Monday, November 24, 2014

Kabocha and Pork Belly

In my kabocha eating quest, I received this recipe from Friend E, for a Filipino dish of pork belly, green beans, and of course, Kabocha!

It's super delicious, so I do recommend it!

Ingredients:

1 lb of pork belly, cubed
1 Tbsp or so of garlic, diced
1 roma tomato, diced
1/2 onion, diced
1 large handful of Chinese string beans, cut to ~2 inch pieces
1/4 kabocha squash, cubed
1 Tbsp Filipino shrimp paste
1 cup water
It took me a while to find the super-pink shrimp paste, which Friend E insisted there is absolutely no substitute for. >.>"  I eventually found it in the fridge section of Ranch 99 though. Check your local Asian grocer!

Dice veggies.

Brown the cubed pork belly with the garlic, and a little salt or oil.
To be honest this step took me a long time because I didn't have the heat up high enough. I was scared of flying grease! And it did fly towards the end, so be careful!  Drain the excess fat, but leave enough to coat the pan.

Add in the tomato and onion next, and sautee until it resembles a beautiful mush.
Then add the kabocha and string beans.
Finally add the cup of water with the shrimp paste (there are eyeballs swimmin' around in there, lol).
Bring to a boil, cover and then let simmer until the kabocha becomes soft.

Mmm.
Serve over rice, and enjoy!

Seriously, this is some tasty stuff.  Though, it's pork belly! How can it not be delicious??

Thanks Friend E!

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Kyoto: Fushimi Inari Shrine

v Fushimi Inari taisha
· Head Shinto shrine of Inari (god of rice/business), founded 711 AD.  The shrine’s romon (entrance torii) was donated in 1589 by Hideyoshi.  Businesses donate torii gates for luck.  Each torii has the business’ name and date inscribed on it.  
· Kitsune land!  Kitsune foxes are known as messengers/familiars for gods, and hold a key to the rice ‘silos’ in their mouths.  Kitsune are supposed to be intelligent creatures with magical abilities to increase their age and wisdom.  They can also take human form.  Some say they use this to trick people, others say it is so they can be faithful guardians.  Kitsune may have nine tails, the number of tails corresponding to the fox’s age and power.  When it gets its 9th tail, the fur changes to white or gold. 
§ If you are possessed by a kitsune, afterwards you will never be able to eat tofu again. Fox possession was a common diagnosis for mental illness until the 20th century.

§ Kitsunebi is fox fire, which the kitsune carries in its mouth or on its tail.



Quite possibly one of the coolest shrines in Kyoto, Fushimi Inari is decked out in hundreds of torii gates that snake up the hill.


It's also the main setting for the anime Inari, Kon Kon, Koi Iroha - which is a fantastic manga/anime that you should definitely check out. It's fantasy/romance (but not shoujo), and Sak and I have total crushes on Uka and Touka, respectively. Fufufu. Chuuni boy.

Unfortunately could not find any kon plushies in any of the local shops! :(
Anyway, Fushimi Inari is awesome because it is free, and always open.  I suppose coming here at night would be a real treat if its all lit up!





There are foxes all over.


And everything is painted a fantastic vermillion red! I love it!



Sak picked up his shuin at the bottom of the shrine.

And then we walked up and up through the torii gates, looking for uncrowded opportunities in which to take a picture. Even on a weekday morning it was quite crowded!


Miko!
Though beware - this place is in a wooded area, and there are spiders that hang out on top the gates.  If you're tall, make sure you look where you're going.

Would you like to have your own torii gate?  Here's the donation prices, kinda pricey!

Gotta tell the dogs not to pee on them though. I'd imagine it ruins the paint!


The top was the best though! Fox shaped ema plaques!  Clearly there is an otaku community visiting this place!

Bottom right. Best face ever.
 Fushimi Inari should be on the short list for anyone planning a visit to Kyoto. Make sure you grab some inarizushi on your way out too!

It is, afterall, rated #1 on Trip Advisor for foreign tourists! Haha!

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Kabocha Salad

So, Japan is really into using seasonal foods.  Much like we associate pumpkin pie and turkey with fall, Japan has their own autumnal favorites.

One of those is the kabocha, a green skinned pumpkin/squash which is quite delicious (especially in Thai curry, mmm).

While shopping for dinner in a department store basement one night (because that's where the food is), I found an interesting dish - kabocha salad.  Like potato salad, but with kabocha.

I bought it,  ate it, and liked it enough to want to try any make my own at home.
Look at me getting all fancy with the cucumber.

Want to try? It's easy!

Ingredients: 
- kabocha (I used 1/4 of the pumpkin but since it was small I should have used half or more)
- 1/8 to 1/4 an onion, depending how oniony you like things
- 1/2 a small Persian or Japanese cucumber..or whatever the small crispy kind are called
- Japanese mayo (kewpie or other brand) to taste

Dice up the veggies, and add a little salt to help draw out the moisture. You'll want them crunchy in your salad! Let sit while you deal with the kabocha, and later come back to dab/drain out the water.
Microwave the kabocha until it's soft, and then scoop it out and mash it up in a bowl.  Try not to mash it up too much if you want that chunky potato taste.  I pretty much creamed mine, which made the end texture a little too smooth for "potato" salad.
Add drained veggies and some mayo.  I added like, 4 tbsp, and it was way too much for the amount of kabocha I had.
I ended up needing more starch =_= So add the mayo slowly at a time until you find the consistency that you like.
Add some pepper if you like!
The flavor was really good, though next time I will add less-smashed kabocha and maybe cut back on the onions a bit..I had a big red onion and it was a little overpowering.

For comparison here's the kabocha salad I bought from the store in Japan:
I think it's the Japanese mayo that really makes the dish. I could eat that stuff straight, it's so good.

Kidding. I'm not going to eat spoonfuls of mayo straight up. That's gross. Though with a bit of vegetable matter mixed in it's totally okay though, right? Haha. >.>"

Also, if you don't like my made-up recipe, there's like a bajillion on the Japanese recipe site Cookpad. Don't worry, they have an english version. Just type in "kabocha salad" in the search and have at it!