Tuesday, December 30, 2008

The Tan Tans' little Christmas in Owase - Christmas Day

This is the menu for Christmas Day itself at the Tan Tans' Minshuku. Days of celebration for the 2 Tan Tans.

Christmas Menu
i. Curry Puffs - one of the appetitizer.. I know.. it does not really fit into the christmasy mood
ii. Smoked Duck Salad
iii. Slow-baked Tomatoes
iv. Roasted Vegetables Soup
v. Roasted Spiced Ribs
vi. Pomelo favoured baked drumstick
vii. Ice-cream topped with Apple Crumbles, Walnuts and Rasin
viii. A bottle of Red Wine

Left: Slow Baked Tomatoes with the tomatoes cut halfway and baked with garlic slices and rosemary seasoned with balsamic vinegar and olive oil for more than 2 hours under 120 degrees.
Center: Smoked Duck Salad. Smoked duck is bought off the shelve in the supermarket but Mrs Tan Tan had brought the taste to a higher level with the salad combination of apples, walnuts, parsleys, parmesan cheese, oilve oil, honey and rocket salad.
Right: Roasted Vegetables Soup.

Left: Roasted Spiced Ribs. This dish took Mr Tan Tan 3hrs to cook as the ribs need to be cook in a stock of spices including cloves, peppercorn, chilli and others for an hour before reducing the stocks and adding more ingredients including ketchup etc. before it was sent to the oven to be roasted to perfection.
Right: Pomelo Roasted Drumstick. Having the drumstick seasoned in pomelo juice and other herbs, it was then slowly baked to allow the drumstick to absorb the essence and fragrant of the pomelo.

Left: A christmas present from a very nice friend we made in Owase
Right: A satisfied Mrs Tan Tan with the meal.

This is one great creation of Mrs Tan Tan. Apple crumble with walnuts, rasins and fresh apples topped on vanilla ice-cream and sprinked with rum. Oishi!

The Tan Tans' little Christmas in Owase - Christmas Eve

This is the second time that the Tan Tans celebrated Christmas in Japan. Well but there is a twist to this year's celebration. The Tan Tans whipped up a fest in the comfort of Tan Tans' minshuku.

Christmas Eve Menu -
i. Pumpkin Apple Soup
ii. Grilled Salmon
iii. Shepherd's Pie
iv. Baked Drumstick
v. Baked Mushroom
vi. Strawberries & Truffles
vii. A bottle of Champagne

Left: Baked Mushrooms with guidance from Jamie Oliver
Center: The tastiest shepherd pie ever - Courteasy of Gordon Ramsay.
Right: Baked drumstick from our neighbourhood supermarket - Shufu No Mise

Apple-pumpkin soup - great combination of taste and perfect for starting the meal with

The truffles and strawberries ended this great christmas eve dinner with both Tan Tans slightly tipsy from champagne overdose.

Late Posting 1 - Singapore cooking lesson #2

haha.. this is one of the blog that is like almost 2 months late..

The Tan Tans conducted another cooking class in an Elementary Sch for the parents of some kids. Menu - Roti John and Agar Agar with coconut milk.

Well, Roti John is very easy to make and typical of Singaporean food and the Tan Tans felt that it will be perfect for kids too - and it turned out. Great!

The kids stirring the ingredients including onions, minced beef, pepper, salt together with the eggs.

Everyone enjoying the end products.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

The Tan Tans' Harvest!

Ha ha ha... Finally, with all the hard work and sweat put into gardening, the little garden of Tan Tans' is ready for harvest. And by little, I literally mean it. Well, we are harvesting the mini-daikon (radish)

And as we harvest the daikon, the familar childhood song was sang . . . ba rou po, ba rou po, hey yo hey yo, ba bu dong...

And here is a satisfied Mrs Tan Tan with the harvest..

and a not so satisfied Mr Tan Tan with the ultra small daikon.

So.. what is the fate of the daikons harvested?

A wonderful pot of daikon soup of course!

Friday, December 26, 2008

A different Christmas

10 ways how Christmas celebrations are different in Japan
1) It is not a holiday. Sigh.
2) There are no turkeys. They are not even sold in the supermarts.
3) Instead, lots and lots of chicken, grilled or fried, can be found. We even heard from that people here like to eat KFC during Christmas.
4) Christmas cakes can be found everywhere, from the supermarts to the convenience stores.
5) Sashimi, sushi, tempura and even Chinese food (chili prawns etc) are often served at Christmas parties
6) You can count the number of times you receive a "Merry Christmas" greeting
7) You don't even get Christmas cards. Actually I received one.
8) Christmas songs are sung in Japanese.
9) Gift exchange is highly uncommon. As I have learnt from the kids and adults I work with, most of the presents are given by parents to their children, who double up as Santa Clauses and leave presents by their children's beds while they are asleep on Christmas eve.
10) It is cold, with no central heating at home.

This morning, we received a belated Christmas gift from Santa - it snowed! A rarity in the coastal town of Owase.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

The Tan Tans' Curry Puffs

While normal curry puffs call for all purpose flour to be used in the making of the crust, unless you're in a really big town, you can hardly find this in the local supermarkets in the inaka of Japan.
The only flour we could find was wheat flour, and Japan has it in 2 types.

強力小麦粉 (Strong flour), normally used for breads
薄力小麦粉 (weak flour), normally used for cookies, tempura and cake.
After a few experiments, we decided to use a combination of both to give our curry puffs a crispy yet fluffy texture.

In terms of the filling, the seasoning is key and we used our own curry powder from Singapore.

However, if you are in Japan, you can also use the Indian curry powder found here. Note though, that the curry powder here is usually a lot sweeter and so if you're using it, remember to 1) cut down or leave the sugar out totally from the recipe and 2)add more chili powder.


4-5 tablespoons of oil
Onions (chopped finely)
Potatoes (cooked in water and chopped)
Chicken breast meat (chopped)
3 teaspoons curry powder
Chili powder (to taste. depending on your preference. we usually add 1 teaspoon)
Salt and black pepper

Three quarter cup Strong Flour (強力小麦粉)
One and a half cups Weak Flour (薄力小麦粉)
1 teaspoon salt
5 oz margarine
180 ml - 200ml of water


1. Add oil into a fry pan and fry the onions until it turns a yellowish brown. Take care not to burn the onions.

2. Mix the curry powder and chili powder together with a little bit of water.

3. Pour the mixture into the pan and fry together with the onions until fragrant or till the chili oil is visible. Use small to medium heat.

4. Add the chicken, fry till almost cooked. Add a little bit of water if the mixture is too dry.

5. Then add the potatoes and fry together until the potatoes are soft and the chicken is fully cooked. Add the sugar, about 1 teaspoon, but you can vary it according to your taste.

6. Leave mixture to cool

1. Mix flour with margarine, water, salt, and knead well.

2. Let the dough rest for half an hour.

3. Cut the dough into circles (about 14cm) in diameter.

4. Put the filling into the centre of the skin, then fold the skin into two to make a semicircle and crim tightly at the edges. Be gentle and careful not to break the skin.

5. Deep fry in hot oil until golden (about 5 minutes).

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

How to satisfy your cravings in Japan

In a town that is approximately 10 hours away from your home country,

that is more than 2 hours away from the nearest city,

that has no other restaurants serving anything apart from Japanese cuisine

What do you do when you are craving for your favourite food from home?

Simple. MYO. Make your own.

Recently we have been cooking up such a storm in our Japanese kitchen we feel like we're training for the opening of our own restaurant in Singapore (that is, if we still have the stamina to do so when we join the active ageing community).

Some recent creations in addition to the others we've already blogged about:

- CNY peanut cookies

- Banana cake

- Curry puffs

Recipes will be posted separately.

So far, the snacks have proved to be quite a hit with our Japanese friends.

So much so that we came up with a purrrfect fundraising idea. We would make and sell these snacks at the Owase's monthly market in February to raise funds for charity. Haven't decided exactly what, but we would probably fundraise for the earthquake/ tsunami cause because Owase, being a narrow coastal town, is highly vulnerable to tsunamis (怖い, isn't it?) and money is needed to reinforce the schools and buildings here. Our idea is now undergoing final approval from the respective officials and we should be getting a 'yes' or 'no' by January. Fingers crossed.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Koya-san (高野山) - Origin of Esoteric Buddism(密教) in Japan

The trip to Koya-san (高野山) started as as early as 7am in the morning. It was a 5hr bus ride to Mount Koya passing by Matsusaka, Iga, Nara etc. It was a great ride as we were greeted by great scenery along the way.

Left: Sunrise
Right: Mountains full of autumn colours.
A brief on Koya-san.
Founded in the 8th century (Tang Dynasty) by Kukai (空海) or Kobo-Dashi (弘法大師) to spread the Esoteric school (密教) of Buddism after he spent 2 years in China's Qinglong Monastery (青龍寺) and gained the knowledge. Located in a 800m high valley and surrounded by 8 peaks, it was said that when viewed from the top, it resembled a lotus in full bloom. Thus from Koyasan, Shingon sect buddhism of Esoteric school spreaded throughout Japan. In its peak years, Koyasan had over 1,500 shrines and temples in an area of approx 6km length and 3km wide. Currently, Koyasan has over hundreds of shrine and more than 500,000 graves spreading over 2km and includes the graves of famous fedual lords as well founders of corporations such as Glico and Sharp (Oh, the Tan Tans did not took any shots of the cemetary in repect of the deceased but some interesting finds in the cemetary included a shrine for dead termites that is set up by a pest control company as well as graves shaped like a rocket for a space-shuttle company and LCD TV for the founder of SHARP)
Koya-san was hot when the Tan Tans arrived: 7.3 degrees, which also meant that there would be no snow. First, the Tan Tans were greeted by the Daimon.
Daimon(大門): First built in 12th century and rebuilt in 1705. Measures 21.4 meters by 7.9 meters and stands 25.1 meters tall.
Thereafter, the Tan Tans commenced the tour around Koyasan including the headquarters of the Shingon Sect - Kongobuji.

Video: Mrs Tan Tan demostrating how to cleanse yourself before entering Japanese temples.
Steps: Rinse your left hand, then your right. Thereafter, raise your mouth and spit out the water and finally run the remaining water down the handle.

The Konpon Daitô - A symbol of Shingon buddism.
One of the popular shrines in Koyasan being sketched by one of the tour group members and she was good!

Pix below: The oldest building in Koyasan. Funny thing is that in this sacred land, it seems like a lot of buildings were burned down due to lightning strikes and thereafter, rebuilt.
This is the sacred pine tree that supposed to hold the Dorje (a buddhism ritual tool) when Kukai threw it from China seeking location guide from Buddha. The Pine tree was the 4th generation pine tree which was unique in that it has 3 forks instead of 2 forks which is reflective of the ritual tool as of the myth.
Left: An interesting map of koyasan with buddha playing tennis?
Right: The sacred aura that enshroud the whole koya-san
The unforgettable experience in this trip will be a stay at Rengejô-in (蓮華定院) which is a temple that provides lodging. (more info at http://www.japaneseguesthouses.com/db/mount_koya/rengejoin.htm)
The Tan Tans underwent 2 mediation sessions (1 in the evening and 1 in the morning of 40 minutes each) in which Mr Tan Tan gained a pair of numb legs after each of the respective session but Mrs Tan Tan gained an open airway at the end of the second session.
Monks welcoming us on our visit. The signage on the right are made to welcome our group - Kii-Nagashima International Exchange Association.

The wife of the ex-chief priest of the temple who look much younger than her supposed age of 90. She shared with us her impressive story of her life as an English-Japanese intepretator after the war and settling down in Koya-san in English.
The vegetarian meals served in the lodging and it was the nicest I ever tried. No gluten and starchy stuffs.
Nice view of the garden and the temple.

Our blanket which comprises of buddhism scriptures.
The Tan Tans were given a pleasant surprise upon departure from koya-san. The first snow for the Tan Tans this winter.
Right: A thrilled Mrs Tan Tan after a mini snow-ball fight.

Top: Video of a wonderful scenario.
Along the way back, the Tan Tans stopped by Kumano Hongu Grand Shrine (One of the 3 grand shrine in Kumano along with Nachi Shrine which the Tan Tans visited the last time - so, only one more to go)

Together with the beautiful morning sun that greeted the Tan Tans when they set off for Koya-san, they were embraced by the wonderful sunset a day later on their way back to Owase.