The Mochi Diaries: Chapter 7 – Ninja (Kusa) Dango 草餅

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Today I bring to the table The Mochi Diaries Chapter 7 – Ninja (Kusa) Dango 草餅

As a foreword this mochi doesn’t actually have anything to do with ninja, in fact rather than mochi todays review is on kusa dango 草団子 (grass dango). Dango whilst being almost identical to mochi is a separate type of wagashi, generally speaking the difference is that mochi is made by pounding glutinous rice into a dough where as dango is made by adding water to mochiko 餅粉 (glutinous rice flour) and boiling or grilling the resulting dough.

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Now the reason I suspect for the whole ninja packaging is due to the fact that kusa 草 the kanji for grass, though in modern Japanese it is now an archaic reading 草 was once  could be read to mean ‘ninja’, so it’s essentially a pun.

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Unlike any mochi 餅 or dango 団子 I have reviewed thus far, as opposed to the usual mochi outer layer filled with a sweet centre (usually azuki あずき) this kusa dango lies on a bed of anko 餡こ (sweetened red bean paste).

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Rather than just popping them in your mouth, a small a small spoon is provided to scoop the dango up with a little anko on the side.
Fair nomnomnom 3.5/5

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Now as a little bonus, if you have never seen one of these before its a kakigoori かき氷 (shaved ice) machine. During the summer I became somewhat addicted to these delicious treats as they are a great way to cool down. Popular matsuri 祭 (festival) snacks, they come in a wide array of flavours.

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Using the kusa dango I decided to make the traditional ujikintoki kakigori which is topped with sweetened red bean paste, dango and often capped with condensed milk.

Want to read more Mochi Diaries Posts?

The Mochi Diaries: Chapter 6 – Goma Yatsuhashi 胡麻 八つ橋

<———– Last

The Mochi Diaries: Chapter 8 – Kuri Yatsuhashi 栗八つ橋

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First Nabe of the Winter 冬の鍋物

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First nabe 鍋 (Japanese hotpot) for the seasons with my friends last week whist sewing our Halloween costumes.

Nihonomnom 100 Posts

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After almost 6 months in the orient today I punch out my 100th post.
I’v certainly come a long way since stepping off that plane. Thanks to all my readers! Look forward to the next 100!
*・゜゚・*:.。..。.:*・'(*゚▽゚*)’・*:.。. .。.:*・゜゚・*

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Tokyo Alcatraz E.R.

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During my visit to Tokyo we visited Alcatraz ER, a jail/hospital themed theater restaurants in Shibuya.
I came across the place during a previous trip to Japan in 2006 and now finally returning I had my heart set on experiencing it.

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The camera flash really ruins the spooky atmosphere of the place but its much to dark inside to take photos without them.

Upon arriving guests are ‘admitted’ to the restaurant ‘sexy nurses’ ask one member of each party their symptoms (an imagined affliction), before being handcuffed and led to a cell where the dining takes place to be ‘locked up’. The actual dining booths are convincing jail cells little more than a meter in height, in order to call a waitress for service one takes an iron bar and racks it across the bars of cell, as this happens quite frequently the constant rattling of the cells around you adds to the spookiness of the atmosphere.

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The drinks are an experience in themselves, the top one being a banana yogurt cocktail (with extra cock) when served the waitress has a syringe full of condensed milk she dribbled over the ‘head’ of the severed member.

The beers are also quite the novelty, we ordered a liter jug that was served in a urinal bedpan, looking quite convincing and frothy.

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Even the snacks they served whilst we waited for our food were hospital themed, mini Senbei resembling pills in a little paper cup pill cup.

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Although we ordered quite few dishes ill post a couple I found amusing, the salad was suppose to resemble an eyeball, filled with extremely oddly textured tomato flavored jelly.

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These 2 dishes, takoyaki and shuumai respectively were off the ‘Russian roulette’ section of the menu with one of each of being filled with karashi 辛子 (hot Japanese mustard) that i accidentally ate in both without so much batting an eyelid (let’s be honest guys if you going to advertise something as being spicy with 7 chillies next to the description at least make it hot!)

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Finally we got this breast shaped flavored fried rice with umeboshi 梅干(salted Japanese plums) for nipples much to fathers amusement.

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Even the bathrooms were quite horrific, again ruined by the flash but the male one is lit by a black light with gore spread across the walls glowing in an eerier purple haze.
Such dim lighting makes a trip to the bathroom quite the challenge particularly if you have had a couple beers but makes for an interesting experience.

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A quite cool little sendoff they give you is the diagnosis and cure for the symptoms you had when arriving as well as the pills (mints) containing the cure.

Look at the end of the day it was quite an interesting experience, the food was nothing special and the drinks nothing special. That said its not crazy priced or anything (about 7000円 for 3 of us with drinks), coming on a week night I think it was all toned down a little and would like to return on a weekend, online I had seen videos of mid meal ‘prisoner escapes’ with costumed actors running through the corridors but we saw nothing of the sort.

Regardless it gets my おすすめ for a spooky night out!

Bunkasai 文化祭 Australia Table

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Last weekend was the Bunkasai 文化祭(Cultural Festival) at my chuugakko 中学校 (Junior High School). This was the Australian culture table I put together to teach visitors to the school about my country.
A few weeks ago I applied for a Australia education kit from the Australian consulate in Japan and they sent me a cricket bag loaded to the brim with useful resources like flags, books and uniforms!!!!

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Azuki Kinako Shortbread Cookies

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Always having been quite the avid baker, ever since arriving in Japan I have been experimenting with new Japanese flavours and ingredients I either was unable to acquire back home or had never even heard of!

Not just baking but cooking also, over the past 6 months my skills in the kitchen have gone from cooking the most basic of curries to basically anything that might take my fancy if I have the means to google a recipe.

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Here is the recipe to whip up a batch of Azuki 小豆 Kinako 黄粉 Shortbread Cookies that I baked.

Ingredients
1 1/2 cups flour
1/2 cup kinako (roasted soybean flour)
2/3 cup sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon vanilla essence
250 grams unsalted butter
250 grams azuki (sweet red beans)

Method
1. Beat butter and sugar together on medium speed for about 3 minutes until fluffy with an electric mixer.
2. Fold flour, kinako, and salt into butter mixture, mixing only until it disappears into the dough. You don’t want to work the dough too much once the flour is added so use a wooden spoon.
3. Fold in azuki paste in a similar fashion.
3. Scoop mixture into a ziplock bag. Put the bag on a flat surface, using a rolling pin roll the dough into a half a cm thick rectangle. Once your done seal the bag, pressing out all the air and freeze for 30 minutes. You may keep the dough in this stage up to two days.
4. Preheat your oven to 170 degrees Celsius.
5. Put the plastic bag on a cutting board and slit it open, discard the bag and using a sharp knife, cut the dough into small rectangles or use a cookie cutter like I did (mine were hearts). Transfer the cookies to a baking sheets and carefully prick each one four times with a fork.
6. Bake for 15 to 16 minutes. Transfer the cookies to a rack to cool. This recipe makes about 20 cookies.

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Note that if you live outside if Japan/Korea/China kinako and azuki may be hard to come by, but even these can be made from scratch.

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Here’s the finished product, half I dusted with additional kinako flour and the the others served with sweetened Kabocha 南瓜 (Pumpkin) paste.

Halloween Jack ‘o lantern drawings

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My Halloween lesson plan at my JHS had my students creating their own original Jack ‘o Lantern characters. A couple of my 3年生 (Year 9) girls were inspired by me in their character design XD