Saturday, 17 November 2012

Char Siew

This is my mum's version of Char Siew and as everyone knows - mum's cooking is always the best!
My mum is a fantastic cook and somewhere, somehow, along the way, I managed to pick up some of her skills!

I've cooked char siew with Shoulder Pork and Pork Belly and I would say that I prefer Pork Belly as it has more fats, hence, in my opinion - shiok! For the more health conscious of you out there, you can use shoulder pork - nothing wrong with that!

Out of interest, I have trolled the net to see what other recipes there are for char siews and they are mind boggling. But there is one that says to add hoisin sauce to the marinade and one day I will try this and see if it makes a difference, but today, here is my mum's recipe.

The recipe is very similar to her honey pork - link here:
Only difference is that the pork is being sliced first whereas for the char siew, the pork is being cooked whole!


1 kg Belly pork strips
1 tbsp dark soy sauce
2 tbsp honey or Maltose
2 tbsp Oyster sauce
1 tbsp Sesame oil
2 tbsp Chinese wine (Optional)1 tbsp oil
300 ml water
salt and pepper to taste

1. Place everything in frypan or wok and bring to boil.
2. Once the gravy has come up to the boil, turn fire down to low and simmer for about 45 mins to an hour, turning the meat over once or twice.
3. If the gravy has boiled down and meat has not softened, add a bit more water.
4. When pork is soft enough, remove from sauce and place under grill 220 deg for about 5 mins or so to char the meat, turning over once to get both sides nicely charred
5. In the meantime, cook down the sauce and leave aside.
6. Once meat is charred, brush with honey and cut into slices.
7. When ready to serve, pour some of the sauce over the meat.

Friday, 9 November 2012

Tokyo, Nikko, Mt Fuji, Hakone, Takayama, Shirakawa ko, Kanazawa and Kyoto - 8 - 14 October

This is the 2nd half or 2nd week of our holiday in Japan. After our free and easy holiday in Hokkaido, we are going on a week long package tour of the main sights on Honshu island.

Arrived at Haneda airport at around 3+ and there was a taxi waiting to take us to Keio Plaza Hotel in Shinjuku. Checked into our room and relaxed for a bit and then had to go down to meet with Mr and Mrs Kunimatsu - my ex boss from JTB Singapore (the first company I worked for when I got back from Japan in 1986) - a little diversion here - I gave birth to my daughter in December 1986 and in January 1987 went for an interview and got the job, JTB Singapore opened in March 1987 with the 2 of us (Kunimatsu san and myself), and as they say, the rest is history.

So they came to take us to one of the oldest sukiyaki restaurants in Tokyo. The restaurant started at around 1880 or something. The main branch is at Akasaka, but since we were staying in Shinjuku, went to Times Square which was about a 10 minute walk from our hotel. So many changes in Tokyo! Our first course was a mixed appetiser. Second appetiser was roast beef sushi. Then came the chawan mushi with Matsutake. And the main course was of course the sukiyaki and my oh my, the meat is full of marbling and is so tender it melts in your mouth. Am still dreaming of the taste!

Monday we had a half day Tokyo sightseeing tour with Imperial Palace, Tokyo Tower and Asakusa. They dropped us off at Tokyo station and we had to find our own way back to Shinjuku. Got on the Chuo line and it was an express to Shinjuku. Magic! hehe Walked back to the hotel where Kunimatsu san was waiting for us at the hotel to take us to lunch.

View from Tokyo Tower

View from glass viewing platform

 View from Glass viewing platform

Tokyo Tower

Tokyo Tower

Walked back to Shinjuku to have lunch in another old establishment, this time a tempura restaurant. It was a Monday and a PH at that and even though there were no office workers queing for lunch, it was still busy and there was a queque outside the shop. Kunimatsu san pointed out that there was another tempura shop just diagonally opposite from this one but it was quiet! So this must be good then, to have a queue! So anyways, we waited for about 15 mins and then got our seat at the counter. The tempura was really good, as they fry and serve only when you have finished your food, so the pictures shown are very lonely, as you dont see the whole picture!

Queue  outside the tempura restaurant

Dessert - Tempura ice cream!

Lunch done, went back to hotel. While Pat rested in the room, I still had things to do. As I told him to pack for a week and a bit, I had to go look for a coin laundry place to wash our clothes. Luckily, there was one which was about a 10 - 15 mins walk from the hotel. Yen 400 for wash and and Yen 400 for tumble dry. Put my clothes in the wash and then asked them to put it in the tumble dryer and I would collect it later on in the night. Already sat there for half an hour for the wash and could not bear the thought of sitting another half an hour waiting for the clothes to dry, besides, all the dryers were in use!

Walked to Shinjuku, trying to find my way to Odakyu department store, but only found Keio department store. Went down to the supermarket section looking for food for dinner as we were still full up from lunch. If you do get a chance to go to Tokyo or any busy city in Japan, go to the supermarket at around dinner time and you will understand what I am trying to say. It is so busy with shoppers and they have such a huge range of food, that you are so confused as to what to buy! Decided to go and look for Odakyu  department store and this time found it. Shinjuku station is so huge and they have so many restaurants and shops there as well. Got to the supermarket and got some food, except I cant remember now what I bought and then had to find my way out again! After our little dinner in the hotel room, Pat and I took a walk back to collect our clothes.

Next few days were coach/trains trips to Mt Fuji, Hakone, Takayama, Shiragawako, Kanazawa and Kyoto.
I shall let the pictures do the talking.

Mt Fuji in the distance

Hakone Lunch

Little autumnal colour

Another view of Mt Fuji in the distance from Lake Ashi

Nikko waterfall

Lunch in Nikko


Kenraku koen

Sunset in Kanazawa


Sunday, 4 November 2012

Hakodate, Toyako and Sapporo Japan - 2 - 7 October

I have been planning for our Japan trip for so many months now - a couple of years actually. Have been telling Pat that I would like to show him round Japan and since our cruise to the Far East last year got cancelled, he agreed to go and see Japan! Yay!

Had to visit Hakodate - the city in Hakkaido that I lived in for 3 years when I first got married. I wanted to visit the place and get in touch with my ex colleagues but how? Had not been in contact with them since my last visit there when Liana was like 3 years old. Out of desperation, called the restaurant that I worked in and looked for 1 of them and lo and behold, after 30+ years, he is still working there!!!!! He had already retired but still goes back to work! I am elated. He has agreed to round up the people that I used to work with when I went. Happiness!

Left London on Monday 1 October at 1300 UK time (2100 Japan) and arrived at Tokyo Narita Airport on Tuesday, 2 October at 0900. Then took a limousine bus to Haneda airport for our flight to Hakodate. Arrived in Hakodate at around 1530 and then another half hour bus to train station where our hotel was. We stayed at Hakodate Kokusai Hotel for the 3 nights that we planned to be there.

Then at around 1900 we left the hotel to go to the restaurant for dinner. This is a family run restaurant/wedding venue that has been around for about 130 years. They are famous for their curries and even sell their curry pouches! Remember that I have not been there for about 23 years. I thought I knew the way, so we walked there. We walked around in circles but finally got there after around half and hour and after asking for directions about 3 times. Got there and my goodness, they were expecting us. I only thought they were expecting us the next day but good thing we went cos the present MD gave me a bouquet of roses. Ah, I was so touched! And we were treated to dinner as well. Sorry, no pictures of our curry dinner as I was a bit tired as we have been awake for 20+ hours. Yagi san (my friend) pointed us in the direction of our hotel and it only took us 10 mins to walk back. It was just 1 straight road and silly me, well.... hehe

When we arrived, we were a bit worried because when we were leaving UK, I read that airports in Hokkaido were closed because of typhoons but none of that when we arrived... it was nice and sunny! Only the next day was raining but we still went for a walk after breakfast. We went to the Asa Ichi or Morning market and went back to the hotel for a rest. Headed out the the Morning market again as there were restaurants there, so settled on lunch there.

That night, met up with a few of my close friends for dinner and I especially asked for an Izakaya and not a restaurant as I wanted Pat to have a feel of an Izakaya or Japanese pub. It was good, food was good, company was good and we talked and joked as if we had not parted. We had sashimi, grilled fish, battered squid, karaage and best of all, there was a show put on by the Izakaya's boss when you order Ikura don. He  heaps and heaps loads of ikura onto your bowl of rice and my only regret is that I did not video it! Yagi san was so sweet to take us up to Mount Hakodate to take a picture of the night view. Could not stay long as it was so cold and windy up there!

Spent our last day in Hakodate with Yagi san taking us round a few of the scenic places. Friday morning, went to collect our rental car and drove to Toya ko which is a lake which was formed by earthquake and the movements of the mountains. Stayed there a night at Pension Ohno - dinner and breakfast included and dinner was great! Caught some fireworks - they have fireworks at Lake Toya from April to October! Just wanted to say that the Sat Nav system in Japan is great as it allows for you to input a telephone number instead of an address and it's bilingual as well! haha

Next morning drove onwards to Sapporo. Stayed at Royton Hotel which was reserved for us by an ex-colleague from JTB. Thought of going to the Sapporo Shiroi Koibito factory but as it was quite far out, gave it a miss. Instead, we walked to the Botanical gardens which was a close walk to our hotel. Half way there, wondering to go or not as the skies looked dark, but we still walked on and whilst we were admiring the roses, the heavens opened and we had to take cover under the trees!

In the evening, had to take Pat to try Genghis Khan which is a mongolian bbq but using lamb. The place that we were going to originally was recommended by a waitress in the hotel coffee shop but she did not tell us to make a reservation and on hindsight (it was a Sat nite) should have, but we were not going to wait half an hour for a table, so went walking round Susukino which is the night life area of Sapporo. Just 3 mins walk away, we saw another Genghis Khan restaurant and walked in and took the last table! Yums..

Sunday morning returned the car and waited for our flight to Haneda.

Tokyo and the rest will be in the next posting!