Category Archives: Japan & Asia

To do with Japan and Asia.

Quick Bite: Chocolate

covers China’s famous terracotta army.

chocolate terracotta warriors

They each measure about 35 centimetres tall. Image by Sam Ilić, Flickr.

In Beijing, this past January, an estimated 80 tons of chocolate was used in a delicious replication of the terracotta army and the Great Wall.  The troop of 400 cocoa miniatures and the 10 metre wall was on display at the Beijing Olympic Park, and made its way from the mainland to Taipei’s National Taiwan Science Education Center in late June.

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Asians Eat Cellophane

And they can’t get enough of it.  Since cellophane is the go-to material for food packaging, Asians are reducing the amount of waste inherent in processed food items in this way.  Bizarre, but refreshingly sustainable.

candy in cellophane

Why waste time opening the bag when you can eat right through it? Image from Foodcollection.

If only.

Chinese, Korean, and a whole host of Asian eaters happily consume what Westerners have rather appropriately named, cellophane noodles.  Continue reading

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Drunk Monks

I would go so far as to say that the common stereotype for a bartender doesn’t look at all like a disciple of Buddha, but if one were to venture into a bar called Vow’s in Nakano (中野区), this innocent assumption is easily challenged.

Nakano Broadway Shopping Mall

Vow's Bar is located near the Nakano Broadway shopping mall. Image from brbjapan.tumblr.com

Nakano is one of the 23 special wards in the greater Tokyo area, known for its multiculturalism, community spirit and memorable eccentricities.  One of the many dive bars in this small municipality is operated by Shaku Genko, a Buddhist monk.  Continue reading

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The Panda’s Favourite Food

is something people enjoy eating as well, especially in Asia.

Bamboo leaves.

Bamboo leaves. From Cornstock Images.

Bamboo is an extremely industrious plant.  Some have been known to grow up to a metre a day, and forests of this ambitious grass can pop up in no time after a refreshing monsoon.  Bamboo, when fully mature is a surprisingly sturdy material.  Fashioned into tools, garments, furnishings and even structures, bamboo has not only been a survival material for small ethnic groups in many parts of Asia, but also possess enormous commercial potential as a  more sustainable substitute for many organic raw materials.

These strong bamboo culms, however, are not fit for eating.  Continue reading

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Better Than Kobe

In rarity, price, and marbling, Mishima beef (見島牛) is regarded as superior than the now not-so-exotic Kobe beef.  Mishima cows* are thoroughbred in Japan; they have not crossed with European breeds because the island on which they graze has existed in relative isolation.  Mishima (見島) is a small island off the Southern sloping end of Honshu, in the Sea of Japan.

mishima island

Mishima (見島), the home of the prized Mishima cattle.

mishima cow

A Mishima cow*.

The cattle of this island have lived isolation from other Japanese cattle breeds for about 200 years, and either because of their genetic purity, their limited number, or meat quality, a head of mishima cattle can ring up a substantial multi-digit figure shaming Kobe beef to the discount aisle. Continue reading

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Tokyo Tops Paris

The capital city of Japan is a metropolis of neon lights, face-paced shopping, lively districts and a confluence of global influences.  It’s also an extremely delicious place, according to Michelin Guides.  Toyko was recently crowned with the honor of possessing more Michelin 3-star restaurants than any other city in the world, even Paris.  The final tally (of 3-star establishments) was eleven to ten, Tokyo, squeezing it just above Paris.

tokyo

Tokyo trumps Paris in battle for the 3-stars. From tedtalks.ning.com.

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Instant Noodles in the Final Frontier

Nissin Food Products Co. Ltd. was founded by a man named Momofuku Ando (安藤百福).  Because of him, we have instant noodles.

eating instant noodles

This is made possible by the late Momofuku Ando. From Getty Images.

We owe the late Mr. Ando our thanks on the lazy Sunday afternoons or the desperate late nights we consume that trusty package of flash-fried wheat noodles and MSG powder.  His legacy on Earth is great (though one could argue that the key role styrofoam plays in the Cup Noodles empire is not very supportive of the environment), but his influence stretches beyond our realm to the stars.  Actually. Continue reading

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Dim Sum Basics

This post will serve to be a helpful guide for the adventurous, yet amateur dim sum diners.

What is dim sum (點心)? Dim sum, at least the form that has diffused most successfully worldwide, is most prominent in the Guangdong region of China.  The phrase itself, literally means “a bit of the heart” and refers to the assortment of steamed tapas-reminiscent hor-d’oeuvres served for brunch.  These typically bite-sized items can be practically anything.  Though there are classics, time and the desire for restaurants to stand out have produced a wide range of dim sum from dainty steamed dumplings of chives and shrimp or meat or custard filled bun miniatures to hearty bowls of beef innards or deep fried squid tentacles.  A recurrent theme in dim sum; however, is meat, and going for dim sum is quite vegetarian-unfriendly.  The act of going for dim sum, if you were Cantonese, is called yum cha (飲茶) – literally “drink tea” – as tea is the traditional companion to the dim sum dishes.

dim sum restaurant

A familiar scene at a restaurant during the dim sum rush.

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Bluefin Endangerment

The giant bluefin tuna (or Northern bluefin tuna) is an Atlantic dweller that typically preys on small fish and invertebrates.  They’re most obvious spawning grounds can be found in the Mediterranean and the Gulf of Mexico.

giant bluefin tuna

Sources cite that the giant bluefin tuna rarely get to grow to maturity as a result of overfishing.

How we best recognize them is probably in this way:

maguro sushi

The Northern bluefin is the go-to tuna for maguro sushi...

maguro sashimi

...and sashimi.

Recent analysis on the stock size of this tuna species has revealed the severity of their endangerment.  Continue reading

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The Tops Don’t Sting You

Chinese people eat a lot of things.  Some things are questionable for environmental reasons, others, questionable in general.  But jellyfish (海蜇), what with its eerily gangly appearance and somewhat mixed reputation (thousand-tentacle sea monster or strangely pretty ocean lamps) might just be one of those foods that won’t make it mainstream in North America.

Jellyfish are scary.

Jellyfish are scary.

Whatever reservations a typical North American may have regarding the ingestion of these unique-looking creatures are not at all shared by the Chinese.  Jellyfish is actually quite popular. Continue reading

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