All About Asian Food

July 2008 Archives

When planning your Olympic party, don't sit around staring at the television. Capture the Olympic spirit with your own spin-off competition - the Wasabi Olympics! Entertain your guests during those long commercial breaks with these three events. Not everyone can be an Olympic athlete, but most people can compete in this triathlon. Hopefully, your guests show up hungry.

wasabi paste 1.jpgEvent 1:  Wasabi Eating Contest 
Only the strong will survive a Wasabi eating contest. Even Glutton Bowl champions can't handle the Wasabi heat. See how much Wasabi your friends can withstand by putting a quarter-size dollop of this Wasabi paste on their sushi plates. After they stop crying, give them another and keep score until all of the contenders drop out, leaving one Wasabi warrior in the winner's circle. Once the contest is over, the winner might be able to light the Olympic torch with their breath. Extinguish the fire in their mouths with Ramune soda and get the camera ready -- you will want to capture your friends' faces as they take on Wasabi.

wasabi grated.jpgEvent 2: Wasabi Trivia Contest
During the second event, give your stomach a rest and test your brain power with a Wasabi trivia contest. Read this Wasabi blog and write down a few trivia questions, such as, how is Wasabi grown? And what ingredients make up Wasabi paste? After you crown the winner, blindfold your guests and have a taste test to see if your friends can tell the difference between real Wasabi and the impostor.


wasabi peas 2.jpgEvent 3: Wasabi Pea Catch Contest
Coordination. Balance. Speed. The last event tests three important athletic abilities. Throw Wasabi peas in the air then try to catch them with your mouth. Tricky, isn't it? Only the most accomplished Wasabi athletes can catch 20 or more peas in their mouth without any falling to the floor. In this contest, whoever catches the most Wasabi peas wins.

You can also rate performances. If someone dives to the floor and makes an amazing catch or twists into a triple axle, hold up the 10 card. To make it more challenging, blindfold contenders or have them catch peas with disposable chopsticks. You could even try to shoot Wasabi peas through a straw at a target, archery style.

Closing Ceremony

After the Wasabi Olympics, celebrate your triumphs at a closing ceremony. Make it less somber and more spirited than the one held at the Beijing Olympics. Spray event winners and Wasabi warriors with Ramune soda. Hand out Wasabi-related prizes for first, second, and third place.

Comment below if you ever held your own Wasabi Olympics and have any stories to share. Shop for Japanese snacks for your party and fun prizes for your guests at Asian Food Grocer.   


If you want to plan a Beijing Olympics party, Asian Food Grocer has all the theme party tips and supplies you need to throw the bash of the year. Readafg-olympics-2008.jpg here for the next few weeks to check out all our spectacular Beijing Olympics party planning advice and coverage.

Our first party planning idea is a cool mix of cuisine and decor. Think outside the bento box with a true showcase of Beijing Olympics spirit-the Sushi Spectacular pictured here. By artfully arranging circles of sushi on colored plates, you create a clever replica of the Olympic Rings. Best of all, thanks to assortment of sushi, it's also totally delicious. The beauty of this idea is that it's creative and eye-catching, without being extremely difficult to execute. You can modify the level of difficulty by choosing to hand-roll your own sushi using one of AFG's sushi party platters, having the sushi rolls catered, or simply buying sushi at the Asian Food Store. Easy peasy!

You can also choose to purchase rimmed plates in the Olympics colors, or simply paint the rims of some ordinary white plates for a fun Olympics craft project. The Beijing Olympics Sushi Spectacular is easy to complete and allows you to check off both party decor and menu planning in one swoop! We believe this is what is known by Olympic athletes as "shaving time. " Very nice!

To make executing this beautiful Beijing Olympics party idea even easier, we have compiled three sushi party platters available at various price points. We are sure they will assist you in having a fun and stress-free Beijing Olympics Party. Order now, 08/08/08 is just around the corner!

*Should you choose to take this Sushi Spectacular Challenge, please post pictures of your display to Flickr and send us the link! We would love to see your handiwork. 
If you want to have Japanese snacks at your next bash, but the thought of rolling sushi makes you break out into a sweat, relax. There are plenty of no-stress Japanese snacks that still achieve the authentic affect you are going for. For example, say you are having the guys over to watch the baseball game, but the ole' peanuts-and-crackerjacks routine is feeling a little stale. Replace the typical potato chips and Bud Light with a whole new array of Japanese snacks. Shrimp chips, wasabi peas, and roasted mixed nuts all make interesting new side dishes to munch while watching everyone's favorite baseball player, Ichiro. Don't forget to toast every home run with some refreshing Ramune soda. (Pssst, pocky is the new cracker jacks. Pass it on....)


If you are not a sports fan, there is still ample opportunity to introduce Japanese snacks into your party menu rotation. Hosting a book club? Skip the stereotypical brunch fare and opt for authentic Asian munchies instead. This is an especially great way to set the theme if you are reading Asian classics like Memoirs of a Geisha or the The Joy Luck Club. Regardless, your fellow readers will enjoy Japanese snacks like honey rice crackers, chocolate bread, and dried mango to mix up the usual mimosa/croissant combo. You will be the hostess with the mochi mostest!


Last but not least, if you are planning a summer bbq, why not tap in to the hot trend of a candy buffet? Candy buffets are lighter and less expensive than full-on dessert menus, and leave a sweet taste in the mouth of all your guests. Set out bowls, scoops, and containers filled with yummy Japanese snacks like green tea candy, fizzing cola candy, yogurt candy, and more. Between the bubble-gum blowing contests and whistling contests, your candy buffet will be the hit of the party.

If you are looking for fun new cuisine ideas that also teach a cultural lesson, check out Asian Food Grocer for all your Japanese snacks! The party possibilities are endless.....

strawberry pocky 2.jpgEvery summer we eagerly anticipate the arrival of strawberries. Now that we can find them in the produce section, it's time to put the berries to work. But we're sick of shortcake. This time, we sweeten the strawberry with our favorite Japanese snack -- Strawberry Pocky.

Strawberries are a cute fruit, hence their popularity in those Hello Kitty snacks. The only thing more adorable than a strawberry? A Strawberry Pocky cupcake! Here's how to make 12 Strawberry Pocky cupcakes for your next barbecue or birthday party.

INGREDIENTS:
DIRECTIONS:
  1. Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F (165 degrees C). Grease 12 cupcake pan cups or line with paper liners.
     
  2. In a large bowl, cream together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in the eggs one at a time, then stir in the strawberry extract. Combine the self-rising flour and salt; stir into the batter just until blended. Fold in the strawberries. Spoon the batter into the prepared cups and divide evenly.

  3. Bake until the tops spring back when lightly pressed, approximately 20 to 25 minutes. Cool in the pan set over a wire rack. When the cupcakes are cool, frost with desired strawberry frosting.

  4. When cupcakes are ready to serve, slice the strawberries and fan them over the cupcake as shown. Then,  break one Strawberry Pocky stick in half and poke each stick into the cupcake.

Thumbnail image for strawberry pocky cupcakes.jpgNow it's time to get creative with your cupcakes. Sprinkle coconut flakes or red candy over the top. Strawberry addicts can wash these cupcakes down with a bottle of Strawberry Ramune soda. If you don't have time to make these Pocky cupcakes, satisfy your sweet tooth with Japanese snacks and candy available at Asianfoodgrocer.com.

Pocky Cupcake Photo Credit to: cupcakeninja.net

Top Ten Asian Culture Blogs



afg-banner-jul08.gif1) 3 Yen. From Japanese fashion, gadgets and travel trends, this Asian hipster blog has it all. Check out funny videos, timely human interest articles, and the cultural phenomenons that are all the rage in Japan.


2) Eating Asia. While this blog has a heavy food focus that made us seriously consider it for our top food blogs round-up, the way Eating Asia brings the sights and sounds of their Asian adventures to life through vivid photography and intricate narratives convinced us it was more of an Asian culture blog overall. You will love these awesome action shots of Asian food being prepared, as well as the often-verbatim dialog transcripts that accompany them.


3) Tofugo. If you need a crash course in Asian food and etiquette, this blog is the place to be.  It is also filled with relevant news, like who won the most recent hot dog-eating contest.No matter what the topic, each article is in depth and well-researched, making this our top three pick for best Asian Culture blog.

4) East Asian Culture Blog. This is culture with a capital "C," forsaking pop references for more high-end matters like Asian instruments, poetry and history. Light on fluff, heavy on social issues and seriously thought-provoking questions, this is the blog to turn to for Asian culture with a side of intellect.

5) Hyphen Blog. The blogging branch of this uber-hip Asian-American magazine is just as edgy as its publication partner. Learn everything from the history of the fortune cookie (who writes those things anyway?), to current advances for Asian-Americans in entertainment, law and history. For the very latest in Asian-American news and pop culture, come here.

Five more great Asian culture blogs after the jump, so keep reading!





original ramune soda.jpgOriginal Ramune Soda takes lucky number eight in our top 10 Asian foods countdown. Yes, it's a technically a beverage, not food. But before you write us with allegations that the countdown is fixed, try a bottle. As soon as that lemony fizz hits your lips, you'll fall head over heels for Original Ramune Soda.

Like hot dogs in the U.S., Ramune Soda symbolizes summer in Japan. The Japanese drink Ramune Soda to cool down on warm festival days and nights. It comes in many flavors, including Melon, Raspberry, Strawberry, Orange, Hello Kitty, Curry, and Wasabi. Original Ramune Soda tastes like carbonated lemonade.

orange-ramune.jpgNot only is Ramune Soda refreshing, it wears a cool costume. It comes in a codd-neck bottle with a marble inside. We like how the cute marble swirls around inside the drink; it definitely beats that Tequila worm! Ramune newbies sometimes have difficulty using the marble to stop the flow. Click on Ramune Soda and follow our instructions before you open your first bottle.

Wash down Wasabi peas, rice crackers and other Japanese snacks with this beverage. And try Ramune Soda Candy to get the flavor without the fizz. Shop for Ramune Soda and more Japanese beverages at Asianfoodgrocer.com.

Top Ten Asian Food Blogs

Asian Food Grocer Blog Top 10

1) Adventures in an Asian Food Market. Love Asian food, but feel a little overwhelmed every time you set foot inside the vast Asian food store? If you have ever suffered from "aisle fright" while shopping in a Japanese food store, let blog author Deatren act as your Asian food insider, fearlessly trying all the Asian snacks on the shelf and reporting back on his favorites. Covering everything from disposable chopsticks to Japanese snacks and beverages, this blog is updated regularly with great candid reviews and clear pictures, so check out this cheat sheet next time before you hit the Asian food store. Hint: you can also shop some Asian food stores online to avoid in-store anxiety.

2) Sticky Rice. From the vivid imagery to the disarming dialog, the best word to describe this Asian food blog is "colorful." Sharp wit and often hilarious insight are just two ingredients in this "man on the street" approach to eating out in Hanoi. Great pictures and information-packed posts finish off this feast for the eyes and funny bone. Sticky Rice is less of a guide to cooking Asian food recipes at home (although there are a few), and more of a foodie guide for the out-and-about Asian diner, so enjoy!

3) Rasa Malaysia. Translated from Sanskrit to mean "Taste Malaysia" this Asian food blog is an absolute scene-stealer when it comes to gorgeous photographs of Asian food recipes. Generously bestowing all the knowledge she learned in her childhood kitchen in Malaysia, the blog author chronicles generations of Malaysian recipes, as well as Chinese and Japanese, in a light-hearted, educational tone. In addition to much more professional polish than the average blog, Rasa Malaysia features 90% original recipes. Check out this Malaysian masterpiece to see for yourself.

4) Noodles and Rice. Every food blog round-up must include a beginner's guide, so here it is. Noodles and Rice is a faithful little cooking-for-one guide to making Asian food, perfect for people who want no-muss, no-fuss Asian food recipes. Billed as "bachelor food" by the author, this blog features frequent posts, plenty of recipes, food reviews and cooking short cuts for the culinary novice. Great read too!

5) The Gary Soup blog. Gary Soup is blog writing at its best, from fascinating subject matter to intelligent, entertaining prose. In addition to the standard fare of Asian food guidebook reviews and Chinese food recommendations, Gary Soup bestows awards to the top "Chinese food mavens", chronicles the ten most popular Chinese teas, and includes a blow-by-blow photo essay of Paris Hilton attempting to eat Asian food in Shanghai. Culture and cuisine intersect perfectly at this cozy little blogspot, so check it out!

5 More Great Asian Food blogs after the jump, so read on!

How to Use Chopsticks 101

You love Asian food, but when it comes to chopsticks, you're clueless. Read this tutorial and next time you're at an Asian restaurant, forgo the fork. To start, you'll need disposable chopsticks or a Fun Chop set and a few delicious morsels for practice. Once you're a chopstick master, learn the proper etiquette so you don't offend your host.

first chopstick.jpgStep 1. Pick up the First Chopstick
If you use disposable chopsticks, you'll need to break them apart first. Gently pull them apart. Try not to twist them or you might end up with a few splinters in your rice. Place the first chopstick so that the broad part rests at the base of your thumb and the narrow end rests on the tip of your ring finger. Hold it in place with the tip of your middle finger.



second chopstick.jpgStep 2.  Add the Second Chopstick
Place your thumb over the second chopstick. Position the second chopstick so that it is held against your index finger by the end of your thumb. Hold it like you would grip a pencil. Make sure the ends are even.

chopstick 3.jpgStep 3.  Practice the Pivot
Keep the bottom (first) chopstick stationary and pivot the top (second) chopstick. Move the tip of your index finger up and down while the thumb remains stable. Open and close the chopsticks until the movement feels natural. Once you get the hang of it, pick up a morsel of food. It might take a few attempts. Practice at home with sliced cold cuts and cheese, then try bits of meat and vegetables. If you still can't get the hang of it, try this Fun Chop chopstick holder.

Chopstick Manners
  • Never stab or pierce your food with a chopstick, many cultures consider this rude.
  • Don't stick your chopsticks into your rice straight down. This is commonly done at funerals.
  • Lay your chopsticks parallel to each other. Never let them cross.
  • It's considered bad manners to wave your chopsticks over food, trying to decide what to eat next.
  • Don't eat directly from the central plate; always transfer food to your plate first.
  • Never lick your chopsticks.
Did you know there is a difference between Japanese chopsticks and Chinese chopsticks? Read our article about the differences between Chinese and Japanese chopsticks if you'd like to know more. Now that you're a chopstick pro, shop for chopstick sets, rice bowls, and other household items at Asianfoodgrocer.com.





Thumbnail image for golden curry.jpg If only there was an awards ceremony for the best Asian foods! Since we'll probably never get to see Pocky walk down the red carpet, we created our own weekly countdown. The number nine slot goes to the ultimate Japanese comfort food: Golden Curry.

curry man.jpg Because it is relatively easy to make, Golden Curry is like the mac-and-cheese of Japan. It is thicker, milder, and sweeter than Indian curry. The Japanese add it to many meat and vegetable dishes and commonly serve it over rice.

In the U.S., Golden Curry can be found at many Asian food stores; S&B Foods Inc. makes the most popular kind. In an effort to capture the fun flavor of curry, Japan introduced a curry spokesperson -- Curry Man, who now spices things up in the ring as an American wrestler. Yes, that's a plate on his head.

Get Creative with Curry

There is no golden rule with Golden Curry. Don't limit yourself to rice dishes; get creative with your curry! Pour it on mash potatoes, use it as a condiment on hot dogs, or as a dip for tortilla chips. The possibilities are endless.

golden curry over rice.jpg The Basics of Cooking Curry
Did we mention how easy it is to cook Golden Curry? Golden Curry comes in a sauce mix block (roux) or powder. Both are easy to use and take under an hour to make. Follow this recipe for Hot Vermont Curry and you'll have a savory dish in no time at all. Pick Mild Vermont Curry if you prefer a smooth taste to spicy. Keep in mind that Japanese curry is not as spicy as Indian curry, so don't be afraid to kick the flavor up a notch.


S&B GOLDEN CURRY SAUCE MIX - HOT

Directions:

  1. Cut 1 to 1-1/2 lbs of lean beef (or chicken, lamb, shrimp, or tofu)
  2. Dice one large onion.
  3. In a large skillet, saute meat and onion in oil until lightly browned, about 3 minutes. If desired, add carrots, potato, celery, or just about any vegetable you like. Discard excess oil.
  4. Add 3 cups of water and bring to a boil. Reduce heat, cover and simmer until meat (and potato) is tender, about 10 minutes.
  5. Break Curry Sauce Mix (roux) into small pieces and add to pot stirring until (roux) is completed melted.
  6. Simmer for another 5 minutes or so stirring constantly. (If sauce becomes too thick, just add water)
  7. Pour over freshly cooked rice.    
 

To really impress your friends, experiment a little. Add 1 tablespoon of lemon juice, a teaspoon of curry powder, or top it with boiled eggs. To find Golden Curry, rice, and other Japanese snacks, shop Asianfoodgrocer.com.


pocky_.jpgIt started in Japan with a simple biscuit stick coated in chocolate. More than forty years later, it can be found in Asian markets from the U.S. to Australia. It's Pocky and more addictive than potato chips. Japanese teenagers in the 1970's were the first to catch Pocky fever. After sweet success with chocolate, the Pocky factory went wild. Now it's available in enough flavors and colors to make your head spin. This snack food even has its very own holiday in Japan -- Pocky Day, celebrated November 11.

You probably already tasted chocolate, got sick of strawberry, and became enamoredpocky 4.jpg with almond. But did you know about grape Pocky, fortune-telling Pocky, sweet potato Pocky, mild and bitter Pocky, or Lychee Flake Pocky? Pocky makers even managed to create reverse Pocky, which (hence the name) has frosting inside the crispy cookie.

If you had to choose one, what flavor would be your favorite? We know it's a tough choice; you don't want to hurt the other Pockys' feelings. Those who can't pick just one might want to satisfy their Pocky palate with this snack bundle pack. To stock up on Pocky and other delicious treats, shop Asianfoodgrocer.com.