Between Brisbane and Japan, some whimsy and Dan (All contents © 2013 by Dan Ryan, unless noted)

Food, general

My Breakfast With Adelstein—A small nosh

It has never been in my karma to meet famous people. It just never happens to me*. But in 2012 I had the good fortune to meet “Tokyo Vice” author and enemy of Japanese crime Jake Adelstein at a sports pub in Roppongi. That was a wonderful gathering, during which the best-selling author autographed two books for me and I met some excellent people who are now friends. But because we were in a group and Jake was pressed for time, he and I didn’t really have a chance to talk privately.

However, fortune or fate paid me the rare compliment of granting me the chance to meet up with Jake again. We had breakfast together recently at a nice hotel near Union Square in San Francisco. We talked of many things, from cameras to conspiracies, and the hotel bar even had Dr Pepper. As ever Jake was gracious and accommodating and let me take his picture. I suppose it is my way of boasting that I am publishing a couple photos of him here for you to peruse.

Thanks, Mr. Adelstein, and I look forward to next time, whenever that may be…

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(Pictures taken at the Parc 55 Wyndham Hotel, San Francisco, on November 6th, 2013)

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* I was within five feet of Mike Tyson and Robin Givens at Ueno Park Zoo once, but I didn’t have the courage to walk up and shake Tyson’s hand. The couple was, ironically in Tyson’s case I thought, looking at the gorillas. This was in March, 1988, a couple of days before Tyson destroyed Tony Tubbs in two minutes and 54 seconds at the Tokyo Dome. I heard Tyson left Tokyo pretty quickly after the fight to avoid the wrath of Japanese fight fans and promoters, but that may be apocrypha gathered from the Tokyo gaijin grapevine that existed at the time.


The Eco To-fu San Francisco Adventure—A small green whimsy

My friends took me to lunch today. We went to my favorite noodle and donburi shop…

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The green tea was beautiful. I wanted to get in it like it was a hot onsen bath…

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My favorite lunch is oyakodon. I had a giant bowl all to myself. I was very hungry…

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After lunch, my friends went shopping. I went to see an old friend…

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In Japantown, there is a beautiful concrete pagoda. We went to see it. The sky was very blue…

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To help save forests, I read news online. This newspaper machine was a strange sight to me…

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I am very green, so I picked up trash on the way home. San Francisco can be very dirty…

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But I am relaxed now and home with my friends. We do yoga. It was a good day.

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(Photos taken with a Samsung Juke in San Francisco’s Japantown and Brisbane, California on November 3rd, 2012. “Eco To-fu” designed by Devilrobots and manufactured by Bandai.)


The Brisbane Retail Experience—A small vignette

I try to be a nice guy, most of the time. I sometimes succeed, and sometimes fail. But it is usually more interesting when the results are mixed.

This morning I went to Midtown Market, the only grocery store in Brisbane, for milk, Dr Pepper, popcorn and cigarettes. It’s a nice place and convenient, but a little pricey. On a normal weekday morning the Korean-American owner Mr. Choo or his wife would have been at the register. But this day their employee waited on me. She’s a nice Māori girl in her late twenties from New Zealand, whom I shall call Zena.

It took seconds for Zena to ring up my half gallon of milk, two-liter jug of Dr Pepper and two packets each of microwave popcorn and Fortuna light cigarettes. Zena isn’t dour, but she also doesn’t normally smile a hell of a lot. However, as she bagged my groceries, I noticed she actually seemed down.

“How are you doing?” I asked, “Everything okay?”

“Oh,” Zena said, “I can’t complain.”

“Heh, sure you can. Complaining is the right of every single human being. It gives some of us purpose.”

She shot me a look then, not an angry look but one that was a mixture of annoyance and exasperation.

“Well,” she said, “Thanks for asking.”

I said “You know, when someone says ‘I can’t complain’ that’s code for ‘I’m having a shit day but I really don’t feel like talking about it.’”

After I said this, her annoyed, exasperated look went away. Then she chuckled a little and her face broke into that wide smile for which most Pacific Islanders are justifiably famous. And as I left the store I thought to myself “Well, maybe I’ve actually managed to brighten someone’s day.”

Then I walked to my car, got in it, and drove home with my dangerous but delicious purchases.

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(Picture taken in the Life store near Nakano Broadway, Tokyo in April, 2012. It has nothing to do with the prose above, but does kind of share the spirit of the story.)


The Cooking Show—A small, zesty something’s different

I love to cook, and I am told I’m pretty good at it. But I usually wing it from other people’s recipes and don’t really create original dishes of my own. Oh, I modify a recipe over time if I prepare it more than once. Like any cook, I change things to suit my tastes and to make a basic recipe more interesting, robust, or flavorful. All good cooks do this, take some basic preparation and modify it to make it their own, a reflection of their personality.

The recipes in this episode of our show are pretty basic, but also very rich and complex. I found them on a three-year-old computer file DVD backup disc when I was looking for something else. Some form of erotica involving howler monkeys and bikinis, I believe it was. Anyway, although the purpose of this blog is to showcase my odd take on the world through prose, poetry and digital images, it seemed to me that a good way to more fully understand some pretentious rube who purports to be some kind of artist is to get a look at the kind of food and drink he has created or modified for his own use. So here you go, the only two recipes I have ever written down.

Are these the best ways to prepare these things? You be the judge. Are these the most authentic versions of these preparations? Opinions on this vary from “I rather doubt it” to “Hell no!”

But they are pretty tasty. Makes them special in some way, I figure.

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I have no idea why I wrote this recipe. I never write down recipes for stuff I make up. So I must have really liked this. I remember making it and enjoying my work, but not serving it to others. If I made it for a party, I don’t remember which one. I asked my wife. She doesn’t remember either, except it was “something with hamburgers” around six years ago.

Must have been a hell of a party.

And like any good party, this recipe is fun and messy.

Dan Ryan’s Late Morning Sangria

“So sweet ‘n’ flavorful, you could have it with breakfast ‘stead of orange juice. Not that you should.”

The Ingredients:

  • 2 ½ bottles of inexpensive corked red wine.
  • 3 large limes, peeled (Rangpur, if you can get them).
  • 3 large nectarines or peaches, cut into wedges (If you live in Japan, or have access to Japanese white peaches, USE THEM!!) 
  • 2 large oranges, peeled.
  • 1 large Red Delicious or Fuji apple, cut into wedges (A green apple variety just will not do).
  • 1 cup of good old granulated sugar.
  • 2 shots (2 to 3 ounces) of dark Jamaican rum.
  • ½ to ¾ cup of mango puree or Kern’s mango nectar, whichever is easier for you to obtain.

The Equipment:

  • 1 large plastic bucket or container which will fit in your fridge (You want plastic instead of metal so the fruit acid won’t possibly give your brew a metallic taste).
  • 1 hand citrus juicer or an electric blender (to squeeze juice out of ½ the apple, or blend ½ the apple to a puree).
  • A saucepan.
  • A long wood spoon to stir with.
  • A large pitcher.
  • And a smaller one, because this recipe produces a fair amount of consumable liquid.
  • A strainer or small colander which will fit into the top of your large pitcher.
  • A large coffee cup or ladle.

The Rundown:

I call this “Late Morning Sangria” because that’s the best time of day to start making it. It will give you time to refrigerate your sangria for a good, long time before serving it. Unless you like it warm, which some folks do. It’s up to you, really, but on a hot summer night (like the kind I grew up with in Texas) you’re not going to want warm fruit wine. Trust me. Let’s get started:

  • First, pour all that wine into your bucket (or container), except for one cup’s worth.
  • Pour the reserved wine into your saucepan, along with the cup of sugar.
  • Now, heat the wine and the sugar over medium-high heat until the sugar has completely dissolved BUT before the liquid boils. You are basically making simple syrup, but with wine instead of water. Stir almost constantly with the wood spoon, and run the spoon across the bottom of the saucepan frequently until you no longer hear sugar crystals crunching beneath the spoon. That’s how you’ll know your sugar has completely dissolved.
  • When that’s done, pour this syrup in the bucket with the rest of the wine.
  • Now, take your limes, and squeeze them by hand into the bucket until they’re about half juiced. Then place all the squeezed limes into the wine bucket.
  • Do the same with the oranges.
  • Don’t squeeze the nectarines (or peaches), just put them in the bucket.
  • Put half the apple wedges in the bucket too. Juice the other half into the bucket with the hand juicer, then put the squeezed apple wedges in the bucket as well. If using a blender, puree half the apple wedges and pour the puree into the bucket.
  • Pour your mango puree or Kern’s nectar into the bucket.
  • Using your hands, or a large spoon, stir this brew until it feels stirred enough.
  • Now refrigerate your bucket of nascent sangria for a couple of hours, to let it steep.

Now, run a few errands, pay some bills, watch Bubba Ho-Tep on DVD, or play with the kids. I’m assuming you’re doing this on the weekend or a holiday.

  • Okay, grab your happy bucket from the fridge and clear a large kitchen countertop space. If you have a picnic table in your yard and it isn’t raining, that will work too.
  • Using your hands, remove the un-squeezed apple and whole nectarine (or peach) wedges and put them in your large pitcher. Put some in the small pitcher too.
  • Place your strainer or colander onto the top of your large pitcher. Using the large coffee cup or ladle, scoop a portion of the sangria mixture into the straining device you’re using. You may need to use the wood spoon to stir the sangria mixture around in case the fruit pulp clogs up the strainer mesh or colander drainage holes.
  • Let each sangria portion placed in your straining device drain completely into the pitcher. When it has, use your hand to squeeze as much additional wine mixture out of the strained fruit pulp as possible. You won’t be able to squeeze it dry, but you can take quite a few frustrations out on it.
  • Discard each portion of hand-squeezed fruit pulp. Unless you have livestock who need a little pick-me-up.
  • Scoop, strain and squeeze all of the sangria mixture until your bucket is empty and your livestock have a good buzz going.
  • Now, refrigerate your pitchers of sangria until your company arrives, hopefully with some really good Tex-Mex food. Serve over ice, as suits your fancy. And make sure you get a few of the sangria-soaked apple and nectarine (or peach) wedges. They’ll rekindle your affection for fruit fiber.

Serves, hell, I don’t know, about 8 to 12 convivial companions.

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I’ve been making this curry for years, but really got serious about it after my wife and I went to Tokyo in March, 2008. I wrote the recipe for my sister-in-law Camille, who wanted to cook up a batch, freeze it, and take it to Burning Man in 2008. She said it turned out great, which didn’t surprise me because Camille is a hell of a cook. She’s originally from Louisiana, see, and her shrimp étouffée is just the cat’s ass and her gumbo is even better and……..

Sorry. I digress.

Point is, I make this Japanese curry four or five times a year. Amongst my neighbors and friends it has become my signature dish, and one my close neighbors actually ask me to make. If you are familiar with Japanese curry at all, you know the basic Japanese curry dish is wonderful during colder weather, the spicier the better.

If by some miracle of nature you are a genius of Japanese cooking who makes your own authentic curry seasoning mixture from scratch instead of cheating with pre-mix cubes like me, I’d love to get your recipe.

Ryan-san’s Tokyo Curry

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The Ingredients:

  • 2 boxes of Japanese curry cubes (I prefer House brand Java Hot, or Vermont if spicy is an issue for your guests. Your local Japanese or Korean food market should have these products.)
  • 2 large white onions, cut into chunks about the size of half your average thumb.
  • 2 large carrots, or three if you like, cut into ¼ inch slices.
  • 1 pound Shitake mushrooms, with stems, cut into bite-sized pieces.
  • 1 ½ pounds fingerling potatoes, cut in half or in thirds, depending on size of each potato.
  • 2 pounds of rib eye beef, cut into bite-sized chunks (NOTE: For vegetarians, bite-sized cubes of firm to-fu can be substituted for the meat. Simply skip the meat-browning steps and start with the veggies instead. Add the to-fu towards the end so it gets hot but does not become goo. This dish is fantastic with to-fu!)
  • ¼ cup good sesame oil for browning the beef .
  • As much tap water as is needed to cover all ingredients in the pot and bring them to a boil.
  • 4 to 8 cups of cooked Cal Rose rice, or equivalent Japanese rice variety. (This can be prepared on the stovetop or in an Asian-style rice cooker. Prepare the amount of rice you think you will need for the number of people you are feeding.)
  • FUKUJINZUKE!! Let me say that again: FUKUJINZUKE!! (These are the rich red Japanese pickles that almost always garnish Japanese curry. They are fantastic, and kind of essential to get the full flavor of this dish. But if you can’t get fukujinzuke, I have found that beni shōga, the thin, short strips of red pickled ginger common to other Japanese dishes like gyūdon and okonomiyaki, work surprisingly well as a tasty garnish for this.)

The Equipment:

  • A pretty big steel stew pot or Dutch oven, but not an enameled pot because these run too high a risk of scorching.
  • A pretty big, long metal spoon or wood spatula. This dish needs to be stirred frequently.
  • A good chef’s knife for cutting the beef and the vegetables.
  • Rice pot or electric rice cooker.

The Process:

  • Put the sesame oil and a small piece of the beef in the pot and heat the oil until the beef starts to fry. If you overheat the oil, it will start to smoke, so monitor this carefully.
  • Put all the rest of the beef in the pot and brown it in the oil.
  • Once the beef is browned, put all the onions in the pot, stir until ingredients are mixed, and cook until onions are tender and starting to turn clear.
  • Then add the carrots, stir until ingredients are mixed, and cook for three to five minutes.
  • Add mushrooms and repeat, cooking for three minutes.
  • Add potatoes and enough water to cover all ingredients, plus another ¾ to 1 inch of water.
  • Stir thoroughly and bring to a full boil.
  • Add curry cubes, stir, and allow to boil for about 30 seconds.
  • Stir, reduce heat and allow to simmer for about 3 to 3 ½ hours, until the beef is very, very tender.
  • While the dish is simmering, stir often. Be sure to scrape the bottom of the pot as curry gravy will stick to it. But this flavorful goo needs to be reincorporated into the mixture.

The Payoff:

  • Once the beef is as tender as you like it, turn off heat, and prepare to eat.
  • Serve this curry over a bed of hot, steamy rice and serve with a generous little mound of the fukujinzuke or pickled ginger or both. The pickles can be mixed into the curry, or kept on the side as the diner wishes.
  • Prepare to want seconds, if there are any.

And at the end of this recipe, I wrote this note to my sister-in-law, which I also extend to you: May this dish take your taste buds to an under-appreciated culinary corner of my beloved city of Tokyo—Love, Dan 08/11/08

And there you have it. Let me know what you think of these two concoctions if you make them.

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On our next episode, I show you how to make and enjoy The Rockford, which is basically a breakfast of two crunchy beef-filled tacos and the beverage of your choice. Jim Rockford preferred coffee, but I have mine with Dr Pepper. The Rockford is essential on cross-country road trips.