It’s Official!!

It’s taken a long time and several failed attempts by myself, friends of friends, booking agents, locals in Tokyo and our hotel concierge but I’ve finally received confirmation that we are booked for dinner at Sukiyabashi Jiro Ginza in Tokyo.

For those of you who are not familiar with this restaurant I’ll give you the lo-down.

Sukiyabashi Jiro and specificallythe Ginza location (there are two. One run by Jiro Ono’s son) is often considered to be the holy of holies when it comes to traditional sushi. The 89 year old Itamae (sushi chef) and owner Jiro Ono is recognised by the Japanese government as a national treasure and is considered to be the greatest sushi chef alive today. Even the snooty Michelin folks have awarded this little 10 seat store with 3 stars. I’ve wanted to dine here for years and being given the chance to visit Tokyo made trying to do so an imperative.

Not that deciding to TRY and book was in any way even close to a guarantee that we’d be able to do so, after all this is ranked as the second most difficult dinner reservation in the world to get. I’ve worked for more than 2 months at this and am still in awe at the effort required.

Anyway… we’ll be eating the best sushi of our lives and having it prepared by the living legend that is Jiro Ono in just over a week. I’ll let you all know our thoughts on this once in a lifetime experience when I post from Tokyo.

What can I say?…… SCORE!!!!!

The Traveling Foodie — An Update –

The date of departure for our Round The World trip is fast approaching (20 days) and for anyone who’s read the previous post on the subject I have an update.

The vast majority of the items listed for us to do are still in place, the changes are that we are no longer going to be heading to Tokushima. Getting to the island has proven to be logistically more difficult then we’d expected and with our time constraints we’ve cut it out. The result is that we won’t be experiencing the ramen there and will have to sample that style elsewhere.

We will now be having the pleasure of dining in the second tallest building and tallest tower in the world, the Tokyo SkyTree. While getting tickets to this attraction was via a Japanese only lottery system since it’s opening last month until after we have left I’ve managed to (via a great deal of difficulty) acquire two tickets. We will likely be among a very few foreigners who will be in the tower until the day it’s fully open to the public.

I’ve also decided that we’ll be dining at Sapporo Kanihonke while in Nagoya. While this is not a traditional Japanese restaurant I love crab and there is no place that has a menu approximating a Mecca for lovers of crab like this.

When in Korea we will now be heading to Gyeongju and indulging in some of the best traditional Korean dishes that can be found. We’ll sample Ssambap with its 30+ side dishes and Gyeongju’s famous Hwangnamppang bread to name a few.

The non-foodie parts of the trip will be even more exciting. Some of them are:

  • Fly on an A380 on the upper deck
  • Wander Ginza and Akihabara (where I intend to geek out on tech)
  • Take a river cruise in Tokyo
  • Check out the new mall,aquarium and other sites at SkyTree Town
  • Ride the Shinkansen Bullet Train around the country
  • Attend the Nagoya Grand Sumo tournament
  • Visit Nara park
  • Ferry  to Miyajima
  • See the memorials in Hiroshima
  • Ride accross to Korea on a hydrofoil
  • Visit the tombs in Gyeongju
  • Ride the KTX
  • Tour the DMZ at Panmunjeom
  • Explore old Delhi
  • Visit the Red Fort and Taj Mahal
  • Sleep in a palace
  • Explore Petra
  • Float on the Dead Sea
  • Experience the craziness of the 2012 Olympics(Thankfully Brief)
  • Explore the Irish countryside by car

I look forward to posting on our foodie fun while travelling and will do my best to keep you up to date with our experiences(technology allowing).

The Traveling Foodie…It’s going to be an interesting summer

As individuals who love both food and travel we often try to combine the two in an effort to satisfy both of these major passions at one time. This summer will once again be just such a opportunity.

We are going on what is refered to as an RTW if you’ll forgive the travel parlance or simply a “Round the World” trip. The plan is for us to be heading west from our Southern Alberta home and continuing to do so until some 27,000 miles, ten flights, several bullet trains, numerous subways, an unfortunate number of crowded commuter trains, a gondola, 3 ferries, one hydrofoil, an elephant, a horse, two camels, a few tuk tuks, a rickshaw, a jeep, one mini van, far too many taxis and a single tiny rental car with the wheel on the right later we end up right back here. Pheww… my chiro is gonna kill me.

We’ll be stopping first in LA where a 5.5 hour layover affords us the chance to head out and enjoy some Southern California munchies. We’ll then be boarding the world’s largest airliner -an A380- on which we’ve been lucky enough to be seated on the upper deck…score!!! (hey.. airplane geek here, okay?) while heading to our first major stop, Japan. Here we’ll be visiting Tokyo, Kyoto, Hikone, Nara, Osaka, Tokushima, Matsuyama, Hiroshima, Miyajima and Fukuoka over three of the major islands in Japan. Next comes a ferry to Bu San Korea and trip North via Daegeon to end up in Seoul before departing from Incheon.

We next land in Guangzhou China for a quick layover and perhaps a little dim sum. From China we head to India and tour through the area known as “The Golden Triangle” where we visit Delhi, Neemrana, Jaipur, Fatehpur Sikri and Agra. We’ll also be visiting several smaller towns and such along the route.

Following India we will be stopping in Jordan and visiting Amman, Um Qais, Ajlun, Jerash, The Dead Sea, Mt. Nebo, Madaba, Wadi Mujib,  Kerak, Petra, Beida, Wadi Rum and Aqaba. Between the desert hikes, the heat and the camels I may be in traction following this. Thankfully I’ve booked a spa at the dead sea close to the end of this leg.

After a very fast-paced and travel filled month long trip we head to London where we’ll try very hard to escape the crowds visitng for the Olympics and finally fly to Belfast so we can spend a week or so relaxing and driving around the Irish countryside.

How does this fit being posted to ChowTown you may ask. Well, as Foodies we won’t be simply doing the touristy things most might on such a trip. We’ll also be doing the following special things along side our usual habit of sampling the best street food and local restaurants…

  • Dining at Sukiyabashi Jiro in Tokyo. Where the master Itamae 86 year old Jiro Ono, widely regarded as the world’s greatest sushi chef will prepare an omakase meal the likes of which we are surely never to experience again in our lives.
  • Visiting the world famous Tsukiji Fish Market to select our own fish before having it prepared fresh at local restaurant.
  • Sampling a variety of Ramen in Tokushima, the home of Japan’s most famous soup.
  • Indulging in many of the unique foods in Korea such as sannakji (live baby octopus), one of the foods considered rather dangerous due to the habit it has of clinging to the throat and choking diners to death. (we’d wanted to try Fugu (Blowfish/Puffer) but it’s not in season.
  • A private cooking class and dinner with the owners of Naila Bagh palace in Jaipur India.
  • A home visit with an Indian family for a formal dinner.
  • Attending a special cooking class in Petra Jordan to learn local cuisine from a master chef.
  • A private food tour through the streets of Amman to sample the very best Jordan has to offer.
  • Dinner in one of Amman’s most popular Arabic restaurants with a local family.
  • Consuming my body weight in pub food, Guinness and Irish whiskey. :)

I’ll be posting on these adventures upon my return and providing pictures and maybe even some useful information… assuming I survive. :)

Some fun from the past

I was going through old posts and came across this one which made me laugh so much I’ve decided to repost it. Enjoy.

I think I’ll have to do this again…

From “YOU GOT HERE HOW?” posted in 2009

Okay, I’m going to admit that I stole this idea from a fellow food blogger, but it’s a good one so no regrets.

When you have a website you can check on a large number of stats about your site and those who visit. One thing you can view is what was typed into search engines such as Google that lead someone to your site. Some of the things that bring people to ChowTown make me wonder exactly how this happened, below are the top search phrases for that past week that make me scratch my head.

  • “drive through with line of cars” – Well, I know that any drive through should have a line of cars so as far as finding the one you want… good luck with that.
  • “walmartdotcomaki” – So is this the new online Walmart sushi site?
  • “flapjacks on the open grill” – If your batter is thick enough for this you probably shouldn’t eat these or you’ll be visiting a proctologist for a manual withdrawl.
  • “I like subs am looking for some recipes” – Okay, so you figured out that talking to your computer won’t get a response, but his ain’t much better, now tell the voices to be quiet.
  • “how do they out the meat together” – I don’t know and honestly I don’t actually want you visiting my site…please.
  • “red bowl” – I’m guessing this guy scrolled through 500 pages before finding ChowTown with this, and I don’t even condone the use of red bowls.
  • “spoiled beef recipe” – I really shouldn’t even admit that someone linked to ChowTown with this search.
  • “raw octopus lips tingle” – I don’t actually know what to say here and it frightens me to think what sites they were looking for…eeeewwww.

And the winner is…

After posting the strange things people typed into search engines that somehow lead them to ChowTown I kept looking farther back and found one I had to share with others because “A problem shared is a problem halved” and if I’m going to need therapy then so should you.

“naked sushi party skin infection” – Oh dear god!!, the mental image sears my mind. What’s wrong with these people?! I think I need a shower…

Authentic Japanese Village Steak Sauce Recipe

A while back I visited our local version of the Teppanyaki steak house (a store called  Japanese Village). I’ve been there several times over the many years it’s been around and on this visit I remembered that I always wanted to know the recipe for the “Steak Sauce” they served.

After some asking around I located a fellow who knows someone who worked there and knew the recipe. Even better they’d call me and read it from the actual recipe sheet at the store. It was fun to be texting back and forth while this person was in the kitchen at the restaurant getting one or two ingredients at a time while they tried to hide what they were doing. Very cool spy stuff.   The recipe produced a very large quantity that they made for the restaurant but I’ve been able to convert it to a smaller and more manageable size for home use. This is the only alteration made.

While the brand names of the ingredients used were not given, you should be able to get the right taste if you use high quality stuff.

I’ve had many..MANY requests to find this recipe and so here it is in all it’s glory. This is the original and not one of the guesses I’ve seen online. It’s simple and has that taste that keeps visitors to the restaurant pouring it on everything they eat there.

Ingredients:

  • ¾ cup  Soy Sauce (Japanese Shoyu type)
  • 1 cup  Vegetable Oil
  • ½ cup Toasted Sesame Seeds
  • 1 Egg yolk
  • ½ tablespoon Dry Mustard
  • 1 Clove Garlic, large (Minced)
  • ½ cup Chopped Onion (One small Onion)
  • ½ cup Whipping Cream

Method:

  1. Place soy sauce, sesame seeds, onion and garlic in a blender and mix on high for 30 seconds.
  2.  Add remaining ingredients and blend until fine.

“To Die For” BBQ Ribs

Anyone who knows me and has talked about food with me will very likely be aware of my love for all things pork. Pig in it’s various forms is without a doubt my favorite edible animal.

In many ways the pinnacle of porkyness is the BBQ rib. This is a treat I’ve had the great pleasure to sample in numerous forms. I’ve come to love all of the many versions that one can find across the American South. I’ve eaten BBQ ribs from West Texas to Eastern North Carolina & everywhere in between, so while it’s impossible to say which one I like the best I will say that I tend to like sweet and sticky sauces. It’s for this reason that when it came time to come up with a BBQ rib recipe for myself I chose this version.

What follows is TRUE BBQ. I’m talking about cooking LOW & SLOW. I’ve even employed a tried and true method by which one can smoke the ribs on your grill prior to cooking them. These ribs are brined and dry-rubbed as well. This is a combination that produces an amazingly good rib. Now while it takes a great deal of time and effort is very much worth it in the end. The name says it all…

I’d like to thank MeatHead the “BBQ Whisperer & Zen Master of Ribs” for his contributions to this recipe.

The Soak

Ingredients:

  • 1 litre Dr. Pepper
  • 1 litre pineapple juice, unsweetened
  • 1 cup brown sugar, packed
  • 2 tablespoons salt
  • 1 tablespoon cayenne pepper

Method:

  1. Combine all ingredients in a large pot and bring to a boil over medium-high.
  2. Reduce heat to low and cook for 10 minutes. Stir occasionally.
  3. Remove from heat and let cool to room temperature.

 The Rub

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup firmly packed brown sugar
  • ¾ cup white sugar
  • ½ cup paprika
  • ¼ cup sea salt
  • ¼ cup garlic powder
  • 2 tablespoons ground black pepper
  • 2 tablespoons ground ginger powder
  • 2 tablespoons onion powder
  • 2 teaspoons rosemary

Method:

  1. Grind spices together with mortar & pestle.
  2. Mix all ingredients thoroughly in a bowl. If the brown sugar is lumpy, crumble the lumps by hand or on the side of the bowl with a fork

 The Sauce

Ingredients:

  • 2 tablespoons chili powder
  • 1 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon table salt
  • 2 cups ketchup
  • ½ cup yellow mustard
  • ½ cup apple cider vinegar
  • ¼ cup Worcestershire sauce
  • ¼ cup lemon juice
  • ¼ cup steak sauce
  • ¼ cup black strap molasses
  • 4 medium cloves of garlic, crushed or minced
  • ¼ cup liquid honey
  • 1 teaspoon hot sauce
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 3 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 1 medium onion, finely chopped
  • 2 tablespoons tamarind chutney

Method:

  1. In a small bowl, mix the chili powder, black pepper, and salt.
  2. In a large bowl add the ketchup, mustard, vinegar, Worcestershire sauce, lemon juice, steak sauce, molasses, honey, hot sauce, tamarind chutney and brown sugar. Mix them until well combined.
  3. Over medium heat, warm the oil in a large saucepan. Add the onions and sauté until limp and translucent, about 5 minutes. Add garlic, and cook for another minute. Add the dry mix and stir for about 2 minutes to extract the oil-soluble flavours.
  4. Add the wet ingredients to pan. Simmer uncovered over medium heat for 15 minutes to thicken somewhat. You can remove chunks with an emersion blender if you wish.
  5. Refrigerate overnight for best results.

Hardware:

  • 1 gas grill
  • 1 tank of propane. No, you won’t need it all, however until you get used to this technique don’t risk running out by starting with a partial tank.
  • 1 in-grill smoke box.
  • 8 ounces by weight of hardwood chunks or chips. It doesn’t matter how many slabs you are cooking, 8 ounces should be enough. I prefer apple and/or hickory. Never use any kind of pine unless you want meat that tastes like turpentine. Never use construction lumber because it’s often treated with toxic chemicals. You do not need to soak the wood.
  • 1 pair of long handled tongs
  • 1 sauce brush
  • 1 good digital thermometer with remote sensor
  • 1 six pack of beer (for the cook, not the meat)
  • 1 lawn chair

Software:

  • 2 slabs of St. Louis Cut (SLC) ribs. That’s ½ slab per adult. If you use baby back ribs, get a whole slab per adult. You can use baby back ribs if you prefer. They are smaller and cook faster. Get fresh, not frozen meat if possible. Fresh meat has the best pork flavour and the most moisture. Ask the butcher to remove the membrane on the back side.
  • 4 tablespoons cooking oil
  • The Soak
  • ½ cup of The Rub
  • 1 cup of The Sauce

Prep the Meat:

  1. Skin ‘n’ Trim. If the butcher has not removed the membrane from the back side of your ribs, do it yourself. It gets leathery and hard to chew, it keeps fat in, and it keeps smoke and sauce out. Insert a butter knife under the membrane, then your fingers, work a section loose, grip it with a paper towel, and peel it off. Finally, trim the excess fat from both sides. If you can’t get the skin off, with a sharp knife, cut slashes through it every inch so some of the fat will render out during the cooking.
  2. Soak ‘n’ Rinse. Put rib racks in a large zipper bag or baking pan and cover with marinade mixture. Place in fridge for 2 hours.  Remove and rinse the ribs under cool water to remove any bone fragments from the butchering. Pat dry with paper towel.
  3. Rub. Coat the meat with a thin layer of vegetable oil. This is done because most of the flavourings in the rub are oil soluble, not water soluble. Sprinkle enough rub to coat all surfaces but not so much that the meat doesn’t show through. Sprinkle about 2 tablespoons per side of a large slab of St. Louis Cut ribs. To prevent contaminating your rub with uncooked meat juices, spoon out the proper amount before you start and seal the rest for future use. Wrap the ribs in plastic film and refrigerate them overnight

Prep the Grill:

Set up your gas grill for 2-Zone Indirect cooking. This is the method best suited for gas grills and also the one I use.

  1. Remove your cooking grates.
  2. Remove any lava rocks if you have any in your grill.
  3. Adjust the temp. Preheat your grill to about 225°F. This will take some time. Try to keep it there throughout the smoke/cook. Cooking at 225°F will allow the meat to roast low and slow, liquefying the collagen in connective tissues and melting fats without getting the proteins knotted in a bunch. It’s this magic temperature that creates great texture, retains moisture and keeps the meat tender. If you can’t hit 225°F, get as close as you can. Don’t go under 200°F and try not to go over 250°F.
  4. Place a disposable foil roasting pan full of water under the cooking grate(s) on the side you will be placing the ribs (unheated side). Make sure it’s large enough to have its edges as close to the walls of your grill as you can.
  5. Place half of the wood you chose for smoking (4oz) in the smoke box and set it over the section above where the heat will be. Put the smoke box as close to the flame as possible. Resist the temptation to add more wood. Nothing will ruin a meal faster and waste money better than over smoked meat. You can always add more the next time you cook, but you cannot take it away if you over smoke.
  6. Replace the cooking grates.

Get Cooking:

  1. Put the ribs on the grill over the indirect or non heated  area, meaty side up. Close the lid and go drink a beer, read a book, or make love.
  2. When the smoke dwindles after 20 to 30 minutes, add the remaining 4 ounces of wood. That’s it. Stop adding wood. If you have more than one slab on, halfway through the cook you will need to move the ribs closest to the fire away from the heat, and the slabs farthest from the flame in closer. Leave the meat side up. There is no need to flip the slabs. Otherwise, keep your lid on. Opening it  just upsets the delicate balance of heat, moisture, and oxygen inside your grill. It can also significantly lengthen the cooking time. No peeking. If you’re lookin’, you ain’t cookin’.
  3. Allow 5 to 6 hours for St. Louis Cut ribs or 3 to 4 hours for baby back ribs. The exact time will depend on how thick the slabs are and how steady you have kept the temp. If you use rib holders so they are crammed close to each other, add about 1 hour. To check to see if the ribs are ready. Use the bend test. Pick up a slab with tongs and bounce it gently. If the surface cracks, it’s ready.
  4. Now brush both sides of the ribs with sauce and put them directly over the hottest part of the grill in order to caramelize and crisp the sauce. With the lid open so you don’t roast the meat from above, sizzle the sauce on one side and then the other. Stand by your grill and watch because sweet sauce can go from caramelized to carbonised in less than a minute! One coat should be enough, but if you need two, go ahead, but no more! Don’t hide all the fabulous flavours under too much sauce. If you think you’ll want more sauce, put some in a bowl on the table.
  5. If you’ve done all this correctly you’ll notice that there is a thin pink layer beneath the surface of the meat. This does not mean it is undercooked. Rather it is the highly prized smoke ring caused by the combustion gases and the smoke. It’s one sign of Amazing Ribs.

Creole Crawfish and Corn Chowder

This has not been a summer of creative cooking. We did still host our annual Crab-Boil however  so I did cook. After having some crawfish and andouille sausage left over (ok, we kept some for ourselves) I thought about ways to use it that would be fairly easy and not usual for me. What I decided on was a soup and more specifically a chowder.

Below is what I came up with and it was very well received by those who tried it.

Due to crawfish being not that easy to get and already peeled meat almost impossible (and after peeling mine for over an hour) I think it would be safe to substitute shrimp and scallops to turn this into a seafood chowder. Give it a try and let me know what you think.

Ingredients:

  • 8-10 ounces of andouille sausage links
  • ¼ cup butter
  • 1 ½ cups onion, finely chopped
  • ¾ cup carrot, finely chopped
  • ½ cup celery, finely chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, Minced
  • 2 cups red bell peppers, finely chopped
  • 4 cups frozen corn
  • ¼ cup flour
  • 2 ½ litres chicken stock (can use fish or shrimp stock if desired)
  • 2 cups russet potatoes, peeled and cut into ½ inch cubes
  • 4 Teaspoons Creole seasoning
  • ½ teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 2 tsp thyme leaves
  • 1 ½ pounds cooked, peeled crawfish tail meat
  • 2 cups whipping cream (one 500ml container)

Method:

  1. Grill andouille until nicely browned on the outside. Does not have to be cooked through, just grilled. Halve and cut into ¼ inch slices.
  2. Warm a large pot over medium heat and add 2 tbsp butter, onions, carrots, and celery. Cook, stirring often, until vegetables are soft, about 8 minutes.
  3. Add the andouille. Cook, stirring for about 2 minutes.
  4. Add the garlic and stir in.
  5. Add the remaining butter, bell peppers and corn to the pot and cook for 10-12 minutes, stirring often.
  6. Sprinkle the flour over the vegetables in the pot and stir constantly for 2 minutes.
  7. Add the chicken stock to the pot and stir to combine.
  8. Add the potatoes, Creole seasoning, cayenne, and thyme to the pot and bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer and continue to cook for 20-30 minutes, or until potatoes are very tender.
  9. Add the crawfish meat and whipping cream, stir and cook for 5 to 8 minutes.