Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Hello Winter Break

*CLANK...



Just landed in me motherland. Four weeks! Where fresh soba flourish and MOS Burgers plentiful.
Looking forward in sharing my meal encounters again and to also catch up with all my blogger friends' posts.


Thursday, August 29, 2013

Favorite Foodie Television: Chubaw Desuyo! (チューボーですよ!)

I did a rough count as to how many favorite foodie television shows I may want to cover in this series and by the time I include all the vast Japanese Variety style, actual cooking shows, documentary style, drama, anime and the few ended-but-was-super-great Legacy categories..., it's at least thirty and growing rapidly even after being pared down.

This would be my sixth sharing, another oldie but goodie cooking show I enjoy a lot. Chubaw Desuyo! (Official Site & Wiki Page), aka "Saturday Night Chubaw!" according to J-Wiki has been around since 1994 but I've only been a viewer for the last ten years maybe. I would credit many factors to its success but the unique format has certainly passed the test of two decades time.




As opposed to the more quiet Okazu no Cooking, this show starts with singing and dancing fridge vegetables. How cute! For me by now totally predictable (and the CG style a little "2000" maybe, ha) but something that still leaves a grin on my face.
The title takes some explaining but "Chubaw" which I'd prefer to spell "Chuubou" means a kitchen but more a professional galley style. Together with "Desuyo!" would sort of mean "It's the Kitchen (Galley)!" However fewer may know that the title also references a much older 70's hit comedy series from the same broadcast network called "Jikan Desuyo!" which the main host Sakai Masaaki was in.



Sakai-san seen on the right side is semi-jokingly addressed as "Kyosho" or 'maestro' on the show where although he is usually with the most experience, he is far from. Still, extremely multitalented as an actor, comedian, musician (originally from 60's The Spiders fame) and television personality, he often pulls off these first time dishes relatively intact. This roll of dice imperfectness I feel is another part of the show's charm. Then there is the rotating weekly guest who is usually a celebrity, but also can be anyone currently highlighted in the media. This episode's seen standing in the middle is gold medalist middleweight boxer Murata Ryouta. Along with current female assistant Masuda Erina, the day's trio tries to create the week's dish which happens to be Kani Lettuce Chahan (Crab & Lettuce Fried Rice).



The show also differs from others in that the focus is more on understanding general recipe concepts and process rather than documenting a precise list of ingredients. Frankly more my style, it's this X-factor of technique that is often left vague in written recipes and Chubaw Desuyo! goes full steam in delving right in...
Three restaurants and their respected chefs are chosen to help out through a prerecorded video feed and referred to as their coaches. This is really great because you get to see what are the things each do that are common as well as what may be done that is unique.






First topic touched was how all the coach chefs preferred the meatier Taraba Gani (Red King Crab) for its use. However steaming aromatics differed somewhat between where most used a combination of Shaoxing wine, ginger and leeks, and one chef used Shiso in addition to but without the wine.




The instructional video feeds are divided into segments and the team back at the set's actual chuubou goes through each with some comic relief provided by Sakai-san and casual interview of guest done by the assistant (who is a professional network announcer). She also takes role as a strict timekeeper to ensure a timely progression. Other techniques discussed were on how to have the all important flaky "para para" rice texture as well as proper sequence of seasoning, etc. Since other types of fried rice have often been covered, some of the tips may be redundant if you're a regular viewer but the information is always well narrated and useful.




Another short segment I enjoy within is the "Mirai no Kyosho," or "The Future Maestro." Here they introduce a young promising Padawan of one of the chef's and you get to see some of the unglamorous tedious and labor intensive jobs they do. Here, long after an intensive prep for a lunch buffet, the apprentice sears 10kg worth of beef chuck in two giant frying pans later to be used for a stew. がんばれ未来の巨匠!

Eventually the trio gets to the end of the dish's creation and it's finally time for tasting. The meal is paired with a drink of Suntory being that they are the main sponsor for the program.






The guest then gets to judge the fruit of labor with stars, three being max. Seems the fried rice reached beyond expectation this day, yay. 「星3つです!」 Everything gone over is done in a short 30-minute span btw.

Not too long ago the show featured the Menchi Katsu and wanted to include a few images before ending. I've yet to have a truly juicy version here outside of my kitchen. I experimented not too long ago with some success using gelatin in my updated recipe and wasn't surprised to see one of the chef's using aspic (as they often do in XLB). A beef consomme type to match the filling.






Another used straight up beef tallow. Either way my expectations of a good Menchi looks like this...



A friendly note to a few local Japanese restaurants...? :P

Saturday, August 24, 2013

Favorite Foodie Television: Okazu No Cooking (おかずのクッキング)

I didn't know they moved Sara's Secrets off of Food Network and onto the Cooking Channel. Goes to show how long it's been since I've watched, but it was one of my favorite shows! At the end of the day I guess I still just really enjoy those good old fashioned, slower paced. Ones that made you feel you were chilling in someone's kitchen, casually watching them cook and learning practical useful stuff. Food nerd stuff.

Fifth of my favorite foodie television series I'm going over Okazu no Cooking (Official Site & Wiki Page). Fyi, "no" (の) here is the word in Japanese that creates a possessive form, so it translates roughly to "Cooking (all things) of Okazu" maybe. And some may ask what is "Okazu"? Well it's any and all savory side dishes that accompany your rice in Japanese meals (and bentos).



My guess would've been that the rather unflashy program was a national NHK production but turns out it's from TV Asahi. According to Wiki it's also a long standing close to 40-year old show that started back in 1974. There is also a bimonthly recipe text that accompanies which I think I've seen sold at the Sanseido bookstore in Mitsuwa.

I admit I watch many cooking shows simply for entertainment, but Okazu no Cooking is definitely more the type that I'd actually want a pen and pad alongside to scribble down recipes. It airs in Japan on 5:25AM Saturday mornings so it's not for your party going late weekend risers. The program begins without much fanfare and doesn't have a splash/title screen, but that's how I like many of my Ryouri Bangumi. :)



Host is veteran Doi Yoshiharu. Like most cooking personalities in Japan, his official title is "Ryouri Kenkyuuka" (料理研究家), or "Cooking Researcher / Recipe Developer"... I really enjoy his straight forward approach and most meals are made with using everyday household ingredients. Above he slices a Chikuwa for a simple stir-fry. The young female assistant occasionally rotates and plays a fairly passive role that keeps Doi-san company and asks a few basic questions during. The conversation is often humorous though and so I wouldn't go as far to say the interaction is insignificant. Currently is Hisatomi Keiko and she has her own blog for the show as well.



Another favorite part of the program is a segment where a guest chef or other Ryouri Kenkyuuka shares a recipe. Keeps things fresh and interesting. If I remember right my Stuffed (whole) Napa Cabbage cooking post was inspired by one of them.

This episode's was popular celebrity Wa-ryouri chef Kasahara Masahiro from restaurant Sanpi Ryoron. I see him appear a lot as a guest on other cooking shows, but anyway chef Kasahara shares an easy Wa-fu Potato Salad. In the piece he calls it an Otona or "Adult" Potato Salad.




The list went - Potatoes, Shiso, MyogaShio Kombu, White Roasted Sesame Seeds, Rice Vinegar, Sugar, Salt, Mayo and Wasabi.




This looked really good. Love to try it one day.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Favorite Foodie Television: Danshi Gohan (男子ごはん)

Fourth of the series, finally getting to a cooking show. I could easily spend another month with only "Variety" style television because there simply are too many (though they all wouldn't necessarily be a favorite). There definitely have been many influential Japanese cooking shows in my life, but coming up with the first I would want to share wouldn't be difficult. For one, most of those early shows aren't around anymore, but I can easily say that Danshi Gohan (Official Site & Wiki Page) had played the largest role at least during my blogging years. The show had started about the same time in 2008 and I've been a regular viewer ever since, occasionally mentioning on my posts.



But long before the show (and my blog), I had been collecting cookbooks of Kentaro, the show's main host. Prodigy son of the also famous longtime cooking personality Kobayashi Katsuyo, he dabbles in music but is known as a proficient illustrator and graphic designer as well. I remember being immediately taken by his rustic but youthful style. His books always seemed to stand out more than others on the shelves, whether it be the way the dish had been coordinated and photographed or the soft, toothy paper it was printed on. A sense of warmth that felt quite unique at the time.


Multitalented, the show would be a natural transition and I was really excited to first hear about it then. The title Danshi Gohan roughly translates to "Men's Meals," or maybe "Men's Cooking," and it very much retains Kentaro's consistent style -- a more masculine flaired, however done with plenty of cleverness and thoughtfulness that takes it far from being trivially described as the term say, "Dude Food"...
Cohost is Kokubun Taichi from band TOKIO and the chemistry between the duo is really great with plenty of jokes, puns and laughter.




These first series of images are from a much earlier show back in September 2009 (before aired in HDTV format) and Kentaro is the one seen wearing a hat. In this episode they go over a fun Shimeji Mushroom Furai (furai = any panko crusted fry) as well as a Wild Mushroom Risotto. The show continued with successful season renewals in addition to cookbooks of their own.



An extremely unfortunate incident, in February of 2012 Kentaro was in a near fatal motorcycle accident that had left him in a coma. Almost exactly one year from the event, February of this year, I've heard that he had finally regained consciousness and is in rehabilitation.  がんばれ ケンタロウ!!Really wishing for a full recovery soon.




In Kentaro's absence there had been several monthly guests on the program but eventually the full-time replacement had become Kurihara Shimpei, another prodigy son of yet another famous female cooking personality Kurihara Harumi (J-Wiki link), she often compared to as the Martha Stuart of Japan.

Shimpei's forte I feel is a little more rooted in traditional Wa-shoku meals, but from what I've seen all are as interesting with modern twists that had originally kept me a fan of the show. Many of both Shimpei and Kentaro's methods were often supposed handed down family recipes which made it more personal and great to know as well.  Below Taichi moments before giving the manly umee! (ウメエ!!) cheer stamp of approval.




I still regularly use Kentaro's foolproof method of cooking Japanese Hamburg Steak of post-steaming with water for an extra juicy patty, and my to-try list of Shimpei's recipes grow by the week. The recent Miso Marinated Chicken Stir-fry with Snap Peas and Goma Katsuo, a sesame bonito tuna marinade I can't wait to try. Hope to share as a cooking post one day. :)

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Favorite Foodie Television: Matsuko No Shiranai Sekai (マツコの知らない世界)

My next favorite foodie television introducing today is Matsuko no Shiranai Sekai (Official Site Wiki Page). A translation of the title is "Matsuko's Unknown Worlds" or "The Unknown Worlds of Matsuko"...

This is the third post of my series btw but I since decided not to number each with parts because they won't really be in any significant order and I'll be jumping around quite a bit. But anyway this program is another Variety Style (バラエティ) television where the category seems to encompass everything and anything entertainment related these days. To be honest to introduce all these Baraetii Bangumi shows that has some sort of food segment in would be impossible because most do, imagine due to it being an easy way of getting viewership ratings in Japan. But the ones I've covered and will be covering I find consistently interesting and they have a good portion of the show dedicated to food.



As the name gives away, the show's host is the currently super popular Matsuko Deluxe. You may have seen him her in Japanese Mister Donut commercials. It covers all topics of nerdities, maniac and otaku, and I am guessing directly reflects Matsuko-san's personal geeky interests. Some covered in the past were the 'unknown world of high-end headphones,' Lego bricks, maps and city planning, competent taxi drivers (so random), movie stuntmen, everything you wanted to know about restrooms, aqua dams, convenience store ice snacks and uninhabited tropical islands. All extremely fascinating when explained by experts in their discipline and further dissected by the razor sharp wit of Matsuko-san.





I mentioned in a previous Foto-Buffet post but EatNapo-san was recently a guest to help disclose the undiscovered world of the Japanese Spaghetti Naporitan. I wasn't sure how much more was to cover since he had already been on a few network shows but things came to an unexpected twist when Matsuko-san first focused on the evident easygoing good character of EN, haha. A few thoughts on what constitutes as a Napo, Naporitan-centric cities (Shinbashi still considered the 'seichi' holy ground because of the concentration of Salarymen), odd spots to find good Napo's such as old kissaten cafes above pachinko parlors, and of course a few tastings of Napo-san's favorites (who claims to have eaten over 2000 plates).






A discussion of whether the rather luxurious shrimp is an appropriate ingredient for the humble Napo ensues, but the segment peaks when the question of the existence of a true Naporitan Boom is in fact present or not was brought up. Interestingly the answer was both a yes and no. Was explained that while there is definitely a lot more Naporitans seen on konbini shelves and restaurant menus these days, some even with a gyoretsu line out, the buzz seems to subside rather quickly after a week or so of its introduction. The best metaphor was maybe how while there are people crazy enough to quit their jobs to pursue a life of ramen making, you can't really say such is true for the Napo. Still, the dish's staying power and cultural mark as a genuine comfort food in Japan is definitely permanent. It was nice to see EatNapo-san and the nostalgic meal get some deserved airtime again. :)

October of last year there was a two-hour special that was completely food-centric (was so great that I have it archived on DVD). Went over were the unknown world of Japanese frozen foods, instant ramen, canned foods and yakitori. I'm in food curious nerd heaven!




Apparently a whole lot of advancements were made in Japanese frozen food technology in recent years. The top-five list of most sold per year, to of course the personal top list of the guest expert were discussed. Every company seems to have its unique strengths and this was all explained in detail. Super fascinating. Too bad we're lucky to maybe get a fraction of them in our Japanese markets here. :P




Easily my favorite topic was that of the instant ramen. It was expert Ooyama-san's (who supposedly had eaten 10,000+ different makes to date) second appearance on the show but he had plenty more things to share.





Quickly goes over some of the high sellers and recent spotlighted including the relatively new game-changing phenomenon Maruchan Seimen brand (which of course we don't freak'n get here...). It quickly sold hundred million servings the first six-months after introduction and made 14-billion yen the first year. Said there is a definite resurgence/boom back to package (brick style) ramen, reasoned perhaps because of the increase in frugality of people with the economy.

A news update that the Shirokuma (polar bear) Shio Ramen from Sapporo Maruyama Zoo introduced previously is said to have octupled in sales since aired the previous year. The power of television.







A few more tastings from several top-three lists for cup-men and also cup-yakisoba. Above, Ooyama-san wiping each lid clean because he collects every one, haha. He later goes over the entire line of Cup Noodles to date. Did you know the very first was actually a Ten-Soba? It was re-released January of 2012 for a limited time. I know I missed plenty of these limited time flavors but the "Buta-hotate-dori" (pork, scallops and chicken) I really wished I could have tried...




The segment ends with the two visiting an Instant Ramen Izakaya, Sakura. where a person can taste rare regional packaged ramen from all over Japan.




The canned foods bit was actually very short, but still fun. Ah man, I totally remember that canned Yakitori from Hotei Foods...




Last is Yakitori Journalist Hantsu Endou going through the seductive attractions of the Japanese grilled chicken skewers. Says he has had 7000+ yakitori meals for various articles throughout his career.




He covers a few famous places and further explains the importance of the first three skewers. Recommends in strict order of Shio-Shio-Tare, or salt, salt, then your first with tare sauce. The rich flavor of tare can easily overpower one's palette and skew (no pun intended) the tone of the rest of the meal. So it is best to start with the simple seasoned with only salt. Below Matsuko-san having a taste of the Seseri, a more rare portion of chicken's throat/neck meats. Because it is a muscle that the animal uses a lot, it is on the firmer side but with lots of flavor.




Some Tebasaki wings are had as well as some minced chicken Tsukune, both done in Shio and Tare flavoring. Since Matsuko-san can't eat any odd bits the tastings were focused on your standards.




The foodie television I share next shouldn't be a Variety type. Maybe a cooking show or a documentary style. There's plenty to cover so hope some are enjoying the series! :)