Saturday, May 31, 2014

Lunch at the Okinawan Festival

Yesterday I went off my diet but just for lunch. There was a good reason for that and it's a good one. There was an Okinawan Festival being held nearby at Ikeukuro's Sunshine City for three days and as these things usually attract huge crowds, I decided to go on Friday during the day when the crowds are usually lighter. 

The fair itself has lots of diversions including traditional folk dancing as well as the opportunity to sample some delicious Okinawan specialties, and that's exactly why I had to ignore my diet for just one meal. 

Walking around and checking out all the food on offer is my favorite part of any proper event and this one didn't disappoint. After one quick but deliberate look around, I decided to get three items. Instead of going for the usual bowl of Okinawan Noodles, I opted for other things less filling as to be able to sample more. 

 The first thing I chose was a tempura set. Now you might think that tempura is all the same but it's not. Compared to mainland Japanese tempura, the Okinawan version uses a thicker batter that results in something more reminiscent of a fritter, but it's still quite tasty. 

These were more of a kakiage-type, where the ingredients were mixed into the batter rather than around them. The selections included mozuku ( slimy seaweed ) and aosa ( nori-like seaweed ) and they were both unique and delicious.

I also got a serving of Taco Rice which is exactly what it sounds like. It's basically taco ingredients on top of rice, rather than in taco shells. I actually love this dish and it's hard to say which is better. 

I finished off my meal with a couple of Sata Andagi, which are deep-fried balls of floury bliss. They are like giant doughnut holes that are denser and not as sweet as typical doughnuts (is it spelled donuts?). I could eat a half dozen of these!

There were other goodies on offer and I wanted to try so much more but by this time, my stomach ran out of room. After a few sips of my Okinawan Tea, I was done.

Feeling pleasantly stuffed and satisfied, I browsed the vendors selling traditional crafts and even visited an Orchid Show which just happened to be running at the same time right across from the Okinawan Fair. It was fun and a good way to walk off my food but by this time, the sky was turning an ugly grey, signaling rain. On the way to the train station, I felt the first trickles of rain and decided to rush home before it got any worse.

Thursday, May 29, 2014

Strawberry Muffins

Today I'm going to share with you one of my favorite recipes for strawberry muffins. However I consider these just a bit more special than normal muffins as they are deliciously topped with sweet strawberry preserves, that gives these muffins an extra layer of texture and flavor. 

In place of the usual canola oil or butter, I've replaced it with grapeseed oil, which is not only healthier, but also gives the muffins a very light texture. You can also make these muffins without the strawberry preserves if you don't have any. 

Ingredients :
1/4 cup grapeseed oil
1/2 cup milk
1 egg
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 cup sugar
1 2/4 cup flour
3/4 cup chopped strawberries
1/2 cup strawberry preserves ( or jam )

Instructions :
1. Prehead the oven to 357F. 
2. In a small bowl, combine the oil, milk and egg. Beat lightly. 
3. In a large bowl, mix the flour, baking powder, sugar and salt. 
4. Throw in the chopped strawberries. 
5. Pour in the milk/egg mixture and stir to combine all ingredients.
6. Fill muffin cups with mixture. 
7.Spoon strawberry preserves on top. 
8. Bake for 25 minutes. The top should bounce back if you touch it. 

If you're anything like me, you'll probably end up devouring a couple before they've cooled down!

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

New-Wave Loco Moco

I bet you're looking at the photo above thinking, "What the hell is that square thingy that looks like food?" Well my friends, that is a Loco Moco. Now I know it looks nothing like the typical Loco Moco that's served at restaurants and fast-food joints all over the islands of Hawaii, but I had a last-minute dinner party to prepare and due to work responsibilities and other mundane errands I had to make, I completely forgot to go to the supermarket. 

So as I find myself doing more often these days, I raided my fridge in search of ingredients I could use to whip up something elegant, or at least presentable and fit enough for a dinner party. Leftover ground beef? Check. Eggs? Check. Rice? Yep, lots of that. 

Immediately I thought Loco Moco! With the instant gravy mix I had sitting in the back of the cupboard behind the cans of spam ( just 3 days before its expiration date ), I had all the ingredients necessary to make this old Hawaiian favorite. But I couldn't just nonchalantly throw this together for a dinner party could I? 

So I got to thinking again, to try and figure out how I could amp it up to a level of dinner party presentability. As you can see, I've simply layered the rice and hamburger into a mold. The rest is pretty much standard Loco Moco, with the addition of some colorful garnish to make it look like haute-cuisine. 

In the end, it turned out well and my friends raved about the dish, however in regards to taste, it's really just your typical Loco Moco. Maybe next time I'll change it up a bit, perhaps spiking the gravy with some tabasco or something. At least I had fun with this in the kitchen. 


2 cups steamed rice
2 cups ground beef
1/f cup fine bread crumbs
5 eggs
1 packet gravy mix
salt and pepper
2-3 shakes worcestershire sauce


1.Cook the rice
2.Preheat the oven to 350F degrees.
3.Put ground beef in bowl with 1 egg, bread crumbs, salt and pepper. Mix with hands until combined. 
4.Prepare the mold by greasing all sides with a little oil or butter. You can also use a non-stick mold. 
5.Add a tablespoon of cooked rice into the bottom of the mold. Flatten with back of spoon. 
6.Add a tablespoon of ground beef mixture and place on top of the rice layer. Flatten with spoon.
7.Repeat the rice layer, followed by another layer of meat mixture. Smooth the top with the back of a spoon.
8.Back in overn for 35 minutes or until meat is done.
9.Make the gravy by following packet instructions. You can opt to use homemade gravy if you like. Add Worcestershire sauce to taste. 

Sunday, May 25, 2014

The Sakura Season Past

It's hard to believe that just last month, the city was blanketed with hues of white and pink as the cherry blossoms literally took over the city. The combination of the beautiful blossoms and perfect weather makes this the best season of the entire year.

The sakura trees really change the entire landscape of Tokyo. I mean just look at the ramen shop below. Looks like Paris no? Well, that's really due to the design, but I thought this corner reminded me of a Paris street corner rather than Tokyo.

Everywhere you go, the pink petals of the sakura are littered all over the place. Every time a gust of wind blows, it takes a basketful of sakura petals with it and it's absolutely stunning. 

Just look at the street on the below. It's completely covered in pink petals. There really are no words to describe such beauty and it's not just here, it's everywhere.

Although cherry blossom season is over, I already miss it and wish I could rewind the clock back in time so that I can, just for one day, experience the beauty of the cherry blossoms again.

Saturday, May 24, 2014

Attended the food festival in Tachikawa

Japan is obsessed with food and that's a good thing because I'm obsessed with food. Living here definitely spoils you with food offerings that other countries just cannot match. From the food halls in department stores to street food, high-end to low-end, we really have it all. 

We also have numerous food festivals that are held throughout the year and I just so happened to visit one yesterday. This particular one called Manpaku, took place in Tachikawa city which is just a short 25-minute train ride away from Tokyo. I've been to Tachikawa a few times but mostly because they have one of the most amazing parks I've been to as well as a huge Ikea ( but aren't they all huge?) store. The city itself is kind of fun to walk around and includes a few major department stores to satisfy any shopaholic. 

Anyway on to Manpuku, the reason why I came to this place in the first place. The first thing I noticed when I arrived was the huge line snaking it's way to the entrance gates. But looks can be deceiving and with Japanese efficiency, the line moved quickly. I had been looking forward to this for weeks and I had high expectations. My taste buds were ready to be wowed.

Surpringly once inside, the place wasn't all that crowded probably due to the fact that they charge an 800 Yen  ($8.00US) admission for the previlege of paying for eating food from plastic plates. Not only that, the offerings weren't particularly impressive. Hmm, I had to wonder if I had wasted my time coming here. 
Anyway I decided that I might as well enjoy it for what it is and perused the vendors on display. After one quick walk around, I knew what I was going to try. 

I decided to start my feast with a plate of smoked meat, which was actually a bargain. It consisted of a thick slab of bacon, a juicy sausage and a chicken leg. My mouth was literally dripping with saliva before I took my first bite of this plate fit for a carnivore. I have to say the bacon and sausage was rather underwhelming and the chicken probably was the best out of the three. The meat had a pleasant smoky flavor, but nothing else. I almost wished I had brought my own barbecue sauce as I knew that would have taken up the flavor a few notches up.

Next up was a plate of noodles which was actually much better than the meat plate but at ¥650 for a tiny serving, it was a bit over-priced. You see the styrofoam container with the noodles above? The photo of the half-filled container was taken before I even took a bite. 

I chose these avocado croquettes as my last dish as it sounded the most interesting. You can see the tinge of green color peeking out of the part I cut open. Yeah that's the avocado purée that's blended into mashed potatoes with some cheese. Hmm...I really don't know what to say. I could hardly taste the avocado in there and without dousing it in ketchup, is was simply too bland.

The food was obviously not the best and perhaps I chose the wrong vendors to eat from. Or perhaps my expectations were simply too high. Either way, there was nothing else I wanted to try and I left the festival feeling hungry for more. However nothing keeps me feeling down for too long. On the train ride home, I was already happy trying to decide what to eat for dinner.

Manpaku runs until June 2, 2014 in case you're interested.
Manpaku Official Website

Friday, May 23, 2014

Cooking for My Mother

Last month, my mother was in town visiting for a little less than a month. Since she lives a 6-hour plane ride away from me in the beautiful island of Oahu, it's a once-a-year treat for me to get to see her here.

She came at the most perfect time as the cherry blossoms were in full bloom and we got to visit a couple of parks in Tokyo that are known for the beautiful sakura trees.

My mother never really cared much for cooking so when my sister and I were kids, we ate out a lot. So how I grew so fond of cooking and food is a total and utter mystery.

Whenever my mother visits me, one of the things I'm responsible for is to make sure she eats healthy all the time and the thing is, she is quite the picky eater. She was always quick to criticize my cooking, but I guess that's a good thing because on this visit, she didn't even bother to. Sure my cooking has improved over the years, but that much?

One evening, I made her this simple dish you see here and it's one of my go-to dishes that I can whip up at a last moment's notice. It's a simple dish made with just a few ingredients : eggs, tofu, veggies and some Japanese dashi ( soup stock ). Dashi is usually found in the Japanese section of your grocery store but if you can't find one, they sell them online for a reasonable cost. If you're into Japanese food, dashi is the one thing you want to have in your kitchen. Nothing could be easier to make and it's healthy too!

Scrambled Tofu with Egg and Vegetables


2 eggs, lightly blended with a fork
1 block firm tofu ( drained well )
1/4 cup shiitake mushrooms, sliced
1/4 carrot, julienned
1/2 cup green beans
1 tablespoon instant dashi
1 teaspoon soy sauce


1. Drain the tofu well before using on a few paper towels.
2. Heat a little oil in a frying pan
3. Crumble the tofu with your hands into the frying pan and stir-fry for 5 minutes.
4. Add the vegetables and cook for 3 minutes.
5. Make a well in the center and add the eggs.
6. Scramble the egg for 1 minute.
7. Combine the eggs into the tofu mixture.
8. Add dashi and soy sauce and cook for another minute.
9. Serve hot with a bowl of white rice and miso soup.

I was sad to see my mother leave but I know I'll see here again very soon. She looked healthy and happy and that's really all that matters.

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Thursday, May 22, 2014

Paleo Pancakes Using Almond Flour

Just to let you know, I haven't always been at my idea weight. In fact, I was at one time, a whopping 250 pounds and it was definitely not a pretty sight. Food has always been the center of life in my household however it became an issue for me in the worst way possible.

One day I had enough. I simply looked at myself in the mirror and gave myself a mental slap in the face. It was time to change and after many failed attempts with various weight loss programs, I started watching my carbs. Amazingly, this did the trick and the fat magically melted away and by the end of 6 months, I was pretty close to my ideal weight of 140 pounds.

Since the Paleo Diet is all the rage these days ( it hasn't really caught on in Japan ), I decided to make a paleo version of my pancakes. Believe me it wasn't all that easy, but as most of my friends know, I love a challenge and until I got it right, I wouldn't get a good night's sleep.

My last attempt just happened to be this morning and for breakfast, I made these beautiful pancakes that are completely gluten-free as well as containing absolutely no refined sugars. The best thing about all of this is how easy they are to make in addition to being absolutely delicious.

If you're on a low-carb diet, the paleo diet or just want to eat cleaner, here's the recipe.


2 eggs
1 tablespoon erythritol
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1/4 cup water
1 1/2 almond flour
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 tablespoon arrowroot powder
2 tablespoons grapeseed oil


1.Combine the eggs, erythritol, vanilla extract and water in a blender or use a whisk. Blend until smooth.
2. Add the almond flour, salt, baking soda and arrowroot powder, making sure to blend well.
3. Heat the grapeseed oil over medium-low heat.
4, Pour 1 heaping tablespoon of batter onto the skillet for each pancake.
5. Cook 3-4 minutes or until bubbles form on the surface of the pancakes.
6. Flip the pancakes and cook for another 2-3 minutes.
7. Serve with maple syrup, a sprinkling of cinnamon or some fresh berries.

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Tuesday, May 13, 2014

TabiEats is Born

Happy Birthday TabiEats! Yes, today it's a day of joy and congratulations is in order as it's the birth of my new blog TabiEats. I'm as thrilled as a mother giving birth, but I guess that's going just a bit too far. Anyway, I'm just absolutely thrilled that I finally got it started. So why did I decide on such a strange and weird name such as TabiEats? Keep reading to find out!

This project has been in the works for some time now and although I've always been wanting to start a food and travel blog, the timing wasn't right. I had other responsibilities and projects on the plate and I knew that if I was going to do this, it had to be done right. 

For the past 9 months, I started writing for a platform called Squidoo, which used to be a popular online content site where writers had the freedom to write about their passions. I remember my first lens ( that's what Squidoo calls them ) was about low-carb eating, and shortly thereafter, I wrote one about the humble tofu. Yeah I know, pretty boring stuff, but I wasn't sure what I wanted to write about. All I knew was that I had a lot to say ( although I didn't know that then ) and once I started writing, there was no stopping me. 

After looking back at my year-long journey with Squidoo ( and 165 articles later ), I realized that more than half of what I wrote about was about food. In the process, I ended writing about my favorite recipes in addition to creating new ones.

In addition to food, I realized that I also enjoyed sharing my travel experiences with the community. I've always loved traveling ever since I was a kid and the travel bug has never really left me alone. I still travel as much as I can, whether it's a trip to Thailand or traveling back home to Hawaii, I can't seem to get enough. I also started to discover my own country as well. With all the beautiful places to see and the wonderful and bewildering dishes to sample in my country of Japan, there is so much to see, experience and taste.

So to answer the question, "Why TabiEats"? I seriously brainstormed for months to come up with this name but I think it's a good one. I wanted a name that would truly reflect this blog. The word "tabi" means "travel or journey" in Japanese. "Eats" is simply another way to say "food" ( i.e. Marie's Good Eats ) but I'm sure you already knew that. 

TabiEats is all about my travels as well as the food I encounter on my journeys. The journey can be an exotic one, or it could simply be a short bike ride to a nice cafe in Tokyo. It also means the journey which we call life and food is something that I find particularly exciting as I travel around my own universe. 

I hope you find my foodcentric stories as well as my recipes to be interesting and fun to read. I promise to keep it as casual, light-hearted and "real", just like how I am in person. Besides I'm just an ordinary guy, who loves to sharing his life ( and recipes ) with the entire world.