Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Japanese Curry... made by you!

I've had quite a few people ask me how to make Japanese curry so I thought I would take some pictures and blog about it.

It's actually quite easy and doesn't take a lot of time at all.

This will make a pretty big pot so if you just want to make a little bit, just use half the box of curry seasoning and use only half of the amount for each ingredient.

For my version you will need the following:

3-4 medium onions
3 carrots
7-8 small potatoes
2 chicken breasts
2 chicken thighs
1 box of Japanese curry seasoning
4 1/2 cups of water
2 TBSP olive oil
Rice (cooked) to serve over

Cut onions into chunks. I usually cut it in half and then cut each half into thirds. Slice carrots. I slice them until I get to the thicker part and then I usually cut that in half and then continue to slice.

I cut my potatoes in half, and then cut each half in half again.
Remove skin and as much fat as you can from the chicken. Cut into bite sized chunks. Sometimes, mine are a little bit bigger than bite sized. I'm not all that great with a knife.

Pour the olive oil into a large pot and place on medium-high heat. Once the pan is hot, add the onions and carrots and chicken to the pan.
Sprinkle a little bit of salt and pepper on everything (optional). Stir everything with a wooden spoon and sauté for about 10 minutes. Add 4 1/2 cups of water and the potatoes, and let it come to a boil.
Once it starts to boil, turn it down a little bit. It should still be boiling, but a light boil.
Let it boil for about 20 minutes, stirring occasionally. Skim off any foam or fat that floats to the top as necessary.

Now you're ready to add the curry blocks. Remove the pot from the heat and add blocks of curry. Stir until it has all dissolved. It's very important that you remove the pot from the heat before adding the curry blocks. It helps with the thickening process.

Once the curry has dissolved, place the pot back onto the stove and bring to a light boil. Continue to cook for 10 minutes.

Put some rice into a bowl and ladle some curry over it, and dinner is served!!

***Experiment with different brands of curry seasoning and add different things to your curry. This is my favorite way of making it, but every now and then I will make it with beef. You can also add mushrooms if you like. I also switch up the brand of curry that I use. I haven't had one that I didn't like yet. I also mix half a box of mild curry with half a box of medium curry. My son likes a little kick and I'm a wuss so this is my compromise. You can also adjust the amount of vegetables and meat you add in. I prefer mine to have lots of veggies and chicken so I typically add more than normal. If you do purchase a different brand of seasoning, check the recipe on the back to find out how much water it calls for. This one calls for 1000ml which is about 4.25 cups. I added 4.5 because I knew I would be skimming stuff off of the top. I've used curry that only called for 800ml of water before so they're not all the same.

Try making some curry for your family and let me know what you think!

Sunday, April 27, 2014


I have been meaning to blog about this delicious pizzeria for a couple of weeks now.

My friend, Kazumi, told me about this cute little restaurant and we made plans to try it out for dinner. Good thing she made reservations, because they were full.

We decided to order a couple of different things and share. So we ordered a little appetizer platter and a pizza. Ordering the pizza was a little difficult because we wanted to try at least half of the pizzas on the menu! We finally settled on the "Amadeo". It's a smoked mozzarella cheese and mushroom pizza. I have never had smoked mozzarella before so I was very excited! I was also intrigued by the Italian lemon soda on the menu so we decided to share one of those too.

The lemon soda was really good!

Then they brought out our appetizer plate -
It really was a little appetizer platter, but everything on it was delicious.

When they brought this to our table, I really wanted to skip the picture and just eat a slice!
This pizza was one of the best pizzas I have ever had. I loved the smoked mozzarella and the crust was really good.

Since we were sharing everything, we decided to order the dessert sampler plate and share that too.
Yummy cheesecake, chocolate cake and some chocolate ice cream! Perfect for sharing.

We kind of closed the place down so I was able to get a shot of the inside while it was empty.
It's not a very big restaurant, but I think there were about 6-7 tables.

This post would have ended here, but I overheard the owner telling some other customers that they should come for lunch because lunch is cheaper. So.... I made a lunch date with my friend Tani and came back a week later. My dinner with Kazumi came out to about 3700yen total so I was curious to see how much cheaper lunch would be.

So, with the lunch set you get an appetizer/salad plate, you choose your pizza, and you also get a drink and dessert. I assumed the pizzas would be smaller since Kazumi and I shared a pizza and we were pretty full since we had the appetizer plate too. The cost of the lunch set was also cheaper than what we paid for our pizza at dinner. Less than 1600yen for the lunch set. I think we paid 1650 or 1680 just for the pizza at dinner.

Here's the appetizer/salad plate we got -

This time I ordered the "Quatro Fromage" (four cheese) pizza and Tani ordered the Margherita pizza.
Both of these pizzas were very tasty! By the way, they were the same size as they were when I went for dinner so this really is a better deal!

The dessert that came with our set -

I also got get this shot when I went back for lunch -

I highly recommend reservations for this place. It's fairly new and very popular! Their phone number is (0827) 24-7288
I don't think they speak a whole lot of English so you might want to ask someone who speaks Japanese to call for you.

To get to Pizzeria Da Hachi, go out of Main Gate and continue straight until you hit Three Corners (T intersection). Turn right and continue straight. You will cross a bridge. After crossing the bridge, take the second right turn. There will be a little vegetable stand on your right and a small bank on your left as you turn onto the little side street. The restaurant will be on your right. You can't miss it.

They do have limited parking. There are 3 spaces available right across from the restaurant and there are 3 more spaces at another location. I never found it and ended up calling the restaurant. They told me all of their parking was full, but I could park at the bank on the corner so I parked there. If you go at night, you can definitely park at the bank since they are not open.

Their hours are 1200-1500 for lunch/1730-2100 for dinner.

Check out Pizzeria Da Hachi and let me know what you think!

Friday, March 21, 2014

Grand Chief Burgers

I am not a huge beef eater, but every now and then I like a GOOD burger. A REAL good burger. Not a fast food burger. Unfortunately, it's been difficult to find here. I could find a great hamburger steak (which I also love), but not a good hamburger. Until now.

I read about Grand Chief on Facebook when a few ladies posted about it, and then got more information when the Iwakuni Explorer did a post about it. I knew as soon as I read the post about it, that I had to check it out.

I told my friend Cynthia about it and we decided to have lunch there last week. It was super easy to find. We just went out the Main Gate and took a right at the very first light. Followed that road until it came to a T intersection and then took a left. At the light we turned right onto Route 2. Grand Chief is located right after the Eneos station on your left so stay in the left lane once you get on the 2. Look for the Teepee or the Airstream trailer (I think that's what they're called).

Or you can look for this sign

Or you can look for this teepee

It kind of stands out so I don't think anyone will have a problem finding it.

We looked over the menu and I just could not decide what I wanted so I went simple and got a regular burger with avocado. I love fries so I got the regular set. Cynthia ordered the Grand Chief burger (recommended by the owner). We sat down and waited. It was a beautiful day to sit outside so we didn't mind at all. They were kind of busy while we were there. Quite a few people just come by to place take out orders.

The wait wasn't very long at all...maybe 10-15 minutes. We grabbed our trays and sat down. I couldn't wait to unwrap my burger. I did munch on a fry or two before I opened my burger. I couldn't resist. The fries are good.

Here's my burger -

Here's Cynthia's burger -

Don't they look delicious??? They are. I have now found a place to get a good burger. I like it so much that I went back today and ordered the Teriyaki Ginger burger. That was pretty tasty too. Not a heavy ginger flavor at all. They also have a Cajun Chicken sandwich that I am curious about. If anyone tries that, please post a picture on my Facebook page and let me know your thoughts.

The sign says they open at 10am, but there is nothing listed for a closing time. I drove by it a few nights ago (I think it might have been around 8pm-ish) and it looked like they were still open.

I did take a picture of the menu so you have an idea of prices.

Check out Grand Chief and let me know what you think!!

Saturday, March 1, 2014

My Temple and Shrine Stamp Book or Shuin-cho (WARNING: This is not a food post)

I debated about this for a little while and then decided I should just do it. As it states in my intro, I love to travel. I especially love to travel and take photos and experience local foods. So.... a post about my travels every now and then won't be weird...right?

Last year I went up north with my friend Tina and her husband to visit our friends, Courtney and Tom. We were going to climb Mt Fuji together (maybe I should write about that crazy experience....), but we also had some sightseeing planned.

The day before our climb, we headed over to Kamakura. I was super excited because I had never been and it was on my super long list of places to visit. Our friend Courtney had told us about the temple book (shuin-cho) she got when she was visiting Kyoto. I had never heard of a temple book so I was pretty intrigued and once I looked at hers, I was hooked. She said she carries her book with her everywhere and she gets a stamp (shuin) from each temple and shrine she visits. I knew I had to get my own shuin-cho! It's quite beautiful and I really love to watch them add my shuin when I am able to. Someone at the temple places a stamp or two onto your book and then writes in calligraphy, the name of the temple and the date. There is typically a 300yen charge for each shuin. I have heard that there are some that are more expensive, but so far all of mine have been 300yen. Some places will ask you to leave your book and come back in a few minutes. It hasn't happened to me too many times, but it does happen. They will not allow you to take photos. I have tried a few times and most places have a sign posted stating no pictures allowed. I even asked if I could just take a photo of their hands as they worked on my shuin, but I was told that was not possible either.

It is such a great souvenir for yourself to remember your time here in Japan, and all of the temples and shrines you visited while here. I also think it's a great gift to give someone visiting you or just arriving to Iwakuni! Kind of a "Welcome to Iwakuni" gift!

My excitement level for travel is always already super high (dancing around the room and jumping up and down while squealing - high), and I try to go somewhere every weekend. Even if it's some place close by that I have already been to many times. I love going to the same places over and over again, but at different times of the year. Where was I going with this?.... OH! Yes. My excitement level is even higher now (I know that just doesn't sound possible, but it's true) and I am constantly looking for new temples and shrines to visit. More stamps for my book!!!!! It also leads me to places I have never been. I have added quite a few places to my very long list.... sometimes I wonder if I will ever get through it. Part of me hopes I don't... what will I do then?? I'll have to move or something. Well, I do have to go back to a lot of the temples and shrines I visited before I got my shuin-cho. This means I will have to add to my list again.... maybe I won't ever have to move after all.

When I was in Kyoto last November with Courtney and Tina, I forgot my temple book (wouldn't be the first time...*sigh*). I ended up buying a book at Kiyomizu Dera (one of the most famous places in Kyoto) because I couldn't stand the thought of not getting any shuins while I was there, or buying the loose paper with the shuin on it that I would have to glue down into my book when I got home. The shuin-cho there is a little bit smaller than the one I bought in Kamakura so it fits nicely in my purse. Hopefully this means that I won't forget my book anymore! However, now you know that even if you forget your book, you can still get a shuin for it.

Here are some pictures of my temple book -

I try to be really good about writing down the name of the temple or shrine and the date I visited, on the bottom of the page. I did say "try" right?

You can buy a temple book at almost any temple or shrine, but some are definitely more ornate than others. Some are also more expensive than others. Courtney has filled one up already (I need to get busy and visit more temples and shrines!!) so she had to buy one when she came down for a visit. Her plan was to get one at the Itsukushima Shrine on Miyajima Island. Their book was very plain though so she decided to wait until we went to the Daisho-in Temple to see what theirs look like. Before heading there though, we stopped off at the Daigan Temple to check out their books. They have beautiful books there so she ended up getting one there for 1,000yen or so (I think it might have been around 1200 or 1300yen actually). I wish I would have taken a picture of her book. Mine was less than 1,000yen, but it is also not quite as pretty as Courtney's. I think I know where I'll be buying my next book...

Pick up a shuin-cho the next time you go to a temple or shrine and start collecting beautiful temple stamps! If you can't figure out where to go for a temple stamp, just say "shuin" and someone at the temple will point you in the right direction.

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

What to do with Renkon (Lotus Root)

I am such a HUGE fan of renkon! I get really excited when renkon season is here and I eat it as much as I can until the season is over. Hard to say what my favorite way of eating it is though... I love renkon tempura! I love reckon kinpira. I also love the renkon creme brûlée Trois serves for dessert. Sounds odd, I know, but it is sooooo good!

Many of you have probably seen renkon in the grocery store though, and just didn't know what it was or what to do with it. I'm hoping this will help to make you feel more comfortable about buying this delicious root vegetable and giving it a try.

There are so many ways to prepare renkon, but I just want to share a couple of recipes to get you started.

RENKON NO SUNOMONO - This is a delicious, marinated renkon. You can substitute the yuzu with another citrus fruit like lemon or kabosu (a citrus fruit similar to yuzu). You can also leave the citrus out, but I personally think it's so much better with it.

1 1/2 - 2 cups thinly sliced renkon
1/4 tsp salt
1 TBSP sugar
1/4 cup rice vinegar
fresh yuzu peel (just the outer part of the peel) and yuzu juice

Bring a small pot of water to boil. Add thinly sliced renkon and continue to boil for about 2 minutes. The longer you leave them in, the less crunchy they will be so don't leave them in for too long. Drain and while still warm, add the salt, sugar, and vinegar. Mix well. Taste and adjust by adding more salt or sugar if needed. The vinegar will be very strong, but will mellow out as it sits so don't worry if it seems very tart. Add a squeeze of yuzu juice and some yuzu peel and mix well. Cool completely and serve. I can just sit and munch on these all day.

RENKON NO KINPIRA - This is a renkon stir fry that goes very well with rice. If you want it to be a little heartier, you can throw in some ground beef.

1 1/2 - 2 cups thinly sliced renkon
2 TBSP dashi shoyu
1 TBSP sugar
1 TBSP sweet rice wine (mirin)
1 TBSP sesame oil
1 TBSP sesame seeds

Soak the sliced renkon in a bowl of water for a few minutes to get some of the starch out. Drain.
Combine the dashi shoyu, sugar, and mirin in a small bowl and mix well. Taste and adjust as needed.
Heat sesame oil in a frying pan over medium heat. Add sliced renkon and stir fry for a minute. Add the sauce mixture and mix well. Stir around for another minute or two before turning off the heat. Crush the sesame seeds between your fingers as you sprinkle them over the kinpira. Transfer to a bowl and serve with rice.

Oh! Renkon is a good source of dietary fiber and Vitamin C. They taste good AND they're good for you!

Another interesting fact about renkon is that Iwakuni is very well known for renkon, and I have heard from quite a few people that the Iwakuni renkon is unusual because there are nine holes instead of the usual eight holes that are in the renkon. Of course I had to count them. It's true. There really are nine holes.

Are you feeling like you need to rush out and buy some lotus root now? The season is coming to an end so don't wait too long!
I should mention that I did not slice the renkon all nice and pretty. My knife skills are not the greatest. Toshiko and Keiko have amazing knife skills though and they are the ones who sliced everything up for these recipes. I just took pictures and tasted and took more pictures and tasted some more.

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Sri Lankan Restaurant and Cafe LAMP

I have passed this place a few times on my way to Mominoki and I have been wanting to check it out.
I finally got my opportunity yesterday. I found myself driving to Mominoki in search of some snow for a photo shoot I was doing and as I drove past this place, I knew where I was having lunch. Good thing my client was also my really good friend, Tani. She knows about my food obsession and she is always up for a foodie adventure.

We walked in and we liked it right away. After picking a table by the front window and putting our stuff down, we asked if we could look around. It's not that it was a large space for us to explore, but he did have some spices and teas for sale that we looked at (I picked up a bottle of chili powder that smells amazing). We also wanted to see what the view was out the back window. It was beautiful! He said we could open the back door and go out if we wanted to, but he wasn't sure if it was a good idea with all of the snow. We looked and he was right. Not a good idea. So we decided to sit down and look through the menu.

The first thing I saw was the pumpkin curry. Tani and I decided we should order two different types of curry and share. She picked the dry chicken curry and I picked the pumpkin soup curry (big surprise). The owner then told us that we needed to order rice or roti separately if we wanted some to go with the curry. Roti?? I have no idea what that is so I ask and he kindly explains that it is a Sri Lankan bread that you eat with the curry. So... we ordered one rice and one roti. Of course.

When he brought the pumpkin curry out and set it down, the smell was amazing. I couldn't wait to dig in!
It was really like a bowl of soup and it was just as yummy as it smelled. I loved the chunks of pumpkin that were in the soup curry, and I loved the fact that it wasn't spicy at all for me. I'm a wuss when it comes to spicy foods so I asked about it when we ordered. He said the normal spice had a little bit of a kick. I can handle a tiny kick. This curry didn't really seem to have a kick to me so you can order it spicier if you like a big kick. I can't really explain how wonderful the flavors were in this curry. You will have to go and order it. It's the only way you will know.

The chicken curry looked and smelled delicious too!

I have to say the chicken curry threw me off just a little bit. It definitely had a little bit of a kick, but what got me was that it also had a slight sweetness to it. I wasn't expecting it so it was a surprise. It was pretty tasty.

The bread was also very good. I think getting one of each was perfect because the curry was really good with both the rice and the bread.

There should be a couple of weeks left for sledding season so head on up to Mominoki Park and make sure you stop here for lunch or dinner on your way back. To get to this wonderful wonderful restaurant, jump on Route 2 and head towards Otake. Turn left onto 186 and head towards the Yasaka Dam. Once you pass Yasaka Dam stay on 186 and continue on heading towards Yoshiwa. Turn right onto 488 (if you turn left you can go to Megahira for some skiing). Follow the road until you see the restaurant on the left (maybe 10 min). If you want to go sledding first, just keep driving past the restaurant until you see an entrance sign for Mominoki Park. You certainly don't have to go sledding to enjoy this restaurant though. You can do a little hiking at Three Peaks (Mikuradake) and then go enjoy a nice lunch here. You can also jump in your car and just drive to LAMP, eat delicious curry, and drive home. I would definitely make the drive up just to eat here.

LAMP is open from 1100-2100 and the phone number is (0829)77-2773.

Monday, January 20, 2014

The Lockup

Last night I went to a really fun restaurant in Hiroshima called The Lockup.

I heard about this place from my friend Kazumi a couple of weeks ago. All I knew was that it was a restaurant with a prison theme. Ahhh....she had me at theme. I'm the type of person who needs to know what I'm getting myself into though so I jumped on the computer and Googled it. After reading a few blog posts about it and checking out their website, I couldn't wait to go! I was slightly confused about a few things though. It is a prison theme, but there was something about monsters and ghosts... so I thought, maybe it was a haunted prison theme.. ? Then I looked at the menu and the drinks are served in beakers and test tubes. it a haunted prison with a mad scientist lab? Now I REALLY couldn't wait to go.

The restaurant is located on the 4th floor of the building that is located right across the street from the Don Quijote store. Their phone number is 082-546-2550. Their address is Granporuto Bldg 4F, 6-1 Shintenchi, Naka-ku, Hiroshima-shi. If you know where Molly Malone's is, it's about a 3-minute walk from Molly Malone's.

We arrived at the building and took the elevator to the 4th floor. When we stepped off of the elevator, we weren't really sure what we had gotten ourselves into. This sign was posted on the wall, telling us to push the button so we did..
You can't see the button in the picture, but it's below the sign.
Soo...we pushed the button, and we waited.

I wasn't sure what to expect, but a guy dressed up like a police officer came out with a clipboard and asked if we had reservations.

Once he verified our reservations, he opened a door for us and told us to go in. We walked into a dark room and listened to a recording that was basically welcoming us to The Lockup and telling us to enter at our own risk... the voice was kind of creepy. I think we were told to wave our hand over something, but we didn't really pay attention so I don't think we quite did what we were supposed to do (oops!). The door then opened and we were told to come out. Once we stepped out we were asked who in our group had done something bad. Well....we all pointed at our friend Cynthia (sorry Cynthia!!). You will have to give up someone in your group. I won't tell you what happens to the person who is thrown under the bus....but it's pretty funny. Well, it was funny for us. Maybe not so much for Cynthia.

After that we were taken to our table, which was in a cell. Complete with bars! They have cells in different sizes. Ours was big enough for a party of six, but the cell across from us was only big enough for two people.

We had pre-ordered a set that included all-you-can-drink, but you can also order from the menu once you get there. That is what I plan on doing the next time I go. There were some items on the menu that I really wanted to try that weren't included in our set. The items we did get were pretty tasty though and we were happy with the amount of food we got too.
The bag was full of delicious french fries and the black things looked like burnt fried chicken, but they didn't taste burnt at all. To the left were some takoyaki (balls of dough with a chunk of octopus), but there was a catch with these. There was one out of the four that had tabasco sauce in it. They don't tell you which one has it so whoever gets it, gets a little surprise when they eat it. Luckily, I did not get the one with tabasco sauce in it.

One of the things I would have loved to try that wasn't included in our set was this -
It's a tuna and avocado spider! There were quite a few interesting dishes throughout the menu. I should let you know that they do not have English menus, but there are pictures of everything.

Aside from having interesting food items, they also have some really interesting drinks. Complete with eyeballs....

After we had been there for almost two hours, the lights went out and sirens started to go off. Someone was announcing that the monsters had gotten loose and were invading the prison. WHAT?!?! What does that mean??? Well, you will have to go see for yourself because there is no way my description of what happened over the next 10 or 15 minutes will do it justice. I will say that the monsters probably won't forget us.... there may or may not have been some dancing in our cell. Ahem...With one of the scary creatures...

Reservations are highly recommended if you plan on going on a Friday or Saturday night. Definitely a fun place to go to with a group of friends! They will also do a little something special if you let them know ahead of time that you have someone celebrating their birthday in your party. They didn't seem to have anyone who spoke English so you will probably need some help to make reservations and you'll have to be a little adventurous when you eat there. Don't let that stop you though. It's definitely a must try!

This might help a little when planning your dinner at this fun place! Sorry I forgot to include this in my original post.

Hours -
SUNDAY & HOLIDAY 1700-2400