Japanese-style Beef Stew

It's been 3 days since my return from Tokyo, I already missed it terribly and yearning to return once more. Is it the weather, the food or just the overall atmosphere? Each time I visit the city, despite doing mostly the same old (shops, food), somehow I still managed to discover new areas and things. Hope I would get down to blog about it soon.

To cure my love-sickness for Japan, I cooked a Japanese-style Beef Stew yesterday and had it for both lunch and dinner. This recipe is from a NHK programme  きょうの料理 that I watched while I was in Tokyo and I managed to retrieve the recipe from their website.


 Very interesting stew because the method used is slightly different from the Western-style, and the sauces/seasonings used for the gravy is quite different as well. Besides red wine, demi-glace sauce is used, and seasonings like ketchup, tonkatsu sauce and worcestershire sauce. As usual I brought back some root vegetables (yes I'm a weirdo who buys groceries from Japan every time I visit) and used my precious carrot and potato for the stew.

Ingredients - potato and carrot (from Japan), swiss brown mushroom, white onion (recipe uses the small type of Japanese onion which I didn't buy), beef, garlic, bay leaves and celery.

Sauces - the key ones are red wine and demi-glace (I bought the Heinz packet from Japan. demi-glace sauce can be homemade as well); ketchup and tonkatsu sauce. Recipe also calls for worcestershire sauce which I substituted with balsamic vinegar, fish sauce and sugar.



Japanese-style Beef Stew
(serves 2-3 pax, adapted from NHK Kyounoryouri

Ingredients
  • 430g Beef shoulder, cut into 2-3cm chunks
  • 5 cloves Garlic, thinly sliced
  • 2 Bay leaves
  • 1 stalk Celery leaves
  • 1L Water
  • 150ml Red wine
  • 200g Demi-glace sauce
  • 20g Unsalted butter
  • 2pc White onion, peeled and cut into wedges
  • 190g Carrot, peeled and cut into 1cm thick rounds
  • 180g Swiss brown mushroom, remove stem
  • 300g Potato, peeled (I use baby potato)
  • 1 tbsp Ketchup
  • 1 tbsp Tonkatsu sauce
  • 1/4 tsp Balsamic vinegar
  • 1/4 tsp fish sauce
  • 1/2 tsp sugar
  • Sea salt and pepper to taste 
Steps
  1. Marinate the beef chunks with sea salt and pepper and coat thinly with flour.
  2. Heat 2 tbsp of cooking oil in a cast iron pot, add garlic slices. Once fragrant, add beef chunks and sear all the sides till browned.
  3. Add 1L water, bay leaves and celery to the pot, bring to boil and then lower heat, simmer for about 50-60 mins till beef is tender.
  4. In a separate small pot, add red wine and cook on medium heat for 5-6 mins, till wine is reduced by half. Add the demi-glace sauce and cook on low heat for 3 mins. Off heat and set aside.
  5. In a frying pan, melt the butter then add all the vegetables. Sauteed for 5 mins. Off heat and set aside.
  6. Once beef is ready, add the vegetables from (5) to the pot, bring to boil then turn down the heat. Scoop and discard any scums from the soup. *I use the "Akutorishito" (something like a fine mesh cloth) bought from Japan to help absorb the scums and excess oil. Cover the lid and simmer for 10 mins.
  7. After 10 mins, remove the lid and add the red wine and demi-glace mixture from (4). Simmer over low heat for 30 mins, stirring occasionally. The gravy will thickened and reduced.
  8. For finishing, add the ketchup, tonkatsu sauce, vinegar, fish sauce, sugar, salt and pepper to taste.

This dish is best served hot with rice or crusty bread. I had mine with rice because didn't have time to make any bread. The cook recommended sour cream to go with the gravy as well but I was too lazy and didn't bother didn't have the ingredients.

I love the gravy! Although the gravy looks very rich, the taste is mild and not overwhelming on the palate. The texture and taste of beef, onion, carrot, potato and mushroom complemented each other very well. Certainly a comfort stew for the cold weather. This recipe is definitely a keeper and I'm already looking forward to cook this dish again, this time with sour cream and homemade crusty bread.

Carrot & Walnut Cupcake with Cream Cheese Frosting

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Recently Kraft ran a local promotion on Philadelphia Cream Cheese products, for every 2 products purchased (cream cheese block or spreadable cream cheese), a measuring cup/spoon set was given free. The free gift came in 3 colours and looked so attractive that I got myself all 3 sets (4 blocks of cream cheese and 2 tubs of spreadable). Yep, so I have an abundance of cream cheese idling in my fridge :p

Was scratching my head over how to use up the cream cheese, and the Carrot and Walnut Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting came to my mind. Haven't eaten this cake for a long time and kind of craving for it. Decided to make it in petite cupcake sizes as they look more cutesy and I also wanted to gift a dozen (to my hair stylist whom I've known for more than 10 years).

The texture for this cake is very tender and moist, with natural sweetness from the grated carrots and nutty flavour from the walnuts, with a hint of spices (cinnamon, ginger and nutmeg) for aroma and tinge of orange (juice, extract and zest) for tangy fragrance. It tasted very good on its own already but even better with some cream cheese frosting! Some white chocolate was added for a more creamy texture and orange (juice and extract) for fragrance. Love love love this cake! I still have lots of cream cheese left and already thinking of making another batch of cupcakes or probably bake a full cake this time.


Carrot & Walnut Cupcakes
(makes 20 petite cupcakes - Glassine black brown diameter 9.5cm base 4.1cm)

Ingredients (A)
  • 120g cake flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp ground ginger
  • 1/4 tsp nutmeg, freshly grated
Ingredients (B)
  • 120g neutral tasting cooking oil (I use grapeseed oil)
  • 60g unsalted butter, melted
  • 2 tbsp orange juice
  • 1 tsp orange extract (I use Nielsen-Massey)
  • 1 zest of orange
Ingredients (C)
  • 2 eggs
  • 50g caster sugar
  • 70g light brown sugar
Ingredients (D)
  • 150g carrots, grated
  • 50g walnuts, chopped

Steps
  1. Preheat oven to 175 degree celsius, top and bottom heat.
  2. Line muffin pan with cupcake cases. Set aside.
  3. Sift all ingredients (A) together and stir with whisk till well-mixed. Set aside.
  4. Combine all ingredients (B) together till well-blended. Set aside.
  5. Add the eggs in a mixer bowl and whisk on medium high speed till foamy.
  6. Add both sugars and beat till mixture is slightly thickened on medium high speed.
  7. Reduce mixer speed to low and add the wet ingredients mixture (B) gradually. Beat till well-mixed.
  8. Add the dry ingredients mixture (A) in 3 additions. Mix till just combined, do not over-mix, scrapping down sides of bowl once.
  9. Add the carrots and mix till blended.
  10. Remove bowl from mixer and FOLD in the walnuts till well-mixed.
  11. Fill the batter into the prepared cupcake cases (about 3/4 depth).
  12. Bake at 175 degree celsius for 20 mins.
  13. Remove muffin pan from oven, cool on wire rack completely before piping.
Cream Cheese Frosting
(makes more than enough to frost 20 cupcakes)

Ingredients
  • 80g white chocolate buttons (I use ICAM White Chocolate Vanini)
  • 380g cream cheese (I use Philadelphia), cubed and slightly softened
  • 35g unsalted butter, cubed and slightly softened
  • 1 tbsp orange juice
  • 1/2 tsp orange extract (I use Nielsen-Massey)
  • 30g icing sugar, sifted
Steps
  1. Melt white chocolate in a heat proof bowl over a pot of simmering water. Stir till smooth and cool before using.
  2. Add cream cheese and butter in a mixer bowl and beat on medium high speed using paddle attachment till smooth and creamy.
  3. Add the melted white chocolate, orange juice and extract and beat till combined.
  4. Add icing sugar and beat until smooth and creamy.
  5. Pipe on cooled cupcakes as desired. I use Wilton 1M piping tip.


Tokyo Chicken Stew

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It has been raining almost daily since last week; a sign of the monsoon season. When the weather turns chilly like that, I usually crave for a comforting bowl of hot soup or stew and take it as a full meal. One of my favourite soup/stew is the "Tokyo Chicken Stew" from The Soup Spoon. In fact, that's the only item that I order when I go to The Soup Spoon. But is it just me, I find eating this soup with bread (that's given) quite weird.

Since I like it so much, I thought of cooking it at home. The main ingredients for the soup can be found on The Soup Spoon's website. Besides chicken stock, chicken and the assorted vegetables, mirin and sake are used in the seasonings (besides the usual soya sauce, salt, ginger, garlic, sugar). Not sure why it's called Tokyo Chicken Stew, Oriental Chicken Stew might be more apt? Probably coz of mirin and sake used.


I think the key to a good bowl of soup would be the chicken stock so I started off preparing the stock from scratch rather than buying ready-made/canned ones or stock cubes. To prepare chicken stock, I usually get chicken feet and carcass from the wet market (and bones from the deboned chicken leg) and throw in any leftover vegetables I have in the fridge like radish, celery, carrot, onion, cabbage etc and if you like additional sweetness, soya bean.

One thing I didn't like about the Tokyo Chicken Stew from The Soup Spoon is the chicken, which is over-cooked and bland. I prefer the chewy type of texture. Well, don't think they can help it coz their soup is constantly heated and the texture of chicken will turn mushy over-time. So to overcome this problem, I used kampung chicken leg and cook the root vegetables which take a longer time first. Once those are ready, I then added the chicken (marinated) and boil till just cooked.

Vegetables I used were lotus root, white radish, carrot, celery, leek, white onion, bamboo shoot, enoki mushroom and shiitake mushroom.


Tokyo Chicken Stew
(serves 2-3)

Ingredients

Chicken stock
  • 1/2kg chicken feet
  • 1 kampung chicken carcass
  • 2 bones from chicken leg/thigh
  • 1 yellow onion, 1/4 radish, 1/2 carrot, 1 stalk celery (and any additional vegetables to preference)
  • 5L water
  1. Add all the ingredients in a large soup pot.
  2. Boil on high heat for 10 mins, then turn to lowest heat and simmer for 2-3hours.
  3. Strain and stock is ready to use. *Stock is more than enough for the soup, store the balance in a ziplock bag and freeze for future use.
 Chicken stew
  • 2 chicken leg, remove skin, debone (save the bones for chicken stock) and cut into bite-size pieces
  • Marinade: 2 tbsp mirin, 2 tbsp Japanese cooking wine, 1 tbsp soya sauce, 1 tsp ginger juice, 1 tsp sugar, 2 cloves garlic, 1 tbsp corn starch
  • 1.2L chicken stock
  • 1 section (90g) lotus root, thinly sliced
  • 1/2 bamboo shoot, thinly sliced
  • 1/2 carrot, thinly sliced
  • 1/4 white radish, thinly sliced
  • 3 stalks celery, cut into bite-size pieces
  • 1 leek, cut into bite-size pieces
  • 1/2 yellow onion, cut into wedges
  • 6 shiitake mushroom, thinly sliced
  • 1 bunch enoki mushroom, cut into 2 sections
  • Salt, mixed herbs
  1. Marinate the chicken and set aside.
  2. In a medium size soup pot, add chicken stock, lotus root and bamboo shoot. Bring to boil and simmer for 15 mins.
  3. Then add carrot, radish, celery, leek and onion. Simmer for another 20-30 mins, till the root vegetables are soft.
  4. Add the shiitake mushroom, enoki mushroom and marinated chicken. Bring to boil till chicken is just cooked.
  5. Season with salt (to taste) and sprinkle some mixed herb (if desired).
  6. Best serve hot.

I must say this is quite a hearty soup, comforting and warming to the body. One bowl of it is already very filling and I could eat this two meals in a row!

Highlights of Tokyo April 2014

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Gosh, I'll be going to Tokyo in about 2 weeks' time and it's really about time I get my lazy butt out and post about this previous trip I took in April :p

Actually I thought of ditching this post altogether but there were a few highlights I would like to share being first time experiences. Even though I've been to Tokyo so many times and always doing the same old same old, I was pretty pleased about this particular trip.

Haneda Airport

Somehow I always find myself using Narita Airport due to the flight timings chosen. But I've heard a lot about the Haneda Airport's shopping areas like the Tokyo Pop Town and Edo Market, so I really wanted to take at a look. (There was once when I transit via Haneda but the flight was near midnight and the shops were closed.)

Landed in the late afternoon and I had about 45 mins spare time before the scheduled bus to my hotel, so decided to pop by the Tokyo Pop Town and Edo Market (initially intention was to drop by during departure).

Surprisingly the areas were quite quiet, probably coz it was a weekday?

Hello Kitty Shop - paradise for HK fans out there.

A few other character and souvenir shops.


The Cool Zone - mostly fashion and accessories.


Frankly, not very impressed with both the Tokyo Pop Town or Edo Market. Having been to New Chitose Airport last year, this paled in comparison. I guess the advantage of Haneda Airport over Narita is its proximity to Tokyo city area (60 min vs 90 min by airport limousine bus) and the ticket price (1230 yen vs 3100 yen).

Airport Limousine Bus-stop. Hubby and I usually travel by airport limousine bus into Tokyo because it's really convenient and hassle free. Just hand the luggage to the staff and they'll help to load the luggage upon boarding and alighting. If we were to take the train, we always have a problem handling/stowing the luggage (especially my huge pink lady :p).

Haneda Airport - http://www.haneda-airport.jp/inter/en/
Airport Limousine Bus - http://www.limousinebus.co.jp/en/


Century Southern Tower

Our lodging for this trip was Century Southern Tower at Shinjuku. Our usual hotel of choice is Shibuya Excel Tokyu but it was fully booked; anyways I've always wanted to try this one :)

Love the spaciousness, unlike the usual tight space of hotels in Japan.


The super king-size bed was so comfortable and I love the additional lounge chair for me to laze about.

More then sufficient space to stow our luggage. Usual amenities provided.

Spacious bathroom as well.

Full-size bath-tub which is welcoming because most of the hotels provide the typical Japanese square bath-tub. After a full-day of shopping marathon, nothing beats a good soak in the bathtub.

Best of all, the splendid view! We had the Yoyogi Park (where Meiji Shrine is) view which was awesome! Love this hotel, since it's close to the Shinjuku JR station and opposite the Takashimaya Times Square with Tokyu Hands.

Century Southern Tower Hotel - http://en.southerntower.co.jp/



New York Grill, Park Hyatt Hotel

It was hubby's birthday on our day of arrival and I had planned a special dinner treat for him at the New York Grill, Park Hyatt Hotel. Made reservation prior to the trip via email and I must say I was quite impressed with the level of service by the staff. Initially wanted to dine at Sky Restaurant 634 at Tokyo Skytree but it's quite restrictive with specific seat-in time and no guarantee of table with view.

New York Grill was able to guarantee a table with view and also willing to prepare a dish that was not on the menu (hubby was craving for clam chowder), and also write birthday message for dessert.


New York Grill Appetiser Plate for Two. Absolutely delish!

My tenderloin which came in a heart-shape (or I imagined it to be). Hubby ordered ribeye I think and we also ordered mixed mushrooms to share. Needless to say, the tenderloin was perfect.

Ahhhhh, mesmerising view. Ordered a New York cheese cake for hubby (came with free birthday message and candle). Well, the meal was expensive but well worth it given the to-die-for view, excellent food and service quality and it was hubby's big 4!

Totally loved the ambiance of the restaurant and there was also a live band (at the bar area).

New York Grill, Park Hyatt Hotel - http://www.tokyo.park.hyatt.com/en/hotel/dining/NewYorkGrill.html


Random food highlights

I love this bakery-cafe which is located near the hotel and opposite the Shinjuku JR station entrance. Lovely bread and pastry with delectable selection of salads. Great choice for breakfast, brunch or light dinner. I think we dined here a few times.



Random tonkatsu shop at Nishi-Shinjuku. My set included pork, fish and prawn cutlet, rice, tonjiru soup and hojicha. Hubby's set was pork cutlet with big bowl of tonjiru. Yummy and value-for-money (about 600 yen for his set and 800 for mine). Loved the tonjiru soup especially because usually eateries serve just miso soup.


Our favourite grilled unagi shop, Unatoto.

They have several branches around Tokyo and we went to the shop at Shinbashi. The original hole-in-the-wall shop has shifted to a slightly bigger space across the street.

The aroma of grilled unagi was intoxicating!



I ordered the regular size unadon at 500 yen whereas hubby went for the upsize at 1000 yen. Totally regretted not ordering the upsize portion coz one slice of the unagi was not enough!

Additional items to share, kankyuri soup, salad and oshinko. Loved the oshinko!

Unatoto - http://www.unatoto.com/


Accent style (craftholic)

Fans of craftholic will scream over this shop at Jiyuugaoka.


Galore of craftholic plush and accessories. Definitely much bigger collection than what's available here in SG.


From keychains
To sling pouch, slippers, towel hanger, brush...
Keyholders, pencil case...
Mini pouch, tissue holder...
Plush of different designs, colours and sizes.

Guess which one I got?


accent style - http://www.act-style.co.jp/english


Aoyama Flower Market Tea House (Minami Aoyama)

I almost didn't make it here! It was on my must-visit place but silly me forgot to search for a more precise map and I only screen-captured a simplified map taken from their website. Only knew that the nearest station is Omotesando and didn't know which exit to take exactly (if you have been to Toyko, you'll know that exit locations are extremely important else it's so easy to get lost). I just went with my gut feel and ended up walking about 1-2km and lost in the middle of Aoyama :( with heavy bags of shopping and extremely cold. Luckily I found a Francfranc store, went in to ask for directions and the staff kindly helped me.

The tea house is actually very close to Omotesando station (correct exit is A4-5), but such an obscure location! Not exactly B1 level but hidden inside a building within half flight of stairs -_-. It's so easy to miss it coz it's not exactly visible from street level (I acually missed it!) Why couldn't the website just state the exit number? Blah.


Enough of the rant. The moment I found it, all my frustrations melted after seeing the lovely floral displays.

The entrance itself could already make ladies go ga-ga.


I was actually contemplating whether to get this Kitchen Bouquet just because it was sooooo pretty!!

More formal Gift Bouquets.

Here the flowers and plants are arranged accordingly to ombre colours. How lovely is that?



The Teahouse is located within the Flower Market, with a greenhouse concept.

Love love love this place! Such a sweet and cozy place to enjoy afternoon tea. I was totally immersed and intoxicated with the ambience, and went around snapping photos :p The locals must think that I'm weird :p






They have English menu, made it easier for me to order.


Ordered a  Refresh Blend Herbal tea and a rose tea jelly parfait.

Was deciding whether to order this or a French Toast which I totally regretted not ordering thinking that it might be too heavy. Boohoooooo, saw a lady ordered the French Toast and it looked soooo good with colourful edible flowers!!

Yes, the rose tea jelly parfait was yummy as well, especially the rose tea jelly which had this fragrant sweet flora aroma. But. Never mind, I shall return for my upcoming trip!!


Aoyama Flower Market Teahouse - http://www.afm-teahouse.com/