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“Tell me what you eat and I’ll tell you who you are” – Brillat-Savarin

Monday, 30 March 2015

Asahiyama Zoo, Ashikawa (Hokkaido, Japan)

Hello from sunny California! Our family is on vacation for the next week or so in the US, so expect blog updates to be scarce until I get back home. I promise to share photos of our California trip, but for now, here are some photos of snowy Japan from our trip last month to Hokkaido. After a few days of skiing and snowboarding in Furano, we headed north to Asahikawa to visit the famous Asahiyama Zoo. This is Japan's northernmost zoo, and it is most well-known for the daily Penguin Walk during the winter season (twice a day from December to February, and once daily during March). We were there to see the arctic animals, and we were quite surprised to see emus (yes, the Aussie birds!) on exhibition out in the snow! They seemed to cope as well as the other winter animals, so it didn't seem cruel (the tropical animals were housed indoors under appropriately warm conditions).

Finally get to see a real live tanuki (Japanese raccoon dog), many years after I first heard about this legendary animal:

Elegant Japanese cranes:

A young doe:

A snowy owl that was very well-camouflaged in the snow, and it did take us awhile to spot it:

The Penguin Walk! It was the main event that most visitors to the zoo wanted to see:

Apparently, the Penguin Walk is a measure to keep obesity at bay during the winter months when the penguins are not so active. Really cute to see them waddle down the pathway out of their enclosure:

One of the polar bears at the zoo:

Family photo fun:

Tuesday, 24 March 2015

Brunch date @ Oolaa Petite, Hong Kong

The other Saturday, hubby and I snuck in a brunch date while the 6-year-old was in his Lego and Putonghua classes (conveniently back-to-back) and the baby was being looked after by the nanny during her nap. We chose to meet at Oolaa Petite as it was quite close to where the boy was taking his classes. I went straight from my BJJ class at the MMA gym I recently joined to meet hubby, and I was hungry for my second breakfast. This was my second visit to Oolaa Petite, though this is my first time at this location (the café that took over the original space was also pretty good, offering a similar menu). I liked the layout and the atmosphere of the new location better, and service was also more friendly and attentive. The quality of food was great and reasonably priced, and the coffee was excellent. The following photos were taken with the camera on my phone.

My Mocha (HK$45) which was tasty and not too sweet (unlike some places that do mocha cloyingly sweet). I had taken a sip before realising I meant to take a shot:

Hubby's Cappuccino (HK$45) was also good enough without sugar:

Hubby's Breakfast Bruschetta (HK$100), with diced tomato, avocado, red onion and basil on toasted sour dough, and topped with smoked bacon, two poached eggs and hollandaise sauce. Hearty brunch option that hubby relished:

My Smoked Salmon Rosti Stack (HK$95) - avocado, baby spinach and smoked salmon layered on a lightly fried potato rösti and topped with a poached egg and citrus hollandaise (served on the side as requested). So good, and a nice change from my usual eggs-benedict-with-salmon brunch order:

We indulged in the French Toast (HK$95) which came topped with sliced banana and mixed berries, and the maple syrup and whipped cream were served on the side:

We had a really nice date, and have agreed to make brunch dates happen more often. I have a feeling we will be coming here regularly for brunch dates.

[The prices quoted above do not include the 10% service charge.]

Oolaa Petite
Shop 2 Tower 2 Starcrest
9 Star Street
Wan Chai, Hong Kong
Tel. +852 2529 3823

Sunday, 22 March 2015

Jumbo sushi @ Fukuzushi, Furano (Hokkaido, Japan)

Japan is the land of delicious sushi, so it was only natural to enjoy delicious sushi during our ski/snowboard trip last month to Japan. The sushi at Fukuzushi goes one step further to offer the option of upgrading (for free) to 'jumbo size', though this just means extra sushi rice and the protein portion remains the same as the regular size. However, to the Japanese, sushi is all about the rice, so this sushi-ya is rather popular with both the Japanese and the foreigners for whom the word 'jumbo-sized sushi' (for free!) appears to be the draw. Hubby and I focus more on the quality rather than the quantity of food, and the sushi/sashimi at Fukuzushi are excellent. All the tables on the ground floor were fully reserved when we walked in, and we were shown to one of the tatami rooms upstairs. Service was as you would expect from Japanese people - polite and helpful - and Fukuzushi caters well to English-speaking foreigners by providing an English menu. As we communicated with staff in (broken) Japanese, I cannot comment on their English speaking ability, but I am sure there is at least one staff who can communicate in English well. We ordered our usual favourites, and enjoyed them all!

We were the first ones in this tatami room, but the other two tables were filled by the time we left:

Oyakodon (864yen) for the kids to share. Always a good choice for the young ones:

Unaju (1404yen), or unadon (eel rice bowl) served in a jubako (lacquered food boxes). We also ordered this for the kids but hubby ate most of it as unagi is one of his favourite Japanese food:

Hubby's Extra Special Sushi Set (3456yen), jumbo-sized. There was double the usual amount of rice, and the serving size of the toppings was generous too. Included ikura (salmon roe), uni (sea urchin), shrimp, hotate (scallop), kani (crab), akagai (ark shell clam), crunchy kazunoko (herring roe) and chuutoro (medium fatty tuna belly):

My Premium Chirashi (1944yen), with similar toppings to hubby's Extra Special Sushi Set but with salmon, tobiko (flying fish roe) and tamagoyaki (egg omelet). Delicious!

Green Tea Ice Cream (378yen), a safe choice for dessert:

Shiratama Zenzai (sweet rice balls with anko (red bean paste), 378yen). A delicious and light dessert:

Fukuzushi gets our thumbs ups!

Fukuzushi
1-24 Asahimachi,
Furano, Hokkaido
Japan 076-0026
Tel. +81 167-23-2617

Wednesday, 18 March 2015

Anzac Biscuits for school fair

My boy's school held its annual school fair last Saturday, and I was asked to contribute some baked goods for the Western Stall. I decided to contribute an Aussie item, the Anzac biscuits, to introduce it to people in Hong Kong (locals and non-Aussie expats) who have not encountered it before. It is said that these biscuits originated around the time of World War I, when wives, girlfriends, mothers and children would bake nutritious biscuits and send them in food parcels to the Australian troops overseas. The biscuits were first called the Soldiers' Biscuits, but people started calling them Anzac Biscuits after the landing on Gallipoli, in honour of the brave fighting soldiers, the ANZACS (Australia and New Zealand Army Corps). There are no eggs in Anzac biscuits because eggs were scarce during the war, and this also meant that the biscuits would remain edible for long periods of time. I chose a well-reviewed recipe on taste.com.au, and I stayed relatively true to the recipe, resisting the urge to reduce the sugar. The resulting biscuits were too sweet for me, however I have a more sensitive tastebuds than most people, and hubby said that my biscuits were just the right amount of sweet. I baked two batches, and it all sold out, evidence that the recipe is good for the masses. I used wholewheat flour because that was what I had in my pantry, and it worked fine - the biscuits are quite textured with the rolled oats anyway, so the wholewheat flour barely made a difference.

Anzac biccies all packed and ready for sale:

I also baked a batch of brownies, because brownies are always popular, and it was one of the first items to sold out at the stall:

The Western Stall set up at the school fair. There were also other stalls selling Japanese, Korean, Chinese and Filipino food, representing the different nationalities of the students in the school. The stalls were organised by the PTA and food donated by parents. There was also a pizza stall with pizzas provided by an actual pizza shop. The fair was a success:

Anzac Biscuits

Ingredients
150g (1 cup) wholewheat flour
90g (1 cup) rolled oats (see Notes)
85g (1 cup) desiccated coconut
155g (3/4 cup) caster sugar
125g butter
2 tablespoons golden syrup
2 tablespoons water
1/2 teaspoon baking powder

Method

1. Preheat oven to 160°C. Line 2 baking trays with non-stick baking paper.
2. Combine flour, oats, coconut and sugar in a large bowl.
3. Stir the butter, golden syrup and water in a small saucepan over medium heat until the butter melts and the
mixture is smooth. Stir in the baking powder. Add to the oat mixture and stir until well combined.
4. Roll level tablespoonfuls of the oat mixture into balls and place, about 5cm apart, on the prepared trays.
Flatten until about 1cm thick. Bake, swapping trays halfway through cooking, for 15 minutes or until light
golden. Set aside for 10 minutes to cool slightly before transferring to wire racks to cool completely.