Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Umaebo うまい棒

Today I had one of my favorite Japanese snacks. This is by no means a traditional snack, but one that children love. it has the cheesy/chemical flavor that brought me down memory lane. Umaibo うまい棒 which means "delicious stick" is a puffy and orange corn snack that is very similar to the Canadian snack made by Humpty Dumpty, Cheese Sticks or American Doritos.

These are great little things. they are yummy and cost only 10 yen which the equivalent of 10 cents in either America or Canada. By no means healthy, these little bad boys can be found in any supermarket or convenience store.

The character on the package looks like the famous Japanese cartoon character Doraemon, but is not.

These snacks come in a variety of flavors. I have only tried the cheese flavor (which I love), but there are also flavors such as takoyaki (octopus balls), salad, chocolate and caramel.

If you are interested in interesting and yummy little snacks from Japan, Umaebo うまい棒 might just be for you. If you are into eating healthy and watching your waistline, this might not be what you are looking for!

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Japanese Sukiyaki すき焼き

The other day I came across a great "how to" cooking video by a You Tube friend of mine who lives in Calgary, Canada. "MrJingJong" is a huge fan of Asian food and loves to cook. The main focus of his channel is food and food preparation. The video that inspired me to write this post was one where he prepared Japanese Sukiyayki.

Sukiyaki is by far one of my favorite Japanese dishes. It is easy to make, absolutely delicious and a great thing to prepare when you are entertaining friends or family. Japanese sukiyaki is part of the Japanese hot pot family. Several other dishes like this are made by adding many ingredients to a large pot in a soup or stew fashion. Dishes like this are wonderful especially in the colder months of the year.

A few months ago my wife made sukiyaki for dinner. Sukiyaki is normally made in a "hot pot" fashion. The ingredients are added to a large pot and cooked at the table. In an uninsulated Japanese apartment in the middle of the winter, it is and amazing dish for so many reasons. Not only does it taste amazing, but it also heats the room!

Here is my wife's version of homemade sukiyaki. We have a small portable gas range that we use on our dining room table when we make nabe, sukiyaki and yakiniku.

Here is "MrJingJong's" video about making sukiyaki at home. He currently lives in Canada and shows that this amazing Japanese dish can be made with ingredients you can find in Canada.

A Little Online Hiatus
I plan to go on a You Tube hiatus for the next few weeks. I won't be uploading new videos and will spend little time on You Tube. I will however be updating this blog and my Canadian in Kobe blog. if you are curious about the ins and outs of "my" little piece of japan, keep reading!

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Brazilian Eats

Last night I went to yet another restaurant located in the MOSAIC building in Harborland. Brasiliano is a popular restaurant with both Japanese and foreign customers. The specialty is barbequed meat. A wide variety of meat is cooked over an open flame and served to you at your table on large squewers. For 2,450 yen (about $25.00) for two hours you can feast from the salad bar, buffet and eat as much meat as you can. For an additional 1,050 yen you can have all you can drink beer or soft drinks.

The atmosphere is a little like a brightly lit dining hall, but the food is amazing. The wonderful and juicy meat is served to you by very friendly Brazilian staff who all speak English.

I first came to this restaurant last year to meet a fellow You Tube video maker, Jason (myargonauts) on his last night in Japan. He was back in town yesterday so we went there again. I have been to Brasiliano five or six times in the last year and enjoy it every time.

The only downside to Brasiliano is eating too much! The following day I always have what I like to call, a "meat hangover."

If you are in Kobe on tour or liv here, check out this amazing place. It is located on the third floor of the Mosaic building and is open seven days a week.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Rice Ball Heaven: Umeboshi Onigiri

One great thing about Japan is the vast amount of great snack food you can buy at any convenience store. For some, the ubiquitous rice ball or onigiri おにぎり, might be an important part of a meal when they don't have time to prepare it at home and sometimes, it is simply a wonderful snack.

The other day, while heading to a local park to catch up on some reading, I stopped by my local Family Mart convenience store and picked up my favorite rice ball. Rice balls or onigiri, come in a wide variety of flavors. You can have them with beef, fish eggs, salmon, tuna, etc. My favorite is made with shiso and umeboshi. Umeboshi 梅干 i is a sour tasting plum. These wonderful rice snacks cost only 100 yen which is about one dollar Canadian.

Here you can see the plum rice ball (onigiri) before I open it.

The purple chunks are the umeboshi or sour plum. They are very juicy and crunchy. They literally explode with flavor when you bite into them.

The smaller black spots are shiso which is also known as perilla. It also has a very strong and distinct flavor.

I don't think this particular onigiri would be for everyone, but I simply can't get enough of it. Just another small and wonderfully fresh snack you can buy at any time in Japan!

Friday, March 19, 2010


Last night was a homemade ramen night.

Ramen is a Japanese noodle dish that originated in China. It is served in a meat- or fish-based broth, often flavored with soy sauce or miso, and uses toppings such as sliced pork (チャーシュー chāshū?), dried seaweed (海苔 nori?), kamaboko, green onions and even corn. Almost every locality in Japan has its own variation of ramen, from the tonkotsu ramen of Kyūshū to the miso ramen of Hokkaidō. Source: Wikipedia

This was miso ramen ラーメン made by my wife. It was absolutely delicious.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Steak and Guinness Pie

Yesterday was Saint Patrick’s Day and we celebrated at my house with some homemade Steak and Guinness Pie. It was actually my first time making it so I was a little nervous. I wasn’t worried about cooking the steak properly or making the gravy. I was worried about the pastry crust for the top, which I have never made from scratch before. In Canada or America, we can very easily buy premade pie shells and tops, but not in Japan.

I bought a large piece of Australian beef and diced it. I roughly followed a recipe I found online. My baking dish is smaller than the one in the recipe so I had to adapt. The same went with the pastry top.

The meat, vegetables and gravy simmering.

I was easily able to get all the ingredients at my local Daiei supermarket. The beef and the can of Guinness were the priciest parts.

Comfort food from home is always the thing that gets me through nostalgic times of holidays while living abroad. This meal certainly fit the bill.

It turned out far better than I expected. My wife and I had a "back home" sort of feast!

In the short video you saw about the pie, you may have noticed my bread maker. In my last post, about the Isuzu Bakery, I mention that it is really difficult if not at times impossible to buy whole grain bread in Japan. Japanese people, who normally don’t consume much bread, prefer white bread. Coming from Canada, I tend to find white bread somewhat bland. The best way to solve the problem was to go out and purchase a bread maker. We were able to get one on sale for the equivalent of about $150.00 Canadian. With that, I can make whole wheat bread!

Monday, March 15, 2010

Japanese Bakeries

One of the most cost efficient, yet very enjoyable ways to eat while staying in Japan is by going to the bakery. Bakeries are very common in Japan and you can find them virtually anywhere. The quality and price levels vary drastically however.

I suppose one should also note that bakeries in Asia tend to be quite a bit different than bakeries in North America. The majority of Japanese people still don’t eat very much bread on a daily basis and if you are in the market for a loaf of bread, you’re pretty much stuck with the white variety. Whole grain and wheat bread s are very uncommon if not downright impossible to find. I was forced to buy my own bread maker in order to get my fix of whole wheat bread!

Bakeries here tend to have more dessert type items and a lot of other “meal-type” breads. Although very different than the bread I’m used to buying back in Canada, it is still however, quite good.

Often, when I am by myself and want to grab a quick bite to eat I simply pop into a bakery and grab some of the interesting bread-like snacks you can get.

This afternoon, I made my way to downtown Kobe. I decided that it was a great day to head to a park and eat outside. It was overcast, yet warm. I popped into a bakery in Motomachi called Isuzu Bakery. As far as bakeries go, it is relatively upscale, but most things in the Motomachi neighborhood are. The food choices are nice, but a little on the pricey since. Although it is an expensive bakery (still far cheaper than eating at a restaurant) it has a great reputation in Kobe and has some nice food for sale.

I bought a type of bread that is basically like a thin and hollowed out baguette. Inside was Dijon mustard and sausage. It was really quite nice. I have had a similar snack at other bakeries. Although I did pay a little too much for this (262yen) it was still a quick, easy and tasty lunch. I sat in Merikan Park near the water and enjoyed it while watching a group of about 200 Korean tourists gallivanting about the park.

Mu Gun Fa: Seoul Dining in Kobe

Yesterday was a beautiful and sunny Sunday in Kobe. My wife and I were downtown doing some shopping when we decided to eat lunch. We were in Harborland (an upscale shopping area near the Kobe waterfront) so we decided to go to Mosiac to find a restaurant. Mosaic is a complex filled with shops and restaurants. There is a quite a variety to choose from, but we went with Korea. I haven’t eaten Korean food in quite a long time and have been craving it lately.

We went to a restaurant called Mu Gun Fa – Seoul Dining.

Being lunchtime, it was quite busy, but we didn’t have to wait for a seat. The buffet seemed to be the most popular thing, but we opted to get individual dishes instead.

I opted for the bulgogi. Bulgogi 불고기 is basically marinated and barbecued beef. In this case it was served in a bowl with rice, green onions, rice noodles and onions. It also came with a sweet sauce.

One of the first things one normally does with a Korean dish such as this is mix it up. Korean people normally like to mix all of the ingredients together so the various flavors can blend.

My wife had he favorite Korean food, bibimbap. Bibimbap 비빔밥 is a popular Korean dish. The word literally means "mixed rice." Bibimbap is served as a bowl of warm white rice topped with namul (sautéed and seasoned vegetables) and gochujang (chili pepper paste). A raw or fried egg and sliced meat (usually beef) are common additions. The ingredients are stirred together thoroughly just before eating. It can be served either cold or hot. Source:Wikipedia

In this case, she had dolsot bibimbap, which is bibimbap served I a hot stone bow. Once it arrives at your table you must very quickly mix it together as it is still cooking in the bowl (be careful not to touch the bowl).

The meal was aslo served with a small side of kimchi 김치 , a spicy/pickled vegetable present at every Korean meal.

As for my food, the bulgogi came in a large portion and was fairly tasty. My wife said her bibimbap was good as well, but the red pepper paste she wasn’t very spicy. I suppose the Japanese pallet prefers food not as spicy as Korea. My wife however, who lived n Korea, loved the spice! She was somewhat disappointed with that.

The atmosphere of the restaurant was a little lacking to. It was relatively sterile and aside from some bottles of Korean soju 소주 on display, didn’t “look” very Korean inside. I suppose I was generally pleased with things there, but the next time we go for Korean food in Kobe, we’ll try another restaurant.

Kansai Eats: The Beginning

Kansai Eats simply put, is a blog about food. It is about restaurants, dining out, cooking at home and shopping.

Many of you may not be familiar with the word Kansai. The Kansai Region of Japan is an area in the Japan that is made up of several large cities such as Osaka, Kyoto, and Kobe. Although part of Japan, Kansai has its on distinct regional dialect, types of food and characteristics among the people. It is often referred to as Japan’s “kitchen.” Kansai people are proud of their cooking, their sense of humour and their culture.

My name is Kevin and I am an educator, blogger and new media content creator. I have been living in the Kansai area for almost two years with my wife who is a native of Osaka. Previous to coming to Japan I had lived in Seoul and Busan, South Korea for more than five years. My wife has also lived in Korea. We are huge fans of Korean cuisine as well as Japanese of course. We enjoy cooking (although my wife is far superior in this department) and enjoy the restaurants in Kobe and Osaka (and everywhere else).

After several years of creating blogs for You Tube, I discovered that many of my most popular videos were those about food. I have been thinking about dedicating a blog to the subject and have finally taken the initiative.

Kansai Eats will not just be about restaurant reviews, but about food in general. It will be about the food you can purchase in Japanese supermarkets and convenience stores. It will be about cooking at home. It will be about shopping for foreign and local food. It will also be about the culture of food. I will show not just Japanese cuisine, but international food as well.