Monday, May 29, 2006

Hands On Temaki Sushii

I had my first experience of making sushii. Yoku and her friends, decided to teach us the simpler Temaki sushii, improvised with Nato since we wanted to try nato so much.

The ingredients we bought for Temaki Sushii

Mix the sushinoko into the rice. We used the koshihikari...

Above is Nato. Many foreigners have a bad impression of nato, saying that it smells bad. I do not think so after trying it. Just like durian, you either like it or you don't. Nato is fermented soy beans. The texture is like Alien vs Predator saliva as shown in the cinema. It's a bit disgusting when you open the package and stir it up (just as shown in the photo). But Japanese love Nato because of it's health benefits...

Ingredients spreaded over the table...

First dose of nato onto the temaki sushii

Yumi, showing the way to wrap and eat it....

My first own-made temaki sushii, learning from the best...


Made a brief stopover at Nagaoka on the way back to Niigata from Urasa. Konan had his friends to bring us around the town. It is not as big as Niigata but definitely more happening than Urasa.

Me posing at the Nagaoka Institute of Art

IUJ Asean & Japan Nite



Made a trip back to my prospective university in Urasa. They had the Asean and Japan Nite. No regrets going there as I enjoyed myself alot. Stayed overnight at the students' house. It is the first taste of staying in IUJ before becoming a student there. The rooms are much smaller than the one I am staying in Niigata and more expensive too. I have to reserve my comment on the room. So you will just have to look at the photos and comment for the size and all. The room is just nice for one student. No visitors for sure. The room is very clean, neat and cosy though.

Anyway, the ASEAN nite was fanstastic. Malaysia was also represented. The Malaysian booth was serving nasi lemak, cucuk udang, kacang merah and ayam goreng (the Malay style with kunyit). Proud to tell that the Malaysian booth was very well received with people returning for 2nd or 3rd servings even though there was a long queue.

Trying out one of the delicacies from the Myanmar booth

We were invited to a Bangladeshi breakfast by Farhana's compatriot, Jamal and wife. They are both current IUJ students doing E-Biz under the same scholarship. We were served with their version of roti canai, rich sup daging (which is supposed to be the sauce to dip the roti) and payasam.

Jamal and us...

We left IUJ at 11am for Nagaoka.

All You Can Eat Yaki Niku

Singgih (from Indonesia) making sure there is a seamless flow of meat onto the table

Scholarship money came last Thursday and there is cause for celebration. We decided to try out the All You Can Eat BBQ Meat (Yaki Niku or 焼肉)near our apartment. Many university students go there. The concept is somewhat similar to the Korean bulgogi, only more meat and less vegetables. I had so much meat (pork, chicken and beef) and sausages that summed up to a total of 20 plates altogether! Some seniors thought it was an admirable feat considering we had 3 bowls of rice, and each plate of meat serving was for 3 persons. And we had 20 of that. The sausage was really tasty but like always, (most)tasty food are unhealthy food. I got really jelak eating them after my 20th or so batang.

Me and Konan (from Ivory Coast) enjoying the Yaki Niku. This is the first picture of me featuring the military hairstyle

Da Kanji Code Solved

The Da Vinci Code has been phenomenal in Japan and I am sure other parts of the world too. Video shops here have been selling and renting out their own prelude versions of the "Code" and it is just crazy. Sometimes I just could not comprehend what is so great about the Da Vinci Code. I just read the book, and am now looking at the other side of the story with the "Da Vinci Deception". It is true that many people have been deceived by the book. Embarassingly, Dan Brown called it the Da Vinci Code instead of Leonardo's Code. Da Vinci which came from Leonardo Da Vinci means Leonardo of Vinci, just as how people say Alden of Kuala Lumpur. So, if I become the next Renaissance man, and someone writes a book about me and call it "Of Kuala Lumpur" or "Da Kuala Lumpur" would have been a colossal faux pas.

O, this blog is not about Dan Brown but my own code. The Kanji code. My Chinese name. For weeks I had been trying to find out how to pronounce my name in Japanese. I finally cracked this "code". My name 葉偉雄 (Mandarin: Ye Wei Xiong) is pronounced as "You-i-yuu". ..or Happa, Erai, Osu from the direct translation. The three words mean Leave, Hero, Man (brave). Sugoi hah! (sugoi=cool)

Code cracked....

Oishii!!!! Bah Kut Teh!!!

Just the other day I was thinking about home and how I yearned to eat bah kut teh. The next day, I had a call from Kee to go over to Sum and Hui's place for bah kut teh. The power of prayer...

On the way there, I could recognise the unmistakable bah kut teh aroma from the other end of their apartment block. I never needed to know where the room was. I sniffed my way there like a hungry puppy....

The Malaysians (L to R): Kee, Hui, Sum, Sarah and me....

Enjoying the Last of Spring

I had been busy these few days/week due to homework, travelling or somehow I just don't have the time to log on for no reasons. Classes are as usual, intensive and getting more daily. Spring is slowly turning to a close with June approaching. Just the other day we found the floral trellis on the walkway in full bloom of flowers. The lecturer thought so too, and got the whole class down to the trellis. She had the classes surrounded by flowers, bees and morning sun. It was a lovely day...

Class photo with Koketsu sensei (sensei=Lecturer/Professor)

Friday, May 19, 2006

Malaysian Food Fest In My Room

Went grocery shopping early this week. It sapped me a whopping record figure and a price that I had never paid this far. Am not disclosing the amount as some may start converting in their heads and tell me how much higher I have paid for this and that thing. I've had enough of's Japan, so it's still very cheap...

I thought to myself that now that I have bought so much worth of raw material and stock that could last me two world wars, I might as well start cooking some of these stuff and while it is still fresh, enjoy it with other people. I love taking it fresh and seeing others enjoy them as much.

So I invited some of my classmates over for an introduction of Malaysian food by Chef Yap. I cooked my first chicken rice in Japan using the koshihikari. Some cursed me for doing that. Koshihikari rice is highly revered in Japan. As if that is not "wasteful" enough for you to curse me, I have also used half the sacred packet of curry powder to cook a big plate of curry brinjal. If that is not enough, try this...I have also threw in half a bottle of the highly priced oyster sauce here into my oyster sauce chicken. As for the other dish, it was the fried egg with tomatoes. My first Malaysian menu was:

  • 1. Chicken rice
  • 2. Oyster sauce chicken with onions
  • 3. Curry brinjal
  • 4. Fried egg with tomatoes

The chicken rice turned out to be a sellout in the first 5 minutes of business hours. This was how chicken rice turned out using the koshihikari. It's just brilliant! The pearly and shiny material made the chew even more exciting...

The Malaysian food spread. You can tell where I sat by locating the billy can or the Milo cup. Could a Samaritan send some plates and eating utensils over??!!! Pity me with all the unmatching plates, fork and spoons. Nah, just's pretty cheap here....I just need to start moving my limbs to get them...
My guest for the Malaysian Food Fest 2006 held at Takadaiso, Niigata! I may have worn a Pacesetters t-shirt, but no, they weren't the event sponsor, I'm sorry. (From L to R: Me, Farhana (Bangladesh), Sarah (Malaysian) and Konan (Ivory Coast))
Farhana, a sponsor of the Malaysian Food Fest did an egg custard and it was awesome! The egg custard (with 5 M&Ms) is called pudding (only) while the little Mickey mouse's ears look alike are called Para. They are all Bangladeshi dessert.

Friday, May 12, 2006

Bar Coding

I have always asked what is the purpose of a "bar-code reader" function in my phone. Yes, so what if the phone could read bar-codes. It's not like it would give me a detailed description of the things I scanned over with. Even though I still do not have a solid answer, I have managed to use it in several occasions. I would say, almost every phone in Japan comes equipped with a camera for sure. But not all phones come with the infrared function. Those without the infrared will find the bar-code reader a useful tool. Sometimes you ask for A's telephone number and his number is as long as you can imagine. So, A could convert his own profile ie telephone number, photo, email address and name into a code that looks like a malfunctioned tv screen. To receive it, I have to activate the reader from the camera on the phone, to read the code , where it would automatically store all the information received. The process is similar to the infrared function of other phones.

Bar codes appear in most utility bills. Just the other day I was exploring this function with my handphone bill. It worked well. Again, I may know the numbers representing the bill , now so what? ...

Hands-free, Hassle-free Toilet

I have compiled a list of FAQs from people who are interested to know about my stay here. One of them is: "Hey, is Japan's toilet very canggih one ah? There, I heard can wash your backside one leh?".....If you are one of them, this blog will answer to that question...

Yes, Japan has one of the most canggih toilets and they produce really innovative and creative designs for your bottom. And I love the toilets here. Basically, you don't get your hands dirty at all. Everything is controlled by buttons and dials. Just to top up to the answer, the seats also come with functions for air-drying, water temperature control so that it does not get your bottom all frozen up before you are dressed again. And yes, the seats are also heated and you can easily spot the ones with a heated seat by looking at the seat with electrical cables attached to it. The one in the picture is quite complete, though I have seen better ones. It is not only canggih but also user friendly. As for basins, sometimes I just hated the public wash taps because they don't have hot water, especially those with sensors. There is no way to adjust the temperature. At times the extreme cold water make my hands go numb, that I couldn't feel my fingers anymore after washing them.

Hand dryers here come in different forms. There is one that shoots out pressurised air horizontally like a pair of magnet with the same polar facing each other. The air pressure is so strong that your skin moves with it and your hands are dried up within 3 seconds. No joke...

All the Cute Stuff Japanese People Go For

Japanese people adore all the cute stuff. They idol worship them. Sometimes I imagine if a portion of Japan's GDP depended on the "kawaii" (means cute) goods. Everywhere I go, it's just those "kawaii" toys or food. Just the other day I passed a sweets shop. And you can imagine how an average sweets silo could turn into a Winnie the Pooh and a Minnie Mouse figurine. Alot of effort have been put into it. I think this shop deserves the publishing.

McDees has just launched a series of "The Dog" miniature soft toys as collectibles. I am sure it would be a big hit soon. Check out Japan's GDP growth at the end of the series...

First English Mass

It was awesome to attend an English mass finally. The mass is held every first Sunday of the month at the Niigata Catholic Church located somewhere near the shopping belt of Niigata. I felt like I was back in Malaysia inside the church and Japan again when I was outside. It is just a weird feeling but nonetheless a good experience. I have also managed to get a bilingual liturgy which is extremely useful in Japanese language masses. At least I know how to respond to the parts where I need to.

Saturday, May 06, 2006

Trip to URASA

Today I went to Urasa to check out my future university (after my intensive language course at Niigata University, I would be going to the International University of Japan). I went with 10 other Malaysians. The drive took us about an hour. The journey featured some breathtaking sights. We knew we were reaching Urasa when we saw the snow-capped mountains. We were abit scared initially that the snow did not seem to recede and it's already May now. It should be Spring and not Winter! However, when we reached there, we realised that it was not that cold after all. In fact I was in my T-shirt only before the wind got the better of me.

Syakir's car in front of us. Background is the mountain in Urasa.

First sign of reaching Urasa...

This uncle looks better with a smile. And so we asked him to...

Didn't he look better with a smile? He was the toll teller at the Urasa toll. Toll was 2550 yen.

IUJ ground

Picnic again. Since o-hanami is only starting now in Urasa, we might as well do it again with the presence of snow.

The group of Malaysians. Syakir was walking his baby, so he wasn't in the picture.

The picnic location that we were at is a dam at this place called Osaki. Beautiful yah...

More shots...

Some of the shared facilities in IUJ. Students are designated food utensils and food storage area at the shared kitchen. There is also a fridge and complete kitchen utilities for students to use.