Tag Archives: asian

Much Love for Mochi Ice Cream

It’s Foodie Tuesday!

Via Spud U Crave

Mochi, that quintessential Japanese treat has found its way to the palates and hearts of the people of the world  This sticky rice cake/ball makes for an eating experience that one just wants to go back to again and again. It has a soft and smooth mouth feel, with an oh, so delightful sticky, chewy, resistance. And it usually comes filled with interesting fillings, from the classic sweet red bean paste, to the decadent raspberry white chocolate.

Via Dezato

As if it were not already wonderful to begin with, mochi has in recent years gotten wayyyy cooler — literally. I just want to sing the praises of Frances Hashimoto who first thought of filling mochi balls with ice cream. Genius! And in places where temperatures are getting up to a steamy 34° Centigrade, these frosty confections are a welcome relief from the overheated air.

The ice cream idea is novel, and yet its versatility opens itself up for even more creativity. And once that initial cool innovator got the ball rolling, others took it places, with different delectable spins on what is becoming a global favorite.

Via Mochiko

Add Oreos and milk to the mix, and you have a kind of east-meets-west comfort food.

Via Bubbies

It gets even cooler with this mint and chocolate variant.

Via Mochiko

It doesn’t even have to stick to ice cream. This one’s made with frozen yogurt, and some even use gelato (thus resulting in the term mochilato).

And on the off-chance that you’d like to attempt to make your own variant of mochi ice cream, here are some basic instructions from Japanese Ice  Cream blog.

Posted in Food | Tagged , , ,

Hina Matsuri

Image from deerahmawati.blogspot.com

Each year on March 3rd, Japan celebrates its Girls’ Day with the Hina Matsuri or Doll Festival. The festival celebrates young girls in Japan, wishing them healthy growth. The contemporary festival celebration originated from Hina-nagashi, wherein the past dolls in straw boats were set afloat onto a river in order to guard from evil spirits. This custom is still done today in the festival in Kyoto.

Image from The Spill

Leading up to the festival, families in Japan who have female children display a set of traditional dolls. Traditionally, families that have girls in the family acquire a set of these dolls after the first girl is born, usually inheriting them or through purchase. The dolls are representations of happiness, health, beauty for girls.

The custom of displaying the dolls is said to have begun during the Heian period of Japanese history, from the late 8th century to the early 12th century. The dolls in fact represent the hierarchy of the imperial court at the time, and are arranged on the display platforms.

Image from deerahmawati.blogspot.com

The dolls are intricately crafted pieces in themselves. The doll bodies are primarily composed of fabric, usually reinforced with wood or straw on the inside. The face and hands are usually hand-carved, hand-painted wood. The dolls’ hair was traditionally made with real human hair, but silk has also been used in more recent years.

Image from Chuzai Living

Woven fabrics with traditional patterns are used for the dolls, similar to the woven fabric used to make kimonos. The fabrics are layered intricately and decorated with different ornaments depending on the type of doll.

Image from Chuzai Living

Each doll has beautiful, intricate details. From the 17th Century to the late 19th Century, doll making as a craft surged when prominent families commissioned elaborate sets to show off their wealth.

From A Japanese Life

While most families usually put out traditionally crafted doll sets, today there are many contemporary variations of the hina dolls, for example those portrayed by Disney characters beloved in Japan.

Image from Vignette Bricks

The dolls are usually promptly taken down the day right after the festival (March 4), with the superstition that if they are left out too long, the girls in the family will have late marriages.

Image from Unified4Change

Apart from the doll displays and festivities usually done at a local shrine, the festival is also characterized by the uniquely colorful food made for the occasion.

Image via Guava Rose

The traditional festival foods include colored candy, rice cakes (mochi), and sweet rice wine. The special ball-shaped, colored rice crackers made for the festival are known as Hina-arare. The brightly colored, delicate foods are made of course to appeal to girls.

Hina Matsuri is a great start to the spring season in Japan–filled with color, happiness, and well wishes, which although are intended mainly for girls, surely bring joy to everyone who participates.

With spring almost here, the cherry blossoms are getting ready to bloom!

Posted in Culture | Tagged , ,

Pucker Up: Korean and Japanese Pickled Vegetables

It’s Foodie Tuesday!

After my trip to New York a few weeks ago, which was ladden with nostalgic noshes like pizza, cheesecake, and corned beef, I have really felt the need to lighten up in the kitchen. My usual sweet tooth has been replaced with cravings for all things sour.

Kimchi; Image: Shape Magazine

I usually keep a jar of dill pickles in the fridge but they don’t really make a well-rounded meal. But the idea of pickled something got stuck in my head and it wasn’t long before I was dreaming of Korean food, mostly for the kimchi that is served as a de rigueur accompaniment for all meals and even stars in dishes like kimchi jigae (kimchi soup).

kimchi jigaeKimchi Jigae; Image: No Recipes

Kimchi consists of chunks of vegetables (usually cabbage, daikon radish, and scallions), seasoned with ginger and red pepper, and fermented in salt. Its pungency and fiery heat is an acquired taste but once you get used to it, it can be addictive.

kimchi reuben via closet kitchenKimchi Rueben Sandwich; Image: Closet Kitchen

I love the idea of breaking it out of its traditional mold and creating some fusion yumminess like Closet Kitchen’s Kimchi Rueben Sandwich, which replaces the traditional sauerkraut with this Korean condiment.

DIY Kimchi Kit via Kombucha BrooklynDIY Kimchi Kit; Image: Kombucha Brooklyn

We don’t have many Korean restaurants in Louisville; As soon as I have a weekend to spare, I’m going to try Kitchen Wench’s recipe. In the meantime, I’m considering ordering some of the awesome Mother In Law’s Kimchi brand or one of its cute DIY kits.

pickled gingerPickled Ginger, Image: Rasa Malaysia

I started to look around for some speedier options and came across several easy recipes for Japanese pickles. Despite my crazy obsession with sushi, I was completely ignorant of the popularity of pickled vegetables in Japanese cuisine beyond the ubiquitous bright pink ginger (which I could eat a plate of all on its own).

tsukemono via The Road of ForksTsukemono, Image: The Road Forks

But a quick search reveals that the Japanese pickle just about everything, from green beans to plums, which are collectively known as tsukemono. In homage to my love of dills, the first one that I am going to try is The Cultivated Life’s Sonomono Salad, a sweet-tart mix of cucumbers, rice wine vinegar, and sesame seeds. I’m also eager to try Just Bento’s slightly more robust Yuzu-Scented Winter Vegetable Tsukemono Pickles, which mixes a variety of veggies with the aromatic Asian citrus fruit.

Sonomono via the Cultivated LifeSonomono; Image: The Cultivated Life

In addition to being easy to prepare, tsukemono are extremely versatile. Just about any vegetable can be quickly fermented in a simply-spiced acidic base. And nothing says that you have to stick to traditional recipes.

pickled rampsPickled Ramps; Image: Apple Pie, Patis, & Pâté

Why not borrow from both cuisines, like Apple Pie, Patis, & Pâté does with Pickled Ramps, in which spicy red Korean peppers are blended with Japanese seven-spice and rice wine vinegar? I’m not waiting for spring to try this one out-I’m just going to switch out the ramps for another veggie and enjoy this pout-puckering treat now!

Posted in Food | Tagged , ,

Origami for Chinese New Year

For most of my life, my origami repertoire has been quite limited. I only know the flapping bird, which my brother taught me when I was really little, and other very basic stuff from  my 5th grade art class — paper cup (very useful, I swear), crane, and a few others. But ever since a friend of mine got me a pack of beautiful origami papers for Christmas, I’ve been expanding my knowledge quite a bit.

Since Chinese New Year’s coming up on February 10th, I thought I’d learn to make some cute little things to mark the occasion. They’d make awesome decorations and if they bring good luck, well that’s a great bonus!

So I did a little research online and found some lovely prospects. I am listing them below in order of difficulty and complexity.

Gold Yuanbao

Yuanbao are what the Chinese call the boat-shaped gold ingots. Having likenesses of these precious bits are said to bring good luck, as they supposedly attract the real things. I found some instructions on how to make paper versions of these, and they are insanely easy!

Here are the products of my efforts. I used matte gold giftwrapping paper left over from the holidays, which I cut into squares.

Lotus flower

The Lian Hua, or lotus flower, represents of purity and wholesomeness, peace and harmony. Feng shui experts say that it clears away negative chi and generates positive chi and helps achieve enlightenment.

Some say it even attracts love and good marriage, which makes it a great good luck charm for Valentine’s Day. They’re pretty easy to make too, no complicated folds. The last bit is a bit tricky, but nothing that a patience and a gentle touch can’t manage. Here are the instructions.

The Omega Star

This awesome star is by John Montroll. It looks like a nightmare to make, but after bungling dismally on my first try, it got a whole lot easier. I love how sophisticated it looks, and it’s just made from a single piece of paper. Small versions of this would make great hanging ornaments and charms, and I can picture this as a lantern, when done on a large scale.

There’s a modular version of this, composed of pretty easy-to-make components, but takes some practice to put together.

Here’s a great video how-to from Origami Nut, and the page also has a link to a diagram, for those who find it easier to look at one picture rather than sit through a 10-minute video.

The Snake

This year is the Year of the Water Snake. This origami snake by Jo Nakashima is modular and is composed of several identical components that are joined together in the end, and the ends modified to make the head and tail. I thought this would be easy to make, only to discover later on that it’s not really for the faint of heart, nor for somebody who only has 2 hands with only 5 fingers each. But it felt so rewarding when I finally assembled it. And it looks adorable — probably because of the pastel blue and green paper. But still, even a person with ophidiophobia (fear of snakes) wouldn’t find anything scary in this cutiepie.

Ready for this challenge? Here’s a video on how to make it.

All images by Nathalie Mariano.

Posted in Culture, Design | Tagged , , , , ,

Traditional Christmas Treats in the Philippines

It’s Foodie Tuesday!

Food for the gods. Photo by Jun Belen.

Where I come from, Christmas is the biggest, most anticipated holiday of the year. It does not confine itself to the 25th of December, starting to creep into the collective consciousness as early as September and  and extending way past New Year’s. ‘Tis the season of generosity and prayer. It is also a time when social calendars are filled to the last square centimeter with parties of all sorts — from company shindigs to family reunions, alumni homecomings to church group celebrations, to random gatherings with drinking buddies neighborhood cliques.

Needless to say, this is not the time for diet — they’re doomed to fail this time of year. A lot of these gatherings feature tables laden with scrumptious edibles, and since it is not uncommon for people to squeeze in 2 lunches or 3 dinners in one go, you can do the math and imagine how it adds to the waistline. I don’t think I’ve lost all that I’ve gained last Christmas, and here it comes again. Yikes! I wish I had Jillian Michaels to yell at me for the next 6 weeks.

Anyway, I thought I’d share with you guys some traditional treats that I look forward to indulging in at noche buena, which is the meal partaken of at midnight on Christmas eve.

Queso de Bola

This name literally means “cheese ball” but despite the Spanish-sounding name, it is actually edam, and these balls roll in in large quantities in December. Filipinos love cheese, although traditionally, Filipinos aren’t big cheesemakers — I therefore chalk this up to Spanish colonial influence, as these Europeans were most likely the ones who first brought this dairy goodness to our islands. After all, they were the ones who introduced Christianity, and therefore Christmas, to these parts.

Queso de Bola. Via iGourmet.


One brand’s tagline goes, ham is “the star of the noche buena feast.” One would think that this too is a western contribution. But I think it is only partly so. Some hams that are served resemble Virginia hams — juicy, salty, with just a tad of the aged taste, but with an additional over-all sweetness that I think is a local tweak on it. But American influence came only in the last century. There are Chinese hams that I think are a much older tradition, are bought dry in mesh nets, with the skin on, and covered with “age” (my euphemism for mold) — and this is quite fantastic too, although it requires more preparation to make it ready for the table. It is saltier, drier, with a powerful punch of pungency. This is served with warm bread and slices of queso de bola.

Chinese ham. Via Wikimedia commons.


Yes, this one is considered Christmas cake here too, and is available everywhere. But the only kind I’ve ever liked has been my mom’s. She used to make a bunch of these to give away to her and my dad’s friends as gifts. Now my sister makes them.

Image via Pink Lady Sweets

Food for the Gods

I know this is a strange, pagan-sounding name for a Christmas treat, but that’s what they’re called here. They are really date and walnut bars. and they come individually wrapped in foil and shiny gem-colored water cellophane wrappers. I’m not a big fan of dates, but I find these to be utterly heavenly and worthy of its name.

Food for the gods. Via Joanne's Kitchen.

Dawn Mass Treats: Puto Bumbong, Bibingka, and Tsokolate

Dawn Mass. Image via Why'd You Eat That?

As Christmas day draws near, many Filipinos prepare themselves spiritually by attendingMisa de Gallo ( Spanish, “Rooster’s Mass”), a series of nine Masses celebrated before sunrise, also called Simbang Gabi (Filipino, “Night Mass”). The last one is on the dawn of the 24th, which gears the faithful up for Christmas day Mass.

Puto bumbong steamers. Via Grace in Full Measure

Puto bumbong. Image by Trissie via Foodspotting.

As an added motivation to get up so early in the morning, for nine consecutive days, there’s got to be some good eating to be had. Puto bumbong is the traditional treat to be had when Mass is over. It is made with dark glutinous rice and coconut and steamed in bamboo tubes, served hot with a cup of tsokolate, a version of hot chocolate made with tablets of locally grown and processed chocolate, which has a strong nutty, toasty flavor, and a bitter edge that is smoothed out with sugar and milk.

Traditional equipment for making Tsokolate. Via My Food Trip.

Tsokolate. By EJ Suratos via Pingram.

Should the early risers want an alternative to puto bumbong, bibingka is also sold outside churches for variety. Bibingka is a cake made with eggs, rice flour, and coconut milk, and baked in banana leaf-lined tins with hot coals underneath and on top, which chars it a bit and gives it a smoky fragrance.

Bibingka stove. Via Grace in Full Measure.

Puto bumbong and bibingka. Via Why'd You Eat That?

Posted in Culture, Food | Tagged , ,