Monthly Archives: July 2011

taking a stroll in yukata 浴衣で散歩

it’s been almost 4 months since i started taking kimono lessons. lately, due to an unbearable summer heat in tokyo, my teacher & i came to an agreement that we use a “yukata (浴衣),” a casual kimono-like garment made with cotton, for my practice. those who have been to some japanese “onsen (温泉), hot spring, must know what a yukata is. originally, it is something you put on after taking a bath, in the evening, so is meant to be very casual. nowadays, yukata is very popular and worn frequently for summer festivals and fireworks.

yesterday, i had a weekly kimono (well yukata for now) class in the afternoon, and came home in my yukata i had put on during today’s lesson. as part of the exercise, my teacher encouraged me to go out in yukata to gain my confidence. she even gave me some tips how to walk in such way to make me look as a typical, somewhat ideal japanese woman (“put some weight on your big toes!). so after the lesson, i took my husband along to an annual summer festival at our neighbourhood temple.

at the festival, there were a few food stalls selling “yakisoba (焼きそば),” stir-fried noodles, “kakigori (かき氷),” shaved ice with colourful syrup, “ramune (ラムネ),” sweet lemony soda in a greenish transparent glass bottle, etc… In the middle of the temple, there was a stage where a few people were playing Japanese traditional music with taiko drums for everyone to dance “bonodori (盆踊り),” bon festival dance. it is not a difficult dance – pretty much self-explanatory once you see it – and you can dance in your yukata too. it’s a repetition of several body movements, and you go around the stage in circles, again, and again, and again.

a scene from the festival

to my surprise, it was extremely crowded at the temple. kids were running around, people dancing, eating and drinking, boys and girls fishing for their potential dates… many people dressed in their traditional costume, myself included, and i strongly felt unaltered elements of traditions, through its music, noise, smell, crowd, lights, steamy air, heat…. in the heart of this modern, cosmopolitan city, i thought as if we had time-travelled to a different era.

in yukata, i felt good. wearing it gave me an amazing emotional comfort, and to make my teacher very proud, more self-esteem for who i am. i’d love to keep trying to preserve this. to the next generations, for years and years to come.

food for thought – relativity of beef stroganoff and raspberry muffins (recipes at the bottom)

for humans, blood relationship can be stronger than any other relationships you can have. even if you look totally different or act entirely opposite, you are connected, deep down with your roots, with an unavoidable biological fact – you share the same blood.

my dear little sister and i can be the perfect example of this theory. we have the same parents and background and grew up together. however we don’t really share anything in common when it comes to our personalities – our interests, our behaviours, our thoughts, our values, our expertise, our ideologies and what have you… my sister has never been abroad, whereas i have been all over. she is a loving mother of 2 children, 8 and 6 year olds, has rarely exposed herself to the competitive world of capitalism. i, on the other hand, was quite focused on my professional career, and had never really thought of starting a family until i got married recently.

i am wondering if this theory can apply to food as well. as one of many examples, i would like to propose a bond between beef stroganoff and raspberry muffins.

who would ever think that they share something in common? in reality, they actually do share 4 ingredients, namely:

– sour cream
– butter
– sugar
– flour

last night i cooked beef stroganoff for dinner, which required sour cream as kind of like its taste enhancer, and was left with quite a portion of sour cream unused. after the dinner, i looked up some recipe ideas ferociously on the internet, and decided to bake raspberry muffins so that i wouldn’t have to waste the sour cream. not to mention this experiment resulted in a big success, fulfilling the sense of pride in myself (that i did not waste anything) and the appetite of my husband with a sweet tooth.

as odd as it may sound, in my mind the beef stroganoff and the raspberry muffins from last night are blood related brother and sister, who turned out to be very different in their appearances and tastes, but make me happy nonetheless. to some degree, to be a parent must be quite similar – you love your children no matter what, no matter how different you are or how different you look. i know my parents love my sister and i equally, however different we are. after all, we are their creations, who are inevitably connected with their combined histories.

beef stroganoff 2011
(in january, i posted a recipe of my easy beefstroganoff. this time the taste came out better than before, so i am re-posting a upgraded recipe)


350g beef slices (the leaner, the better) – seasoned with salt & pepper, then with 2+ table spoons of flour
1 table spoon of unsalted butter for beef
3/4 onion – chopped
1 table spoon of unsalted butter for onion
6 fresh shiitake mushrooms – 3 of them chopped, 3 of them sliced
3 cups of water
1/2 cup of white wine
1 beef bouillon block
3/4 cup of milk
a half lemon squeeze
1 table spoon of sour cream
salt & pepper to taste
a sprinkle of brown sugar

1. in a frying pan, melt the butter and stir-fry the beef slices until brown
2. pour the beef into a cooking pot, along with the water & white wine and the bouillon and put on a medium heat
3. once the water starts boiling, lower the heat, put the lid on and simmer for 40 minutes or so, removing any scum on the surface
4. while waiting for the beef to be nicely cooked in the pot, in the same frying pan which the beef was fried, melt the butter and put the chopped onion. cook until the onions became opaque
5. add the shiitake mushroom in the frying pan and stir-fry further
6. pour over the onion & shiitake into the pot
7. add salt & pepper to taste, and cook for another 10 minutes or so until the liquid become thicker in texture.
8. add the milk and the lemon juice, cook for another 5 minutes or so
9. sprinkle the sugar over the sauce and mix
10. mix in the sour cream and stir before serving
11. serve it with brown rice

raspberry muffins

dry ingredients:

2 cups of flour
1 tea spoon of baking powder
1/2 tea spoon of baking soda
a pinch of salt
1/4 tea spoon of cinnamon

wet ingredients:

100g of unsalted butter
1/2 cup of brown sugar
2 eggs (large)
150ml of sour cream
sprinkle of vanilla extract

1+ cup of frozen raspberries


1. sift the dry ingredients into a large bowl
2. make a hall in the centre
3. in another bowl, mix the butter until creamy and add the sugar and mix well
4. add an egg, and mix well, and then add another egg, and mix well again
5. add the sour cream and vanilla extra, and mix well
6. pour the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients, and quickly mix all the ingredients with a wooden stick
7. add the raspberries and mix quickly
8. fill the mixed ingredients into 12 muffin tins (lay paper cups beforehand)
9. bake in 180C oven for 20 minutes or so.
10. rest for 5 minutes, and remove the muffins from the tins on the rack to cool down
11. (optional) sprinkle the powder sugar on top

chicken marbella

wow i just realised that my category list on the right is getting longer – i categorise my blog using the names of the countries where my recipes are inspired from, with a few exceptions such as ‘essay’ and ‘poem.’ this time, another country has been added – it is the first spanish dish that i have learned to cook, which is called ‘chicken marbella.’

chicken marbella dinner along with turnip salad

it is an oven dish, and it may be meant for cold weather. on the contrary however, for the past few weeks it has been boiling hot in tokyo, now that the rainy season is over. to make the matter worse, we have been trying to save energy all over japan due to the nuclear power plant failure in fukushima back in march. this means we try not to use an air conditioning during the day as much as possible and instead use only a small electric fan (uses much less electricity). in such heat i usually loose my appetite, but somehow, the other day, i craved for the taste of chicken marbella. maybe the bright sunshine may have reminded me of spain, which may have reminded me of juicy green olives, which reminded me of chicken marbella.

what is so special about chicken marbella is its marinade. it is made with olive oil, red wine vinegar, garlic, oregano, prunes, green olives and capers. after marinating chicken overnight in this marinade, it magically transforms the plain chicken to something truly delicious and memorable, offering an amazing kick & depth in taste and richness & moisture in texture.

and another nice thing about chicken marbella is that it is super easy to prepare – mix the marinade, marinate the chicken overnight, and put it into the oven for 40 – 50 minutes the next day – boom! it looks so dazzling and splendor, perfect for a dinner party.

here is the recipe:

chicken marbella (serves 2 – 3)

500g of chicken thigh, cut into quarters and seasoned with sea salt & freshly ground pepper


a little more than 1/4 cup of red wine vinegar
a little more than 1/4 cup of extra virgin olive oil
a little more than 1 tbs of dried oregano
1 – 2 cloves of garlic, grated
1/2 cup of pitted prunes
1/2 cup of pitted green olives
1/4 cup of capers (with juice)
a few bay leaves
salt & pepper

– in a large bowl, lay the chicken pieces and mix in the marinade
– put a plastic wrap over the bowl and let it rest in the fridge overnight

– next day, preheat the oven to 180 degrees C
– lay the chicken pieces in a baking pan, pour over the marinade over them
– prepare the following ingredients:

a little more than 1/4 cup of white wine
a little more than 1/4 cup of red sugar

– pour the above ingredients over the chicken prior to putting the pan in the oven
– when it is ready, put the pan in the oven and cook it for 40 – 50 minutes or so until the chicken is fully cooked
– serve chicken marbella with rice (i recommend jasmine rice)

on a plate

its taste gets even better the following day – the marbella sauce gets a bit thicker and tastier. make sure to have some leftovers so that you can enjoy it once again!

poem – written on 1/jan/09





he left saying
”not sure if i can make you happy”

many times, for a long time,
i blamed myself
wondering what i had done wrong


one day, one time,
met a man
who said

“i want to make you happy”