I had the fun experience of going grocery shopping with a Japanese friend of mine recently. I was introduced to a whole new world of groceries, particularly in the form of never-ending aisles of miso and a huge section of dehydrated tofu imprinted with cartoon characters. While I didn't care for some of my new purchases, such as egg custard tofu, I was turned on to trying more veggies. So, I'm going to really make an effort to get more Japanese fruits and veggies into my diet...starting with daigoku imo. Daigoku means "university" or "top level", so this is the ultimate way to eat sweet potatoes. Japan has several varieties of sweet potatoes, ranging from small thin ones with dry white meat to deep pink ones with dark purple meat. Sachiko showed me how to prepare this sweet potato sensation. While it is deep fried and coated in sugar, it's still a vegetable! Enjoy!
Daigoku Imo: 1.) Scrub sweet potato and cut it diagonally and into thin strips. 2.) On low heat, deep fry slices in oil for 8-10 minutes. 3.) While strips are frying, prepare a simple sugar syrup in a large saucepan with 1/2 c. sugar, 1 Tbsp. water, 1/2 Tbsp. soy sauce until syrup-y. 3.) Remove strips from oil and mix into syrup in saucepan until well coated. Sprinkle with black sesame seeds!
Enjoy! This is a delicious dish, and the black sesame seeds are awesome. More on those later, but here is some info on sesame seeds for you:
Natural sesame seeds, those that are unhulled, are high in calcium. One tablespoon provides 87.8 mg while the hulled variety offers only 10.5 mg for that same tablespoon. Comparing sesame seeds to milk turned up some surprising figures in the calcium count. One cup of natural sesame seeds had 1404.0 mg of calcium, while one cup of non-fat milk provided 316.3 mg. and one cup of whole milk contained 291 mg of calcium.
Both natural and hulled sesame seeds contain healthy amounts of the B vitamins riboflavin, thiamine, and niacin. With natural seeds scoring 8.7 mcg of folic acid for 1 tablespoon and plenty of vitamin B6, you can count on sesame seeds for excellent nourishment.
Sesame oil is excellent for reversing the signs of aging and keeping hair lustrous and silky. A Japanese secret!
Nothing escapes being cute-ified here in Japan. Not even unco, otherwise known as poo to you! It never ceases to amaze me that absolute anything and everything can be seen as cute in some form or another here (should I be skeptical when everyone keeps calling my baby cute?). This is the funnest example I have witnessed so far...and I secretly want a piece for myself.
I saw this claw-machine game at an arcade and had to snap a pic. Don't you want to win a piece of smiling, rainbow-colored poo?
Some crappy stationery:
Finally, the most popular piece of poo ever: the original amigurimi happy poo that's sweeping the crochet world!
You can make your own with this happy poo pattern. It's even cuter if you stuff it with dried flowers to make a sachet. Poo has never been this cute and sweet!
My hubby's favorite holiday treat is eggnog. However, that is nowhere to be found in Japan, so he had to settle for eggnog cookies instead. It's amazing what a little nutmeg and rum extract can do for a bah-humbug, missing-eggnog husband!
EGGNOG COOKIES 2 c. sifted flour 2 tsp. nutmeg 1/4 tsp. salt 1 c. butter butter 3/4 c. sugar 2 tsp. vanilla 2 tsp. rum extract 1 egg Mix and sift flour, nutmeg; and salt. Cream butter, add sugar, and cream until fluffy. Add extracts and mix. Add egg and mix well. Add sifted ingredients gradually and mix. Chill thoroughly. Allowing 1 tablespoon dough for each cookie; shape into balls, and bake on ungreased cookie sheet, at 350 degrees for 12 to 15 minutes. Cool. RUM FROSTING: 1/4 c. butter (or margarine) 1 tsp. rum extract 1/2 tsp. vanilla 2 1/2 c. powdered sugar, sifted 2 to 3 tbsp. milk Cream butter, add extracts, and mix. Add sugar, milk and mix. Put frosting on while cookies are slightly warm. Decorate with colored sprinkles for Christmas. Makes 4 dozen cookies.
I am very obsessed with baby names. In fact, I have been keeping very detailed lists of my favorites since 1994. The list has changed slightly over the years. For example, my favorite girl's name from 8th grade is now off my list. So, no "Shady Willow" in our home if I ever have a girl. Sorry. Fortunately, I have a husband who is almost equally obsessed--he picked our baby's name when he was still in high school (lucky for him, I loved the name!). As newlyweds, we spent hours one night creating a master list of baby names to select from throughout our baby years. I feel like we have gotten alot of planning and pondering out of the way. Hopefully no celebrity will choose any of our names to tarnish with publicity! In Japan, I am equally fascinated with baby names, particularly what would be the equivalent of "Madison" or "Hayden" or "Aiden". Here's what it comes down to, using the top ten baby names in the US and Japan in 2007:
Here are my students Haruna and Ayaka, who both have very popular names:
My favorite Japanese names for girls are Megumi (which also means blessing), Kumiko, and Sachie (sah-chee-ay). For boys, I like Kaito (kite-o), Kenjiro, and Shoki. Between Fox and I, we have students with all of the names on the lists above. In fact, in my preschool class, I have a Miyu, Myu, and Myuu. That's right! It's very difficult to call on the right person with the right name. I got corrected for saying Me-you instead of Mew when calling on Myu. I wonder what Japanese people would think of Aiden, Braden, and Caden?