Sunday, January 27, 2013

油そば Abura Soba; Shinjuku, Tokyo (various locations throught the Kanto Region)

 While wandering around Shinjuku, the noodle craving hit me hard.  Luckily, Shinjuku is a good place to be when you want noodles with many, many noodle shops.  Abura Soba is right across from the Sega Game center on the west side of Shinjuku station, not far from the post office and the Yodobashi Camera branches.  Like Yodobashi Camera with a game branch, camera branch, toys branch, computer branch, etc., Abura Soba has various branches in the west side devoted to different types of noodles.  I chose my favorite, tsukemen.  Tsukemen is cold noodles (or hot, as Abura Soba offers) that are to be dipped in the broth.
I ordered the large size for about 1000 yen.  The noodles were absolutely delicious and I will definitely go back.  The noodles were a bit hard and chewy, just how I like them.  The broth was a winner too, slightly vinegary with a thick consistency and hearty meaty (actual fish) taste.
Feel free to slurp and make a mess as this sign says that they will give you a paper apron to protect your clothing, if you ask.  I give Abura Soba's tsukemen five slurps out of five slurps.

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Namja Town Part 2; Ikebukero, Tokyo

When Mom and cousin were in for the holidays, we brought them to Namja Town to enjoy Ice Cream City, Desert Kingdom and Gyoza Stadium.  For a rundown of a previous Namja Town trip, please see my post here

We ended going on the day before New Year's Eve.  To our delight, it wasn't overly crowded.  We commandered a table and ordered our gyoza from the Gyoza Stadium and... waited a real long time.  In somewhat typical Japanese fashion, the folks at each of the gyoza stands are not running things in the most efficient manner.  Each stand has maybe two-three workers, one taking orders and well, the other two, cooking batches of gyoza- one at a time.  As a result, each stand takes 20 minutes or so to make their gyoza.  So if a typical family wants to try gyoza from 3 different stands, it will probably take an hour.  These folks have to realize that faster gyoza cooking means more gyoza sold.  It's just simple economics.  I saw numerous occasions where people looked at a long line and decided not to order.  Oh well...  McDonalds can't teach efficiency to everyone.

So this time, we got lots of gyoza.  A warning here, the gyoza at Gyoza Stadium are not cheap.  The food below cost us at least 4,500 yen (about 50 dollars).  Not cheap and not really enough to make us full.  But it is fun and when family is in, fun takes priority over value (and patience waiting).

So here are the gyoza we got:

Chick gyoza- these were your standard pork filling gyoza but were shaped like little chickies.  Pretty standard, but fun to eat.

Piggy gyoza- Pretty disappointing.  These guys were 5 bucks for 2, so the 4 above cost us about 10 bucks (800 yen).  The taste wasn't so bad, standard pork filling, but they aren't a fraction as cute as the picture on the menu.  It looks as if the workers haphazardly threw the piggy parts on these guys.  Give me my 10 bucks and 20 minutes back!
Juicy gyoza- These guys are shaped in way that holds in the juices, like little pots.  Pork filling here, but nice and juicy.  These guys were winners.
Steel pan gyoza- Yummy, yummy, yummy!!!  These little guys are packed in a tiny steel pan and fried until they are crispy on the bottom.  Pork as usual, but chockful of garlic.  Lovers stay away, but these guys are super yummy.
Maruman gyoza!!!  Read about them in my previous Namja Town post.  Yummy bread-like pockets of pork.  Good as they are, White Gyoza is better and much cheaper. 
Last but not least, pepper cheese gyoza-  there guys were the champions of the group.  Everyone liked these guys the best.  Cheese and pepper are so untypical when one has gyoza.  The cheese wasn't too heavy and the pepper wasn't too spicy.  As I type, I want them oh so much!!!  Thanks for reading and please go to Namja Town!!!

More Battle Beasts

As promised, here is my post on the additional Battle Beasts that Santa got me.
Going from left to right, you have a coelacanth (a rare breed of fish that was thought to be extinct until caught sometime in the 1930's), a sea turtle, a giraffe and a piranha.
They all look cool of course, but I wish they didn't put the captain's hat on the sea turtle guy.  He definitely loses toughness points for that.  

Other Battle Beast: Let's battle to the death, Mr. Sea Turtle!!!
Turtle Battle Beast: Arrr... You will get death....after I steer the Love Boat to port. 
All of the Other Battle Beasts: (Heavy laughter and back slapping) 

Thank you Santa and thank you for reading this one.

Christmas Gifts Continued: Sexy One Piece Figure Part Two

As discussed earlier, I got a pretty funny One Piece figure from Santa Claus.  Well, here is the unveiling/opening of the figure.


Boa Hancock!!!

The figure comes in parts and you have to put it together like a sexy puzzle.

Got some nice cleavage shots, but like one of the guys I work with says... It's so cute!!!!

Like so many things here, this is something that is soooo Japanese.  I love her innocent and vulnerable look.  Well, I have to admit, I did have a crush on Pocahontas a bit when I was younger, so I guess it might go across cultures.

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

North American Lobster Feast, Japanese Style; Lobsters from.... Aeon

Continuing my discussion of the New Year's holiday in Japan, we move on to the lobster feast that we had on December 31st, 2012 (our above red friend was actually boiled on the 25th, the feast on the 31st is described below).  For those of you not in Japan or not familiar with Japan, here is a little information about New Year's Day.  As discussed in an earlier post, Christmas does not have the same important meaning it does in the West.  For Japan, New Year's Day or お正月is their most important holiday.  Accordingly, many Japanese have a 5-7 day vacation (depending on the date New Year's Day falls on) for  お正月.  This year was no different and we had the entire week from December 31st to January 4th off.

So after going to Namja Town again with my mom and cousin, who were in from Chicago, we had dinner and then proceeded back home.  While walking through the Aeon supermarket around 8pm, we noticed that there were half off live lobsters for 980 yen.  Another thing about Japan is that supermarkets always discount food at the end of the day to quickly move it.  So these sad crustaceans didn't move during the day and were discounted during the evening.   Live North American lobsters are not something you ordinarily find in Japanese supermarkets and these guys were probably brought in due to the overabundant 2012 lobster haul and for the 2012 holiday season.   The week before I had gotten another live lobster and made the mistake of putting it in a little bit of fresh water which effectively nearly drowned it; he was pretty weak when I cooked him.   Here is a little live lobster 411:
  • Due to the decomposition of their digestive systems, lobsters go bad extremely quickly. As a result they are best cooked live or only very recently after dying.
  • A live lobster's tail will curl when cooked as a natural clenching reaction, so if you by a cooked lobster, the tail should be curled in.  Fresh water drowns live lobsters, but they have special organs that allow them to breathe air for a few days.
  • If you need to store live lobsters, place them in a paper bag with wet paper towels (they need moist air) and then put the bag in the fridge.  Freezing them will kill them.
  • Steaming rather than boiling lobsters results in more tender meat.  I've tried both, the steamed lobsters were a bit more tender.
  • Lobsters should be cooked in the pot about 8 minutes per pound, with an additional 3 minutes for each additional pound. 
That said, here are pictures of the cooking:

Lobsters should be fighty mad about being cooked and these guys were.

The rubber bands on their claws should be clipped just before being put in the pot to avoid having a rubbery tasting lobster.

To steam lobsters, put about 1-2 inches of water in a pot with 3 tablespoons of salt (we used Old Bay seafood seasoning for a slightly spicy favor).

Put the lobsters in the pot, cover...  Cook for 8 minutes per the first pound and 3 minutes for each pound thereafter.  When done, the lobsters will turn a bright orange/red color.

Voila, yummy cooked lobster. To serve, pull off the claws, little legs and antennae and slice the lobster in half lengthwise from its head to its tail.   Serve the body and the claws with melted butter for dipping and lemon slices.

 It doesn't get any better than fresh lobster like this.  Super yum-oh!!!  Can't wait to cook them again in the winter of 2013!

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Christmas Gifts Part One- Sexy One Piece Figures and Trader Joe's Chocolates

Happy New Year!!!  2013 has already been a great year.

Back to 2012, Santa treated me well.  In addition to the gifts in this post, I did get more Battle Beasts and will have a post featuring those too.  Santa also brought me the Avengers on blu-ray and a book about what happened to Jello Pudding Pops after the 80's.  Nice read. 

In my stocking I found a sexy One Piece figure of one of Boa Hancock, Jewelry Bonney, Nami or Nico Robin.  It's a mystery which figure I got though because I didn't open the box yet.  I'll add a pic of the open figure to this post in the near future.  How did Santa know I like naughty things like that?  It's a "Girls Party," woo- hoo!!!

Notice how the box features breast shots or backside shots of a clearly anime figure?  Pretty funny and sooooo Japanese.  I can imagine some salaryman's nose bleeding while looking at the figure's cartoon boobies.

The figure is made by Bandai, the makers of Gundam, Godzilla, Ultraman, Sailor Moon, Tamogotchi and Power Rangers and other reputable toys; Bandai is the 3rd largest toy maker in Japan.  With all of the sexiness of the T&A of the figure, the figure and its display were placed right next to...  Licca dolls and Sylvannia Families toys (children's toys) at Aeon (according to Santa's elves).  No shame there at all.

Santa was also super cool for bringing me my favorite type of chocolate, chocolates containing liquor.  He delivered them all the way from Trader Joe's, something we don't have here in Japan.

I can't help but think the chocolate cherries and their wrapping and box look like a treasure chest of gold.  They taste that way too.  Yum-oh!!  My mom flew in from Chicago and brought me some of those Anton Berg liquor chocolates shaped like bottles too, so I got a double fix of liquor chocolates for the holidays, so you can say my holidays were well-spirited.  Drum roll please...