I think I’m going to have a heart attack and die from this surprise

21 Sep

Because this post is about food.  Again.

ImageNow that I’ve gotten accustomed to the fact that I can actually make food (wow!) I’ve become slightly less obsessed with photographing it and posting it online all the time.  But this past weekend extended to Monday because of a national holiday (respect for the elderly day) and to celebrate the long weekend, I decided to try to make a “fancy” meal… hanbagu.  Oh yes, so fancy, I know.  But since my meals are usually “throw vegetables, meat, sauce, and seasoning together into a pan and eat it over some starch” I thought making proper yoshoku on a plate would be nice, or something.  At any rate, I thought it looked nice!  I made hamburger patties out of ground beef (for some reason, the only ground beef S could find across three grocery stores was ground beef combined with pork, but we couldn’t taste the pork, so it worked out fine) mixed with granulated garlic and pepper, then fried mixed vegetables in the pan with the hamburger drippings so that they were deliciously fatty.  We also made “demiglace sauce” of a variety that comes in a can in Japan (partner to the generic “white cream sauce” which also comes in similar packaging… I still haven’t tried it, but I have a can sitting around, so we’ll see…!) to put over the hamburgers, and voila, hanbagu! It was actually fairly tasty, so perhaps next time there’s an “occasion” I’ll do it again!

ImageI don’t always want to cook, however, and trying new fast food in Japan is always a hobby of mine (because that’s just how cool I am).  As I mentioned previously, S and I are big McDonald’s fans (though I’m ambivalent about Japanese Burger King and have yet to try Japanese Wendy’s), and we’re frequent visitors to CoCo Ichibanya, our favourite fast food curry place in Japan.  We’ve been known to eat even more Japanese-style fast food (remember, curry is yoshoku) at places like Sukiya.  Basically, we like fast food in Japan, but one thing we hadn’t tried before is KFC!  KFC or “Kentakki” as it’s called in Japan (Japanese-ified “Kentucky”) is actually quite popular in Japan, and for some reason seems to be a popular food to be eaten on Christmas (I’m not sure why).  I constantly see very effective advertising for KFC on TV, and so, after a month of craving, we decided to pick up some chicken, biscuits, and fries from the KFC that’s conveniently about three blocks from my apartment, hurrah.

It was interesting, to say the least.  The chicken was just as fatty and delicious as it is in the US (I’m actually a fan of Popeyes, but KFC is good too), and the portion sizes were pretty normal (I’ve discovered that some Japanese hamburger chains, in particular, such as Lotteria, have portion sizes that, even as someone who often bemoans gigantic American portions, I find to be tiny).  The fries weren’t as good in my opinion as McDonald’s fries, but then again, I’m a really big fan of thin, crispy fries, and these were wider.  The biscuits were where Japanese KFC came up short, however.  I’m not sure why, but they came with a hole in the middle, and while the texture was fine, they were relatively tasteless.  I’m fairly certain the American recipe contains about 4 pounds of butter that the Japanese recipe neglects, because these biscuits were not the artery-clogging glory found at American KFC.  I was sadly disappointed.

ImageIn more snacky news, I bought a box of cookies yesterday!  For those who know me, you’re probably aware that I’m not a cookie person.  I prefer salty snacks to sweet, and in terms of sweets, I prefer fruit candies over chocolates and salty chocolate things (like chocolate covered pretzels or peanut-butter cups) to straight up sweets.  I don’t really like densely sweet things like brownies or chocolate cookies, and I’ve been berated by most of my friends and family for disliking chocolate chip cookies.  But there’s one thing that will win me over to any sort of baked goods, and that’s matcha.

I can’t recall if I’ve mentioned it here before or not, but matcha is Japanese green tea.  Unlike most green tea, which is steeped from leaves, matcha is made from a ground tea powder that is dissolved in water.  For that reason, it’s one of the most highly caffeinated drinks available in Japan; you’re actually drinking the leaf, rather than drinking some stuff that came out of it.  Matcha is an essential flavor to much of Japanese cuisine; while in America, chocolate and vanilla, and secondarily maybe strawberry, lemon, and/or so sort of nut (almong, hazelnut, peanut) are the major sweets flavors, most everything comes in matcha flavor in Japan (along with anko or red bean paste, the basis for most wafu or traditional-Japanese-style sweets).  Matcha also comes with a long and somewhat sordid history; it’s tied to chanoyu or the Japanese art of tea ceremony (which is definitely another story for another time) and is also generally thought of as a distinctly Japanese type of tea– while ground tea powder did originate in China, after it was brought to Japan, it, for the most part, died out in China whereas in Japan, it caught on and has been changed and refined since.

ImageBut long story short, I love matcha and anything matcha flavored.  Matcha softserve is actually probably my favorite ice cream ever.  I’m still trying to get S to make me matcha shortbread cookies, because I really think that would be delicious.  And sometimes, my willpower bends and I end up coming home from the grocery store with matcha cookies.  These particular cookies were butter suger cookies (with delicious amounts of butter added, unlike the biscuits) with matcha cream filling, and they were absolutely delicious.  Tangentially, they also provide a great example of Japanese packaging, which almost always includes bags within bags within bags, wrappings within bags within boxes, etc.  It’s not uncommon for Japanese sweets to be double or tripple wrapped, something which causes S and I to chorus “Oh, Japan!” (a popular chorus among foreigners from which I generally try to abstain for, I hope, obvious reasons).  But whatever, I will unwrap a thousand wrappings to eat delicious matcha sugar cookies.  


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