Monday, January 7, 2013

Tonkotsu Ramen

Ramen Seiya ラーメン せい家

After the day at Disney, we went to grab a bite to eat a a local Yokosuka ramen restaurant that specializes in one kind of ramen called Tonkotsu Ramen.  It is a typical hole-in-the-wall restaurant that seats about 14-16 people at the counter.

It's located at:

せい家 - Sei-ya Ramen / Noodle House
大矢部2-6-23 横須賀市, 神奈川県 (Oyabe 2-6-23 Yokosuka, Kanagawa Prefecture)

Google Maps Link:

Orders are placed via a machine by the front door to the right as you go in and since they only serve one kind of ramen, the choices are from a regular or large bowl of ramen and then all of the assorted toppings that you might want on/in your soup.

Black pepper, white goma, toban jiang, ninniku-dare, my gyoza and bowl of Tonkotsu Ramen

We all chose to have cabbage, chashu, spinach and boiled eggs (Japanese-style boiled eggs have thick liquidy yolks) on top of our bowls of ramen as well as the typical side order of pork gyoza.

Seiya's AMAZING bowl of Tonkotsu Ramen

The soup was nothing short of amazing and as soon as the bowls were handed to us by the chef, we were noisily slurping away in delight.  In Japan, to eat a bowl of ramen quietly is to truly insult the chef and you will definitely get stared at (surreptitiously, of course) by the diners around you at your gross rudeness.  Just an FYI if you go out for ramen in Japan - anywhere.

This is a smile only a bowl of 'porky pork' pork tonkotsu ramen can induce!!

Fresh, handmade ramen - not quite the fried, dried cup noodle variety.

Typical Ramen Toppings - but there are much more than on this list....

Chashu is made by simmering pork belly with garlic, ginger, sake and shoyu. 'Char-siu', Chinese barbecued pork, became Japanese simmered pork: chashu. Like ramen itself, it originated in China but evolved into a favorite Japanese recipe and is different than the Chinese version. 

Menma is prepared by simmering dried bamboo shoots in the broth from making chashu. The broth is sweetened with mirin.

Ninniku-dare , garlic paste, is a condiment often served with ramen. It’s made by blending pork fat and garlic in a food processor then heating it to cook a golden color.

Toban jiang, Japanese chili-bean sauce, is another common condiment. You can purchase this in many Asian grocery stores.

Nori Japanese roasted seaweed or laver can be cut into rectangles, triangles or narrow strips.

Negi, Japanese long green onion, is often cut into thin rings and there is also negi with ra-yu,  a Japanese chili oil which is often eaten with gyoza or Chinese foods.

Eggs are often hard-boiled and sliced. Tiny quail eggs might be served whole. Sometimes the eggs are cooked as a thin omelette then cut into julienne and occasionally the eggs are served onsen-style which means 'hot-spring' eggs so the are barely poached.

Naruto is a fish cake with a pink spiral that becomes visible when it’s sliced thinly.

Bean sprouts can be stir-fried or blanched to add to a bowl of ramen.

Cabbage can be chopped or shredded and stir-fried.

Corn is a real typical ramen topping and butter is often added with the corn.

Kimchee can be served as a topping or as a side dish.

Plain rice, stir-fried rice, or curry rice may be served as side dishes with ramen, and often, people like to have gyoza to accompany their bowls of ramen.

Tonkotsu Ramen is a special ramen where the soup stock is laboriously made from long-simmered pig trotters and bones.  I have made it before myself and it is a silky, pure white unctuous broth that is just delicious!  Of course, it has to be made correctly.  For a GREAT, detailed recipe, take a look at:

If you don't want to go through the effort, there is, however; a MUCH easier way to enjoy Tonkotsu Ramen inside and outside of Japan if you aren't in the Yokosuka area to go to Seiya Ramen.
Just go to one of the 43 Ippudo restaurants in Japan ( or the one in New York City at 65 Fourth Avenue ( and try a bowl of Heavenly Porky Deliciousness!  They really have perfected a wonderful version of Tonkotsu Ramen.  There are also Ippudo locations in Singapore, Seoul, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Shanghai and Sydney. There are also Ippudo locations in Singapore, Seoul, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Shanghai and Sydney.

Ippudo's Tonkotsu Ramen

So if you need a bowl of Japanese soul food, comfort food then give Tonkotsu Ramen a try!!

Sunday, January 6, 2013

Tokyo Disney

My sister-in-law Akemi is CRAZY about all things Disney - as are most Japanese women.  Disney is the epitome of cute and if there was a perfect Japanese Heaven for Japanese women - it would be Disney-esque.

Disney Land and Disney Sea are located next to each other and if you are really interested to see how they are laid out, you can download maps here:

Tokyo Disney is only an hour by car from Mama's house and since I knew Ake-chan wanted to go, I figured 'why not'?  Tokyo Disney is a great day trip if you are ever in Japan and since I was curious about Disney anyway and an hour from Mama's was better than flying to Florida from New Jersey.

We started out bright and early about 8:30 AM and stopped at one of the Japanese toll road rest stops for a quick cup of coffee.

There is a variety of machines with all sorts of hot and cold beverages and the variety of coffee drink choices is astounding.

There is a HUGE difference from the North American (Canada and the US) concept of a 'Large' coffee to what the rest of the world (Asia, Europe etc.) considers a 'Large' coffee LOL.

Anyway, back to Tokyo Disney.  Akemi or Ake-chan as we all call her, goes to Disney Land and Disney Sea in Japan at least three times a year - EVERY year. Popular times for Japanese to go are Valentine's Day, Halloween and Christmas.  Interesting since Japanese really don't understand any of those holidays as Americans do ~ I spent an hour trying to explain the three wise men to my family and it was truly a foreign concept to them that they were absolutely knew nothing about...but I digress.

Tokyo Disneyland Park is big—about 114 acres. So it’s bigger compared to Disneyland Park, in California which is 74.2 acres, and the Magic Kingdom in Florida which is 106.3 acres. Despite its larger size, Tokyo Disneyland has fewer rides and attractions. 

Much of the park is open space, seemingly designed to hold as many visitors as possible. During the busy summer months it's not uncommon for the park to open its doors in the morning, and then have to stop admitting visitors around noon because it is filled to capacity (about 85,000 guests). The doors reopen again around 5:00 PM. The park can see over 100,000 visitors a day.

As you would expect, the centerpiece of the park is a castle; in this case, Cinderella Castle.

For the most part, the layout of Tokyo Disneyland Park mirrors its American counterparts: You walk through a main entrance and up Main Street to a central hub which branches out to the various lands of the park. 

Mickey Daruma

Mickey and crew Ningyo

Mike Melon Pan - ONLY in Japan LOL (Yummy, too!)

Despite the familiar layout, there are some obvious differences. Main Street (called "World Bazaar") is covered by a Plexiglas canopy. 

I got a great hat at one of the shops and I think I'll be wearing it daily in the winter to walk Maya LOL.  My brother was clearly very happy to be seen with me in public with my hat!!

There is no steam train running around the perimeter of the Park; instead it runs around Adventureland. Frontierland is not called Frontierland, it's called Westernland which makes sense because to Japanese who have no connection to the Western frontier. 

I can still shoot pretty well - but 9 out of 10 shots gave me an '8' score...?!?!

Finally, Toontown and Critter Country round out the different areas of the park. There's no New Orleans Square, although there is an area that looks like New Orleans Square but it is technically Adventureland. 

Fantasyland looks like Disneyland's Fantasyland did in the late 1970s. Tomorrowland is really Spartan and sadly not very futuristic featuring only Captain EO circa 1985-87 and some toddler-themed Buzz Lightyear attraction.  All in all a great, fun day at Tokyo Disney!!

Saturday, January 5, 2013

Yakiniku or Korean-style BBQ at Amiyaki

Another one of my favorite places to go in Japan is to Amiyaki Korean-Style BBQ ~ SOOO Delish!

I'm having makkoli with calpis (it was SO good!) and Jun is having microbrew beer

The food is very good, plentiful, reasonable and there is something there for everyone. One of the things that Jun and I always get is the Sakura Yukwhe.  It is really quite delicious. (^_^)

Other than the Sakura Yukwhe, everything else on the menu is generally available at any Korean BBQ restaurant the world over. We chose a selection of meats and sausages that we then grilled at the table.

I also like to order the okama gohan or traditional rice pot rice which is a single serving of traditionally cooked rice ~ rice cooked over a flame in a traditional rice pot or okama.  It just tastes so much better!!

Papa, Mama and my sister-in-law Akemi

All in all, it was a great night out and we all ate WAY WAY to much!!  That plus the makkoli/calpis just put me over the top.  Totally enjoyable evening though - love being here with everyone!!

Lunch with Mama & Papa at Obun Te (Oven Restaurant)

The day after New Year's Day, Mama and Papa decided to take a quick trip to a nearby mall and have lunch.  It's located on the top floor of a department store with a handful of other restaurants as is typical throughout Japan.  

All sorts of foods are represented among the restaurant choices from traditional Japanese food, Chinese food, Sushi, Italian etc.  They love going to a place called "Obun-Te".  It's a very typical Japanese style 'family restaurant' serving Japanized Western, American food like hamburger, steak and spaghetti.  

I LOVE Japanese style hamburger or Hamburg (ハンバーグ hanbāgu, Hamburg steak) as it's typically called.  Hamburg is a popular Salisbury steak style dish in Japan. It is made from ground meat with finely chopped onion, egg and breadcrumbs flavored with various spices, and made into a flat, circular shape about a centimeter thick and 10 to 15 cm in diameter. 

Many restaurants specialize in various styles of hamburger steak.Some variations include hanbāgu topped with cheese (チーズハンバーグ, or chizuhanbāgu), hanbāgu with Japanese curry, and Italian hanbāgu (with tomato sauce rather than gravy).

My 'Hamburg Steak' Lunch - miso soup, rice, pickles and salad are typical accompaniments

Hamburger steak became popular during the 1960s as a more affordable way to serve otherwise costly meat. Magazines regularly printed the recipe during that decade, elevating it to a staple dish in Japanese culture. In Japan, the dish dates back to the Meiji period and is believed to have been first served in Yokohama, which was one of the first ports opened to foreigners. 

Papa opted for the Gyu (Beef) Steak version which is a steak (rib-eye) grilled and sauced

They had a 'drink bar' at this place which allowed you to get all-you can drink beverages for an extra charge - well worth the price!!  I had several cups of coffee and a matcha green tea latte to finish out my lunch.

Papa paying the bill for lunch...thanks Papa!!

New Year Food - Osechi Ryori, Toshi-koshi Soba & Ozoni

The main thing I look forward to in going home at New Year is the special foods that are only available and eaten during this time. 

Mama's Osechi Ryori for 2013

Osechi-ryōri (御節料理 or お節料理) are traditional Japanese New Year foods. The tradition started in the Heian Period (794-1185). Osechi are easily recognizable by their special boxes called jūbako (重箱), which resemble bentō boxes. Like bentō boxes, jūbako are often kept stacked before and after use.

The term osechi originally referred to o-sechi, a season or significant period. New Year's Day was one of the five seasonal festivals (節句 sekku) in the Imperial Court in Kyoto. This custom of celebrating particular days was introduced from China into Japan.

Originally, during first three days of the New Year it was a taboo to use a hearth and cook meals, except when cooking Ozōni. 

Osechi was made by the close of the previous year, as women did not cook in the New Year.

In the earliest days, osechi consisted only of nimono, boiled vegetables with soy sauce and sugar or mirin. Over the generations, the variety of food included in osechi has increased.

Today osechi may refer to anything prepared specially for the New Year, and some foreign dishes have been adopted as "Westernized osechi" (西洋お節 seiyō-osechi) or as "Chinese-style osechi" (中華風お節 chūkafū osechi). 

And while osechi was traditionally prepared at home, it is also sold ready-made in specialty stores, grocery stores, and even convenience stores, such as 7-Eleven.

Especially in households where osechi is still homemade, toshi-koshi soba (年越し蕎麦) is eaten on New Year's Eve. Its name literally means "year-crossing soba."  It is considered bad luck by many Japanese to leave any toshi-koshi soba uneaten.

Ozōni (雑煮) , is a Japanese soup containing grilled mochi rice cakes.The dish is strongly associated with the Japanese New Year and its tradition of osechi ceremonial foods. Ozōni is considered the most auspicious of the dishes eaten on New Year's Day. The preparation of ozōni varies both by household and region

It is said that zōni finds its roots in samurai society cuisine. It is thought to be a meal that was cooked during field battles, boiled together with mochi, vegetables and dried foods, among other ingredients. It is also generally believed that this original meal, at first exclusive to samurai, eventually became a staple food of the common people. 

Ozōni was first served as part of a full-course dinner (honzen ryōri), and thus is thought to have been a considerably important meal to samurai.

The tradition of eating zōni on New Year's Day dates to the end of the Muromachi period (1336–1573). The dish was offered to the gods in a ceremony on New Year's Eve.

The dishes that make up osechi each have a special meaning celebrating the New Year. 

Some examples are:

Daidai (橙), Japanese bitter orange. Daidai means "from generation to generation" when written in different kanji as 代々. Like kazunoko below, it symbolizes a wish for children in the New Year.

Datemaki (伊達巻 or 伊達巻き), sweet rolled omelette mixed with fish paste or mashed shrimp. They symbolize a wish for many auspicious days. 

On auspicious days (晴れの日, hare-no-hi), Japanese people traditionally wear fine clothing as a part of enjoying themselves. One of the meanings associated with the second kanji includes "fashionability," derived from the illustrious dress of the samurai from Date Han.

Kamaboko (蒲鉾), broiled fish cake. Traditionally, slices of red and white kamaboko are alternated in rows or arranged in a pattern. The color and shape are reminiscent of Japan rising sun, and have a celebratory, festive meaning.

Kazunoko (数の子), herring roe. Kazu means "number" and ko means "child." It symbolizes a wish to be gifted with numerous children in the New Year.

Konbu (昆布), a kind of seaweed. It is associated with the word yorokobu, meaning "joy."

Kuro-mame (黒豆), black soybeans. Mame also means "health," symbolizing a wish for health in the New Year.

Kohaku-namasu (紅白なます), literally "red-white vegetable kuai," is made of daikon and carrot cut into thin strips and pickled in sweetened vinegar with yuzu flavor.

Tai (鯛), red sea-bream. Tai is associated with the Japanese word medetai, symbolizing an auspicious event.

Tazukuri (田作り), dried sardines cooked in soy sauce. The literal meaning of the kanji in tazukuri is "rice paddy maker," as the fish were used historically to fertilize rice fields. The symbolism is of an abundant harvest.

OZōni (雑煮), a soup of mochi rice cakes in clear broth (in eastern Japan) or miso broth (in western Japan).

Ebi (エビ), skewered prawns cooked with sake and soy sauce.

Nishiki tamago (錦卵), egg roulade; the egg is separated before cooking, yellow symbolizing gold, and white symbolizing silver.