Thursday, February 24, 2011

Cup Noodle Seafood - My Favorite Japanese Foods (No. 7)

Cup noodle Seafood - it's my favorite Japanese foods.
This "Cup Noodle" is very popular in Japan. It's a long-time top seller that I see since I was a kid.... It still stays strongly popular in the very competitive Japanese food market - you can see it even here - US. I don't see this much here, but it's so expensive if I saw that here ($4 or so) ... ;(
It's soooo Japanese that has a "SEAFOOD" flavor for an instant noodle???? I do think so ;) They also have more flavors - the original (it's kinda bland), curry etc. I like this seafood and curry ones.

I'm not a type of girl who loves instant foods. But this "Cup Noodle Seafood" is my favorite Japanese food ;) All you need to do is to pour hot water and to wait for 3 minutes. Tasty ramen is ready to eat with minimal time and efforts.  The Japanese don't cut the corner - even for the instant noodle. The soup has a great depth in flavors. Don't underestimate it just because it's just an instant noodle. THERE'S NO SUCH A THING FOR THE JAPANESE: they do pay a great attention to details even on foods that cost even only a dollar or so. The soup tastes great!!! The quality of noodle is whatever to be honest with you ;p

Another thing. This product shows a few ingenuity that you see often on Japanese products. The Japanese food manufactures pay attention to the package. Easy instructions with pictures, easy materials for packaging to cut it open easily etc. They do make everything idiot proof:

- The instructions are pretty easy to understand
- There's a line on the lid (it's about 1/3 of the lid) to show you how much you should peel the lid so that you can seal the cup easily for 3 minutes.
- Little pinch on the plastic sealing to cover the product so that people can grab and open up the plastic easily.
- There's a sticker at the bottom to close the lid after you pour hot water.

Instant noodles here are kind of like these: beef, chicken, shrimp etc... Nothing creative. Maybe so because people here do like so - bland flavors. But oh boy, the Japanese are super picky eaters. They do enjoy good flavors - even on a cheap ass cup noodle. The efforts for the Japanese food manufactures are incredible and never ending - they have to improve it constantly to meet their customers' needs. The Japanese get bored so easily.... It has to taste great. If they liked it, they would stick to it... Long-seller is pretty strong because of the reasons.

I don't eat an instant noodle much, but I do like cup noodle seafood a lot. Sounds weird - seafood????
Trust me - it's pretty yummy. That's why this is my favorite Japanese food ;p

Thursday, January 20, 2011

cultural differences in restaurants

I love to eat all kinds of cuisines from all over the world - I'm always intrigued to see cultural differences in restaurants and its food. They all offer foods, but they are all different in various ways.  I'm Japanese. I admit we all look alike (lol), though I can recognize the differences pretty well - Japanese, Korean, Vietnamese etc... It's easy for me to distinguish the nationalities. The ways to cook and present foods, the way to decor the restaurants, the seasonings on the tables etc.... This time, I wanna talk about service differences in Asian restaurants.
I'm not a stereo type ;p But this is my OBSERVATIONS about the cultural differences in restaurants:

- Service -
Vietnamese: Don't expect services much. Friendly customer service?! Forget that especially from older generations... I'm serious. LOL. Even my Vietnamese friends agree with me ;p Yeah, they bring you foods and drinks. But they tend to offer bare minimum / not-so-attentive services. Unless you ask, you don't get "services" much. Once you get used to it, it wouldn't bother you much. I don't - because I'm happy with the foods they offer. Little service doesn't bother me ;) lol. You should feel lucky if you found the Vietnamese restaurants that offer good services. There's some out there ;) 

Korean: Their expectations for tips are ridiculous. (Most of the time) I tell you the reasons why... I think most Korean restaurants don't offer good services. I've been in restaurant industry for long time, so I do know what it takes to offer “excellent” service. “Good services” should mean the services that all of customer's needs should be fulfilled without their asking. Some Korean restaurants have a button on tables like the one on airplane to call a flight attendant. Really?! You won't come to check your tables unless the customers pushed the button??? You bring one drink at the buffet and the customers do all the works – you still DEMAND to give you 20% tips??? They'll chase you down till you give them reasonable tips (for the server) if you left little tips... Come on!! If you want a tip, you should earn it by giving me a good service. Don't expect it just because of the custom. I'm just saying...
Japanese: Their services are very attentive and friendly. They are not so used to the custom of tips – Japanese don't have the tip system in Japan. Despite of the fact, they try to offer the best service possible. That's their nature. You might encounter the inconvenience – just because of “language” barrier...;p
Thai: Their services are bare minimum, but not as bad as Vietnamese nor Korean. I often find friendly owners. Their services are usually quick.

- Labels & Signs for menu -
Vietnamese: They don't put signs for many OBVIOUS ones - for their own people. Which means they don't put labels for all the stuff - especially To-Go ones ;( (It rarely happens to Japanese restaurants.) The Vietnamese do cater their own people mainly, so they seem not to be bothered to put signs for everything assuming their main and most customers knew them already... I wanna try those unfamiliar stuffs, but it's kinda hard for me to ask questions a lot... English translation is bare minimum. The long Vietnamese names are hard to read nor to remember. I don't plan to learn the language, either. It's too hard for me ;( It's nice if they offer pictures more on the menu... Well, but those disadvantages (for Non Vietnamese customers) tickle my curiosity to try their stuff - I'm curious and adventurous ;)
Korean: They don't translate everything like Vietnamese. I had a Korean restaurant that absolutely NO ENGLISH in Garden Grove, CA.

Japanese: They translate everything. They often use pictures so that you know what you get. But their English skills are usually poor and crack you up sometimes ;p

Thai: They translate everything and often offer pictures on the menu.

- Decor - 
Vietnamese: It's bare minimum. Rough walls, simple tables etc... They might put some pictures or stuffs that are believed to make them rich (golden budda, bamboo trees, flog with coins etc.). Rarely fancy, just simple. Or you can see many "Cafe" style ones. Those types are a lot neater than the former ones. 

Korean: It's simple but they seem to put more efforts than Vietnamese. Dark color furniture, their characters or Chinese characters on the wall etc.. Or miss-matched decors picking up from IKEA catalog and their own furniture places - half contemporary and half traditional... It cracks me up ;p 

Japanese: I think it's the cleanest and most welcoming. Fancy places are usually very simple and minimalism. 

Thai: They put their traditional statues and pictures of their county a lot. 

- Payment -
Vietnamese & Thai: Most of them are CASH only or $10 minimum for credit card usage. You better bring cash just to be safe side. It makes me smile when I see the signs of credit cards ;p 

Japanese & Korean: I rarely see Cash only places. (Restaurants in Mitsuwa are cash only)

I can keep going and going.... I just wanted to give you heads up for your Asian restaurant visit. Trying their foods and seeing cultural differences in restaurants do help you to understand where they come from. You don't see all but I do enjoy seeing the differences from my culture ;)

I'm Asian foodie, so you can trust me ;)

Friday, December 10, 2010

Little red wagon - Disneyland : Restaurant review on Yelp (No.2)

- Locale destination -
The wagon is located in right next to "Plaza Inn" on Main Street USA. The line is always long....

- Gluttony expedition -
Corn dog: The BEST corn dog ever - hands down !! One of the best foods you can get at Disneyland ;p Outside is crunchy, yet inside is very soft. I don't know why it tastes so great out of the little kitchen in the Red Wagon :) Very huge, though it used to be a little bigger...

- Conqueror's deduction -
Don't underestimate this hand-dipped corn dog!!!! It's really one of the best foods you can find in Disneyland. It's like $6 with potato chips or apple slices.... It's not cheap but priceless for the taste :)

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Bengal Barbecue - Disneyland : Restaurant Review on Yelp (No.1)

- Locale destination - 
It's in an Adventureland, right next to "River Belle Terrace". It's a food stand with some seating in front of it. You see a long line though they offer you foods quickly. Annual Pass discount and credit card usage are available. 

- Gluttony expedition -
Banyan Beef skewer: One of the best foods at Disneyland!!! The sauce is the bomb - spicy yet complicated seasonings ;)
Beef cooked a bit too much often times, but It's soooo good and I use it for Outback (Vegetable skewer) and french fries from other locations :) 
Outback: Vegetable (bell pepper, potato, mushroom, onion, zucchini). I dip it into "Banyan" sauce ;) I like it!
Bengal Beef: Light teriyaki sauce with lime. It's OK..
Chieftan chicken: It's ki
nda like a ketchup sauce. It's OK...
Safari: Asparagus wrapped with bacon. Great!
Jalapeno Pretzel: LOVE it ;) Little spicy Jalapeno cheese inside. With "Banyan" sauce, mmmmm.... so good ;)

Fruit yogurt parfait: Granola, berries, and yogurt. I don't like the yogurt because it has some sort of chemical flavor... ;(

- Conqueror's deduction -
You feel a lot more value than full service restaurants there :) Foods are good - it's a great munch food place. My favorite place to eat in Disneyland ;)

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Save Japan Dolphins !!

Why do I say "Save Japan Dolphins" on my food blog?! 
It's a very food related topic. I'll explain the reason why.

I do want you to watch the Oscar-winning movie "The Cove". The movie was created to "save Japan dolphins" by exposing what was and is happening at the little cove in Japan. I couldn't watch without tears. It's a great but sad documentary movie to show horrible dolphin slaughters in Taiji, Japan. The cove is purposely hidden and guarded from the public - even to Japanese. I'm a Japanese from Tokyo who used to live there 20 years. I'm a big time foodie as you know. I know there's few places you can eat a whale in Japan but it's rare. It's a tradition in certain areas. But I've NEVER heard of eating dolphins in Japan, I swear!! In the movie, they interviewed many Japanese in Japan whether if they knew about the dolphin slaughter in Japan or not. They all said no and wanted to stop this like me. I didn't know this is happening in Japan till I watched the movie. I was embarrassed and shamed of it as a Japanese. This movie torn me hard... I'm a hardcore animal eater and foodie, but it makes even me think about becoming a vegetarian, which is so crazy to me.... 

I don't know why but somehow I always love dolphin since I was a kid. It's not just cute. I love the shape, the way they move, and how smart they are... I'm fascinated by them. Dolphin is my dream pet - I always wish I could swim with my dolphin like the When I body boarded in Australia, 3 dolphins included a little one swam right next to me!! I was so scared when I saw them at first because they could be sharks. They were so playful and jumped a few times close to me. Especially water in Australia was crystal clear and you can see EVERYTHING. I still remember their big bodies and the little baby dolphin swam right underneath me... It was so great...;) Every summer my family went to Okinawa, which is in a southern part of Japan, for vacation. We always went to "Kaiyo-haku", which is one of the greatest aquariums (at least for me) in Japan. They got a big dolphin pool with a window. I loved to stand right in front of the window to watch the dolphins for a long time... They always came to the window and smiled at me - they seemed so happy to see me ;) I do believe they were happy to interact people. 

Let's get back to about the movie:
In Taiji, the largest dolphin slaughter is happening - more than 20,000 dolphins per year. Taiji is known as the biggest dolphin seller to the world - aquariums, resorts and the dolphin entertainment venues. There's certain specifics to train the dolphins easier. Those dolphins that meet the requirement are sold like $15,000 or something like that per dolphin. But the rest of the dolphins that didn't meet the standards are slaughtered as a meat and are sold for $600 or 700 per dolphin. As I told you, eating a whale is rare in Japan, which drives the meat price high. Nobody knows about eating dolphins in Japan, so the dolphin meat must be cheap, I assume. (In the movie, it seemed like only little areas around Taiji eat dolphins.) The movie exposed that some bad fishermen sell dolphin meats labeled as a whale meat for higher profits. I'm sorry if the numbers were wrong. But I believe those are about right. The point is dolphins for dolphin entertainment businesses drives this cove and the dolphins here crazy. 

The way the fishermen capture the dolphins is horrible. They capture them with huge nets, force them to get closer to the cove. The captured dolphins were crying for life. It's not a few - TONS OF THEM at a time. The sounds are quite horrifying... After they made them close to the edge of the cove, they pick the ones for selling to the dolphin entertainment business - more expensive ones. The rest were poked by the long sticks till they die. They don't die instantly. It's a slow and cruel slaughter. The cove is quite small in size by the movie. But the little cove gets so red because of the dolphin blood as pictures shown. I've never seen "RED ocean" like this.... NEVER. It's real and happening in Japan, which disgusts me a lot more as a Japanese... You can also watch this video: Dolphin slaughter video

As you know, dolphin is in a higher food chain - they eat tons of fish and sea shells. Dolphin contains a toxic leveled mercury. Eating dolphin IS NOT SAFE. In the movie, they even tested how high the toxic level the meat was. It was kinda funny and ironic that the person who encouraged the dolphin slaughter (and of course eat dolphin!) on the goverment level had a very high mercury in his body!!!!! You know how horrible what mercury does???? Mercury caused one of the 3 biggest industrial diseases in Japanese history - "Minamata disease" (Picture on the left). In the mid 50s, people in Minamata who ate fish from the bay got sick. People had numbness in their limbs and lips. Some had difficulty in hearing and seeing. Others developed shaking (tremors) in their arms and legs, difficulty walking, even brain damage. They didn't know what was happening to them till they figured out the chisso corporation, which is a large petrochemical plant, dumped an estimated 27 tons of mercury compunds into the bay.... Do you still want to eat dolphin with high level mercury???

Like I said, this is not just about the dolphin slaughter. It's also a warning how dangerous to eat dolphin. Dolphin is not some food that we must eat and can farm-harvest like cows and pigs. WE DON'T NEED IT, and WE SHOULDN'T EAT IT - it's dangerous to your body!! 

As a Japanese and foodie, I want you to know these facts and spread the word to the world so that we can stop this madness. I'm ashamed of this as a Japanese. But I'm the one of the many Japanese who are against this - most of us won't allow this. We just didn't know... till now. I'll support this campaign as a Japanese and dolphin lover. Help us stop this - if we can get together, we can stop this quicker. Petitions, donate, spread words etc. It's very easy to do. Dolphins are our friends, not a food. Please help me to save Japan dolphins. 

What you can do to stop this: 
Official Ric O'Barry's website
Petition for the Cove
Donate and petitions

Saturday, September 4, 2010

doner G (Anaheim, CA) - Restaurant Review (No.2)

Turkish food... Do you know what's real Turkish foods?? I misunderstood it till I came here, "doner G" in Anaheim. We're often confused about "Mediterranean" foods. I thought of hummus, gyros, kabob, pita etc. as "Mediterranean" foods. It's sort of true, but not totally right. So let me clarify about it. 

The Mediterranean can be divided into 3 culinary regions: 
1. North African (especially Morocco)
2. Eastern Mediterranean (Egypt, Greece, Iran, Israel, Lebanon, Sylya, and Turky) 
3. South Mediterranean (Italy, France, and Spain)

FYI to clarify The Middle East: Algeria, Bahrain, Egypt, Iraq, Iran, Israel, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Libyra, Mauritania, Morocco, Oman, Palestine, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Syria, Tunisia, Turkey, United Arab Emirates, and Yemen. 

See... "Mediterranean" cuisine is pretty wide range. We just don't think of French or Italian cuisine as "Mediterranean" cuisine. Majority of people, included me, mostlikely think of "middle eastern" foods as "Mediterranean" foods. In the Eastern Mediterranean regions, they share similar cultures, cooking techniques, ingredients and spices etc... But each country has its own identity and foods as well. No cuisine is stand-alone. All the cuisines were influenced by the traders, settlers, rulers etc. That's what I want to emphasize with this blog - its own identity.... 

"Mediterranean" foods are getting popular here. It's light and healthy. We'll see gyros, kabobs, hummus everywhere - Greek, Persian, Moroccon restaurants etc.... I'm a big fan of "Mediterranean" cuisine. But even I, who is a hardcore foodie and eat all kinds of foods all over the world, misunderstood it until I came here, "doner G". The owner told me about the magic word - "Mediterranean" food - for a marketing purpose. We feel a bit more familiar or safe if we see the word "Mediterranean". Because we haven't understood the "Mediterranean" cuisine well yet. Even I misunderstood it - so don't worry. 

From restaurant business standpoint, they are forced to use the word so that they can attract more customers instead of selling their own identity like "Turkish" or "Iranian" foods. It's not just a gyro nor kabob. It's more than that - but people know them pretty well. No wonder they sell more of those than other unfamiliar but unique foods. It's very unfortunate thing, but they have to do those things until they capture the customers.... It just takes time. That's why I'm here for. I do enjoy and respect the authentic foods and their uniqueness. I want to introduce you unfamiliar but good foods. 

I wrote a bunch of reviews about this restaurant on Yelp with tons of pictures. So please check it out!! I don't want to make this blog too long for the food critique because I ate tons of items there ;) I just want to tell you about what I felt and learned at the establishment here.

Turkish cuisine consists of 3 key elements: 
1) Nurturing environment. Turkey is known for an abundance and diversity of foodstuff due to its rich flora, fauna and regional differentiation. 2) Imperial Kitchen. Hundreds of cooks specializing in different types of dishes, all eager to please the royal palate. The Palace Kitchen, supported by a complex social organization, a vibrant urban life, specialization of labor, trade, and total control of the spice road, reflected the culmination of wealth and the flourishing of culture in the capital of a mighty Empire. 3) the influence of the longevity of social organization. The Turkish State of Anatolia is a millennium old and so, naturally, is the Cuisine. The reign of the Ottoman Dynasty during 600 years, and a seamless cultural transition into the present day of modern Turkey, led to the evolution of a grand Cuisine through differentiation, refinement and perfection of dishes, as well as their sequence and combination of the meals.

It is quite rare that all the three conditions above are met, as they are in the French, the Chinese and the Turkish Cuisine. The Turkish Cuisine has the extra privilege of being at the cross-roads of the Far-East and the Mediterranean, which mirrors a long and complex history of Turkish migration from the steppes of Central Asia (where they mingled with the Chinese) to Europe (where they exerted influence all the way to Vienna).

All these unique characteristics and history have bestowed on the cuisine - a rich and varied number of dishes, which can be prepared and combined with other dishes in meals of almost infinite variety, but always in a non-arbitrary way. This led to a cuisine that is open to improvisation through development of regional styles, while retaining its deep structure, as all great works of art do. 

The foundation of the cuisine is based on grains (rice and wheat) and vegetables. Each category of dishes contains only one or two types of main ingredients. They are purists in their culinary taste; the dishes are supposed to bring out the flavour of the main ingredient rather than hiding it behind sauces or spices. It's like a Japanese cuisine ;) Most desserts and fruit dishes do not call for any spices. So their flavours are refined and subtle.

There are major classes of meatless dishes. When meat is used, it is used sparingly. Even with the meat kebabs, the "pita" or the flat bread occupies the largest part of the portion along with vegetables or yogurt. Oh, don't forget the religious influences. Muslims don't eat pork. That's why you see many lamb and chicken dishes. Turkish cuisine also boasts a variety of authentic contributions in the desserts and beverage categories. 

I really enjoyed the straightforward tastes of the ingredients and bold seasonings of some kabobs and gyros. It's not just gyro and kabob - Turkish foods are deep... Please check out Yelp for the restaurant review and go there to try good "Turkish" food at "doner G"!! It's a wonderful discovery of Turkish cuisine ;)