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

平和 (★´3`)ノ.☆.・∴.・☆:*・∵.:*・☆.。.:*, :*・∵.:☆.。

Jdorama Inspiration: Hotaru no Haka

The live action version of Hotaru no Haka (Grave of the Fireflies) was a tanpatsu (movie made for TV) that was shown on November 1, 2005 on NTV.  Based on a novel by Akiyuki Nosaka, Hotaru no Haku was first made into a critically acclaimed animated movie in 1988. The story, set in World War II, is a heart-breaking tale of a brother and sister who were orphaned and taken under the care of a distant aunt.  The harsh realities and hopelessness caused by the cruelties of war inevitably affected everyone and thus, led the the two siblings to go and fend for themselves which ultimately brought about tragic and unfortunate consequences.

It would be better to see the 1988 movie before you watch the jdorama version.  A lot of people liked the original much better than the newer version – mainly because they disliked the auntie (played by Matsushima Nanako in the live action version) so much they prefer not to see her side of the story (which wasn’t implied in the animated movie).  The 2005 version tried to point out that it is understandable if people do make cruel, apathetic decisions and acts just to protect those who are precious to them in times of war. Both versions still showed a clear message though: war may bring out the best as well as the worst in us, and let’s hope and pray that something like this will never ever happen again.

“War does not determine who is right – only who is left.” ~Bertrand Russell: Seita (Ishida Hoshi) and Setsuko (Sasaki Mao) try to stay alive during the war (above left); At right are their animated counterparts from the 1988 movie.

Jdorama Food: Sekihan

Sekihan or red bean rice is a traditional Japanese dish that is made of steamed glutinous rice and azuki beans.  The rice gets its red color from the water used from boiling the beans.  Red is a color associated with ‘happiness’ or driving away evil vibes in Japan; that is why, sekihan is served during celebrations like birthdays and holidays.

The FooDorama Connection: At the start of the TV movie, the husband of the auntie was called to serve in the war and will be leaving on that day. For his going-away party, the aunt cooks a big batch of sekihan which excited her two daughters for they hadn’t eaten anything as luxurious as sekihan since the war started.  Above shows the elder daughter Natsu (played by Inoue Mao) scolding her sisters, reminding them that their father’s departure is not something to rejoice about.

The sekihan in the TV movie being cooked in a wooden steamer.

Another jdorama that featured sekihan:

Smile (TBS, 2009): In episode 2, Hayakawa Bito (Matsumoto Jun), helps make and deliver sekihan to an elementary school.  Unaware that the rice in the sekihan was tainted with pesticide, Bito later finds out about the mass poisoning of the students through the TV news (above right).

The FooDorama Challenge: Sekihan for My Dad’s Birthday!

We Pinoys are no strangers when it comes to glutinous rice cakes (like biko and bibingka) which we also serve during special occasions, and occasionally as an afternoon snack.  However, ours have coconut milk and sugar so they’re sweeter and goes well with strong coffee.  So when I read the ingredients for sekihan – I naturally went: What? No sugar? WTH will it taste like?

Having doubts about it, I still went ahead with this recipe for my dad’s birthday, using whatever that was left from the expensive azuki beans that I used for shiruko (FDC#3).

To make Sekihan: I used half a cup of the beans and soaked them overnight in water.  Then, I boiled them with two cups of water for less than an hour, making sure they weren’t totally cooked yet.

Then, I placed the washed uncooked rice in the rice cooker, along with three cups of water (a portion of which came from the reddish water used for boiling the beans).  I also placed the semi-cooked beans in it and some salt and let it sit for an hour. Lastly, I turned on the rice cooker until the sekihan was ready.

onigiri sekihan

Sekihan for FDC#9 is done! You can mold the sekihan into round or triangular shapes (onigiri) if you like. 🙂

What did this biko-loyalist, Pinay amateur cook think of the taste? Hmm, as I said, I had my doubts but I decided to give it a chance.  I tried it with sesame seeds and salt (as stated in the recipe) but I wasn’t satisfied with it, and was only able to eat a few amount. I even tried store bought furikake (condiment used for rice) with it but I still found it lacking. The rice and beans tasted well together but I just blame my stubborn taste buds which is too used to eating rice cakes the way we usually make them… hence, I found my hand reaching up into the shelf to get the sugar jar….

sekihan with sugar

Topped with brown sugar and sesame seeds, this sekihan is much better and more satisfying for me.  And I did find out that in some parts of Japan (like in Tsugare and Iwate), they do use sugar to sweeten their sekihan. ^_^ V

sekihan for dad

This sugar-topped sekihan is for my dad who celebrated his birthday today! Happy, happy birthday to my dear old Dad!

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Postscript (★´3`): Btw, my sekihan turned out too dark (it was more like brown, not red) so my advice is to lessen the amount of the “red” water and use more clear water for the one you’ll use to cook rice with – that is, if you want a lighter red or pinkish colored rice.  (★´3`) Also, if you are a beginner, it is better to experiment with smaller amounts first (like 2 cups of rice and 1/4 to 1/2 cup of beans) and see if you like it.  If you do, you can make more next time. (★´3`) And lastly, of course, I don’t discount the traditional way of putting salt – but if you are watching your health and on a low-salt diet, I think brown or muscuvado sugar could be a tasty and healthier alternative.

^*・’゚☆。.:*:・’☆’・:*:.。 ~piisu~fireflies!~ v (゚▽゚)ノ.:*:・’゚:*:・’゚☆

My FooDorama Challenge Links:
FDC#10: Agedashi Tofu (Jdorama Inspiration: Jin)
FDC#8: Kareh Raisu (Jdorama Inspiration: Kaibutsu-kun)
FDC#7: Zaru Soba (Jdorama Inspiration: Attention Please)

———————————- fodocha

Sekihan info source: wikipedia (English), wikipedia (Japan)
Recipe sources: japanesefood.about, recipezaar
Jdorama info source: dramawiki
Jdorama photo credits: NTV, TBS
Anime photo source: News-Anime
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The FooDorama Challenge: I Watch it… I Try it!

\( ^-^)/且☆且\(^-^ )/

Jdorama Inspiration: Saigo No Yakusoku

Saigo No Yakusoku (The Last Promise) is a tanpatsu type of drama (movie made for TV) shown on the 9th of January, 2010 on Fuji TV.  It is a story of five young men who happened to be in the same building on a day when it was taken over by a mysterious terrorist-like group. It stars the five Arashi members:

From Left to Right: Sho as a barista in a coffee stand; Nino as the building’s security systems technician; Jun as a courier; Aiba as an insurance salesman; and Ohno as a hired custodian.

It also stars Kuroki Meisa and Kitamura Yukiya.

Saigo no Yakusoku is a quintessential Arashi movie, purposely made to make their fans happy. Even if it had a predictable ending, I still enjoyed watching it.

Jdorama Food: Shiruko

Shiruko (also called oshiruko) or Red Bean Soup is a sweet soup made of azuki beans. It is usually served with mochi, a Japanese glutinous rice cake. It is a favorite comfort food among Japanese usually taken during winter and the New Year.

The FooDorama Connection: Having heard that the building has a vending machine that sells delicious red bean soup, Nozomu (Matsujun) boldly invites Yuriko (Meisa) outside for a hot cup of shiruko. Even if she is the company president’s daughter with a busy schedule and he’s a delivery guy she hardly knows, she accepts his invitation. *But who can blame her? It’s Matsujun!*

Matsujun’s ready-made, hot shiruko from a vending machine

The FooDorama Challenge: Seeking Comfort in Shiruko

I looked at the recipes of shiruko, and it seems to me that it isn’t such a difficult thing to do. And azuki beans are more like the common mung beans (munggo) that we Pinoys use (for porridge, buchi, hopia and halo-halo) and is readily available in the market.  Case in point: azuki bean’s scientific name is vigna angularis while mung bean is vigna radiata which for me it means they slightly differ only in shape but taste is more or less the same… which brings me to the question: Should I use mung beans instead?

I mentally debated about buying the real azuki beans or not. Since it is not a challenge if I don’t go for authenticity, I decided to buy the real thing. But…

Anak ng -! Ang mahal naman! E, parang munggo lang ito ah?!: Oh boy, azuki beans (left) are so expensive, I admittedly had moments of uncertainty and regret. Oh, well. It is for the sake of the challenge though. So GO!

I only bought one package. I resolve to conserve it as much as possible so I could use it for other future FooDorama recipes as well. Hee-hee.

I soaked the red beans in water overnight, then, boiled them the following day.  I only placed a considerable amount of brown sugar since I am not really fond of sweets. What came out was this red bean paste they call anko (at right).  This could also be used for daifuku, or –for me- good enough to spread on crackers for a light snack.

To make the soup, I used half a cup of anko and 2 cups of water, adjusting it with either more anko or sugar. As mentioned, it should be serve with mochi.  But now this time, I draw the line here. Instead of buying mochi, I decided to use our own glutinous rice cake, tikoy (nian-gao in Chinese), because it’s basically the same thing but cheaper (and since this was during the Lunar New Year, tikoys were abundant in the stores).

I sliced the cake into small squares and toasted them in the toaster oven for 10 minutes. Afterwards, I placed 1 to 2 tikoy squares in a bowl and pour the hot soup over it:

FooDorama Challenge #3 is done: Shiruko for Lunar New Year 2010! It is best served with something sour and/or salty like umeboshi (on the saucer in the above pic) which they say are pickled ‘plums’ but are actually related to apricots.

The sweetness was just right. I could understand why Japanese are fond of this dessert. There was something soothing about it like a comforting, hazy memory from childhood. It was that good! And to think that I wasn’t fond of tikoy, too. The only way we Pinoys commonly prepare it is to soak tikoy in beaten egg and fry it which can get to be awfully boring.  Shiruko is certainly another better way to serve tikoy. And the contrasting sour/salty taste of umeboshi was an outstanding match! I loved it!

I will certainly try this again. But I’ll go for the practical and inexpensive version: use red mung beans instead of azuki beans; buy Chinese pickled plums rather than umeboshi; and of course, still try tikoy in lieu of mochi.

Shiruko maybe new in my household but for me it’s destined to be a sweet classic.

Next on The FooDorama Challenge:
FDC#4: Okonomiyaki! (Jdorama Inspiration: Hana Kimi)
Previous FooDorama Challenges:
FDC #2: Takoyaki (Jdorama Inspiration: Gokusen)
FDC #1: Yakiniku (Jdorama Inspiration: Kekkon Dekinai Otoko)

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Recipe Sources: japanesefood.about, japaneserecipesinusa
Shiruko info source: wikipedia
Azuki beans info source: wikipedia
Umeboshi info source: wikipedia
Jdorama info source: fujitv

Pinoy jdorama addicts are thrilled that Matsumoto Jun is playing a smairuFilipino-Japanese character in his latest series, Smile (or Sumairu) currently being shown in Japan every Friday at the TBS Network).  And that includes me, of course!

Naturally, I wasted no time and managed to watch two episodes. Here is what’s happening so far:

MatsuJun plays a role of a young man, Hayakawa Bito (or Vito) whose father is a Filipino immigrant while his mother is Japanese.  He grew up fending for himself since his dad left them when he was young while his mother was too busy to care about him.  He was forced to live a life among gang members as a teen and as a result, had brush-ins with the law.  However, he is naturally a good person and wanted to live a normal life as best as he could. He found a job as a worker in a food company, a family who ‘adopted’ and cares for him, as well as loyal friends, including a love interest (played by Arakagi Yui) who lost her ability to speak due to a traumatic experience yet to be revealed.  However, fate is not so kind to Bito since his past and underground connections still catch up to him, and as a result, he was accused of crimes he did not commit.

In the first episode, his character is shown still locked up in jail (the year is bito2015) serving his sentence for alleged food poisoning.  Later scenes show intermittent flashbacks of the past to explain his history.  His lawyer (played by Kiichi Nakai) is helping him gain his freedom.  Despite his predicament, Bito is still hopeful of being set free.

MatsuJun’s  optimistic character, Bito (right) is always ready to flash his beguiling and child-like smile (hence, the title) to the prison guards, which prompted one to comment (that is, according to a fansubber’s translation):  “Filipinos usually have bright eyes, don’t they? They’re cheerful and positive. If someone’s troubled or has no money, they’ll treat them to food or even beer.”

The drama tackles the issue of discrimination in Japan.  It shows how a racially-mixed character like Bito is being discriminated upon by authorities (i.e. ethnic profiling, unfair treatment,  slow justice). For example, in one scene, he was stopped on the street by a cop who was suspicious of his ‘foreign’ looks, thinking that he might be an illegal alien (personally, I am not sure how Bito could be mistaken for being ‘foreign-looking’ but obviously MatsuJun looked like he gave himself a nice tan for the role).   In the first episode alone, he was called “Filipino bastard” (or Filipino a@@hole–depending on whose translation you’re watching) around three times, but only by the baddies and evil cops (one bad cop even kind of reasoned out that that WAS the gangsta nickname he supposedly acquired when he was a troubled teen).

This looked like a heavy emotional role that MatsuJun gets to play (in one scene, he was crying non-stop for like almost five minutes).  He gets to be cursed at and mistreated (in-between sobs, he goes: “Will anyone believe a half-Filipino like me?“). I am not sure if this is how Fil-Japs are really being treated in Japan but one source (日刊サイゾー) says that Smile is not as “visual (?)” as Jun’s past doramas, and its portrayal of discrimination is  quite “uncomfortable” to watch and may be a bit foul or considered “exaggerated fiction.”  I think the source also says that it is not doing so well in the ratings, ranking only third behind other current dramas, Konkatsu and The Quiz Show. < (゚□゚*) > ~oh no!~

By the way, here are my personal insights:

With regards to Bito being jailed for food poisoning… Apparently, the sekihan (red glutinous rice similar to our own biko) he helped make and deliver was tainted and consequently, poisoned some schoolchildren.  The writer of the dorama probably got this idea from the heart-breaking food poisoning tragedy that happened in the town of Mabini, Bohol, wherein 27 schoolchildren died after eating cassava snacks sold by a food vendor in 2005. The vendor had mistaken pesticide for flour (read story here) when he cooked the cassava, and in Smile, the sekihan was also tainted with pesticide.

I also think that the story will not focus much on Bito’s Filipino heritage (he grew up in Japan and not in the Phils.).  From the looks of it, he doesn’t seem to know anything much about being a Filipino and there is no indication that he’s interested at all to learn more about it.  The focus is more on the injustice and maltreatment of his character, and how he will survive this predicament through the help of his loyal friends.  Pinoy fans will not likely get to see and hear him speak Tagalog… or visit the Phils.  Anyway, that’s just my guess. It would be cool if he did though. (^-^)

Here is a theme song from the series’s opening credits.  It’s weird not having Arashi sing the theme song of MatsuJun’s doramas.  But I’m sure you’ll see that Ariamaru Tomi by Shiina Ringo goes perfectly well with the series’ opening credits which you’ll find so cute that you just can’t help but… smile 🙂

♪♪I’m turning Japanese/ I think I’m turning Japanese/ I really think so…♪♪ [[listen here!]]

So goes the 80’s song from The Vapors.  I’ve been watching many Japanese movies and dramas lately that I think it is turning into a major vice (not really anime though; the only anime I’m obsessed with right now is Naruto–so far). It started with Gokusen and Hana Yori Dango, that produced a fascination with Matsumoto Jun. I know I’m getting too old to be acting like a crazed fangirl but that’s what I am and I’m not ashamed of it!  (≧∇≦)キャー♪poster

Hana Yori Dango (DramaVersion) at right: I admit  I watched it over and over again... The Taiwanese and Korean versions don’t hold a candle to the REAL ONE!

The reason I like Japanese and Asian shows is because they’re short.  I was weaned on watching American shows and movies since I was a toddler.  But I have HAD ENOUGH of watching these shows because Hollywood is not offering anything new nowadays.  My friends tried to let me borrow their DVD copies of this and that US TV show but I’m not going to waste my time and energy on such shows anymore.  I just can’t devote and invest my time and emotions on never-ending stories milled out by Western writers; not really sure where the story will lead to and as a result, tend to fizzle out and lose steam.  And the stories seemed to be all the same–mostly shallow and empty with cardboard cutout and uninteresting characters with same problems and issues.  Some shows start out great but the producers should end it before the audience lose interest and move on to something else (e.g. Prison Break, Lost, Ugly Betty etc.).  Ho-hum! And if we DO like a show, those greedy, a-hole producers would cancel the series before they end because it is not generating enough audience (case in point, Jericho).  Tama ba yon? The audience should fight back and say “We’re not going to take it anymore!”

I prefer the mini-series or those TV shows that promise a limited run. They’re short but at least, we are assured of an ending in time, knowing that t44273here is a destination and that we will not wait in vain for the hero to overcome obstacles and come out victorious.  Come on, we all know the hero will win in the end… why prolong it? If you’re going to show a series, end it early, instead of milking a hit show for all its worth.  We’re so tired of it.  American writers and producers should learn something from this, and do a paradigm shift.

In the 70’s and 80’s, there was a mini-series craze like Rich Man Poor Man (at left), Shogun, Scruples, Lace, and of course Roots (TV shows that featured stories based on best-selling novels) that were short yet memorable. Those were great shows… Why not bring back this type of genre?

And one great thing about TV shows with a limited run is that the writers can concentrate on the quality of the story and not how to prolong it, which could destroy (or jump the shark) what could have been a great idea to begin with.  J-doramas (Japanese dramas) have a headstart on this since some are getting stories from well-loved, tried-and tested manga. And with the news recently about the power of manga and anime (“Japan Looks to Manga to Fight Off Recession”), Japan’s PM Taro Aso is certainly doing his homework.

505806409_small♪♪ I’ve got your picture/I’ve got your picture ♪♪ *sighs*: J-Idol MatsuJun (Right) is in the frontline of actors portraying manga characters such as Doumyouji Tsukasa of HYD and Ban Shogo of Bambino!(* ̄3 ̄)

Keep an open mind and try it… I started out as a non-believer but once I got into it– I couldn’t watch anything else (and mind you–I’m not very easy to please)!  And if you do try, stick with the fansubs, then the dubbed ones– there’s much more oomph when listening to the actors’ dialogues and their original voices; plus it’s also a great way to learn a new language. But I do pick the good ones though.  Not all are worth your time and patience.   So with this… I will be sharing soon my favorite J-cinema and Jdorama in future posts!