Sunday, 6 February 2011

I have made my own Vegetarian Sushi - It's Easy when you know how - Find out how to make sushi online !

My first attempt ever at Sushi (and not looking too bad if I do say so myself!!)
And here's how I did it......

I tried two different sushi rice types, Haruka and Kotobuki.  Both are cooked using the same measurements and techniques; basically its 1 cup rice to 1.5 cups water; bring to the boil in a large pan, then simmer until the water has evaporated (approx. 8-10 mins); leave covered in the pan to cool.  The rice is used at room temperature.  If using a seasoning for the rice, it should be stirred through whilst the rice is still hot, otherwise it will lose its consistency / stickiness.

And this is how sticky the rice gets.... use a bowl of cold water to rinse your hands to remove the grains.

Unlike the Kotobuki rice, Haruka rice doesn't require any rinsing, and has a much shinier appearance to the grain.  Both varieties gave the same end result though (although this one had more of a bite to it).

Just some of the ingredients used as fillings:  cucumber, ginger, chilli (a personal preference), wasabi sauce, japanese radish, lemon and lime.  Obviously fish or meats would be good; egg strips were popular in Japan; and we even ate a sweet sushi, rice wrapped in a pancake rather than seaweed with a maple syrup type sugar sauce poured over.

Using a bamboo mat for rolling (although a silicone baking sheet would be just as effective), place the seaweed sheet so that the glossy side faces down - the rice is placed on the rougher looking side.  To spread the sticky rice, rinse your hands in cold water, scoop a handful of rice into a ball, then spread the rice by pushing it to cover the seaweed.  The thinner the layer of rice, the easier it will be to roll up.  Another tip:  cover your bamboo mat in clingfilm or a bag to stop the rice sticking to it, and to give a cleaner finish.

Add the required filling to the rice, spreading the flavours evenly.

Using the mat, roll the seaweed into a long sausage shape; keep rolling and applying pressure until it is of a firm, dense texture.  The seaweed sheet becomes quite elastic and pliable from the moisture of the fillings, so don't be afraid or it. 

Cut the sushi roll down the middle.

Match the ends of the roll, and trim off the rough edge.  Presentation is everything!!

et Voila (don't know the Japanese equivalent), here's the sushi.   Add a dab of soy sauce, fish sauce, chilli sauce, etc for dipping.  Yum, a nice, healthy meal - much more filling than it looks.

Wednesday, 2 February 2011

Tokyo Tower versus the Eiffel Tower ... Our Experiences

If you have ever visited the Eiffel Tower in Paris, you will have been struck by its enormous dimensions. We have walked up the Eiffel Tower and can say with some qualification that its a long way up. So on our holiday to Tokyo we had to go and see the Tokyo Tower, which is built in homage to its French cousin. We had read that it was even taller than the Eiffel Tower, so we were waiting to be knocked over by it.

What we noticed, as we approached the Tokyo Tower through winding streets from the direction of the Emporer's Palace, was that it was going to be challenged by the scale of the surroundings. In Paris, The Eiffel Tower stands in a beautifully open approach, with tailored gardens and radiating roads. In Tokyo, the Tokyo Tower stands within surrounding tower blocks in a mish-mash of roads and as a result seems to be far smaller than the Eiffel Tower. I think that not being able to climb up the Tokyo Tower helps to convince the brain that you are dealing with a smaller structure, but as the following figures will show the Japanese have it :-)

The Tokyo Tower stands 1,091 ft tall, compared to the Eiffel Tower at only 1,063 ft. The Weight of the towers are surprisingly different also, with the Eiffel Tower maxing at 7,300 tonnes and the Tokyo Tower weighs far less at just 4,000 tonnes ... Showing the difference in modern construction techniques and materials.

I have to mention the difference in the visitor experience. In my opinion the Eiffel Tower beats Tokyo hands down, with all of the historic grandeur that is presented on each level. Tokyo leans towards modernity, with a visitor lounge effect. The top layer of the Tokyo Tower was horrid and we walked around once and joined the queue to return to the more spacious lower level. The windows were smeared by greasy noses, rendering them impossible to photograph through. I would say don't bother paying the extra to go to the top.

Thursday, 27 January 2011

Cheap Restaurants in Tokyo - It is possible to eat cheaply and well in Tokyo !

In Tokyo it is very easy to find simple, tasty food for low cost.

As a visitor you are naturally going to feel drawn to what you are used to and as in other major cities, familiarity is often accompanied by higher prices. For those who are less fearful of new places and cultures, there are an amazing array of inexpensive restaurants, bars and cafes.

Communication will always be a problem, as small restaurant owners rarely speak fluent English. Many restaurants can still function admirably when faced with a language barrier.

The restaurants to look for are those with pictures and examples of their signature dishes on the outside of their restaurants. Some have 3D versions, some have dozens of 10x8 images. If you see these restaurants, take time to study the cuisine and find one that looks appealing. Simply walk in and ask for a table to suit your party (a simple process of how many seats you require). Appoint one member of your party to communicate with the waiting staff. All this party member has to do is take the waiter to the pictures and point slowly to each meal that you require ... simple and usually welcomed by the waiting staff, who must struggle with less organised patrons.

The meal above cost just £8 for two meals and two teas. It was filling and tasty. Be aware that these restaurants are often a bit smoky, so there is always that to consider.

Condomania - It's trendy in Tokyo to Wear Rubber

Condomania - It's trendy in Tokyo to Wear Rubber

We were initially shocked, but gradually gained respect to the concept of making a condom shop very trendy in the heart of Tokyo.

Here's the website link, translated by Google - Take a look at the gift sets ;-)

Wednesday, 26 January 2011

Tokyo Dome and LaQua Spa Centre in Tokyo

Tokyo Dome and LaQua Centre in Tokyo

A few hundred yards from SUIDOBASHI ST. Station in Tokyo is a Spa / Shopping / Entertainment Centre that is well worth a visit when you are in Tokyo.

The Tokyo Dome houses baseball, other sports, exhibitions and pop concerts. It has a huge capacity and while we were there we witnessed the end of a concert, where thousands of hyperactive fans turned out into the surrounding walkways, resembling a sea of excited heads (see picture below).

The complex spreads outwards from the Dome to include the LaQua Spa and Shopping / Eating Centre, also an entertainment centre that includes rides and fun experiences for kids and adults alike.

Nearby is the Tokyo Dome Hotel, one of the premier hotels in Tokyo. In the surrounding areas are pleasant 3 star hotels that offer a great central location to explore this bustling area of Tokyo.

Sunday, 23 January 2011

From the Large City Temples to the Local Community Shrines, Roman Catholicism could learn a lot from how Buddhism and Shinto have made themselves accessible to the public.

From the Large City Temples to the Local Community Shrines, Roman Catholicism could learn a lot from how Buddhism and Shinto have made themselves accessible to the public.

As a lapsed Catholic, visiting Japan has helped to clarify why my formal religious beliefs have waned over the years. The first thing that any visitor will notice when landing in Tokyo is that religious belief is absolutely ingrained in every element of life and access to a shrine is possibly easier than finding a newsagents. As far as I could see, each local community has there own small shrine, with major shrines and temples speckled around the city. These shrines are so accessible that stopping off and asking for a nice life each day seems like no effort at all. In our time here, we have seen many shrines and temples and each one has had visitors. The small ones have a steady flow throughout the day, the larger are focal points for coach parties and they are busy at all times.

Good fortune is married to a life long dedication to good behaviour, cementing the public's need to have hope in their futures with their responsibility towards family, fellow man and the world around them.

In the UK we used to be able to visit a church whenever we needed peaceful reflection, spiritual guidance or forgivness from sin ... Today, you are more likely to be confronted by a lock church door and a sign showing the regular weekly formal worship times. What we need is a shrine on each church grounds, open all of the time and available to us whenever we need to remember our place in the scheme of things and the supporting strength that the Roman Catholic church provides.

Roman Catholicism has all of the ritual, the strength of belief and massive support structure of Buddhism and Shinto, it simply lacks common accessibility for its flock.

Sadly, at the moment, I feel that I'm only welcome to a UK church if I have a tenner in my pocket.

Tuesday, 18 January 2011

Where can you find a Cash Machine / Dispenser in Tokyo ?

Where can you find a Cash Machine / Dispenser in Tokyo ?

A visitor to Tokyo will soon notice that finding a cash machine that recognises Visa cards can be difficult. There are lots of these machines, you just need to know where to look for them. One of the most popular and commonly accessible shops in Tokyo is the 7 Eleven store. These shops stock everything from daily requirements, such as washing powder, toothpaste, sushi packed lunches and even european wines at reasonable prices. But more importantly to the European traveller, they have cash points that serve Visa cards. They are usually positioned in an out of the way corner, but these machines are always well stocked and can dispense cash in larger amounts that the Post Offices, which are often limited to 10,000 Yen. We successfully managed to withdraw as much as 40'000 Yen, which I think is the limited daily amount stipulated by our bank, back in the UK.

I hope this helps :-)