Shinjuku Gyoen National Garden

Shinjuku Gyoen National Garden

Shinjuku Gyoen National Garden Walking Trail

When people hear Tokyo, they often imagine a vast, Blade Runner-like metropolis of skyscrapers and neon lights—which for parts of Tokyo is accurate. But Tokyo is huge and heterogeneous, with many oases where you can relax and appreciate the serenity of nature. Shinjuku Gyoen National Garden is one of those.

We went to Shinjuku Gyoen National Garden the day after a typhoon (one of the six during our trip). With hurricanes in Florida, you usually get clear, cool weather afterwards; in Japan, you get clear weather, but it’s unusually hot. We found this out the hard way! Luckily this garden is full of shade.

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Pad Thai Spring Rolls with Tamarind Dipping Sauce

Pad Thai Spring Roll Ingredients Ready for Assembly

One of my favorite dishes is Pad Thai. I love the refreshing sweet and sour sauce, the bright herbs, and the juicy shrimp. I recently tried to create an appetizer that captured all the flavors of traditional Pad Thai, but presented in a totally new way. That’s how these Pad Thai spring rolls with tamarind dipping sauce came to exist.

Ingredients for Pad Thai Spring Rolls Tamarind Dipping Sauce

Ingredients for Tamarind Dipping Sauce

Tamarind Dipping Sauce

This sauce is at the heart of Pad Thai. It’s a perfect balance of sweet, sour, salt, spice, and acidity. To make it, you need rice vinegar, fish sauce, fresh tamarind concentrate (concentrated juice and pulp from the tamarind fruit), palm sugar (an unrefined sugar made from the sap of palm trees), Thai bird chiles, shallots, garlic, and kaffir lime leaves.

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How to Make Chashu (Marinated Braised Pork Belly)

Thinly Sliced Chashu (Marinated Braised Pork Belly)

Thinly Sliced Chashu (Marinated Braised Pork Belly)

Chashu—slow-braised marinated pork belly—is a much-loved ramen topping. The glistening pork is used in many styles of ramen and is often served thinly sliced, floating near the top of bowl. Today I’m going to show you how to make chashu.

Ramen is a slow art. Making a bowl of ramen can be a multi-day affair—the stock alone can take days. It takes time to develop the flavors from each of the ingredients. If you’re in Japan, you can let the experts do the work and grab a quick meal at a ramen shop; however, if you’re in America and aren’t lucky enough to have a quality ramen restaurant near you, then you might want to invest the time and energy to make it yourself. Plus, it’s fun learning how dishes are made and cooking them at home (at least, I think so)!

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Eating Tsukemen (Dipping Ramen) at Fuunji in Tokyo


Special Tsukemen with Extra Chashu Pork at Fuunji Restaurant in Shinjuku, Tokyo

Despite howling winds and lashing rain from an approaching typhoon, Corey and I braved the streets of Shinjuku in search of a delicious meal. It was our second night in Japan and we couldn’t let two days go by without having any noodles!

Originally, we’d planned to eat soba in memory lane our first night in Tokyo at Kameya Shinjuku, but that had been thwarted by the Obon holiday. So we weren’t going to let the weather stop us from eating at Fuunji!

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Hama-Rikyu Gardens – Tokyo, Japan

Hama-Rikyu Gardens - Where the Past and Present Collide

Hama-Rikyu Gardens – Where the Past and Present Collide

Corey and I recently went on an amazing trip to Japan. In my next few posts, I will be writing about our travels and the many wonderful experiences we had there, including all the tasty food we ate (I’ll be sharing recipes too). I hope you enjoy reading about our adventures and that these posts provide insight into the wonders of Japan.

Hama-Rikyu gardens provide a glimpse into the past through its Edo-style landscaping and architecture. It’s located near Tsukiji Market in the Chūō ward, a heavily trafficked commercial and shopping district in central Tokyo, and it fronts on Tokyo Bay.

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