that make this limited-time menu item unusual, starting with the English muffins, which aren’t commonly found on menus in Japan, apart from maybe at McDonald’s, although their McMuffins don’t really look like true English muffins. While it’s unusual enough to find muffins on the menu, these ones are made with wholegrain flour, another tick on the unusual list, because here in Japan, soft white bread is the norm.

Served in the chilled cabinet with regular sandwiches, we asked staff to heat this one up for us, because although room-temperature burgers are a thing here, we were eating at Starbucks and not a supermarket, after all.

Heating it up made the muffins feel warm and pillowy, and peering inside we could see a touch of wholegrain mustard, along with baby spinach leaves mixed in with a soy milk cream filling, and beneath it all lay …continue reading

    

Maid cafes are coffee shops in Japan where women dressed in maid outfits serve customers. Being the headquarters of otaku culture, Akihabara has a large number of maid cafés.

Origin of maid cafes

Maid cafés first appeared in 2001 in Akihabara, Tokyo (or “Akiba,” the main pilgrimage center for electronics and pop culture fans), and soon spread throughout the world. country. Today there are so many such cafés in Akihabara that they have become one of the peculiarities of that place.

In these cafeterias, also known as meido kissa, it is common for waitresses to be dressed in a kind of “cute” French maid outfit laden with ruffles and bows with a miniskirt. These coffee shops began as places whose usual clientele was anime and video game fans that expected to see characters from manga and anime serving there, as if they had jumped into the real world from a two-dimensional one.

How do they work?

Their price and dynamics vary from store to store. The prices for food and drinks are relatively higher than in normal coffee shops, but don’t forget that they give you an exclusive service! The waitresses draw pictures on the food, and perhaps do something fascinating to make it more delicious. Besides the food, you can also play with the waitresses or watch live performances. Casual, fun conversations with the waitresses are the best part of the maid cafés.

There is usually a seating charge, apart from the costs of food and drinks. Some coffee shops set a time limit, so it is best to find out the system of the café you want to visit before you go. There is not much difference from normal restaurants when it comes to ordering and paying for food and drinks. Some coffee shops provide explanations in English and letters in multiple languages, …continue reading