All About Asian Food

December 2008 Archives

Those of us who enjoy sampling just about every sort of Asian food that we happen across know that at times a fearless attitude can be a little dangerous. We're not just talking about danger in the improperly-prepared-fugu sense. The fact is that a lot of foods from the far east are a bit too daring for us meek westerners and if you're not careful it's easy to get in over your head. One of the places you might not expect to get in over your head would be beverages, but even in this seemingly safe harbor it can get a little dicey.

Take for example Curry and Wasabi Ramune Soda. An alternative to drinks that cool and refresh you, these drinks are designed to burn your head clean off. Here at AFG we can't count how many times we've thought to ourselves "ramune soda is great, but it just isn't spicy enough." Wait, yes we can. None. None times.


On the less-appalling-but-still-wildly-inappropriate front is Kid's Beer, a frothy non alcoholic drink marketed to small children. As a generation whose parents wouldn't let them have candy cigarettes and who balked at Big League Chew (it just seemed a little too close to chewing tobacco), one can imagine the cable news freak-out that would occur if this made its way across the Pacific. It isn't surprising, then, that this is still only available in Japan

"Yes yes," you're saying, "this is all well and good but what do you have in the way of fish-extract based drinks?" Well we're glad you asked. Unagi Nobori is a carbonated health drink infused with the theoretically delicious extract of eel. As much as we love a slice of eel on a sushi tray, this fizzy fish drink is a bit too far.


The final drink in our cavalcade of calamitous cocktails is not for the faint of heart. InventorSpot (warning: this link is not for the squeamish) lays out the details of Placenta 10000, the drink made with real pig placenta. The manufacturers guarantee that you won't be able to taste it a bit, and they'd better be right if they expect anybody to pony up the yen for a drink made from... do we have to say it again?

Things like this might seem like more than enough reason to keep you from experimenting with Japanese drinks but remember that adventure is part of the true gourmet experience. Who knows, you just might find that curry soda goes really well with your favorite burger, or that eel soda is the perfect compliment to fantastic sushi. Who knows you might even find out that placen- On second thought, maybe not.

Images Courtesy TokyoMango, Japan Marketing News, and Wired

hello_kitty_candy.jpgDo you remember the first time you saw a Keroppi Pencil? If you grew up in the 80s or 90s, you probably do. But what started out as a grade-school fad has been cultivated into a full-blown branded empire. Hello Kitty and her friends have inundated the lives of young (and young-at-heart) collectors everywhere.

Arguably, The World's Cutest Brand

Started in 1974 by the Japanese-based manufacturer Sanrio, Hello Kitty was the first and most popular of their cheery characters to reach the states two years later. And although the cute TV and video game tie-ins were a logical addition to the franchise, it's always been about the Hello Kitty merchandise. Hello Kitty and her friends Keroppi, Cinnamoroll, Chococat - their likenesses have been sold on everything from clothes to home appliances.

Believe it or not, the young girl audience hasn't been the only demographic swayed by the lovable cartoon animals. Newer characters like Badtz Maru (the quirky penguin, favored by boys) and Kuromi (the edgier, punky rabbit, popular with teens and young adults) has expanded Sanrio's appeal recently.

That isn't all they've accomplished. Just this year, Sanrio won their most important role yet for Hello Kitty: Japan's Ambassador of Tourism in China and Hong Kong.  No, we're not kidding - her image has become such an impressive worldwide symbol, that Japan has entrusted Kitty with spreading national goodwill to potential tourists.

Hello Kitty Candy

hello_kitty_candy_bundle.jpgWhat does all this have to do with asian food, you ask? Hello Kitty candy, of course! Much like their American 'toon counterparts from Disney and Warner Brothers have, Sanrio didn't hesitate to enter the food market. Hello Kitty Hi-Chew, Hello Kitty Chocolate Dip Biscuits, Keroppi Kawaii Cookies, and all the sweets you could imagine can now be found bearing the embodiment of everybody's favorite Japanese cat.

Given all this growth, there's no doubt in our minds that the Hello Kitty brand will remain a sensation for years to come.
Need a flag pole for your gingerbread house? Or fuzzy antlers for your reindeer? Or drum sticks for your little drummer boy? Asian Food Grocer presents...drum roll please...the most inventive holiday Pocky creations ever! From a Pocky winter wonderland to Pocky gingerbread houses, these confectionery creations make working with Pocky look like a piece of cake.

Pocky Wonderland Forest

Not Quite Nigella Pocky Forest.jpgWalking in a Pocky wonderland. Who wouldn't want to get lost in this edible forest? This creation comes from Not Quite Nigella - an Australian foodie with a passion for homemade Pocky. Not Quite Nigella made her own Pocky for this cake (we know, she's seriously talented) but if your baking skills aren't up to par, replicate her winter wonderland with Milk Pocky, Chocolate Crush Pocky, or Hazelnut Dessert Pocky. She also includes a recipe for an equally appealing and visually stunning Pocky sundae. Can't wait to see what the Pocky pro makes next!

Pocky Gingerbread House

pocky gingerbread house.JPGWhen it comes to gingerbread houses, Pocky is the new candy cane. Use it to make a door frame or flag pole, spell out words, create a snow-lined roof, or even as logs for a cabin gingerbread house. For inspiration, take a look at this gingerbread house from Miss Jellybeano. And this award-winning gingerbread castle from Unschool Me is the perfect example of how you can use Pocky sticks to make flag poles. A medieval feast for the eyes!

Purely Ornamental Pocky

___Pocky_Earrings____by_Shiritsu.jpgTo give Pocky presents that don't come with poundage, take a look at these adorable earrings by Shiritsu on DevianArt. When you wear these earrings, don't be surprised if someone tries to nibble on your lobes. Pocky is just that good. If you're super crafty like this artist, don't stop at earrings. Make Pocky ornaments for the tree!

Send us pictures of your own holiday Pocky creations for future Pocky posts. And check back later for holiday recipes and ideas from Asian Food Grocer.
When the weather outside is frightful...stay inside and cook something delightful! Every week, we'll feature a new recipe from our Asian Food Recipes section. Since it's winter and the holidays are coming up, we picked Miso and Maple marinated pork. Infused with a fantastic  fantastic blend of flavors, this marinade features: tart apples, carmelized onions, the sweetness of maple syrup and subtle saltiness of Aaka (red) miso.

Try it out and then tell us what you think. And if the miserable weather makes you crave Miso (like we do), explore our wide section of Miso Paste and Miso Soup.

1  lb Pork tenderloin or center-cut loin, boned and fat-trimmed
1/3 c Aaka miso
1/3 c Maple syrup
1/4 c Rice wine ( Sake ), or Dry white wine, or Water
2 tb Minced Ginger
2 Apples, medium-sized
Lemon juice
1 Onion, large - cut into wedges and separated into layers


1. Cut meat into 1/8" thick slices 6-7" long. In a heavy plastic food bag (about 1 quart), combine miso, syrup, sake, ginger, and pork; mix well. Seal shut and chill for at least 1 hour or up until the next day.

2. Core apples; cut into 1/2" wedges. Moisten with lemon juice to preserve color.

3. Thread a thin skewer through the end of a pork slice, then a piece of onion and a piece of apple. Weave skewer through meat slice again and repeat process, dividing ingredients among 4-8 skewers. If made ahead, cover and shill up to 3 hours. 

4. Lay skewers on grill 4-6" above a solid bed of medium-coals (you can hold you hand at grill level for only 4-5 seconds). Baste with marinade and turn often until meat is no longer pink in center (cut to test), about 10 minutes.

You'll impress your holiday dinner guests with this delectable dish. Check back next week for another delicious recipe. If you can't wait, take a look at our Asian cookbooks. They're the perfect holiday gifts for novice chefs.