Saturday, March 28, 2009

Mr Tan Tan says goodbye to the 20s and hello to 30.

It's time for Mr Tan Tan to face the dreadful 3s and bid farewell to the 2s that he's used to. Luckily, Mrs Tan Tan helped to make it easy by whipping up some great dishes. . for not 1 day but 4 days in a row as well as an awesome strawberry shortcake and traditional mee-suan in the morning.

Day 1 Gourmet:
1.Baked Whole Scallops
2. Freshly Made Crab Cake using king-crab as the main ingredient
3. Prawn Salad
4. Prawn cum Crab Bisque
5. Freshly-made Chocolate Mousse using mascarpone, fresh cream and high quality bitter chocolate.

Day 2 Gourmet:
1. French Onion Soup
2. Fresh Greens
3. Shepherd's Pie baked to perfection!
4. Strawberries in Mascarpone

Day 3 Gourmet:
1. Honey Roasted Chicken
2. Fresh Greens with Parmesan
3. Steak with Chips. You can see that it is cooked to perfection and the baked wedges was great.
4. Lemon and Mint Sorbet

The perfect strawberry shortcake.

Breakfast - Mee Sua in soup for longevity!

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Sushi Lingo!

10 days ago we were invited to a sushi party by our good friends, the Shoujis. Not only did they prepare an incredible spread, they also gave us a valuable lesson on sushi lingo.

In Singapore, sushi is just sushi. But in Japan, there are special terms for everything you find in a sushi bar. For example, vinegared rice is not just ご飯 (gohan), but シャリ (shari). Tea is not お茶 (ocha) but アガリ (agari). Seaweed is not 海苔 (nori) but クサ (kusa. literally means "grass").

Below is a list of the other sushi terms:
cucumber: カッパ (kabba)
pickled ginger: ガり (gari)
wasabi: ナミダ (namida. literally means "tears" because wasabi makes you cry)
soysauce/shoyu: ムラサキ (murasaki. literally: "purple")
ingredients on sushi rice - usually the fish etc: ネタ (neta. originated from たね, which means "seeds"

Pix from the Sushi Party you'll never get in Singapore

We were simply wowed by the quantity and variety of sushi prepared. To fill our bloated stomachs further, the Shoujis also prepared a giant fish stew, chawanmushi, sashimi and kasutera cake! The best thing was, everything was homemade!

Especially unforgettable was the homemade umeshu (plum liquor), which we joked as "Shouya" (pun on Choya) -- something we'll never get in Singapore. ;)

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Welcome to Seto

Seto City 瀬戸市 is renowned in Japan for the production of ceramics (pottery and porcelain). In fact, ceramics are also called 'Setomono' 瀬戸物 in Japanese, named after the town. On 20 March, we took a day trip to the town, in a bid to learn more about ceramics, and hopefully, to buy some pretty and cheap stuff.

Despite occupying a small area of only over 100 sq km, Seto proved to be a very charming town, with a rich heritage of ceramics that is celebrated in every possible shape and form.

As we strolled through the streets, we saw the culture of ceramics everywhere. Porcelain tiles decorated the walls of many houses and public facilities including walkways and bridges, while ceramic dolls were embedded in the walls of public carparks. Public benches were made out of ceramics, a rare sight in Japan. At Kamagaki-no-komichi, a trail located at the foot of the mountains, pottery in the form of plates, bowls and cups are tastefully embedded in the stone walls. We had lunch at a dirty, rugged eatery and guess what? Even the food there was served in elegant Setomono.

An old curator we met in a museum taught us how to differentiate pottery from porcelain, and had us promise him that we would spread this know-how to other people. His pride in Seto as the capital for Setomono was indisputable. And indeed, the sights we saw told us the kind of pride the people of Seto have in ceramics, which is already well infused in their everyday lives.

Turns out that prices of Setomono are not exactly cheap but we eventually found a set of 3 plates that we bought as a souvenir and which matched our budget.

Walls extensively but artfully decorated with pottery and porcelain pieces

Random posed shots

Old ceramic toilets

left: Ceramic bench
right: Ceramic skateboard!
bottom: An old house owned by a first generation ceramics master. The house is over 120 years old and has now been converted into a museum.

Our purchase!

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Of Japanese proverbs and animals...

Monkeys, hawks and frogs are animals commonly found in many parts of Japan, and it is of no wonder that they are often referred to in Japanese proverbs.

Some clever examples:
鳶が鷹を産む。 Tonbi ga taka wo umu.
Literally: A kite giving birth to a hawk.
Meaning: A splendid child born from common parents.

猿も木から落ちるSaru mo ki kara ochiru.
Literally: Even monkeys fall from trees.
Meaning: Everyone can make mistakes.

蛙の子は蛙。 Kaeru no ko wa kaeru.
Literally: The child of a frog is a frog.
Meaning: Like father, like son.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

How we know that Spring is here

  1. The birds have started singing.
  2. Flowers are blooming everywhere.
  3. Bright green shoots are emerging from plants.
  4. Weeds have colonised our garden.
  5. The insects have emerged from their hibernation. An absolute pain.
  6. The days are getting longer.
  7. It has started to rain more frequently.
  8. We've said goodbye to our good friend, the kotatsu.
  9. We've ditched our thick winter jackets for windbreakers.
  10. We've started wearing our funky t-shirts again. In fact, Erik's wearing his bermudas again.

For the first time in a long, long time, we felt warm today.