All About Asian Food

March 2013 Archives

Cherry Blossom Party Checklist

Beautiful Spring Cherry Blossoms Cherry Blossoms are iconic in Japanese culture. They appear in haikus and paintings, and are even on the 100 yen coin, which is comparable to our dollar bill. Parties to view the cherry blossoms have been popular for over a thousand years, and are held all over country. The parties are called 'Hanami' in Japan, and different people have Hanami parties in different ways.

Young people tend to break out the Sake, the Frisbees, the guitars, and then use the opportunity to socialize. And why not- meeting your boyfriend or girlfriend under a perfect sea of spring flowers is a great way to kick off a relationship. Older people and families usually take out the cameras and go for a stroll around the parks or riversides to enjoy the incredible beauty of spring.

Now, everyone's got their own idea of what a good Hanami is, but here at AFG, we want to help you and your friends have the perfect cherry blossom viewing experience. So whether you're more interested in the socializing, the beauty of nature, or just want another excuse to eat delicious Japanese food, we've got you covered.

THE CHECK LIST

TARP. Make sure it's big enough for everyone there, and remember this is a Japanese holiday, so take off your shoes when sitting on the tarp! No Shoes on the Tarp

SAKE. Alcohol is pretty important in Japanese culture, and it's been tied with Hanami parties for centuries- don't break the tradition. (So long as you're of legal age!)

CAMERA. You want to keep your precious memories, don't you? And the cherry blossoms are incredibly beautiful. You'll be kicking yourself if you forget this important item. Trust me, I've done it.

ENTERTAINMENT. We all love to sit down with some food and sake, but it's also very common to use the Hanami as a chance to play in the park. So have a pickup game of soccer, practice your guitar chords, or throw a football around. It's spring time, get some exercise!

FOOD. A hanami is usually based around a picnic, and food ranks pretty highly at those things. So we recommend foods that can be transported easily, that don't leave a lot of garbage to clean up, and that don't need a lot of prep time. Ramen and Miso Soup are probably a bad idea. Try these foods instead:

-Onigiri - A rice ball with a variety of possible ingredients inside, usually fish. These are pretty easy to carry around, and are fairly tough- no need to worry about throwing them in your bag with a six pack and some soccer balls.

-Sushi Bento - The maki rolls are the easiest to carry around with you, but sashimi or California Rolls would also make for a great treat. Don't forget the Soy Sauce and Wasabi!

-Kara-age and Yakitori - This is Japanese Fried Chicken, or grilled chicken on a stick. These are delicious when home made, but they can be bought at most Japanese restaurants.

-Sakuramochi - This traditional Japanese Dessert has sweet Red Bean Paste inside of a dumpling, which is then adorned with a salted Cherry blossom leaf. Definitely a taste of Japan!

-Candy and Snacks - What's a picnic without some delicious Japanese treats like Pocky, Pretz, or Wasabi Peas?

MANNERS! - Remember to say 'Itadakimasu' (Thanks for the food) before eating the meal, and 'Gochisosama' (Thanks for the food) afterwards. And remember, it's appropriate to pour sake for others, and let them pour it for you.

Pictures of People Taking Pictures of Cherry BlossomsI hope this check list gives you some ideas for how you want to celebrate this special time, or at the very least, motivates you to get out and enjoy the springtime! Please let us know if you have any suggestions for better ways to enjoy the cherry blossoms, or if you have any special Hanami recipes. If you're looking for some unique Japanese foods to try out this Cherry Blossom season, you can always consult our Recipe Section.

 

California RollsWe're quickly coming upon Easter Sunday, after almost five weeks into the Lent season. This solemn 40-day observation inspires Catholics and people of various other denominations to give up on certain vices and live a more pared-down, ascetic lifestyle. One prevalent thing people give up during Lent is the consumption of meat on Fridays. As such, fish is a popular choice for Friday dinner. Friday fish fries are a popular event held in many communities, where people gorge on beer-battered fried fish. But if you ask me, having fish and chips every week cannot be great for you or your love handles. A healthy and tasty alternative would be to eat sushi instead.

Rather than going out to expensive sushi restaurants, you can save plenty of money by preparing sushi right at home. The ingredients required are quite simple-nori, rice, and sushi vinegar makes up the foundation of most rolls. And don't forget sushi ginger, which is munched on between and after sushi courses as a palate cleanser.

The hardest part of making sushi is actually rolling it up. The process is made much easier with help of either bamboo mats or this nifty Express Sushi Magic device that makes producing sushi rolls a no-brainer.

Rolling Your SushiThe kind of sushi most people in America find palatable is the ubiquitous sushi roll, with its various ingredients wrapped up in rice and seaweed paper, or nori. The California roll is a popular roll containing imitation crab, cucumber, and avocado, wrapped inside-out style with the rice on the outside and nori on the inside. Check out our recipe to recreate this widely-proliferated roll. Other popular rolls include the Philadelphia roll, which incorporates cream cheese, and spicy tuna roll, made with a spicy minced tuna mixture.

The purest form of sushi, some may say, is sashimi, which is simply slices of fresh, raw fish. Understandably, people are apprehensive about eating raw fish, gourmet or not. But dipped in the time-tested combo of soy sauce and wasabi, a sliver of salmon or tuna can taste heavenly.

Another type of sushi is nigiri, a molded ball of rice with a slice of fish on top. You may also top nigiri with non-raw-fish ingredients such as tamago (egg) and unagi (eel). Nigiri is meant to be eaten with your hands. Pick up a piece, dap it with a little sauce, and down the hatch it goes.

SashimiIf the texture of raw fish is too out there for you, there are plenty of cooked item that goes into sushi as well that will not break the rule of meatless Fridays. Braised eel, is a popular cooked sushi component. With a texture similar to fish but more fatty, eel is served grilled and topped with a smoky sauce that is sure to satisfies anyone's taste buds. You may also use cooked shrimp or imitation crab, but really, any ingredient is fair game.

It can be great fun to mix and match different ingredients when putting together your rolls. Experiment with different flavors, and above all, have fun! Do not give into sushi snobs who insist on labeling rolls as either "real" sushi or not. Sushi is meant to be an all-inclusive experience, so put in your personal touch to get the most enjoyment out of your cooking.

You may find eating fresh fish and sushi so delicious that you decide to eat it year round, long past Easter. Sushi can even be considered a kosher food, given the heavy dependence on fish rather than meat. With its range of flavors and utmost emphasis on freshness, sushi is a food for people of all creeds.

Recordable Red Monkey Plushie So you want to give a gift, but are looking to add a personal touch. We've got just the thing for you. Some of the cooler items we've been bringing in among our new products are our line of voice recordable plushies. Yes, you've heard right. These 7-inch plushie dolls all come equipped with with recorder modules, giving them the ability to record up to 12 seconds of sound.

To record a message, simply press and hold the plush's right hand until you see a red light glow on its forehead, then speak into the doll. Press the right hand again to complete your recording. To play the message back, simply squeeze the left hand. You are able to re-record your message at any time.

Now it's fairly simple to record your voice message in the doll, but we have come up with many inventive ways to utilize this cool feature.. For example, you may record a heartfelt romantic message for your significant other for a birthday or anniversary. This approach will go particularly well with our Heart-Bearing Teddy Bears. By giving a cute soft plushie, along with a sentimental message, you'll score double the brownie points. Recordable Plushie Bear with Pink Heart

Another nifty way to use the recording feature of our plush dolls is to leave instructive messages for your children. Say for example "Lunch is in the oven! Love, Mom" or "Pick you up at soccer practice at 5PM!" Much fluffier than a cell phone message, wouldn't you say? In this way, everyday memos can become little gestures of love and care.

Green Monkey Recordable Doll
The number of cool uses are only limited by your imagination. Other neat application we've thought of include asking someone to prom with a plush message, using a plushie as a clue device in a scavenger hunt, or try convincing someone the plush is haunted by recording a creepy message. You didn't learn that last one from us.

The line of recordable plushies encompases many type of animals. We have recordable raccoons, monkeys, and teddy bears, and even Recordable Doraemon Plushies. Yep, we have the beloved blue robot feline in recordable plush form! You are sure to find a plush doll to your liking.

Recordable Bear Gift CardIf for some unfathomable reason plushies aren't your style, you can always add a voice message to any gift item with one of our Voice Recordable Cards. Just like our recordable plushie, these cards can record 12 seconds of sound for a replayable message. An added bonus of the card is that you can write down anything you couldn't squeeze into the allotted 12 seconds. How are you planning to use our voice recordable items? Whatever you decide, we want to wish you happy gift-giving!