Neko Manma with Chinese Broccoli

Neko Manma is a Japanese dish that translates literally to “cat rice”. It is a plain yet delicious bowl of rice topped with bonito flakes and a dash of soy sauce. You can add a little fish, greens, or other seasonings.

This very simple dish is the perfect meal to dedicate to Miyu. I lost to illness one of my cats, Miyu, just over a week ago. I know some people don’t feel strongly about pets but they are my babies. I want to dedicate a post to him. The last food he would tolerate was a treat he adored, bonito flakes. He was also the kind of cat you could not leave a plate of food around unattended, and he went for green veggies first. When I saw this cat rice dish I knew this was the right recipe for this post. Neko Manma, in its simplest form, is a Japanese comfort food made up of bonito flakes served over warm rice with soy sauce.

Neko Manma cat rice

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Banana Kiwi Smoothie with Rose Schizandra Kombucha

It seems like there is an influx of invitations to restaurant openings and product launches right now. It happens a lot with the arrival of spring. Most events I cannot be bothered with that much but there are exceptions. If something really grabs my attention and peaks my curiosity I will be there. And that is how I was introduced to a new product from Rise Kombucha by receiving an invitation for the launch of their two new flavors: Mint Chlorophyll and Rose Schizandra.

The curiosity word here is Kombucha. What the heck is it? The company calls it sparkling living tea. A more complete explanation would be that Kombucha is a sweetened tea that is fermented with a yeast, called Mother culture, thus creating effervescence.

kombucha 02

This is hardly a new product, there are claims that the history of this beverage goes back 2000 years in China or Japan. So it covers my ethnic food attraction plus it is a local, raw, organic, vegan and a fair trade product. The Rise Kombucha company is located in my city of Montreal. Actually they are located 3 blocks away from where I work. So before the official launch party I asked for a visit of their brewery. I could not take too many pics to reasons of corporate secrecy but you will still get a unique glance here.

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Blue Dragon

I was so looking forward to attending the Blue Dragon product launch but I had to cancel as I was sick. I asked if I could still get samples to try out, which they were happy to do. But imagine my surprise when I opened my apartment door in the morning to go to work, 2 days later, and this package is just lying there on my door step.I got home at 10pm the night before and I was now heading out at 8 am…when was this delivered?

I could not resit opening this suitcase box before heading out. It was the samples…I have to say I was very impressed. And opening the box was such a delight: 10 different samples of stir fry and cooking sauces. The Blue Dragon line does not end there: they also offer dipping sauces, noodles, wrappers, sesame oil, hoison and oyster sauce, fish sauce, and 2 types of coconut milk.

Blue Dragon is named after the Chinese symbol of good fortune. The company was created over thirty years ago when the founder realized there was hardly anything available in the shops that would help people create authentic Asian dishes at home at that time. Today Blue Dragon has become a great way to help you create delicious dishes from China, Thailand, Japan (UK site) and Vietnam. To bad not all the products are available in Canada, I guess I’ll have to go to there and look up cheap car hire from the uk to go shopping in London.

In the package I found the following flavors: Thai Red Curry Paste, Thai Green Curry Paste, Chinese Curry Cooking Sauce, Tomato & Sweet Chilli Cooking Sauce, Chow Mein Cooking Sauce, Sweet & Sour Cooking Sauce, Sweet & Sour Stir Fry Sauce, Wasabi Plum Stir Fry Sauce, Chilli Coconut Stir Fry Sauce, and Szechuan Pepper Stir Fry Sauce.

Obviously I have not gotten around to trying them all, I actually cooked 2 two meals so far only. I live alone and every sample gave me about 3 meals. All the sauces/stir fries mention they should be used within 3 to 5 days so opening everything to stick my finger in it was not option. Why a short self life you ask? Reading the ingredient’s lists of the Blue Dragon products is a pleasure because there are no preservatives at all! Just beautiful flavor packed spices, herbs, and sauces.

I really did love the ease of preparation for a full meal. All you have to do is cook your protein and/or veggies, add the sauce and cook a bit longer and then serve on a bed of rice or noodles. It’s a great way to use up all those veggies lying around in your fridge.

The stir fries suggest 350 gr of meat, chicken or seafood and 1 cups of veggies. I added more like 2-3 cups of veggies and I used chicken. The first one I wanted to try was the Chilli Coconut Stir Fry Sauce. I fell in love with it: so yummy, loved the coconut taste  and nice spiciness to it. I served it on a bed of Udon noodles. This one I will buy again and again.

Take a look at the ingredient’s list: Water, Coconut Milk (Coconut, Water), Glucose-Fructose Syrup, Lemongrass, Green Birdseye Chillies, Modified Maize Starch, Fish Sauce (Anchovy Extract, Salt, Sugar), Garlic Purée, Thai Basil, Ginger Purée, Kaffir Lime Leaves, Chilli Flakes, Galangal, Coriander, Lactic Acid, Lime Juice Concentrate, Citric Acid.

The cooking sauces ask for 3 meat, chicken, seafood portions. For this one I used a block of tofu and again 2-3 cups of veggies. I tried the Chinese Curry Cooking Sauce for this dish and I served the curry on a bed of Bamboo infused rice.

Ingredients listed are: Oil, Modified Maize Starch, Garlic Purée, Curry Powder (Coriander, Turmeric, Cumin, Salt, Garlic, Fenugreek, Chilli, Ginger, Fennel, Rice Flour), Onion Powder, Light Soy Sauce (contains Wheat and Soya), Chinese Five Spice, Spices, Salt, Citric Acid.

 

This one was a bit of disappointment unfortunately. The final taste was not packed with flavors and the only thing really coming though was the light spiciness. I also felt it needed salt…and I am not a salt kind a gal. Hopefully the other sauces pack a bit more punch, we shall see as I cook through them.

I feel like the theme in my kitchen will be Asian for a while. Normally I enjoy making my on sauce mixes and adding the amount of spices I like best but for someone with less experience or if you want a nice meal in a short amount of time I think Blue Dragon is definitely worth a try. Next I will try one of the Thai pastes for sure. The company seems to distribute out of the UK first, most of Europe and Canada. If you buy some let me know what you think.

The products were sent to me free of charge but my opinions are my own and are honest.

Matsuri Japon, Montreal Japanese Cultural Festival with foodies

Last Saturday, August 13th 2011, I had the pleasure of discovering a small festival I had never even heard about: Matsuri Japon.  Taking place in the backyard of the Japanese Canadian Cultural Center of Montreal, this great little festival is presented in the spirit of a traditional Japanese festival, as a means to develop greater awareness of Japanese culture among Montreal citizens and foreign visitors. This was actually their 10th year!

There were neat kiosks for Japanese items and official Matsuri souvenirs, a games area, lots of traditional Japanese cuisine food kiosks, and  2 performance stages dedicated to martial art and traditional  performances like dances, Taiko drums and much more. Not only was the festival a thrill already I got to enjoy it with two very special friends: Valerie of The Chocolate Bunny who is a local food blogger and a friend, as well as the visiting Mary of Mary Mary and Culinary from Ottawa. It was a lot of fun to share such ethnic foods with fellow bloggers.

I will now let you enjoy the pictures of our day there with a few comments when a food is in the picture.  But first enjoy this (shaky) video of a Taiko performance, I love these drums. Oh you should check out Valerie’s post on this outing too, she has great pics of performances I did not snap.

 

 

 

Okonomiyaki is a Japanese savoury pancake containing a variety of ingredients. This one was predominantly a rice base with cabbage. it was served topped with a sauce, mayonnaise and Katsuobushi (dried, fermented, and smoked skipjack tuna).

 

 

 

 

Hiyashi Udon is served cold and consists of  a bed of udon noodles with a sauce (made of soy, Mirin and Dashi) and covered with sliced negi and flakes of tempura batter.

 

 

 

Takoyaki are fried or grilled octopus ball-shaped Japanese dumpling made of batter and cooked in a special takoyaki pan (see above). It is typically filled with diced or whole baby octopus, tempura scraps, pickled ginger, and green onion.