October 2010

Food and Food: Asia and japan31 Oct 2010 08:31 am

garlic ice cream

While at the grocery store Friday night, I finally bought a tiny tub of this Dracula Premium ice cream. I suspected due to its packaging it was garlic, and I was right. Garlic ice cream was probably considered “out there” a few years ago, but recently I have had many flavours including but not limited to brown butter, salmon and sour cream. I did like the packaging for this ice cream though.

This particular item comes from Green Park Farm. They seem to be more into making ham and milk – they should probably stick to that.

There was some garlic mint combination as well, which could have been better than the premium style, but I will never know as the premium was pretty gross and I will not try it again. Not very garlicky and a weird texture. Kind of cute for novelty factor, especially so close to Halloween, but meh over all.

Food and Food: Asia and japan29 Oct 2010 04:30 pm

Last Sunday was a particularly awesome day. Mike and I did a few random things – he got a haircut, we had soba for lunch and yakiniku for dinner and studying some Japanese in between at a little cafe. In Edmonton we rarely visited cafes together – it just was not part of our lives.

I would often stop for tea or coffee during work, but when we went to Duchess or such, we would not usually stay to chat or relax. So I really enjoyed what I hope becomes a somewhat regular routine.

Cinnamon kind of reminded me of the Sugarbowl, actually. Their service and serving ware did it most, I guess.

Iced latte and lemongrass iced tea.

There was some ginger cake that looked amazing, and I have heard their brownie cake is very good – but I was not hungry enough to get a piece!

However, Mike got this delicious berry flan of some sort. As he remarked, the whipped cream was totally my style. Not very sweet and as thick as sour cream, or Liberte yogurt.

There were many pictures books and magazines to peruse. Something to aspire to read when our Japanese gets better.

The adorable patio.

There was an adobe house/pueblo feel going on. I really enjoyed it.

On the way out, we made a new friend.

The only complaint was that it was a bit smokey at Cinnamon. While smoking is not as prevalent here as I feared it would be (ie., people can no longer smoke in the teacher’s office at work, and some streets it is illegal to smoke on in Naha) it is still common at bars and such.

Cinnamon Cafe

Behind the JAL Hotel on Kokusai Dori.
Open noon to midnight

japan28 Oct 2010 04:41 am

Typhoons are a lot more enjoyable when you have internet and your husband here with you.

It is kind of late in the year for a typhoon to hit, but we are making the best of things. Just hoping it passes over us and through the Osaka region before our trip there Saturday.

Food: Asia and japan and japanese vending machine drinks26 Oct 2010 07:25 am

Tonight, on our way home from our Japanese lesson, Mike and I stopped at a konbini (convenience store.)

While there, I got a pumpkin ice cream from Haagen Daz (not that good. It literally was pumpkin ice cream with no spicing or cinnamon. Blah.), Mike got a pickled ginger soda (tastes like regular ginger ale, he said) and I saw a unique to Japan entity I had to get: the limited edition food item.

Every so often you may read about some weird flavour of chocolate bar or drink from Japan. There was a cucumber Pepsi a few years ago and Kit Kats come in all flavours under the sun from apple to butter corn and lemon vinegar. I know, right? Normally these come out in the spring and fall.

While I always look for weird Kit Kats, I have yet to see one. However, the drink I saw tonight was Mont Blanc Pepsi. It is fall here (although it does not feel it) and the stores are full of apples and chestnuts, which they like to use in desserts. Mont Blanc is a crazy chestnut flavoured pastry available in bakeries here and is whipped cream and pureed chestnut filling, meant to resemble France’s Mont Blanc peak.

The drink is suppose to taste like nuts and snow, which is exactly how I want a drink to taste.

See the resemblance between the dessert and the mountain?

Pepsi Mont Blanc tastes faintly nutty, quite creamy and is not as sweet or thick as a normal Pepsi. Honestly: pretty good. I will probably have another bottle of this stuff before it disappears from the combini shelves forever. It was just released today, so I guess I got lucky.

Food and Food: Asia and japan23 Oct 2010 12:42 am

oroku soba, naha

So have you established that noodles might be my favourite thing to eat this month? It is not the only thing I eat, but I think I could be happy if I could only eat it.

In the continuing search for excellent soba and ramen in the city, Mike and I hit up Denbee Ramen shop. Conveniently, it is not far from a pretty awesome store called Manga Souko, so we went for sustenance after shopping just before the restaurant shut down for the night and just before we shut down due to hunger.

Although at first I feared the vending machine order system, I have now embraced it. For one you can take as long as you like to figure it out and for two, it is kind of fun to punch and see what you get. At Denbee, however, there were lots of photos on the wall to help guide our choice and we ended up with some delicious bowls.

denbee soba, oroku, naha

The dreaded machine. Also adding to the pressure was the fact that we arrived about 5 minutes before closing time. But the list of items available was not too long and the photos on the wall were helpful. The proprietor/cook was also very kind and friendly, so we did not feel too rushed.

denbee soba, oroku, naha

Of course we got some gyoza.

denbee soba, oroku, naha

As we sat waiting for our soup to come up, a woman sitting down the bar from us got a bowl with an egg in it. Mike said “I should have gotten that one,” but his words were no sooner spoken than our bowls appeared. In his, a big old egg. He said he thought it might have been cooked in stock the flavour was so rich.

denbee soba, oroku, naha

I got a personal favourite, tsukemen, or cold noodles with hot broth and green onions. You dip the noodles into the broth.  The broth here is very porky, which is really common on Okinawa. It is also very salty. I think this was  broth make of pork stewed in awamaori (the popular local spirit) and soy for a few hours. The pork on Mike’s bowl was really tender and delicious.

I heard that this restaurant is particularly famous for a chilled tomato topped noodle dish, but that you have to arrive early in the day to get a bowl of it.

denbee soba, oroku, naha

Various other seasonings available, including spicy Awamori infused with peppers, an Okinawan favourite. It is called kōrēgūsu.

denbee soba, oroku, naha

The noodle station. I love watching the chef pull out baskets of steaming noodles and dunk others in, hitting the timer and move as if he has four arms.

denbee soba, oroku, naha

The long wooden bar we sat at.

Denbee Ramen is pretty good, and pretty cheap.

Denbee Ramen
closed Wednesdays
open 11:30-15:00 and 19:00-23:00 Monday to Friday
11:30-21:00 Saturdays, Sundays and holidays.
From Oroku monorail station, head west away from JUSCO, towards Akamine station. The noodle shop is on the north side of the street.

** Note, while reading some forum posts about this restaurant, it seems as of October 17 2010 the shop may be closed for a little bit, possibly permanantly. I will try to return soon to see what is up.

Food and Food: Asia and japan22 Oct 2010 05:45 am



celebrating with awamori, chicken butts etc at our fave yakitori joint, tenma.

update: a plate of free food (top pic) just showed up. i thought we escaped without getting something free this time. 

japan20 Oct 2010 02:53 am

Stay tuned. I cannot wait to download the last 2.5 months of my life onto this space.

First, I have to relearn how to use my computer.

And go for soba for dinner.

Food: Asia and Food: Home Cookin' and japan16 Oct 2010 07:54 pm


Everyday I make a mistake here. I make some random gesture that is considered rude. I mix up words and say the wrong thing. I buy the wrong thing at the supermarket. It’s tough.

Today my mistake was going to make almond pudding. The directions are in Japanese but that is not where today’s mistake was made.

I figured out I needed 250ml of milk so I just popped out to get some. This is the part that’s my favorite game. Guessing what is what at the store. This box was right next to other boxes on the shelf with cows and milk written on them in English. So it’s milk right?


It’s some sort of clear milky fruit scented liquid. I tried it before I dumped it. It wasn’t very good. I am too tired and humiliated to go back to the store so the pudding will have to wait another day.

Food and Food: Asia and japan12 Oct 2010 08:21 am

fro yo, naha

My first month on Okinawa, I had an ice cream everyday. Sometimes, more than one. Dealing with stress and heat is not fun, and trying new weird ice creams helped alleviate both problems. Of course, it adds to a new problem, but that is what running is for!

Anyhow, it is easy to say that I love ice cream.

Yogurtland is a new-ish ice cream place on Kokusai Dori, a sproutling from the California chain. Like pinkberry (and it`s bigger sister, Korean chain Red Mango) and the multitude of knockoffs both inspired, it is a pour your own frozen yogurt and mix-in toppings place, where you pay by weight. A fro yo buffet, if you will. I had been dying to try it for some time, and Mike and I finally gave it a whirl.

Although I never went to any such places in Edmonton, I was pretty excited to try Yogurtland. I think the best thing about Yogurtland is the Japanese twist on things. There are Japanese flavours in both the frozen yogurt and toppings.

It is a really pretty store; bright colours, shiny surfaces and modern furniture.

yogurtland, naha

Yuzu is a Japanese citrus, a sort of cross between yellow grapefruit and sweet orange. Vanilla with salt is delicious, but not really something I would crave. Mike liked it. There were also other tropical flavours like coconut and pineapple, and more classics like coffee, matcha and chocolate.

There are 16 flavours at any given time, and you can swirl them together in pairs if you like.

yogurtland, naha

yogurtland, naha

yogurtland, naha

Toppings included fresh mango, dragonfruit, guava and other fruits as well as coconut chunks, coffee jelly, azuki beans, tapioca and mochi.

yogurtland, naha

yogurtland, naha

Of course, chocolate syrups to drizzle on top.

yogurtland, naha

More toppings. There are also lots of candies like gummies,  and crunchy cookies ranging from Okinawan chinsukou (lard cookies, basically) to Oreos. It is a good mix of Japanese and western treats.

yogurtland, naha

Yes, there is frozen yogurt hiding in there.

While the concoction was pretty freaking delicious, there are two main complaints I had. One was that the container was HUGE. I kind of feel like I would prefer a smaller cup to put the yogurt into. In the big one, it gets lost under toppings. Of course, maybe that is part of their plan, since they charge by weight.

The other complaint is that it pretty much started to melt right away due to the heat. Oh well. My suggestion is to scope out the flavours and toppings beforehand, make your plan then carry out the combining, stat.

At about 600 Yen for a cup and a half of frozen yogurt and a healthy heaping of toppings, I thought it was fairly priced for an uncommon treat. The people watching from the cafe bar overlooking Kokusai Dori was pretty awesome too.

Two locations: Kokusai Dori in Naha and American Village in Chatan
Naha location open 10am to midnight everyday
Chatan location open 11am to 11pm everyday

Naha Map :: American Village Map

Food and Food: Asia and japan11 Oct 2010 01:37 am

tong tong dim sum and dumplings, naha

After watching Anthony Bourdain chow through dumpling after dumpling on episodes of No Reservations set in Hong Kong, Singapore and Shanghai, I had a craving for dumplings (and dim sum) that could not be shut up.

Although there is a wide selection of fresh steam and sautee-at-home gyoza and dumplings at the supermarkets here, the wrappings are often tough and the filling salty. There is no substitution for fresh dumplings. I read some rumours of a hotel that served up dim sum and a small cafe on the northern part of the island that did as well, but as we are still without a car, these were not really feasible.

Bearing this in mind and adding to it the knowledge that there is a huge Taiwanese influence on the food here, I knew there had to be dumplings somewhere more accessible in the city…apart from the substandard gummy ones kept in cabinets at the convenience stores.

Finally, I found a place worth checking out. Down a back alley off of Kokusai Dori, the touristy main drag in Naha is Tong Tong.

The space (8 seats) and menu (10 items) is small, but it need not feature much. It is clear the thing people come here for is steamed dumplings.

We were the only patrons on a Sunday morning. What was prime dim sum time back home (11am to 1pm) saw this little cafe a wasteland. Thankfully, this meant the server/cook/man running the show could spend a bit of time to help us figure out the menu.

We got three large steamed dumplings, in three different flavours; regular pork, agu special pork and spicy pork. Agu is what Okinawa is famous for – a special kind of local pork. It is from a wild pig that runs around the Okinawa jungles, apparently.

tong tong dim sum and dumplings, naha

Some pork shu mai. The wrappings were tender and the interior succulent and meaty. If they were not so hot, you could pop them like candy.

tong tong dim sum and dumplings, naha

tong tong dim sum and dumplings, naha

tong tong dim sum and dumplings, naha

Our favourite was by and far the special agu pork dumpling. It was savoury, a bit fatty and flavourful. Packed full of meat, this was a very filling dumpling. The dumpling itself was fluffy and moist, not dry. Not gummy. Just perfect, actually.

The other two dumplings were definitely delicious as well, and they all had their own unique tastes and flavours.

tong tong dim sum and dumplings, naha

tong tong dim sum and dumplings, naha

We also got an order of gyoza, pan fried. Well balanced and tender, these were not the salty underfilled messes I had eaten elsewhere.

tong tong dim sum and dumplings, naha

Deliciously silky almond and coconut pudding to round out the meal.

tong tong dim sum and dumplings, naha

Tong Tong also offers a take away window and packages you can bring home to steam yourself. I look forward to returning here after we sample a few other of the dim sum places I have managed to find in Naha.

Dim sum for two was about 1800 Yen including an iced coffee and a pair of puddings.

Tong Tong Dumpings and Dim Sum
11:30 to 8pm, closed Wednesdays
Two intersections east of OPA on the opposite side of Kokusai Dori, look for a small sign with a beetle and `B-Pro` on it. Turn south at the sign. The restaurant should be your next left. Or just input the address in Japanese into Google Maps or GPS. There is no parking – I suggest the bus or monorail.
I believe there is also a small stand on Zamami Island and one on Awase selling the dumplings.