The Cookie Monster prepared a former Japanese boss for his life in America. Sesame Street’s approach to English language basics is fun! My hope is that my Matcha Monster Rice Krispies introduces essentials to successful travel to and business in Japan in a delicious manner. Japanese friends living abroad will also appreciate your awesome awareness of their culture.
Matcha Rice Krispies may look to be a no-brainer treat. Well, that’s true. If you know a few tricks. So, too, knowledge of a few Japanese customs and phrases will (almost) guarantee a magical Japan trip. A little effort is greatly rewarded in Japan. Don’t be surprised if you feel like a movie star.
If you know marshmallows, you know they are sweet but sticky. Before you melt the marshmallows and butter, you coat the pan with cooking spray. Right? When in Japan, you may see a cordial smile and take it at face value. If you know about tatemae and honne, you’ll think twice. And act accordingly.
Iconic filmmaker Frank Capra’s Shangri-La is fiction. His movie depicts a land of harmony and long life. Turns out there are places on planet Earth where health and happiness reign. They are referred to as Blue Zones. Okinawa is one. Ikaria Island in Greece is another. 1 out of 3 Ikaria’s residents live into their 90s. Dementia and depression are rare.
Disney magic weaves itself into Gluten-Free Pumpkin Cupcakes for Sunday Supper!
Pumpkin by itself is, well, pumpkin. Add sugar, spice, everything nice to pumpkin cupcake batter and now we’re talking. The apartment takes on the aroma of cinnamon, nutmeg and pie spice getting cozy with pumpkin.
As all things pumpkin arrive with autumn, I join the pumpkin mania parade. Pumpkin Chocolate Cake, Pumpkin Chocolate Pocky Muffins and M & M Chocolate Pumpkin Loaf are but a few faves. Notice a penchant for chocolate pumpkin pairing? Today is no exception. Oreo Minis make perfect Mickey Mouse ears. Tucked into cream cheese frosting atop pumpkin cupcakes, the cookies make Disney magic appear.
“We (only) hire people who honestly like matcha,” declares Midori Matcha Café owner, Dmitry Steinbuchel. “This brand is about heart.” Indeed a love and a passion for matcha motivates Dmitry to serve only the very best at his café. All matcha drinks are made with ceremonial grade tea and organic ingredients. The Midori Matcha’s latte, for instance, is made with organic honey. “It doesn’t mask the vibrant green tea taste.” Other matcha beverages include organic almond milk, bananas and protein powder.” For Dmitry, matcha is not just a fancy fad; it’s a lifestyle. Thanks to his wife who introduced him to matcha, Dmitry is wise in the ways of the health benefits of premium green tea. “Matcha is rich with L-Theanine, which helps with mental alertness. The tea also supports the immune system and metabolism.” While Midori Matcha Café is perfect for the health conscious, the café also caters to those of us with a sweet tooth. Their bestseller is their matcha and hoji-cha (roasted tea) ice cream soft cream. Popular, too, are the Midori Matcha Café’s matcha éclairs and cream puffs. Skip a meal and heading straight to the dessert menu. Or grab a healthy matcha drink to go. Any choice at the Midori Matcha Café will be a winning one!
Miracles, magic and moons are the topic of the day in the USA. Talk of the solar eclipse elicits excitement and trepidation. Similar to the emotions I felt when Dunkin’ Donuts opened their doors in Tokyo. Yes, it was a long time ago; during the dinosaur age (aka the ‘70s.) The import of an American donut franchise like Dunkin’ Donuts was a miracle! Tokyo in the 1970s had yet to see the onslaught of American-Japanese marriages of mayonnaise and maguro (tuna) sushi! Today in Tokyo, the offspring of global affairs are a given in Japanese supermarkets.
Donuts in the 1970s were also a connection to Mom. Massachusetts was home to Mom and Dunkin’ Donuts headquarters. Summer visits always included a stop at Dunkin’ Donuts and Steve’s Ice Cream in Somerville. Doctors may not approve but deliciousness is tied to happy times for me. How about you?
Somi Somi: A Marriage of East and West in an Ice Cream Cone
Somi Somi: 西洋と東洋が結婚したアイスクリームショップ
Somi Somi is aiming to go organic. Organic or not, Somi Somi is an ice cream shop not to be missed. (Unless you have serious food sensitivities.) Flavors familiar to the Japanese and Korean palate are swirled into a pancake cone! Specifically a taiyaki; a fish shaped shell. Traditionally, taiyaki is filled with red bean paste in both Japan and Korea.
Somi Somi offers the traditional take on taiyaki. Swooning for Somi Somi’s matcha, purple potato, sesame and milk ice cream, I didn’t miss the red bean paste. Plus, the ice cream topping choices include French macarons, American Fruity Pebble cereal and crushed Oreos. Somi Somi is located in Korea Town. The shop has been open less than a year. Word-of-mouth and magazines has already made the shop a crowd favorite. If you visit, I think you’ll see why.
“Teatime is more than a warming your hands with a mug of matcha.” So says my teatime aficionado friend, Marjorie. She’s right. It’s the heartfelt conversation which teatime seems to encourage. Whether the matcha is in a paper cup or bone China, the act of taking time to pour matcha (or substitute your favorite tea) allows beauty to appear. Even sorrows, when expressed are on their way to healing. Teatime also allows the space for telling the truth.
Hands clasped around mugs, my sister, my niece and I have gathered many times in the living room to celebrate and support each other. A higher quality matcha may have been served, but the dynamic remained the same when the three of us enjoyed afternoon tea at the Palace Hotel in San Francisco. (Our outfits though were drastically different. Silk blouses and skirts replaced sweat pants.)
Adventures abroad are eye opening and exciting. Even if the desire to travel burns in your bones, don’t you appreciate a taste of home once in a while? Green tea ochazuke rice is what many Japanese turn to when missing home. Matcha ochazuke is the au courant rice bowl. The meal is simple. Thanks to the millions of Chinese restaurants around the world, Japanese travelers can easily make matcha ochazuke rice. All that is required is a bowl of sticky white Japanese (short-grain) rice, green tea or matcha and a packet of ochazuke.
What’s in an ochazuke packet? Seasoning tossed with dried seaweed and small rice crackers. The Japanese characters for ochazuke read as “steeped in green tea.” But refers to rice soaked in green tea and sprinkled with seasonings, seaweed and small rice crackers plus pickles.
Matcha ochazuke rice is a simple but splendid feast for the palette. Delicate crunchy crackers accent soft rice. The slightly bitter tea balances the mildly sweet nori seaweed. Japanese pickles add a salty, savory element. Some may argue that an authentic matcha ochazuke rice bowl requires Japanese pickles. Shopping for Japanese pickles at some American markets may prove challenging. Solution: Hot dogs! That’s right.
All-American Fourth of July hot dogs. If this is your first foray into matcha ochazuke rice, why not skip the Japanese pickles and add familiar and flavorful hot dogs? After all, in America, July is National Hot Dog Month.
Sushi is a revered art form in Japan. Jiro Dreams of Sushi (a fantastic documentary) reflects the strict standards adhered to by old-school sushi masters. Iron Chef Morimoto, in his latest cookbook, Mastering the Art of Japanese Home Cooking, also speaks of the long training process. Before his knife could touch the fish, Chef Morimoto was required to perfect cooking Japanese rice. (Even amongst home cooks, there is a definite competitive edge when it comes to producing the perfect bowl of rice.)
Do you dream of eating sushi in Japan? If your bank account is brimming with dollars, by all means get in the queue for a seat at Jiro Ono’s sushi bar. If not consider Kyubey in Tokyo. (The link is in English.) DoJimaHamaShin is recommended if in Osaka. (This link is also in English.) You’ll get top-quality sushi at reasonable prices.