Home Kitchen Recipe | Braised Bean Curd (Soft Tofu) with Shiitake Mushroom

This dish is a total vegetarian. Absolute free from meat or poultry at all. So if you are thinking to go be herbivore once in a while, give this dish a try.

At times, I have the ingredients but run out of idea for what to put into the wok. This dish is created when I started to think of how to finish up the soft tofu (bean curb) in my fridge. The tofu was still gorgeous, it was just time go based on the ‘First Come First Out’ rule! I always love to cook with fresh ingredients and this approach happened to push me to create out this dish – Braised Bean Curb (Soft Tofu) with Mushroom, mainly by recalling the images of claypot tofu that we used to have at Chinese restaurant.

Braised Soft Tofu a.ka. Bean Curd and Vegetables in Claypot Style
Braised Soft Tofu a.ka. Bean Curd and Vegetables in Claypot Style

Check out how is the experiment goes..

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Home Kitchen Recipe | Raisin and Walnut Muffins

I have been baking muffins pretty frequent lately. This week, I am going to try ‘Raisin and Walnut Muffins’ since I have all the ingredients readily at home.
Treating myself!
My earlier attempt of similar recipe was baking Dried Cranberry Muffin and they turned out pretty and delicious. This attempt I would swap the dried cranberries or craisins with raisins. In addition, the amount of oat is a quarter less as my Significant Other does not fancy too much of it. This resulted me to make the flour by an additional quarter of a cup.
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Home Kitchen Recipe | Nyonya Style Pork Belly In Soy Sauce (Tau Yew Bak)

I have a confession. Simply the thought of Stew Pork Belly in Soy Sauce is making me drooling in Austin. I grow up with this dish. Despite the name mentions only pork, this dish indeed offers more than that. Tofu, hard boiled egg, shiitake mushroom and garlic are among what it is made of.

At home, we called it ‘Tau Yew Bak’ (Hokkien dialect). The ‘Tau Yew Bak’ prepared by my late grandma (she was a Nyonya) is the best of all and my mom’s version is still great! Since moving out and living on my own, I used to get this ready-cooked dish from economy rice stalls in Penang (good enough to kill my craving) though the flavors and ingredients from stall to stall were slightly different.

Mouth watering dish - Nyonya Style Pork Belly in Soy Sauce
Mouth watering dish – Nyonya Style Pork Belly in Soy Sauce

However, living in Austin left me with no choice other than making my own version of ‘Tau Yew Bak’ or Stew Pork Belly! Due to the limitation of ingredients, I decided to go ahead with my own version after browsing a few sites and consulting my mom.
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Best 100 Sakura Spots in Japan | Asakusa Sumida Park – Cherry Blossom Viewing

Asakusa is a vibrant neighborhood, used to be a major entertainment area and it is the oldest Geisha district in Tokyo. When I walked along KaminariMon Street in Asakusa, I could sense that this is a town that never sleep!

Bustling street at Asakusa
Bustling street at Asakusa

If this bustling atmosphere is not your cup of tea, take a few steps from Asakusa Subway Station, walk towards the river side. It gives you something of a total opposite. The highly energtic mood is transformed into a calm and peaceful tunnel with a stretch of sakura trees by a river – The Sumida Park.     
Landmark of Asahi Breweries - A beer glass and a golden object
Sumida Park that is named after the river that flows adjacent to it – Sumida River, is one of top 100 best spots to view cherry blossom in Japan during spring. A thousand trees of sakura were planted along the river side and when the spring greets with blooming sakura, it creates the atmosphere of affection. The best sighting period usually falls between end of March until mid of April. Folks from near and far would flock to enjoy the spectacle of sakura and hanami or an outdoor party under these flowering cherry trees. Dancing and singing are also common sights during this season of spring celebration.
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Tokyo Taito Asakusa | Sensoji Temple – Zenizuka Jizoson (Zeniduka-Jizou)

Zeniduka-Jizou or Zenzizuka Jizo-do Hall, both refers to the same sacred spot within the premise of Sensoji Temple.
Shrine for Jizou

Sacred statues are placed above the ground of Coin Mound
Sacred statues are placed above the ground of Coin Mound

The interesting origin of this shrine began in early 18th century when a house wife happened to dig up a jar of coins at their yard. Due to her concern that her husband Yamaguchi would be lazy and their family would be dependance on the new found wealth, she reburied the coins. These coins were from Edo Period and is called ‘Kanei-Tsuhou’. As a result from her decision, the family became prosperous.  
Devotees pray for good fortune and sucess in business
Fulfilled and blessed, the couple later enshrined a statue of Bodhisattva Jizo above the ground where she had buried the jar, therefore gave the shrine its name as ‘Zeniduka’ or translated as ‘Coin Mound’.
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Tokyo Asakusa | Sensoji Temple – Yogoda Hall, Shibaraku Statue and Small Shrines

Sensoji Temple premise is indeed a large compound. If one wish to explore every corner, shrine and hall, it may take at least 4 to 5 hours. Since we were on a DIY trip, we had the advantage to decide how long to spend.
Yogoda Hall houses Yogushu
Located almost next to Main Hall is Yogoda Hall. As the name suggest, it houses Yogushu – a group of Buddhas that follow the teachings of Bodhisattva Kannon. The current structure of Yogoda Hall was built in 1994 to commemorate the 1,200 th anniversary of the birth of Ennin.
Copper statue of Shibaraku
Shibaraku is a popular piece in Kabuki or classical Japanese dance-drama. The copper sculpture that sits far on the north-east of Sensoji Main Hall is the statue of the 9th Danjuro Ichikawa (1868-1903), the famous Kabuki actor. He is shown in the role depicting ‘Shibaraku’ which was his forte.
One of the mini shrines of Sensoji Temple
Hexagonal Temple
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Tokyo Asakusa Shrine (Sanja-sama) | Asakusa-jinja and Sanja Matsuri

Nestled within the premise of a Buddhist temple lies a famous Shinto Shrine named Sanja-sama, or Temple of Three Gods.

Torii - a symbol of Shinto Shrine
Torii – a symbol of Shinto Shrine

Asakusa Shrine in Tokyo
Known to many as Asakusa Shrine or Asakusajinja, it was constructed by Tokugawa Iemitsu in 1694 to honor the three founders of Sensoji Temple – the fisherman brothers Hinokuma Hamanari and Hinokuma Takenari who caught the golden Kannon statue from Sumida River. The shrine is also dedicated to Hajino Nakatomo, the village headman who enshrined the Kannon and turned his home into a Buddhist temple. In short, Asakusa Shrine was built in order to worship these men as deities.
Shinto's ritual
Located on the east of Sensoji’s Main Hall, Asakusa Shrine is easily differentiated with its large stone torii
(Shinto gate) that leads the way into the shrine from Nitenmon or ‘Gate of Two Ten’. Boasting the gongen-zukuri style of architecture representing early Edo Period, Asakusa Shrine is one of the structures which survived Tokyo raids in 1945. It was also designated as an important cultural asset to the nation in 1951.
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Tokyo Sensoji Temple (Asakusa Kannon) – Five Story Pagoda and Main Hall (Kannondo Hall)

Five Story Pagoda and Main Hall are the two ultimate destinations at Sensoji Temple.  
Landmark of Sensoji Temple - Five Story Pagoda
The Enligthened
Most visitors would pass through Kaminarimon (Thunder Gate), then a stretch of energetic shopping street – Nakamise dori before Hozomon or Treasure-House Gate. To the Left of Hozomon, an impressive and eye-catching sight is the Five Story Pagoda – the icon of Sensoji or Asakusa Kannon Temple.   
Sensoji Temple’s Main Hall is right ahead after Hozomon. During our last visit, the main hall was undergoing a major renovation and covered by scaffolding. The works are scheduled to be completed by the end of November 2010. Despite of that, the temple ground and the interior of the main hall still welcome visitors and devotees.
Five layers of tower, thus called Five Story Pagoda
Both the Five Story Pagoda and Sensoji Main Hall were built in 942 by military commander Taira no Kinmasa but they were destroyed by fire. In 1648, both structures were rebuilt by Tokugawa Iemitsu together with Hozomon. In 1911, Five Story Pagoda was declared as national treasure unfortunately, temple ground was burned down again during World War II in 1945. Five Story Pagoda was reconstructed in 1973 and top floor houses the relic of Buddha.
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Asakusa Sensoji Temple | Delicious Ramen (Japanese Noodle) and Gyoza

People said the best way to know a country is through their food. I was in Tokyo early spring this year, guess nothing else is better than a taste for adventure!
Plastic food display - right of the facade

Guess who is sitting on the roof?
Guess who is sitting on the roof?

Since our first day was spent at the vibrant Asakusa neighborhood, or precisely close to the precinct of Sensoji Temple, we opted for a lunch break nearby.
Queuing for good ramen..it is worth
Without much clue and obviously illiterate (Japanese illiterate!), our instinct brought us to an alley that lies perpendicular to the colorful Nakamise Shopping Street. One of the fabulous things I love about Tokyo is the plastic food display. For this restaurant we had eyed on, it clearly showed their specialty is ‘Ramen’. And this Japanese noodles look delicious. The long queue outside this restaurant came in next and served as our second clue that we should be heading into a good restaurant. Price ranges between 700 to 1000 yen.
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Japan Gastronomy Culture | Plastic Food Samples – Food Replica

If you are hungry yet Japanese illiterate, finding food in Japan is just as good as just looking around you. With Lady Luck by your side, sights of plastic food samples would confirm that you’re not going to end up starving!
Value-added advertising!
Unagi, Sashimi, Sushi - sorry folks! They are plastic food samples
When we were in Tokyo beginning of spring in this year, I personally found the plastic food sample or what some people called it ‘Food Replica’ is a perfect showcase and somehow provides pleasant dining experience to the tourists or visitors. I was fascinated with both the concept and practicality.
Space is cost, yet the food replica is perceived pivotal
As the name suggest, these food replica is made from plastic. It describes exactly what the diner shall be expecting, besides performing the fundamental of its role – advertising! Instead of 2-D pictures on  a dull menu, creativity and innovation churn out an array of plastic food samples to be displayed at restaurants’ facade with price tag and name of each course/set. Figure or numeric is something everybody uses in common! For diners, this approach is like killing two birds with one stone. We could visualize how the meals are going to look like and at the same time, gauge how deep is our pocket before deciding to enter the restaurant.
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