Monthly Archives: December 2013

Yuzu Yumminess In A Jar

In my humble opinion homemade presents are the best. Nothing like receiving a gift and knowing that someone cared about you enough to put all that effort in! Not that Christmas shopping in insane malls doesn’t count as effort of course. I would consider that as more of a sacrifice, a sacrifice of sanity because malls these days are nuts.  Even malls in Japan make feel like I’m going into battle and Christmas isn’t even a recognized holiday here! So DIY gifts are the perfect solution, at least for me, not only do I get to avoid traumatic malls, I get to shower the people I care most about with gifts that took lots of time and effort to make.

I know I probably shouldn’t give away all my Christmas DIY present secrets away for fear someday my friends and I will accidentally both make the same gifts, but this one is just too delicious not to share. Plus, it’s not my own recipe so I shouldn’t be greedy with it.

For those of you who know me, it isn’t a big secret, I adore yuzu. Yuzu are a Japanese citrus that are similar to both an orange and a lemon. I love their scent, their taste, even their shape! The ease with which I can buy yuzu in Japan is something I will definitely miss a lot when I go back to Canada. Thank heavens for Southeast Asian import stores! This is my favourite yuzu jam recipe, and what I love about this jam is that it’s great on toast and you can even put it in your tea! Toast and tea, genius. I probably should have named my blog that, two things I adore and an alliteration…

Anyhoo onto the actual recipe. I apologize in advance for the terrible iPhone photos!

What you’ll need:

  • 5 medium sized yuzu (about 500 grams)
  • pure water 500mL + 300mL
  • 500 grams granulated sugar

Directions:

  1. Wash the yuzu. Cut in half and squeeze out juice into a small bowl.
  2. Cut peel into smaller pieces (I personally prefer 1/8 wedges for my size). As best as you can strip the yuzu peels of their pulp. Place all pulp and seeds into a small pot.
  3. Fill a large bowl with icy water. Next, cut all of the yuzu peels into very thin strips, the thinner the better. Place these yuzu peel strips into the icy water. By doing this the yuzu peel becomes less bitter.IMG_3374 IMG_3377
  4. While you let the yuzu peel soak, take the pot containing the yuzu pulp and seeds to the stove. Add 500mL of water to the pot. Boil the water, pulp, and seeds until water has condensed down to 2/3 of what you started with. This step is incredibly important for this recipe because this is how the natural pectin is gained. The seeds and the pulp contain large amounts of pectin, which is the ingredient that will solidify everything into a jam.
  5. After you have boiled down the pulp, turn off the heat. Place a metal strainer over a small bowl, pour pulpy mixture into strainer and, using a spatula, press the moisture out of the pulp. Slowly add the extra 300mL of pure water as you do so to ensure all pectin has been released. Press pulp into the sides of the strainer until only the toughest bits of pulp and the seeds remain. Pour liquid from bowl into a clean pot, throw out pulp and seeds.IMG_3378IMG_3380
  6. Using your hands grab small handfulls of the yuzu peel out of the water. Place between the palms of your hands and press out as much water as possible. The more water you squeeze out the sweeter your jam will be. Add yuzu peel into the pot with the pectin water. IMG_3381
  7. Boil this mixture on high for 15 minutes. Be absolutely sure to stir constantly for the entire 15 minutes or it will all burn to the bottom of the pot.
  8. After 15 minutes add sugar and yuzu juice. Continue to boil on high for 10 more minutes stir constantly. IMG_3386 IMG_3383
  9. By now a milky white substance will begin forming on the top of the bubbling jam mixture. For lack of a better word I call this “scum”.  To make beautiful, delicious jam it’s very important to remove this. I use a metal ladle and have a bowl of clean water ready of the side to dip the dirty ladle into after each scoop before skimming the ladle carefully along the top. Keep alternating between stirring jam and scumming until all scum is gone and the mixture is transparent.

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    That white milky stuff in the ladle is “scum”

  10. You can tell the jam is nearing completion when the bubbles around the edges become very large and the mixture starts to get viscous.
  11. In a pot of boiling water sterilize your jam jars and their lids. After, place upside down and shake as much water out as you can. While the jars are still hot you can then pour in the yuzu jam.IMG_3391 IMG_3392 photo(2)
  12. Fill jars to the brim. I was able to make 2 large jars of and one baby jar of jam with this recipe. Screw the lids on nice and tight. Place in boiling water for 2 minutes.
  13. Remove from heat and decorate!
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Merry Christmas!

And speaking of awesome homemade presents, please everyone note the gorgeous purple apron I’m wearing. It was the sweetest Christmas present from Tomomi whom I made this jam with.  I love, love, LOVE it, so you’ll probably see me wearing it a lot in the future foodie blog posts!

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Categories: Dessert Recipes, Life in Japan, Sweet | Tags: , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Tis The Season To Be Jolly: Kobe Luminarie

Unless you are the Grinch you probably love the holiday season. I know I certainly do! Christmas is undeniably my favourite time of the year, and don’t even get me started on how much I miss my beautiful Canadian snow making everything sparkle around this time of the year.

Yet here in Japan, especially in rural little Fukui,  it’s hard to get a true taste of that holiday cheer.  As a result, it’s pitiful I know, but you can often find me lurking in Fukui’s one and only Starbucks knocking back gingerbread lattes to cope with my Christmas withdrawal.

For the past two Christmases, living in Japan has posed a slight problem celebrating my favourite holiday, in that I couldn’t easily go home to where all my Christmas traditions exist. So, for my winter vacation in my first year I traveled to Vietnam and Thailand, and last year I traveled to Cambodia and Singapore.  It hasn’t ever felt like Christmas though, and not even the most amazing adventures couldn’t fill a void in my heart. Not being with my family on Christmas was excruciating. I awoke last year on Christmas and as I lay in bed mentally preparing for a day sightseeing in Cambodia I vowed that Christmas 2013 was going to be spent with my family. Fast forward 355 days later to today and in less than 5 days I will be meeting my family half-way between Japan and Canada, in a very lovely little piece of paradise called Hawaii. BEST DECISION EVER!

In my excitement to see my family I have been positively reckless throwing myself into the Christmas spirit.  This year there is no such thing as too much Christmas music, too many Christmas sweets (although my skinny jeans may protest this claim) or too many Christmas movies. I am ready!

To kick off this Christmas season there was one place in Japan that I knew would satisfy my Christmas light craving, the beautiful city of Kobe.  Every year Kobe hosts a breath-taking event called The Kobe Luminarie.IMG_2292 IMG_2301

The Kobe Luminarie (神戸ルナリエ) is a light festival held every year in Kobe since December 1995. It’s held to commemorate the Great Hanshin Earthquake which happened in 1995. The lights, which number over 200,000 and are all hand-painted incredibly enough, are donated by the Italian government. Each year the lights are different. Even more surprising, at least for me, is that in an effort to be environmentally friendly, the electricity needed to power these beautiful lights tunnel is generated from biomass!IMG_2309

It only lasts for two weeks so we had to be extremely organized and book accommodation in September as these two weekends are prime time and book up so quickly! It was definitely worth all the trouble, trust me! Lizzy and I had gone last year,  but for our friends Laura and Erin it was the first time to see the Luminarie. We all had a lot of fun, basking in the lights and beautiful choir music playing from speakers as you walk through the tunnel.

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This beautiful Christmas light display is kept up for only two weeks every year and turned on for a few hours each evening. Typically it happens the first two weeks of December. Major streets in the vicinity are closed to auto traffic during these hours to allow pedestrians to fill the streets and enjoy the lights so it’s best to travel by train. It is viewed by about three to five million people each year so be prepared to deal with large crowds.

*HELPFUL HINT #1* If you want to deal with fewer crowds try to go on a day that isn’t a Saturday or Sunday, for the last hour. We arrived a little later than planned, at about 8:30pm on Friday, and it definitely seemed like fewer people than the year before when Lizzy and I had gone immediately for the opening time.

*HELPFUL HINT #2* At times it can feel like your caught in a sea of people all moving quickly towards a destination. Try not to let other people rush you through the lights. Take your time at the front of the tunnel taking pictures, as that’s the best photo opportunity point, and let the people swirl around you. Relax, breathe and enjoy at your own pace! The lights are only about a 10-minute walk through so be sure to savour them!

At the end of the tunnel you’ll come to a light pavilion which is very relaxed and is surrounded by food booths. IMG_2314 IMG_2315 IMG_2318 IMG_2324

I love the Christmas spirit that seems to fill the air here. Everyone is talking excitedly, ooh-ing and ah-ing over the pretty lights, choir music swells to a crescendo and everyone is happily snapping pictures.

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We were having so much fun we couldn’t resist being a little goofy. Such a fun way to spend the evening!

If you’re looking for a good place to hang out after the lights and warm up I highly, highly recommend Brugge. It’s a Belgian beer bar right on the outside of Sannomiya station. If you are a foreigner living in Japan, their drink menu may bring you close to tears there are so many types of beer. With every GI-normous glass of Hoegarden the Christmas cheer grew stronger.

An hour later, we were all feeling happily tipsy after quite a few delicious beers, so we decided to migrate to a more lively venue. About 5 minutes after leaving Brugge my foreign bar radar went off and I hauled everyone off to check out a promising looking British Pub in the basement of a building (all the best places are tucked away in secret hidy-holes I’ve come to discover after 2 years in Japan). Sure enough I fell in love with The Hub the second I arrived at the entrance. When we got to the door were were a little nervous, it looked pretty full, so we feared we would be turned away.  We were delighted when the hostess let us in with a warning that it was standing room only. For ladies looking to mingle they couldn’t have said anything to sell us on their pub quicker. If there was one thing all four of us could agree on was that we missed a good  and lively pub. In next to no time we met cool people and chatted the night away.

Kobe Luminarie Important Information:

Beer Cafe de Brugge Information:

The Hub Information:

  • Address: ムーンライトビルb1f, 1 Chome-10-6 Kitanagasadori, Chuo Ward, Kobe, Hyogo Prefecture 650-0012
  • Phone Number: 078-321-2437
Categories: Life in Japan, Travel | Tags: , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

La villa LUPICIA in Niseko

Good food, tea and mountain sports are the three biggest passions in my life. So when my friend Tomomi told me that my absolute favourite tea company Lupicia had recently opened a fabulous, new restaurant in the heart of Niseko, one of Japan’s finest ski resort areas, I knew I simply had to go! So, the second I left Otaru I began my quest to find it.

Lupicia’s teas are so good they turned me from a tea-fan into a tea-junkie, they are out of this world and contain no artificial ingredients. I was 100% certain their restaurant would also thrill and delight my taste buds.  La villa LUPICIA is already becoming quite famous in the right circles, given time I have no doubt that it will become one of the most popular fine-dining restaurants in Niseko.

Entrance into the Lupicia area of Niseko

Entrance into the Lupicia area of Niseko. On the left is the restaurant and the dark building behind it is the boutique.

The Lupicia boutique

The Lupicia Boutique. Here an array of Lupicia foods and teas are sold. Be sure to check out the signature Hokkaido tea blends sold here!

After a bit of shopping, I strolled over to the restaurant La villa LUPICIA. I was immediately smitten. The menu looked superb, and the atmosphere was very rustic and serene, a perfect combination for a fancy dinner after a lovely day spent in the mountains.

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I loved the tall windows all along the front of the restaurant. Such a nice touch!

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Cold Appetizer: Hokkaido oyster with seawater gelee and oyster cream

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Cassis juice (would have loved a glass of wine but sadly I was driving)

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Beef in breadcrumbs fried in butter sauce

The set menu includes a cold appetizer, warm appetizer, main dish and dessert. For each of the appetizers and the main you may choose between three different options, while for dessert you may choose between either the dessert of the day or the cheese plate of the day. Choosing my main was definitely the most difficult. The three options were a fish sautéed with yuzu butter (and we all know how much I love yuzu), lamb in breadcrumbs fried with mustard or roasted duck (which is a specialty of Niseko apparently) served with gooseberry sauce. Talk about difficult decisions!

Main: Roasted duck with gooseberry sauce

Main: Roasted duck with gooseberry sauce

Dessert: I chose the cheese plate of the day

Dessert: I chose the cheese plate of the day

After I finished my main dish, because the restaurant wasn’t busy, I  decided to snuggled up in one of the baby-soft blankets the restaurant has available with a cup of piping hot Lupicia tea and read some of my book by golden light before savouring my cheese assortment.

All in all, La villa LUPICIA is a fabulous restaurant. If you are wondering to yourself “Where to eat in Niseko?” I highly recommend La villa LUPICIA. A set dinner here costs 3,800 yen per person (which is more than I typically like to spend while traveling as I’m often on a strict budget) but you have to treat yourself every now and then, and for a nice dinner out this place is a total steal! One final thing I would like to say is that all of the staff were incredibly friendly to me and did speak a little English. Fear not foreigners with limited Japanese, with their English menu and incredibly kind staff, you’ll be in good hands at La villa LUPICIA!

DETAILS:

  • English menu available
  • Check out their website here (but it’s all in Japanese)
  • Phone# for the restaurant: 0136-21-7880
  • Phone# for the boutique: 0136-21-6818
  • Address: 倶知安町字樺山58-5, Abuta-gun, Hokkaido, Japan 044-0078
  • Facebook page here

Directions to La Villa LUPICIA (from Niseko Station):

Take ROUTE 792 and turn right onto ROUTE 66. You will cross a river. Keep going straight, following ROUTE 66. Turn right onto ROUTE 343, follow along and near the top of the hill on your right will be La villa LUPICIA.

Directions to La villa LUPICIA

Directions to La villa LUPICIA

* It will be close to the Niseko Village Golf Course, which is on the local map if you have one of those!

Categories: Travel | Tags: , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

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