Pantry Basics: Kinpira Carrot (金平人参)

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Kinpira carrot, stir-fried grated carrot seasoned with soy and sugar, was one of the dishes I learnt to cook at the Haru Cooking Class on our last trip to Kyoto. I know it probably isn’t high on your list of dishes to master, but it’s a delicious, quintessentially Japanese vegetable side dish which has opened my eyes to how home cooked Japanese meals are actually put together. And I simply love it. Continue Reading →

Tohoku, a region of great seafood and gorgeous meat

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Every trip to Japan, to me, means great eating. This recent trip to Tohoku was no exception. Tohoku is known (domestically at least) for having some of the best seafood and meat in the country. The earthquake, tsunami and the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster, however, hurt the region’s food industry severely. The two natural disasters left many farms damaged and fisheries completely destroyed. And the latter incident created huge fears both locally and internationally of whether the region’s food would be safe to consume. Continue Reading →

The Matsushima Oyster Festival and a visit to Entsuin Temple

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Matsushima, a small city near Sendai in the Miyagi prefecture (in Tohoku, Japan), is worth visiting any time of the year. The Japanese consider the views of Matsushima Bay, teeming with more than 260 small islands, to be one of the most beautiful views in the country. As you may or may not know, the Japanese love making lists. Especially lists that rank things. They are also a people obsessed with natural beauty, man-made beauty and festivals. So, for centuries, they have designated and celebrated things like the country’s top three gardens, Kyoto’s top five Zen temples, Japan’s top three festivals featuring floats, Kamakura’s top ten wells, etc. Most famous among the many designations might be Japan’s three most scenic places. Selected several hundred years ago, they are Matsushima, Miyajima and Amanohashidate.  Continue Reading →

Sushi Mitsuya and chef Ryosuke Harada – exciting newcomers to Singapore’s sushi scene

Sushi Mitsuya Ryosuke Harada

As a sushi fetishist, I’ve been rather jaded by the recent flux of new sushiya – it’s all too easy nowadays to offer the ‘freshest’ toro and ‘melt-in-your-mouth’ uni, in an ‘authentic’ edomae setting. But the imminent opening of one Sushi Mitsuya, and the arrival of one of the most inspiring shokunin I’ve had the pleasure of meeting, has my fullest attention. Over the course of two lunches during the restaurant’s soft opening in February, I experienced a maturity and obstinate passion absent from other more glamorous sushi bars here. Quite simply, I fell in love. Continue Reading →

Boozing my way around Tohoku

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Drink-lovers (like me) have good reason to plan a Tohoku holiday. This scenic region northeast of Kanto (the region in which Tokyo sits) is home to some of the best sake breweries in Japan. While Niigata, which borders Tohoku, and which technically sits in Japan’s central Chubu region, may be the one prefecture most famous among foreigners for top-end sake, the producers in Tohoku’s prefectures churn out equally exceptional hooch. Continue Reading →

Tempura Matsu in Kyoto – fine dining without the pretence

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“Otsukaresama desu”, belted out our taxi driver as he pulled to a gentle stop in front of an old double-storey Japanese house. Save for the fluttering Tempura Matsu banner, you would be hard pressed to spot the family-owned restaurant in Kyoto’s Arashimaya area.

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Tohoku, Japan’s onsen (hot spring) paradise

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There are few things as relaxing and pleasurable than taking a bath–Japanese style–in natural hot spring water. For those of you who have yet to experience the joys of the onsen (the Japanese term for hot springs and baths using their waters), you have no idea what you are missing. I, myself, didn’t until a few years ago. For most of my life, I’ve been a shower person. I truly didn’t see the point of and never appreciated baths. But then, for a consultancy gig I had undertaken for a hotel collections company, I spent two and half weeks visiting some of Japan’s most beautiful and unique boutique hotels and inns, several of which boasted onsens among their main selling points.  Continue Reading →

Friday Food Porn: Ikura Rice in Miyagi, Japan

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A little something to make you hungry this Friday and also to whet your appetites for a series of stories I am working on currently. I just came back from a week touring Tohoku, which has some of the most amazing hot spring spas, sake breweries, and seafood in Japan. Continue Reading →

Spot – Dessert Omakase in New York City

Spot - Chocolate Green Tea Lava

I’d been looking around for a Japanese dessert place in New York City for a while, so when a friend recommended Spot, we made plans to go almost immediately. (I found out later that the owner of Spot is Thai but the amazing desserts have a distinctively Japanese edge to them). Spot is located in St Mark’s Place, one of NYC’s fave Japanese food and drink hangout spots. St Mark’s is filled with izakayas, yakitori places, ramen restaurants and karaoke bars and the vibe is more casual and laid-back due to its proximity to NYU and East Village. Continue Reading →