Saturday, January 31, 2009

The Watermelon Cure

Have you ever had that tendency to, you know, go back to those childish ways when you stand outside the candy store and, finally having the penny to buy that precious candy, you faithfully wait until the store opens? I don't know how to phrase it perfectly. But somehow that feeling doesn't really go away - it just comes in a different form as we grow older. Apparently, this time it is no longer candy... but... but a vintage pair of flamenco shoes. And it's red! - my fave color.

Nope, I am not that too impressed by brands. Whether it is a highfaluting Miranda Priestly kind of pair or handcrafted for me by a shoemaker (which my shoes truly are), if I like it, I think single- track. Besides I sometimes find it hard to get into Asian shoes because my feet, though not really long (Size 8- 9, depends), are webbed...hahaha... no, they're quite like a boy's (for standing up too much in the kitchen). Oh well! Now- where are we?

Ok, outside that shoe shop in this strip of artists' boutiques (vintage shops, art shops, etc.) I wait until the shop opens. (See, I feel too smug in my orange clogs. )

Omg, that look was captured on cam. Frowning is bad luck.

Sans breakfast and coupled with a little anxiety for The Red Shoes... Foodhuntress ends up a little grouchy :(

So, pass on the cure. (A watermelon cart passes by).

A cool, juicy watermelon...

"...Now comes, my fellow travelers, the burden of my speech

These foods are rare beyond compare

And some right out of reach

But there's no doubt I'd go without

A million plates of each

For one small mite(One small mite)

One tiny bite(Tiny bite)

Of this fantastic ... Watermelon! "

Aw, gawd!

Finally the store opens and I got in. And tried the watermelon- colored shoes...

And they fit perfectly!


Omg, this post is so... duh!! What's the connection???

Sunday, January 25, 2009


This is at the Roppongi Hills, one of the best places I have ever been to. The art, the impeccable architecture, the air- there was just so much in it that transported me into a world so different from the one I knew.

Surely reaching these places weren’t written yet in my bucket list. Now I am here way before they were ever written. I am surprised why I was having a lot of deja vu that day - have I been here - even in my imagination? Whatever, my reality goes back to the smallness of my existence – I wouldn’t have dreamed of reaching such places when I was a kid running around with butterflies.

I look up and overhead I could only marvel at the whole place. Intimidating is not the term, beauty and perfection are.

Planning to run away with that bike... hmmm... :)

Picture myself :)


Starbucks, and a warm hardwood floor.

Mad Hatter's ecstasy.

Omg, is it fastforward to 2011 and I am in New York? Look, bagels!

But when in Japan, smile and give that peace sign.



“The world is a book, and those who don’t travel read only a page.”
St. Augustine

I had to leave on a very gray dawn to catch the morning flight going back to Manila at Narita Airport. During the bus ride, I was looking at my passport stamps and the few territories I crossed for the past years. It made me agree more fully now, as my boss had said on our first day, that you are never the same person when you come back after a trip.

There was also something about this trip that affected me to the core. During the four- hour flight back home, I started to have that flashback- those moments when the scenes of your travel flash before your eyes. The cold weather, the grey mornings, the train rides, your boss and his wife halving a piece of their cake for you to taste; the demeanor of the real zen- sei who taught you not only what you needed to know, but the virtue of respect and humility.

Thirty seven thousand miles above sea level, unexpectedly, my tears start to fall. Half- smiling and half- crying silently- for what reason – I don’t know. It just happened.


Bogged down....

Would you believe, I was lying down on my bed at home when I took this photo. I haven’t unpacked my luggage, but I just had to check out on this matcha- azuki roulade if it was still ok. It survived the trip! Still very good, however, what used to be a perfect roll collapsed already. I also think I needed some rest.

Friday, January 23, 2009


After all the food hunting and feeling the city’s pulse, first in my mind would be beyond my reason for being here: to reflect more profoundly the essence of cooking. Looking into the heart of the cuisine, it is evident that I am in fact a blank slate – I know nothing at all about Japanese cooking.

So smile, though I am becoming more aware now of my own ignorance. You stay up a little late for a cup of coffee...

It’s past midnight but there are miles to go before you sleep… and miles to go before you sleep.

You wake up at five a.m tomorrow, and again you have to pay attention to the sensei and make sure that, like a sponge, you absorb every single word that he is saying. And fortunately at the train, nobody cares if you are carrying around a knife.

Not to reveal here the details of the training- but those are the sensei's hands. He has such genial knife skills he could slice up a radicchio in a few seconds with the perfection of a mandoline. I just learned that there's a technique in slicing octopus arms or making the onsen tamago.. and that there's so much to learn about mushrooms... and in the science and art of tea making and coffee brewing - the Japanese way.
This sensei is the best teacher I've ever seen. He is like a bamboo. The more that he knows, the lower he bows. He knows you're an a student and you are there to learn, and he is there to teach. No swearing, no ego. He finds a lot of positive things in your mistakes - and his.
You may not to go to the Tsukiji Market for the fish auction, but you have to, nevertheless, go to a market. What kind of market?
Here, in the very windy Kappabashi.
This is Kappabashi. Out from the subway, the cold wind was blowing straight at my face.

There's that long stretch of kitchenware stores there - the haven of cooks.

All sorts of Japanese wares…

A giant chef-
Hashi rests, namiyaki pans, sauce pans... and rabbits and owls staring at me at a staircase landing :)

The blades. Feast your eyes, Huntress- san. Feast your eyes.

See that green creature over thre? Cute, isn't it? Did you notice what he's holding? A cleaver? Don't be fooled, then, that creature guards the gates of a knife store.

There is something about the Japanese knives that intrigue me. They have a reputation for being the world’s sharpest knives. I will not delve here on the ceremony of the samurai sword forging, but rather, the only thing that popped in my mind right that day is the correlation of the Japanese’s respect on things. A good knife indicates reverence to food. When a sharp blade cuts through the flesh- whether a fish or a vegetable- the integrity of the tissues is preserved such that they are neither dilapidated nor ugly, but only prepared and carved in a wiser manner.

This is a store of those famous window displays. That's the best birthday cake I've ever seen in my life. When someday I have my own children, I'd bake a cake like that. Kasutera inside.

Angel of Knives, my guardian dear...

And Now, The Food...

In almost every street corner there is a vendo machine or a convenience store. Ever wonder why, though is everywhere but the Japanese hardly get fat? (I ain't talking about the sumo wrestlers).

Dried cuttlefish, bonito, octopus, dried nuts... and green tea & kuromitsu ice cream sandwich

Cakes... and instant parfaits... and instant doria gratin.

I don't know how they call this one- this steamed tofu and company. But I sure like hamburg curry. Yum!

Kasutera (pronounced "kastera") or the Castella cake. I went crazy over this. The best chiffon cake I've tasted. Found this at the Isetan at Shinjuku- that whole floor full of gourmet food. Unfortunately, picture taking is prohibited. Besides kasutera I was also eating escargots in butter and chawanmushi.

Pork cutlet and soba. So Japan- nice for a windy winter lunch.

You know, the fake display food that always look so real.

The two 'yakis' - okonomiyaki and namiyaki.

The Japanese’s version of carbonara with onsen tamago; Midnight snack:Mochi wrapped in shiso leaves

Instant crepes found at supermarket. Tastes good, too. Do they have this in France? - and, 'kaputino' at an Italian restaurant.
By the way, you know that great feeling, when after a long winter walk and you had your hands buried in you pocket, your face whipped by the wind...and you go to a cafe where averything is warm and cozy... and the kaputino is so foamy... Ah, perfect.


Welcome to Japan, hai!

Narita Airport. This is just a bit of Japan. To speak conclusively on first impression about this great country is like cramming your whole house in a 5 mm capsule. I haven't seen anything like this - the organization of things, the cleanliness, the culture of the people whose courteousness is so innate you will wonder how on earth is that possible.

For days, I had that lost in translation moment. 'What happened to me those few days- the sights, the smells, the sounds- have tatooed themselves into my soul'. I would never forget. Fortunately my Japanese tutorial for the past weeks have helped in so many ways- not just when conversing with people nor mirroring the same treatment the Japanese gave me, but to get into the 'group soul' by speaking the same language and now breathing the same air.

Foodhuntress on the streets at six a.m. Just looking around. :)

I came to Japan in the first place to study cooking and tea brewing. To go to 'school', I had to take the train everyday. What I observed is that the Japanese are so polite with each other they had to line themselves up and wait until the people getting out the train have disembarked. No pushing. No headache.

Shimbashi station. From Jimbocho where we are staying, I have been observing (and in the process got so amazed as well) how Tokyo could have so many train lines like spider webs. I am only used to the three lines here in our country.

Black. Everybody was wearing black and other winter neutrals. The Tokyo Japanese are so sophisticated and intellectual- looking.

All the small things we see- are in fact a great part of the bigger whole.

- the flowers on the roadside. Which, I was thinking, were they in fact, cabbages engineered to bloom?

- the house/ restaurant across the street.

- the bicycles. No wonder Japan isn't as polluted like Manila. They use bikes. How do they care about the oil crisis?

- the sakura blossoms. Nope, too early for the cherry blossoms. They're not real.

- Hai, this is Ginza.

- what I could have wanted for myself. But when my boss heard that I wanted at least a copy, he told me not to buy. He had about a truck- ful of them, ha said he'd just give me one.

To be continued...