Banpeiyu Jelly

banpeiyu2

Isn’t this cute? I love the way some Japanese sweets are packaged. This is a “jelly” made from a citrus fruit called banpeiyu, so they package it make it look like the fruit…complete with little decorative leaf. (^O^)v

A banpeiyu (citrus grandis – AKA pomelo) is a fruit I’d never tried before, so I wasn’t sure what to expect. The description on the outside said it was native to Asia. I thought perhaps it would taste a bit like yuzu, a Japanese citrus that’s often used in seasoning such as ponzu sauce. The instructions said it would taste better cold, so I stuck it in the fridge before trying…

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24 Jun 2009, 7:43am
afternoon tea:
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Cream Tea

scones

I feel like it’s been a long time since I’ve had a “tea.” My friend introduced me to this lovely tradition a while back, when we stopped in to the Carlyle Hotel in New York City for their afternoon tea. It’s a nice little reprieve held mid-afternoon that comes in three courses – sandwiches, scones, and desserts. They’re all quite good, but I usually enjoy the scone course the most because it’s accompanied by the Devonshire cream.

I once had a left-over pot of Devonshire cream that prompted me to do something I almost never do – bake. I called over a friend, and we fixed up some homemade cranberry scones, just to partake in the creamy delicious indulgence that is clotted cream. On its own, it doesn’t taste like much, but when slathered on to a fresh, hot scone with a generous heaping of fruit jam, it is absolute heaven.

Coconut Pocky

coconut pocky

I was channel surfing today and came across a real blast from the past – the fabulously B-rated martial arts flick Bloodsport. Even my dad remembers this awesome piece of cinematic mastery from back in the day. (“Oh, this is the part where he’s fighting blind, right?”) My favorite line is of course, Bolo’s classic “You break my record…now I break you. Like I break your friend!” Ah, nostalgia…

Anyway, this has absolutely nothing to do with food. Except to say that my eats related post tonight is equally nostalgic as only a classic can be. I love Pocky. Seriously…who doesn’t? And I’ve never had a Pocky flavor I didn’t like, though some are more favored than others (green tea mousse being one).

The cool thing about Pocky is that they’re always coming up with new flavors. So of course, when I spotted this “limited edition” coconut Pocky the other week, I snapped it up.

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Japanese Breakfast

breakfast

I’m usually not very hungry in the mornings, and a hot cup of java is all I need. So you can say that my morning meal at the Hakone inn was an atypical one for me. Look at this spread! All this for breakfast!

In my mind, a typical Japanese breakfast is just a simple rice and miso soup pairing with maybe a small helping of pickled cucumber. Not so at the full service inn, where they pulled out all the stops. Before the food, there was green tea with pickled plum to cleanse the palate. Next came fresh tofu, heated up and solidified right at the table on a single-serve burner. The food kept coming: grilled fish, several different kinds of pickled veggies, raw shirasu fish with shiso leaf and grated ginger, slices of kamaboko fish cake with pickled wasabi, sauteed burdock, Japanese style rolled omelet with ground daikon radish. And of course, rice and miso soup (with fresh clams!). So many lovely dishes, it was almost too pretty to eat. o(^__^)o

The highlight for me was definitely the fresh tofu, which actually reminded me of a similar dish I had at Morimoto in Philadelphia. Fresh tofu is just no comparison to the blocks of tofu you’ll find in your grocer’s fridge. There’s a subtle soy flavor that you can really taste and appreciate in freshly made tofu. Love it.

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Onboard the Hakone Romance Car

coffee and ice cream

About a 1~2 hour train ride outside of Tokyo, there’s a famous area of hot springs called Hakone. The private Odakyu line for Hakone departs from Shinjuku station, which was pretty convenient for me, since my hotel was in Shinjuku. It’s feasible to do a day trip, but I stayed overnight at a Japanese style ryokan to partake in the full experience. The room I stayed in had a private indoor bath, which is definitely the way to go for utmost pampering!

Speaking of pampering… There are two ways to get to Hakone from Tokyo via train – the commuter line or the “Romance Car.” You can take the commuter line using the Hakone Free Pass, but for the Romance Car, you’ll need to pay an additional ~700 yen each way. Do it. Trust me, the comfort is worth the extra money, and you’ll get there faster because it doesn’t stop at every station.

Plus you get decent in-transit food service for a reasonable price! I got a coffee and a strawberry “daifuku” (mochi) ice cream. So delicious! It had chunks of soft, chewy mochi that went very well indeed with the strawberry ice cream. Pic under the cut.

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15 Jun 2009, 9:44pm
dessert:
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Depachika: A Foodie's Paradise

depachika1

If you are a foodie in Japan, one trip you must make is to the “depachika” – the basement of a department store. Department stores in Japan dedicate their basement levels to top grade food items, where you’ll find tasty foods you didn’t even know you wanted until you set your hungry eyes on them. Word of caution: don’t visit these places when you’re starving, or you just might blow your budget.

These are actually great places to buy gifts to take back with you to your friends and family, and you can count on them to gift wrap everything (and even give you spare bags complete with brand insignia) with your choice of ribbon color.

I don’t think I spent half as much time as I should have at the depachika, because looking back at the photos now, I’m realizing that I hardly ate any of these. (;__;)

My brother took these photos, since I was too busy staring covetously at everything. Most of the pictures here are of pastries, but don’t be mistaken. Depending on department store, you’ll find all kinds of foods, ranging from fish and meats to produce and hot prepared foods. =9

The rest of the pics follow. >>

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15 Jun 2009, 5:47am
japanese snacks:
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Strawberry Mint Gum

cubed strawberry1

I picked up this Lotte brand “CUBE Strawberry Mint Gum” at the 7-Eleven in Shinjuku, Tokyo because it just looked too damn cute. I’m not a big gum chewing person, but I had to give it a try. Come on, look at that adorable pixelated strawberry! I had to get it! Besides, the combination of strawberry and mint intrigued me..

(By the way, the 7-Elevens in Japan have ATMs that work with foreign bank cards. Not all ATMs in Japan will let you withdraw cash from your foreign ATM card. Other places in Japan that permit international ATM cards are post offices and Citibank).

So back to the strawberry mint… The gum was more sweet than minty, and the flavor wasn’t exactly long lasting. But I liked it quite a bit.

I got a nice surprise when I opened the package… One more pic after the jump:

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14 Jun 2009, 9:48am
cafes:
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Daibo Coffee

daibo

This will be the first of several posts on my Japan trip from May ’09. I was there for a week and a half, staying mostly in Tokyo, but with a brief side trip to the Hakone hotsprings. Japan’s got some of the best food to be had in the world, and this trip certainly did not disappoint on that front!

Today’s post is on Daibo Coffee shop, a place in Aoyama that my Tokyo Time Out guide highly recommended. My brother and I had been wandering around Harajuku/Aoyama that day and after a long day of walking, we desperately needed a place to sit down and cool off.

Daibo is located on the second floor of a rather nondescript building near Omotesando station. It’s a real hole in the wall, a tiny little space covered in wood and (on the day we went) smoke. I’ll never really get used to the public smoking in Japan, but I would say that this place is well worth sucking up that second hand smoke…and the price! I had the iced cafe au lait, pictured here with the handy syrup (sugar water) for easy sweetening. This bowl of icy goodness set me back a whopping 700 yen, but it was probably the best cafe au lait I’d ever had in my life.

This coffee shop also offers liquor…and desserts. An odd combination, but no complaints here! The menu was filled with funny Engrishy wording. Pics under the cut.

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12 Jun 2009, 10:28pm
dessert:
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Häagen-Dazs Ginger Ice Cream

gingerfive

It’s only fitting that I should begin with the inspiration of this blog’s title: ginger. You have no idea how excited I was when I first heard that Häagen-Dazs was releasing a special series called “five” – just 5 ingredients of pure and simple ice creamy bliss. I’m a big fan of adding spices to desserts, particularly the sort of flavors that are more commonly used in savory dishes. I’ve tried rosemary ice cream, cardamom ice cream and even olive oil ice cream, but never ginger ice cream…until now.

This is truly a savory masterpiece of ice cream genius. It is smooth! Creamy! And it’s got a hint of gingery heat that takes it to the next level of spicy perfection.

Definitely a must-try for all ginger lovers.

 
 
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