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Archive for January, 2010

Macrobiotic cooking

How much have you gained over the holiday break?

Woo… I hear many gasps and fainting sounds everywhere. I know many people trying to get back to where they were before the Christmas season. Oh, me? Dude, I’ve given up long time ago, yo. I’ve reached the point where I simply accept the fact my stomach’s been fatter and fatter without no sign of thinning.

Yup, I like any meat, oily deep-fried stuff, with chocolaty dessert afterwards. But I equally like my greens, grains and beans too. Because I like anything that tastes good. So I had no problem trying out a new eating philosophy / method called Macrobiotic diet that’s been quietly increasing its popularity all over the world.

So what’s macrobiotic diet? You should go ask professor Wiki for its definition and explanation in details. But to me, it seems alot like a traditional Japanese regimen or I could roughly paraphrase as “stuff my grand parents used to eat.” Alot of veggies in seasons along with grains and beans cooked in Konbu dashi.

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Along with two other friends, I attended a macrobiotic cooking class run by Keiko the macrobiotic instructor at Soramame. Something I found particularly interesting and rather easier for all of us to take on daily healthy eating is that the macrobiotic diet doesn’t have much strict dietary restriction like vegetarian and vegan diet. Ingredients and condiments are categorised into yin, yang, and neutral. Then these are to be combined and cooked so the finished dish would be balanced out to be neutral.

The recipes for this class were focused on after-holiday detox. Yup, exactly what I needed. Desperately.

• Detox cleansing drink (soup) – facilitates getting rid of accumulated body fat.
• Macrobiotic style Nanakusa Gayu (Japanese Seven-herb rice porridge)
• Oatmeal & Tofu meat balls with sweet & sour sauce
• Pressed salad
• Orange crushed jelly

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One of the variations of Japanese pickles is called Asazuke, which literally translates to “quickly marinated/pickled.” And this salad was just like that. Sort of like a coleslaw without mayo. Thinly sliced carrot, cabbage and cucumber combined and rubbed to marinate with sea salt and lemon zest. Then press it down with weights or simply water filled bowl on the dish until water gets out.

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Now, this reminded me of the Oroshi Tofu Steak that I’ve recently posted. In this macrobiotic version, we combined firm tofu, oatmeal, grated carrots, sauteed onions and mushroom, soy sauce, sesame oil and sea salt. Unlike my version, there’s no egg nor Hanpen used, but adding oatmeal holds the mixture quite well. How come I never thought of using oatmeal as a substitute of flour/egg before! *slapping forehead*

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Nanakusa gayu (porridge/Congee) macrobiotic style. Instead of white rice, we had brown rice and millets. It’s more watery than ordinary rice porridge/congee, but with alot of other ingredients like white radish, turnip, bok choy, red beans, italian parsley – it’s quite filling I must say.

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We all initially expected this to be served chilled, but it was rather a soup. Grated carrots and white radish (Daikon), water, Nori (seaweed paper), Umeboshi (Japanese pickled sour plum) and soy sauce. This drink helps getting rid of fat accumulated in body, lowering cholesterol level, prevention of kidney stone, solving problems in bones, joints and lung.

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I <3 jellies in summer. In macrobiotic diet, use of gelatine, corn/potato starch is substituted with Agar (Agar agar/Kanten/Japanese isinglass), Kudzu or arrowroot. For this jelly, powdered agar was used. I actually prefer fruits jelly to be made with agar for its firmer texture and ‘crunchiness’. Oh, also I was super surprised how quickly the jelly sets with agar. It wasn’t even in the fridge!

Now the tasting time!

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Tofu & Oatmeal ball (with thicken sweet & sour soy sauce)
“Hmmm yum!” naturally came out of my mouth. Well, I love tofu to begin with, but adding Oatmeal to the mixture actually holds the combined ingredients well together and added another layer of flavour. My favourite of all.

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Nanakusa Gayu
To be honest, I’m not really a big fan of congee. However, I really didn’t mind having this as “once every week” sort of food.

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Detox Drink
Here’s the detox cleansing drink that I was very much intrigued. Lots of grated daikon radish and carrots with nori (seaweed paper) means lots of fibre to eat! And it tasted quite good as a soup, so that’s definitely a good thing when I have to emphasize on “detox” part.

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Pressed salad
Wasn’t really nothing new to me on this one because I already do this sometimes. But surely a refreshing dish on the day of the class!

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Crushed Orange Jelly
I LOVED IT! I wouldn’t usually choose agar to make jelly simply because it’s rather hard to find at supermarkets. Next time I see agars, I’ll definitely get one for sure!

OK, overall after trying out macrobiotics dishes, I was pretty impressed how filling and flavoursome these simple ingredients had turned out. Plus, as I mentioned at the beginning, I do like healthy options to begin with. I wouldn’t say every meal everyday, but I can easily see myself adopting more of macrobiotic methods into my daily diet. To me it was a rather realisation of what’s lacking from my daily intake.

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My favourite carrot salad – the first attempt to adapt marcrobiotic diet.

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Salt & black sesame tofu.

Now the great part of the macrobiotic diet I most certainly appreciate is, unlike other strict diets out there, it doesn’t force you to follow a philosophy you don’t necessarily believe or to eat things you’re not happy with. It’s more of an idea/suggestion to step forward and be “better” from just “fine”. Eating is one of the essential human instincts. Starving yourself or living on something you hate couldn’t be any better for yourself. Although it does have more strict ways to follow, such as for the purpose of diabetic treatment, macrobiotic diet for ordinary people living in this stressful world is supposed to be a little help to live better by eating well. And this class was definitely well-worth attending for me to have another opportunity to lead myself to the better living. And of course more eating.

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Then the day after. Btw.
I’ve been known as ‘constipation-less’, whatever I take in comes out no problem.
But even for me, all the fibres and grains I had from the food at the class worked super magically to my stomach.
How magical?

It only took 3 seconds.

Soramame
(currently their group classes are held in Japanese.)
For more information, contact Keiko directly.

Yakiniku Dinner @ Kashiwa

New Japanese BBQ on the block!

My usually choices for Korean/Japanese BBQ are Madang, O Bal Tan, Suminoya, Rengaya and recently visited Shinara. These are all Sydney’s mainstream BBQ restaurants aren’t they? So I was quite keen to find out what this new place in Crows Nest is like.

Yakiniku Kashiwa is located on Falcon street, just a block from Waqu, Jurin, and New Orleans cafe. Arriving at their address, I found Thai-riffic used-to-be now newly opened under new management next door. Seems really nice btw.

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Inside of Kashiwa actually reminded me of Ryotei the ramen place just a few blocks down the street – I think the layout of the place is pretty much identical LOL Nicely set up tables and yes, they’re equipped with smoke exhaust pipes hanging down from the celling. No coughing smokey dinner like you would at Suminoya. Each table is pretty long and large, and three of us were seated very comfortably.

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Kashiwa is not another all-you-can-eat BBQ place and they only have al a carte items. Looking at the menu, I say all dishes are reasonably priced – which made us wonder what the quality would be. Let’s find out shall we?

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As we go through the menu, Shichirin arrived on our table, and that only means “I’m ready to eat some meat.” I want one of these Japanese charcoal griller!

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First arrived was Wagyu Beef Ribs ($9.80) Oh yes, as the menu says, highly marbled juicy fat!

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Most people like ribs, but I prefer Harami (Beef skirt) for the tenderer texture. Their wagyu beef skirt was pretty awesome. ($10.80)

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I always envy Chinese, Thai, Malaysian speaking friends at restaurants for being able to read the specials on the wall, but this time it was my turn. We spotted a beef liver sashimi – a.k.a Reba sashi. Yes, it’s raw and served with sesame oil & salt. SO GOOD that I’m glad that I’m not a vegetarian.

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We also tried their special combination – including intestine, tripe and liver in Miso marinade sauce. If you haven’t tried intestine before, try it here – it was pretty good! ($9.80)

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Bibimbap on the other hand was just plain ok. I guess it’s best to leave this to Korean restaurants. Wasn’t bad though.

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Tsukune balls from side dish menu. I liked the chunky texture – I assume it’s home minced chicken ($7.80)

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And you can’t forget Ox tongue. We also ordered some chicken giblet – I had never found this at any other Japanese BBQ places! Love the crunchiness of it! ($8.80)

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Along with a few other side dishes & drinks, the bill came out to be $40 each ($120) I say the price is quite reasonable considering the quality of meat. Although I like the fearless (and bottomless) spirit of all-you-can-eat BBQ, but if that’s going to cost more less $40, I’d prefer coming here for better quality meat. And of course not to mention smokeless open space atmosphere they have. And friendly & attentive waitress.

As we rub our satisfied stomaches, Mayuri mentioned something I was trying to conjure with. “this place is like one in Japan, isn’t it?” Yeahh, that’s what I was trying to say! It’s the flavour and local feel to it – Not Korean BBQ, or Japanese BBQ restaurants in oversea locations, but Yakiniku joint in local Tokyo. It might not be the super awesome experience to you, but at least to me it was something I used to be familiar with. Like the one I used to go to with my friends after a long lecture at college – BBQ, beers and good friends.

Yakinku Kashiwa
7A Falcon Street, Crows Nest NSW 2065
02-9906-7393
Lunch 11:30 – 14:30
Dinner 17:00 -22:00
BYO Only


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Happy New Year!

OMFG! It’s already year 2010?! How did that happen so quickly?
Hope everyone had a great new year and getting ready to enjoy the brand new year.

Quite alot of my friends happen to be away from Sydney during the holiday season, I had a quite low key new years eve with the close friends in which we identify each other as “the usual.” Man, after coming back from the hectic trip to Tokyo, I barely had time to prepare much, to be honest. How time flies…

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We simply decided to gather up, eat whatever we feel like eating, and chill. To help clean up my pantry & fridge, I brought a beetroot, sardine, feta cheese and bean sprouts salad, cold cut cucumber with minced garlic, and two sushi platters from Makoto. Again.

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“I just wanted something spicy.” says Hisae, and we also had some Korean side dishes & Samgyeopsal. Yumminess. As usual, I was the one to keep eating even after everyone was relaxing in the living room watching DVD.

We then headed to Westfield in Bondi Junction. For what, you might ask? Did you know that you can watch the fireworks from the balcony deck?

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And at 4am Hisae and I were the only wide-awake ones left – still eating and planning to stay up till we see the first sunrise. Unfortunately we were only to realise that we should have left when outside was still dark. ;p

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Unfortunately the sky was cloudy and the sun had already risen by the time we got to Bronte. We stared at the sky for awhile as waves lapping against the beach. I don’t know if it was the crisp morning wind or the peaceful scenery before my eyes, something surely made me sense that this year is going to be a good one again. With new and old friends. And more food.

Happy new year to you all :)