Category Archives: japanese 日本食

French New Year holiday 2017-2018

In between our stay at my husband’s mother’s place in the south of the Netherlands, the three of us took a short trip to Paris for our New Year’s holiday to visit our friends & relatives. We took Thalys, the express train service that runs through Germany, the Netherlands, Belgium and France. Two and a half hours after we left Aachen, a small German city bordering the Dutch city where my mother-in-law lives, we safely arrived at busy Gare de Nord.

This time we took a nice Airbnb in an area called Wagram, not too far from Champs-Élysées. It was our first time staying at an Airbnb, and in spite of some reservations we had about the apartment, it was a good choice with great location and ample space for the three of us.

On the New Year’s eve, my best friend and her partner invited us to their lovely home for a special dinner. As is always the case in Paris, we started a pre-celebration at 7:00PM and opened a champagne, munching on foie gras and smoked salmon, which seems to be THE things to eat on the New Year’s eve in France.

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Foie gras and smoked salmon, the must haves on the New Year’s eve

For dinner, Chef F made this delicious chicken filet with foie gras sauce. And the mashed potato… mmm I can still taste this creamy, sweet mash only a French person can make…  I’m pretty sure he used generous amount of butter, but maybe it’s better not to find out exactly how much… The sautéed mushroom was nutty and hearty, which was a perfect combination with the chicken and mash. Chef F served the same dish sans the foie gras sauce for their son and our daughter, on a small red kids table. Our daughter absolutely loved it, especially the mash. At the age of five she already knows the divinity of the French cooking.

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Chicken filet with foie gras sauce, with amazingly creamy tasty mashed potato & fried (morel?) mushrooms

By the time we finished the dinner, the four of us finished two bottles of champagne and a magnum red bottle. Embarrassingly enough, I fell asleep before the countdown began. I managed to wake up when they started counting 10, but could hardly open my eyes and collapsed on their cozy sofa hugging their cute little doggy (she was so soft and warm). At 1:00AM we decided to call the night, and we took an Uber home.

On the New Year’s Day, without fail, our daughter jumped on to our bed at 8 o’clock. Dragging ourselves out of bed, we took a hot shower, got dressed and went out. We found out that Centre Pompidou would be open so headed that way. As soon as we got out of the nearest Metro station to the museum, it started pouring, and of course our daughter jumped in to a large puddle. Lucky us… As such we went to a crêperie close by, most likely one of the worst tourist traps you could find in the centre of Paris… We had the crêpe as our early lunch, as we were still quite full from the evening before. Later that evening, Chef F cleverly cooked us some simple pasta to give our stomach some rest.

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Crêpe avec Nutella

On our last evening in Paris, to return the favour to our host, I cooked some Japanese meal with local ingredients. I loved shopping in a local supermarket and get inspired by all the unfamiliar ingredients. I could easily live in Paris and create locally adopted Japanese dishes… well, in my dreams. For the meal this time though, I stuck with the basics and made ginger pork and hamburg steak with Tokyo rice (that’s how my daughter calls the Japanese sticky rice). I realised, if I have soy sauce at hand, I can improvise many Japanese dishes even without (the very important) dashi broth. Of course it wouldn’t be perfect, but close enough. I used white wine where I needed to use Japanese sake, and honey and/or sugar for mirin. The result? Empty plates at the end of the meal.

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Grocery shopping at a local supermarket. Nice trolly for little kids.

Ginger pork, Hamburg steak with my mum's special sauce, Boiled green Moroccan beans, Fried Aubergine, Iceberg Salad, Tokyo Rice

Ginger pork, Hamburg steak with my mum’s special sauce, Boiled green Moroccan beans, Fried Aubergine, Iceberg Salad, Tokyo Rice

Cooking at their kitchen made me feel at ease. All of a sudden Paris became less overpowering, as if something has planted a seed somewhere deep in my mind that one day we could possibly start our life here.

Well, that would certainly be added to my bucket list.

Kindergarten bento – Toshi-No-Se (15, 18, 19, 20, 22/Dec/17)

In Japan, it is said that “toshi-no-se,” the year-end, is bound to be busy, as everyone starts acting somehow anxious to finish off things prior to the fresh start of the new year. As mentioned before, the new year is a big deal in this country, and we do everything to make sure the new year to be quiet and special. 

This year was no exception for me also, and I was running around like a headless chicken without any time to stop and take a big breath… until we left for our Christmas holidays in the Netherlands to visit my husband’s family. Hesitantly we dropped unfinished errands, hurriedly packed our suitcases, left beautiful & sunny Tokyo, and arrived in the equally beautiful, but quite dark Netherlands yesterday. It is Christmas Eve here in the Netherlands, and things already seemed to have slowed down, and people are starting to relax for the festivity to begin. The sense of rush I was feeling in Japan is nowhere to be seen here. It’s an interesting realisation what a huge difference there is depending on which culture you’re in.

Looking back at the bento photos I didn’t have a chance to upload before our departure, I can vaguely remember how I managed all these bento making during my busy schedule. It’ll resume in the new year, but for now I’m relieved that I won’t have to do it for the next two weeks.

Happy Holidays!

15/Dec/17 – Grilled cod in saikyo-miso

18/Dec/17 – Simmered sword fish

19/Dec/17 – Nikudon-don

20/Dec/17 – Macaroni genovese 

22/Dec/17 – Chicken soboro 

Kindergarten bento – Time (4, 5, 7, 8, 11, 12/Dec/17)

Whether it’s my age or I’m just being busy or preoccupied by my daughter (& husband) on a daily basis, the speed of time passing in front of me has recently been unbelievably fast. I feel this more clearly especially in December, because in Japan we tend to “finish” whatever is left undone by the end of the year so that we can have a fresh and burdenless start of the new year. The new year is a big deal in this country, just like Christmas in the West, and people become quite adamant about it. While I’m grateful for all the friends who contact me to have this one last cup of coffee of the year or to meet up for ‘Bonenkai,’ a year-end party, I can hardly find the time to do so.

This morning I looked back at the bento pictures I hadn’t uploaded and realised I didn’t upload any of it for the entire week last week, without really noticing all the days gone by. And it’s already Tuesday today. Where has all the time gone?!
4/Dec/17 – Grilled cod in saikyo-miso

5/Dec/17 – Penne amatriciana

7/Dec/17 – Sukiyaki

8/Dec/17 – Chicken (inspired by the Phillipina Adobo)

11/Dec/17 – Macaroni genovese

12/Dec/17 – Salmon fried rice

Kindergarten bento – Frozen sword fish (30/Nov/17)

Last night I realised there was a pack of frozen sword fish filets in the freezer that I stored a couple of weeks ago. I decided to use it for my daughter’s bento in the morning, so I moved it to the fridge drawer so that it’ll get defrosted overnight. 

In the morning I simmered the filets in the leftover noodle dip sauce (I added sugar to thicken it). 

My freezer is getting empty. I’d better drag my husband out to visit a supermarket in the weekend!

Menu: Simmered sword fish, Simmered pumpkin, Spinach omelet, Steamed broccoli, Steamed carrot, Rice

Apple mousse & raisins with a sprinkle of cinnamon for dessert

Kindergarten bento – Variation attempt (29/Nov/17)

As I am still suffering with my strained back, I didn’t get a chance to go to a grocery store to replenish bento ingredients. This means I need to depend on my stock in the freezer. It’s handy, but I’m running out of the options.

Today I made an attempt to go for a Soboro (chicken crumble) variation. I mixed the Soboro into freshly cooked rice along with wakana sprinkle. It tastes more or less the same as my bi/tri-colour bento, but hopefully the new visual presentation makes a bit of s difference.

Menu: Soboro & wakana sprinkle mixed in rice (with nori seaweed on top), Simmered pumpkin mixed with lightly fried bacon, Boiled egg, Steamed broccoli, Cucumber sticks, Cherry tomato

Apple mousse & strawberries for dessert

Kindergarten bento – Strained back (16,17,20,21,24, 28/Nov/17)

Earlier last week I strained my back, possibly due to overstretching at yoga class, or just overworking on my translation assignment in the same sitting position for hours. It’s been haunting me for the past week. Does anyone here have good tips on how to get rid of the pain in your back?

With or without pain, bento making continues. I generally enjoy cooking bento for my daughter, but at times, especially now with the sharp pain in my back, I wish there was an alternative. I wonder if they (her school) judge me if I just put store bought bento in her backpack… In Japan we have unspoken rules everywhere, and where homemade bento is required such as at her kindergarten, it just has to be homemade bento no matter how simple it is. Also, I’m so used to making bento with different ingredients and colours I don’t know how to make them simpler and not let my daughter down too much at the same time. 

Ah, the joy of bento making!

16/Nov/17 – Onigiri

17/Nov/17 – Stirfried-tofu (my daughter ate only 1/3 of it, saying she didn’t care for it much. What a disappointment!)

20/Nov/17 – Sword fish & lotus roots

21/Nov/17 – Penne amatriciana

24/Nov/17 – Chicken soboro & scrambles egg 

28/Nov/17 – Sausage

Kindergarten bento – Soboro (14/Nov/17)

Menu: Chicken Soboro on rice with nori seaweed, Cabbage, cucumber & corn salad, Cherry tomato & broccoli omelet, Boiled green beans

Apple bunnies for dessert 

The Soboro (chicken mince crumble) I used today was the last bit of what I made a few weeks ago that had been kept in the freezer. Of course it’s useful, but I shouldn’t have kept it too long as it’s flavour wasn’t as good as when it was freshly made. My daughter finished it all, so I consider it was still acceptable…