The FooDorama Challenge: I Watch It, I Try It!

(=^・ェ・^=))ノ彡。・∵゜:;,・゜∵: ○ ;,・。∵゜:;,。・゜

Jdorama Inspiration: Shinya Shokudo

Shinya Shokudo (深夜食堂 or The Late Night Diner) is a 10-episode drama that was shown past midnight on TBS and MBS for the Fall Season of 2009. As its title suggests, the drama takes place in a unique, night-shift diner in one of the alley-ways of Tokyo’s busiest municipality, Shinjuku.  The dimly-lit diner is run by its cook who goes only by the name of  ‘Master’ (played by Kobayashi Kaoru). He opens the diner from 12 midnight up to 7 am with a menu that offers goodwill and just one dish – tonjiru (pork and vegetable soup).  If a customer wishes to order something else, the Master will whip it up only if he has the ingredients available.  The stories told in this drama are those of the customers that patronize this humble eatery.

‘Master’ Class: Kobayashi (left) plays the enigmatic, unnamed cook in this drama based on a manga by Abe Yaro

I was very well-impressed by this drama’s low-keyed simplicity and quiet charm.  Since the diner opens only during the wee hours, it would naturally attract a few but interesting characters as its customers – mostly the city’s nocturnal creatures who work the graveyard shift (a yakuza boss, a stripper, a newspaper delivery boy, a male porn star, etc.).  The warmth and calming atmosphere of the diner is set against the contrasting backdrop of night-time Shinjuku’s cold, lonely and impersonal concrete milieu, so it was natural that these customers would find refuge in it.  And what gives this drama its stroke of genius is the menu – or rather the lack of it. Since a patron can ask for a simple dish (if the Master has the means to make it), he or she orders a favorite comfort food which in turn conjures up repressed or forgotten memories of family, lost friends or past loves that basically inspires the character to remember what was once lost or left behind, deal with regrets or seek a sense of personal closure as well as fulfillment.

With scenes accompanied by Suzuki Tsuneyoshi’s haunting song “Omoi-de,” Shinya Shokudo is an introspective drama that despite the differences in language and culture, it proves that there is something universal about the topic of food that we could all connect with.

Just like the food it features, the drama stimulates feelings of comfort and good vibes.  It is one of the best yet seemingly underrated jdoramas I’ve seen so far (and rightfully deserves a second season, too).

Jdorama Food: Japanese Comfort Food

Comfort food pertains to “foods consumed to achieve some level of improved emotional status, whether to relieve negative psychological affect or to increase positive.”  They can be simple dishes that could be home-cooked (sandwiches or soup) or bought from a store (ice cream). For me, the idea of comfort food is something that can be easily prepared anytime, usually made up of left-overs and satiates those annoying hunger pangs that creep during ungodly hours of the night, a rainy day or during dvd weekend marathons.

The comfort dishes shown every episode are the real ‘stars’ of Shinya Shokudo (the drama even offers cooking tips at the end of each episode).  They include traditional Japanese comfort food like tarako (cod roe – above left) and ochazuke (rice with green tea – above right); and Western dishes like potato salad and egg sandwich.

The FooDorama Special Challenge: Remembering my own Comfort Foods

This is a special on comfort food – meaning, I will refrain from reprising the dishes featured in the drama since they are just too easy to prepare, does not pose much of a challenge and hence, no need to share recipes.  So instead, for this post, I would like to share my very own simple and personal comfort food experiences…

The FooDorama Connection #1: Nekomanma

In episode 2, an aspiring singer comes to the diner and orders nekomanma (literally means ‘cat food’) which is rice with dried bonito shavings and a dash of soy sauce.  It is a super easy to prepare and makes use of leftovers – particularly rice and fish.

My Counterpart: Rice with leftover Maling bits

LOL… I’m guessing a lot of my fellow Pinoys can relate to this. Maling is a brand name of a Chinese canned luncheon meat widely available locally. It is the poor man’s Spam… well, even middle class folks like it, too.  We did have the occasional Spam but Maling was the canned meat we consumed most often while growing up. Yes, I’ve heard of horrible rumors about this product but it’s cheap anyway, readily available and saves you time.  As long as this unsophisticated, much-maligned fare can help ease hunger pangs and gets you through the day (or night)… Lunok na lang, at wag nang mag-isip ng kung anu-ano…

FooDorama Connection #2: Tamago (or Egg) Sandwich

In episode 7, a young newspaper delivery man would order egg salad sandwich at the midnight diner during his breaks.  The Master would prepare it for him along with extra ham sandwiches.  I had to pause from watching this episode in order to make an egg sandwich for myself. There’s nothing like watching a good drama while having the same food that the characters were enjoying.

My Counterpart: The Tasty Adobo Pandesal

Chances are, every Filipino family may have some leftover adobo inside their refrigerator.  This quintessential Pinoy dish is practical, have a long shelf-life (because of its main ingredient – vinegar) and simply delicious.  I remember living on these when I was on my own in Cebu. Usually accompanied with rice, this dish could be made into a sandwich, using adobo pork or chicken from the fridge, nuke it up, shred it into thin flakes and spread it along with mayo on hot pandesal (Philippine round bread).

The FooDorama Connection #3: Butter Rice

In episode 5 (which is probably my favorite), a renowned food critic who is used to eating expensive gourmet food, drops in and orders a simple dish that reminds him of his happy, worry-free life as a young man spent with a senpai he had admired. The dish is that of butter rice – steamed rice mixed with a dab of butter and a drop of soy sauce.

My Counterpart: Sinangag (Garlic Fried Rice)

If I could order something from the Master, it would be this: the simple sinangag or left-over rice stir-fried in oil and chopped garlic, with a dash of salt and pepper.  One of my early childhood memories is watching TV alone and eating fried rice, cooked and lovingly served by my mother. I remember the rice was so good I ate 2 to 3 plates of it without eating anything else – just the fried rice. I also recall feeling contented and happy as any care-free preschooler at that time. That is why after watching Shinya Shokudo, it made me contemplate on how I long for those times, and how I miss my mother, and so, well… I ended up crying like a baby… *sighs*

The feelings attached to one’s own personal comfort food may differ from one individual to another.  Whether to make us remember our moms, or wax nostalgic for those happy youthful times, or simply unearthing lost emotions forced to be buried in exchange for steeling ourselves up as a way of self-protection against life’s harsh realities, enjoying simple comfort food more or less, is a humbling experience that helps reconnect with the child within us.  It’s this simple food that reminds us of things that may mean little to others and yet this is what we treasure for it fills us up (physically and emotionally) even for just a fleeting moment.

How about you… What’s your comfort food?

P.S. This post is dedicated to my beautiful and kind MOM. I miss you so much – and not just because of your fried rice (^^)… Love you always and happy birthday!

~(=^‥^)ノ☆ おやすみニャ。。o.゚。*・★

————————–fodocha

My FooDorama Challenge Links

Coming Soon – FDC#14: Taiyaki (Jdorama Inspiration: Shinzanmono)
FDC#12: Omuraisu (Jdorama Inspiration: Tumbling)
FDC#11: Bibimbap (Kdrama Inspiration: Full House)
—————————

Info Sources: Comfort food (wikipedia); Jdorama (dramawiki)

Jdorama Photo Credits: (MBS, meshiya.tv)

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The FooDorama Challenge: I Watch It, I Try It!

ホップ!ステップ!ジャンプ!⌒v⌒v⌒v⌒ミ(ノ ̄⊿)ノ

Jdorama Inspiration: Tumbling

Tumbling is one of the new dramas currently being aired on TBS.  It is about a struggling high school club that does men’s rhythmic gymnastics (yes, there is such a thing).  The club starts out as a four-man group until the school’s rough bad boy delinquents headed by Azuma Wataru (Yamamato Yusuke) join in.  The guys face obstacles and ridicule as they try to prove their worth and dedication to the sport while resolving differences within the group and  strengthening bonds with each other as well.

I’ll Tumble for Ya!: OMG… men in tights! And with a pose like this… who can possibly resist Tumbling? lol

In the tradition of Japan’s sports manga, Tumbling looks like the usual I-don’t-care-what-you-say,-I’m-gonna-practice-hard-til-I-succeed kind of story.  However, it is unusual with its choice of sports – rhythmic gymnastics for men (which I learned is quite popular in Japan) since RG is more known to be largely performed by women.  So basically, Tumbling is more like the movie Waterboys (a group of HS guys doing another sport dominated by women – synchronized swimming) of which I am a loyal fan.  Anyway, the drama is still ongoing so I can’t give a full review on it yet.  In the meantime, it is great to see Yusuke and the other actors do their own tumbling, handstands and other routines which are obviously not easy to do. Good job, mina-san!

Jdorama Food: Omuraisu

Omuraisu (also known as omurice) is short for “omelette rice” which is exactly that – omelette and rice. It is one of the Japan’s well-loved western-styled dishes.  It is made of fried rice (usually consisting of chicken and tomato sauce) with omelette that is either placed on top of the rice or wrapped around it.

The FooDorama Connection: Omuraisu is shown so far in almost every episode since Wataru’s mom (Otsuka Nene) owns a diner that seems to specialize on this dish (because it’s the only food i’ve seen her served so far!)

Wataru and his friends would usually hang out at his mom’s diner and bond over a meal of omuraisu after grueling hours of stretching and tumbling (either that or fighting with other gangs).

The omuraisu served in Tumbling with ketchup on top.

Another favorite jdorama of mine that showed omuraisu was…

Tiger and Dragon (TBS, 2005): Meeting at a western -styled diner, Yakuza henchman, Tora (Nagase Tomoya) and rakuga master, Don-chan (Nishida Toshiyuki – above left) would often end every episode with their funny running gag – the ‘exchange of debt payments’ (hard to explain – basta, watch it na lang!) while having their usual orders of omuraisu.

The FooDorama Challenge: Trying out Omuraisu!

I find this dish not really strange and new since I have been having fried rice and omelette throughout my whole life.  But I guess presenting it in a novel kind of way made me feel excited about it – plus the fact that I do love fried rice along with fluffy scrambled eggs! Yummm…

How to make the raisu in omuraisu: Saute chopped garlic and onions in a pan.  Add meat, preferably chicken (but I used ham instead).

Then, mix in the other ingredients: sliced mushrooms, green peas, chopped bell peppers, tomato sauce, and some ketchup.  When ready, add in cooked white rice and stir.  Season with salt and pepper. To enhance flavor, one can mix in chicken bouillon (finely chopped into powder), a bay leaf, and/or Worcestershire sauce. For me, I used a lil thing we call magik sarap.  Adjust the amounts to your liking. Then, set aside on a plate when done.

To make the omelette: beat 2 eggs in a bowl and season it with salt and pepper. Pour it on the same heated pan you used for the rice, making sure to spread it evenly throughout the surface.  As it cooks, place a cup of the fried rice in the center. Bring the top and bottom edges of the omelette over the rice.  The tricky part comes when placing it on your plate: place an upside down plate on the pan, turn the whole thing over so the plate catches the omuraisu.

Actually… This is what it looks like after transferring it on a plate.  My omelette was almost turning brown since it had sat on the hot pan for too long (because I was busy taking pix! Hee-hee…).  Anyhoo, I adjusted it using my hands – tucking the edges and shaping it for a better, neater look.

Whew! My first attempt at Omuraisu for FDC#12 – done!: It turned out pretty ok for a first try, I guess.  Garnished with parsley and drizzled with ketchup.  The presentation looked really inviting.  As a breakfast meal (for us Pinoys, this is preferably served as a good hearty breakfast with hot coffee), it would really start your day right just by looking at it. You can write/design ketchup symbols and messages on it like hearts and smileys.  Your kids and spouse would love it!

Open up and say…Mmm!: My first omuraisu was fantastic! They all went so well in your mouth – the rice, the omelette, and even the ketchup!  You got to eat it fast though because it does taste better if it’s warm.

Yup! Omuraisu is definitely worth tumbling for!

HereGoes~。°。ヾ( ・_・)ツ⌒Y⌒Y⌒ ミ(。A。)⌒v⌒v⌒ミ(ノ ̄v ̄)ノ゜°YATTA!!!

My FooDorama Challenge Links
Coming Soon – FDC#13: An FDC Special on Japanese Comfort Food (Jdorama Inspiration: Shinya Shokodo)
FDC#11: Bibimbap (Kdrama Inspiration: Full House)
FDC#10: Agedashi Tofu (Jdorama Inspiration: JIN)

———————————– fodocha

Dish info source: wikipedia
Recipe source:  CookingWithDog
Jdorama info: dramawiki
Jdorama photo credits: TBS (Tumbling); TBS (Tiger and Dragon)

The FooDorama Challenge: I Watch It, I Try It!

オメットモンスター(ノ゚ロ゚)ノ ⌒Θ…(((ボン!(▼。・ェ・。▼)ピカチュー!!

Jdorama Inspiration: Kaibutsu-kun

Kaibutsu-kun is an 11 episode, fantasy show that has just started airing this April on NTV. It is based on the manga story by Fujiko Fujio and became a popular children’s cartoon show in the 1980s. It stars Arashi leader, Ohno Satoshi in the title role of Little Monster, the spoiled bratty prince of the Monster World.  As part of his training to be the successor of the throne, Kaibutsu-kun was forced out of the comforts of his realm and into the Human World and try to find out what it is like to live amongst us.  Along with his 3 companions (Dracula, Wolfman, and Frankenstein), he gets into a series of tests, misadventures and silly battles with other monsters and demons.

Kaibutsu-kun so far looks engaging enough for me to stick around and to watch it.  It is really a show aimed for kids, the young at heart and of course, Arashi fans will not be excluded. The costumes and CGI effects remind me of our very own Lastikman and Enteng Kabisote (meaning, it ain’t Avatar).  I like Satoshi-kun and I’d be glad to support him since he receives so few main roles in dramas; which is a shame because, as proven by his heart-rending performance in Maou, he is remarkable as a dramatic actor (plus it is a well-known fact that he is the best singer in Arashi).

おめでとう Omedetou, Satoshi-kun on your new hit show!!: Ohno as Kaibutsu-kun (Little Monster) with Dracula, Wolfman, and Franken (Left) bringing to life the manga characters created by Fujiko Fujio at right.

Jdorama Food: Kareh Raisu (Curry Rice)

Kare Raisu or Curry Rice is one of Japan’s best-loved yohshoku (recipe with Western origins).  Curry was first introduced in Japan in the late 19th century by the British who in turn, got it from India (so does that make it a recipe of semi-Western origin?).  Simple and easy to prepare, curry rice is Japan’s most common and most popular dish, and consumed by people from all walks of life  – a perennial fixture on dining tables – from the Prime Minister’s to the humblest of all households.

Curry rice is also the food I usually see being served the most in jdoramas (along with ramen and okonomiyaki) so to include it in my foodorama challenges is deemed inevitable.

The FooDorama Connection: In episode 1, brother and sister, Hiroshi and Utako serve their “foreign-looking” guests a humble dish of curry rice.

A Monster Hit: Being a usually grumpy, finicky eater, Kaibutsu-kun surprisingly cries out, UMAI!!! (yummy!) after tasting Curry Rice for the first time, and proclaims it as the best thing in all the world/s (his world included).

Kaibutsu-kun’s favorite Curry Rice: Beef Curry with white rice

Another jdorama that featured Kareh Raisu:

At Home Dad (2004): In Episode 4, Kazayuki-san’s mom-in-law shares her ‘secret’ when  cooking her delicious Curry Rice – she adds a spoonful of instant coffee.

The FooDorama Challenge: My First Kareh Raisu

We, Pinoys, are familiar with curry. However, our taste buds are only relegated to the common Chicken Curry dish (which was my fave when i was a kid) wherein we use yellow curry powder and coconut milk. And that’s just about it with curry.

Even if curry rice was a simple dish, I was still excited since this was my first time to have curry aside from chicken. Recipes on the net say I could use any meat for curry rice but I chose to go for the classic which is beef curry.

To make Curry Rice: saute beef cubes with garlic, onions and oil in a deep pan; then add chopped potatoes, carrots and more onions. Then add water and bring to a boil; let it simmer until the meat is tender.

I would certainly like to make my own curry roux but maybe next time. Besides I already bought a pack of ready made roux in block form (above). This one has a medium hot flavor.

It would be better to chop up the blocks of roux (above left) so it can dissolve faster in the broth. The roux helps give the broth a thick, glazed consistency (above right).

Lunch is ready!!!: Kareh Raisu (Curry Rice) for FDC#8 is done; served with short-grained Japanese rice. Yum!

I had it first without adding instant coffee. But when we had it again for dinner, I heat it up and this time tried it with a teaspoon of the coffee to see if it would make any difference. And yes, I think there was a slightly more intense flavor to it after the coffee was added.

Umai indeed… and simple and spicy, too; Maybe I will try it with pork next time, and I may also add a bay leaf, and bell peppers as well.  It’s also good to make a big batch of it so you can have leftovers because, just like beef stew, it gets better with time.  ^_^

~oishi~ ┳┳ ヽ(^▽^ゞ) ゴハンゴハン♪

My other FooDorama Challenge Links:
Next: FDC#9 – Sekihan (Jdorama Inspiration: Graveyard of the Fireflies)
FDC#7: Zaru Soba (Jdorama Inspiration: Attention Please)
FDC#6: Samgyeopsal (Movie Inspiration: Sikgaek or Le Grande Chef)

—————————————— fodocha

Japanese Curry info source: wikipedia
Recipe source: japanesefood.about
Jdorama info source: dramawiki
Jdorama photo credits: NTV, FujiTV

One of the best jdoramas I enjoyed watching was Attention Please (2006, FujiTV).  It stars the talented Ueto Aya, as Misaki Yoko, a tomboyish happy go lucky girl who at first did not know what to really do with her life.  Out on a whim, she decided to become a cabin attendant.  And much to her (and everyone else’s) surprise, she was accepted.  Yoko later finds out that being a cabin attendant is more than just traveling, serving food, and pointing for passengers where the emergency doors are; she learns valuable life lessons along the way that ultimately changes her flighty ways (pun intended), giving her a new and better outlook on life.

From turbulence to stable skies: Ueto Aya as Yoko whose training as a flight attendant changes her from a flighty, head-in-the-clouds punk girl to a happier and level-headed young woman

Working for the service and comfort of other people can be fulfilling and taxing at the same time. Somehow, it can feel like a thankless job, and so we lose passion for it and get burned out. Shows like Attention Please can help remind you the value of hard work, of what you’re supposed to do, and get you back on track. Here are some of my favorite “work quotes” from the show:

On guaranteeing quality for the service you offer: “Sending someone who is not fully qualified in the sky is the cruelest thing one can do to a person.”

On doing your part for the sake of the team: “Please don’t take flying lightly. If you can’t control the cabin, we can’t sit in the cockpit and be at ease.  We all help to fly the plane.”

On learning from your mistakes: “There are a lot of different problems waiting for us which the textbook doesn’t address.  The key to solving these problems is always in front of us.”

And on this note, I would like to say that I chose Attention Please as my next jdorama inspiration for my FooDorama Challenge #7… click here.

Btw, Attention Please is also close to my heart because my niece Pch is also a Flight Attendant.

She had worked for the same airline company as Yoko’s (so i do have confirmation that all those sempai-sempai stuff in the drama? They’re all true!).  I talked about her days as an FA trainee in an earlier post.  She has learned a lot since then, and enjoyed the times she had spent as an FA for one year. That chapter of her life has somewhat prematurely closed but now… another new chapter is about to begin.

My pretty Flight Attendant niece, Pch: the working girl at work (Left)

This post is dedicated to Pch, who will be soaring the skies again soon.  Since she doesn’t have a blog, I will just post pix from some of her memorable Asian trips and travels made possible by her adventures as a glamorous FA, proving that just like what Yoko had experienced, hard work and dedication do pay off…:

Wherever you are, Pch, always soar high, live life to the fullest and keep your feet on the ground… Ganbare and Godspeed. ~~Love from Tita S.

The FooDorama Challenge!: I watch it… I try it!

Jdorama Inspiration: Gokusen

Gokusen is a story of an idealistic, high school teacher who happens to be the granddaughter of the head of a Yakuza clan.  In all of the show’s 3 seasons, Yankumi (played by Nakama Yuki) always finds herself being appointed as the homeroom teacher of an all-boys school’s bottom class that includes the toughest, rowdiest and unruliest students. Undaunted and buoyed by her enthusiasm and fighting spirit, she doesn’t give up and thereby manages to impart to them important lessons that go beyond the four walls of their classroom… like how to win a game of  ‘kick the can.’ ^_^ (More on Gokusen here)

Jdorama Food: Takoyaki

When it comes to Gokusen, only one food stands out and it’s Takoyaki. Takoyaki is a common street snack in Japan; it is basically a dumpling made of batter with a diced bit of baby octopus as a filling.

The FooDorama connection: Yankumi usually hangs out at the takoyaki stand being managed by Tetsu Asakura (played by Kaneko Ken), a subordinate member of her Yakuza “family.” While eating takoyaki, she would usually bump into her co-teachers or students here. Fearing her family secret would be revealed, she would hide behind the stand or she and Tetsu would pretend that they do not know each other.

Tetsu-san’s takoyaki in Gokusen: cooked in a cast iron pan with half-spherical molds over hot coals.

My other Jdorama Inspiration: Another memorable dorama that also featured takoyaki was At Home Dad (more on this drama, here):

In episode 7 of At Home Dad, Kazuyuki Yamamura (played by Hiroshi Abe) tries his hand in making takoyaki at a food fair being sponsored by the neighborhood mommies.

The FooDorama Challenge: The Search for Authentic Takoyaki

Since I cannot obviously make one at home, I started my search for the authentic takoyaki…

Pinoys do not commonly eat octopus (just squid) and it is not readily available in our markets.  So how can I find takoyaki in a country that doesn’t eat octopus? Get it from Japan of course. I asked Pchie to give me a pasalubong of takoyaki, preferably the street-food type. That of course wasn’t possible and so she bought instead the refrigerated ready-made variety.

I honestly didn’t know what to do with it. Instructions on the package were in Japanese and the pictures didn’t help, either. So I tried toasting it in the microwave, and again in the toaster oven because it was still too soft and looked… uncooked.  It came out still looking gooey and strange. Nevertheless, I put mayo and tonkatsu sauce on it… and took a deep breath and tasted it. I wasn’t surprised at the taste: it was… well, gooey and strange. And that’s all I’m going to say about that.

Fight0oh…OH!: Completely dissatisfied, my search for the real takoyaki was still on. I consulted the all-knowing Internet and found what I was looking for…

The only place around here parts that serves takoyaki is a Japanese restaurant called Hana in Little Tokyo, Pasong Tamo, Makati. Just pass through the torii arch and it will lead you through this corridor (right pic) where you will find Hana at the end of it.

I came in just in time as the resto was just beginning to set up for the evening shift. I ordered a set of takoyaki for myself:

Found at last! Just outside the door of the resto, my order was being prepared by Michael, one of the Hana staff, and you can watch while he does it. The Japanese owner goes out once in awhile to inspect his handiwork.

I watched earnestly how he did it. I was curious as to how they were able to make them into round balls. It was a bit tricky but it was fascinating. I could do it, too if given a chance.

For Php 100, I was given a freshly cooked set of 6 takoyaki balls with ingredients that are said to be imported from Osaka. One order also comes with a cool glass of house tea. So sulehtt!

Topped with seaweed and dried fish flakes, mayo, and takoyaki sauce, my takoyaki tasted just … what I thought it would taste like – strange still yet uniquely appealing. The dough was still gooey but in a good way plus with the chewy octopus bits in the center, I came away satisfied and happy – ending my search for Gokusen’s takoyaki, and walked off (I couldn’t run – I was too full) towards the setting sun – Yankumi style. lol!

BTW: Bear in mind that this may be an acquired taste for some. A lot of Pinoys would still prefer our very own yummy squid balls over takoyaki (and rightfully so!). And if you and your friends happen to drop by Hana and order this, maybe you should order only one set and share it first amongst yourselves just to be on the safe side. Six balls were a lot for me and I had trouble finishing mine.

Hana is located in Little Tokyo, Pasong Tamo St., Makati. It is open from 11:30 am to 2:30 pm; and from 5 pm to 10:30 pm.  They start serving takoyaki at 5.

With my takoyaki cravings fully sated, ending FDC#2, I am prepping for my next Challenge: Shiruko (Red Bean Soup) in time for the Chinese New Year!

My Foodorama Challenges:
Next – FDC#3: Shiruko (Jdorama Inspiration: Saigo no Yakusoku)
Previously – FDC#1: Yakiniku (Jdorama Inspiration: Kekkon Dekinai Otoko)
Takoyaki info source: wikipedia.com
Restaurant info source: kitchencow.com
Jdorama info source: ntv.co.jp, fujitv.co.jp

Take your hands off my precious students!

This recurring line is usually preceded by the crashing of a door of an abandoned dark warehouse.  Then, a group of baddies inside stops beating a bunch of students and looks on in bewilderment at the person who just broke down the door – a slim young woman clad in a red jersey outfit. They ask who the heck she is. She takes off her glasses and loosens her pigtails as she comes closer while the orchestra music looms louder and louder. Then, she introduces herself: “Who am I? I am… their homeroom teacher!

I think Gokusen was the first jdorama that I watched back when it was shown on the Kapuso network in 2003 (?).  I was also familiar with the anime that was shown on Animax from time to time.  So you could say my addiction for jdoramas began with this comedy series. Gokusen, its all your fault! .\/. grr!

Gokusen (TV live action) is based on the popular manga series (left) by female artist/writer, Kozueko Morimoto.   All three seasons of the TV version were huge hits in Japan, garnering countless of fans all over the world as well, including here at home.

It stars my favorite Japanese actress, Nakama Yuki as Kumiko “Yankumi” Yamaguchi, the yakuza heiress turned high school teacher.  You don’t need to think deep when you watch this. It’s all cute and fun.

It has had three seasons (2002, 2005, 2008) and one movie in 2009 (right pic).  My favorite season was the first one since Matsujun as Sawada Shin was there.

Gokusen 2009: In the movie Gokusen, Yankumi gets to be reunited with some of her students from the past seasons and welcome new ones.

Star Power: And of course, what helped make Gokusen a hit especially for its young viewers was Yankumi’s students played by some of the hottest Japanese heart throbs and pop idols of the day (above pic: the class of Season 2).

Running gags and recurring themes: You have to be a fan to watch all three seasons because the story just repeats itself again and again.  I’ve lost count of how many warehouse doors Yankumi had broken down to save her precious students. The choreographed fight scenes weren’t all that great either.  Plus, they sure run a lot!

Couger Yankumi x Cute Sawada: I am one of the many fans who is still hoping that Matsujun’s character Sawada will come back someday (he wasn’t in the movie 😦 ) and profess his love for Yankumi and end up together, years after he graduates from college, that is (sorry for the spoiler but that’s what happened in its last manga issue!).

More on Gokusen: As a way of giving tribute, I will make Gokusen as my next inspiration for my FooDorama Challenge!

The FooDorama Challenge #2 – Gokusen: Gimme some of that Takoyaki!

*For Image References: click on the pics for their source links

Welcome to my first ever FooDorama Challenge!

Jdorama Inspiration: Kekkon Dekinai Otoko

Kekkon Dekinai Otoko (The Man Who Can’t Get Married) is a 12 episode jdorama shown from July to September 2006 (btw, this should not be confused with the Korean version; Kekkon is the original one – and still the best!).  It stars Hiroshi Abe as Shinsuke Kuwano, an eccentric, talented architect.  As the title suggests, he can’t get married because he prefers to live an uncomplicated and quiet life, free from the trappings of social, marital, and familial obligations.  However, as the story unfolds, he realizes that shielding himself away from matters of the heart may be as equally complicated and troubling as well…

This dorama has a story I fell in love with since it was intelligently written and had a perfect ending which I think is the best among all the jdoramas I have seen so far. The main character reminds me bits of my own weird personality. The funny episode titles alone had made me smile since I, too, have asked the same questions (…well, sometimes): “So What If I like Being Alone?!” (Episode 1); So What If I Eat the Food I like to Eat?! (Episode 2); and “So What if I Don’t Like to Mix With the Relatives?!” (Episode 7). Hee-hee!

Jdorama Food: Yakiniku

For this challenge, I chose to prepare yakiniku.  Yakiniku is a Japanese-style grilling of bite-sized pieces of food particularly meats. The Japanese (who only began to eat beef in the late 19th century) is said to have adapted this style from Mongolian and Korean style of grilling meats. That is why a typical yakiniku meal also consists of Korean dishes such as kimchi and bibimpap.

The FooDorama Connection: In Episode 2, Kuwano-san stubbornly eats yakiniku in a theme restaurant even after he had been warned by his doctor (played by Natsukawa Yui) to watch his diet . He eats all alone since his work-mates declined to accompany him for reasons such as having a previous engagement or a downright refusal to deal with his acerbic wit and personality.

Kuwano-san’s yakiniku in the Episode 2 scene, sizzling on a gridiron over sumibi (dry distillation).

The Foodorama Challenge: Cooking Yakiniku at home

I have ordered yakiniku one time in a restaurant with my friends before but I have never tried to prepare it at home.

Since yakiniku is a “social food” (best served and eaten when you’re with friends and family), I deemed it best to have it when Sis and family arrived on this day for Sunday Lunch Project #2. Besides, Pchie, fresh from her flight from Japan, came with her pasalubong – a bottle of tare, a yakiniku sauce that can also be bought from any Japanese grocery store. If you prefer to make your own yakiniku sauce, the web is filled with many different recipes you can choose from.

Having a yakiniku party at home was an absolute fun! The food is cooked right on your table so you get to eat it while it’s hot. It would be best if you have a table-top electric griddle (at right) so you can fully enjoy this right at your own dining table.

There were no authentic slices of yakiniku beef in the supermarket so we settled for sukiyaki.  Since it needs to be cooked for a short amount of time, any thinly-sliced cuts of beef, preferably with some fat is suitable.

Other ingredients you may need aside from tare sauce: mushrooms, kimchi (left pic), bite-sized pieces of vegetables like bell pepper and cucumber.  It would also be best if served with real Japanese rice and miso soup. Rice bowls and chopsticks added more authenticity to this enjoyable Japanese-inspired lunch.

How to serve it: you will need to bring out your serving plates since the fresh ingredients and the sauce are served and spread out on the table so your family or guests can easily reach for them using thongs or chopsticks. They can dip the ingredients in the sauce before cooking it on the griddle topped with butter. When cooked, they can get it from the griddle and mix it with kimchi and rice on their plates or bowls (At right).

The only drawback from this was that it could turn out to be messy and painful from all that hot oil splatter. Be sure NOT to wear your favorite white shirt when having this kind of cook-it-yourself meal.

So. Was my Yakiniku Challenge a hit or a miss?

Answer: A Hit! Yay! Kuwano-san would have been proud of me… 🙂  My lunch guests were obviously satiated and happy. We’re definitely going to try this again soon. Only if Pchie can give me more of that tare, then we’ll set another yakiniku date, for sure!

My Next FooDorama Challenge:
Takoyaki! (Jdorama Inspiration: Gokusen & At Home Dad)
My Sunday Lunch Project links:
Previous post: Lemon-Thyme Roasted Chicken (SLP#1)
Next post: My Dad’s Karimbuaya Chicken (SLP#2)
Yakiniki info source: wikipedia.com
Jdorama info source: wiki.d-addicts.com