Tag Archives: Japan

[Travelling in my kitchen] to… Japan with matcha & white chocolate biscuits recipe

From my trip in Japan in Spring last year, I brought back quite a few things; and no, I’m not only referring to the cotton Hello Kitty emergency underwear I bought to make-do while waiting for the temporary lost suitcase. I also came back with 2 packs of matcha.

What the h*ll is matcha? It’s basically green tea powder. Instead of infusing tea leaves, just dissolve the very bright green powder into hot water. According to the legends, it has been drunk in Japan as part of the tea ceremony for almost 900 years, and is used by Buddhist monks to keep them alert, awake and focused during long days of meditation.

matcha powder

Reality is that, I was very curious but I never used it. It’s been decorating my “exotic product” kitchen shelf for months… With an expiry date approaching soon, I really needed to find a good use to this green gold, and I was pretty unlikely to hydrate myself the way bodybuilding.com recommends!!! (sight).

Granted that the butter and chocolate in those cookies probably outweigh the weight loss alleged benefit, however the “mind improving” power was clearly quite strong – or maybe it was just the amazing night with the girls in Paris… Perhaps. But try them, you’ll tell me.

I initially tried the Americano-Japanese soft backed cookies and while they were good, I found them a little bit “too much”. Also I could never quite reconcile in my head the quiet Japanese tea-room atmosphere with those gooey white choc naughty things!! I love the green tea / white chocolate combination though, and I thought I would come up with something a little bit more Japanese-lady like.

Ingredients:

  • 250gr all-purpose flour
  • 50gr almond powder
  • 50gr demeara sugar
  • 50gr caster sugar
  • 100gr soft butter
  • 1 pinch salt
  • 1 ts baking powder
  • 1 egg
  • couple of spoonfuls of milk
  • 2 teaspoon matcha powder
  • sprinkle sugar or / crushed almonds or/ 75gr white chocolate

matcha cookies

*Instructions

Start mixing the dry ingredients: flour, salt, baking powder, sugar, and almond powder; throw a spoon of matcha powder and watch the mix becoming weirdly green.

Dig a little whole in the middle and break the egg in, and add the softened butter. Stir well. You will probably need to add about 3 spoonful of milk to get soft dough (depends on the size of your egg).

Shape the dough as a big sausage, wrap in plastic film and rest in the fridge for 20min.

Pre-heat the oven, 180 degrees.

Roll the dough on a flat surface and cut the shapes with a cookie cutter or a round glass. If you prefer the almond or sugar sprinkle version then roll the edges each biscuit into crushed almonds / sugar ahead of baking. Otherwise bake first and cover in white chocolate later.

Bake for ~15min at 180 degrees.

Cool on a rack while softening the white chocolate in a water bath. Once melted throughout, poor into a piping bag (or a freezer bag where you will cut a tiny corner) and start drawing on the biscuits. Let cool and dry. Enjoy!!

Next stop…red bean paste? Not sure if I can manage that!

Afternoon tea in Tokyo
afternoon tea at Kyohayashiya, Mid Town Toyo

my fix of matcha sweet in London at Yauatcha, Soho

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Puzzling Tokyo in the Sakura season

Even just a few days in Tokyo were enough to be dazzled

the 3 reasons why Tokyo is an easy city break destination and a quick wedding etiquette guide!

  • For the outstanding service: ease of transport, wifi freely accessible, clean and easily accessible convenience….The city seems designed for working busy people, it’s expensive but convenient.
  •  it’s exotic, or at least different for Westerners. As high-tech’ and developed as Japan can be, it’s still surprising and gives you that exciting feeling of adventure – even if it just means asking your way and manage to take the tube in that big underground jungle of theirs.
Tokyo loo flush
When going to the loo is an adventure!!!

 

  • it’s varied, and visually beautiful. Each neighbourhood is different, from the neon lit busiest in the world cross road of Shibuya, to the refreshing quiet of temples and the maze of narrow streets in the old neighbourhoods of Yanaka. There’s culture, fun and crazy things for all.

When to go?

April is probably the single best period to head of to Japan, we caught the beginning of the Sakura, and more than just a beautiful tourist attraction it really marks the change of season; it’s a time of renewal and Tokyoites visibly appreciate it. I loved how Ueno park was so busy with workers organising picnics after work.

Catching the coming of age ceremony in the winter (2nd Monday of January), and maybe coupling it with a trip to the mountain would probably be my next choice.

Avoid going in June / July as you would hit the rainy season.

And as Tokyo is not exactly cheap nor next door, a simple city short break doesn’t really make sense. I really wish I’d had more time to go to the Mt Fuji, to Kyoto, to the mountains…

The reason why I skipped quite a bit of the main tourist attractions is that we were mainly there to attend our friends’ wedding. Other friends who could stay longer and had time to tick more of the “to-do” boxes and voted the the sumo fighting as their main highlight…I guess I’ll just have to go back!

Japanese weddings

If you thought getting married, anywhere in the world, was a complicated matter – let alone finding the right partner in the first place – then try Japan. The hair-splitting etiquette steps this game by a few extra notches! The beautiful and emotional ceremony that ensues makes it all worth it though.

a few fun facts that seriously surprised us Europeans…

– I’m a guest, what present do I bring? fresh money, i.e. brand-new, crisp, unused bank notes in a nice envelope that you will hand out to the hostess when signing the register.

japanese wedding

– When is the wedding happening? on a lucky day of course. How is the lucky day determined I still haven’t fully grasped it but it seems to be a full time job description…

– I’m a non-Japanese guest, what do I wear?  locals and relatives will wear the traditional kimono but really most just wear classy European-style outfits.

– Am I going to share a table with the old aunties? unlikely, as the seating plan is a rather serious affair:

The bride and groom’s respective bosses should be seated at a prime table opposite the couple and be in charge of the opening speech…not the best man or the parents!? Or at least not in the first place: following the opening speech, everyone gets the opportunity to say a kind word.

The seating plan then continues in layers, the friends first and finally the family, placed in a sort of umbrella literally and figuratively stepping back and overlooking their (grown-up) little ones starting their new life from the distance…which is surprising at first, however, the more I think about it, the more I think this is a healthy approach to family relationship.

Sake casks – “Kagami-biraki” or Breaking-open the sake cask. In an utterly ethnocentric way, I compared this to the European cake-cutting tradition (yes, shame on me). The couple breaks open the lid of the Sake barrel and cheers with their guests, a way to bring good fortune and fertility we were told. And we got the most thoughtful tie-me-down present: our own name-engraved sake cups, in Japanese characters of course. Isn’t that the coolest Hikidemono ?

IMG_7120

To Read and Watch before you go

*1Q84 by  Haruki Murakami is the book I got recommended most and it was certainly a fair piece of advise! I had thus far postponed the reading of the best-seller by laziness and other petty excuses but didn’t regret plunging into the 3 volume heavy story.Japanese writer Murakami attends ceremony in Jerusalem

Not only Murakami hooks you in like no other Japanese author, but also it’s fantastic to travel in the city via the 2 main characters. A fan even created the corresponding map!! Thanks

*Lost in Translation

bill murray lost in translation 1536x960 wallpaper_www.wallpaperno.com_55

*Tokyobling’s Blog 
a well made journalistic blog I still keep reading since I came back, always full of very interesting, detailed and almost daily cultural snippets