Eating Habit & Longevity

Wow, I am amazed by how my body, especially my leg muscles, has adjusted to this new & more rigorous fitness regime! In spite of the last practice being a lot harder than the previous ones, I felt much easier during the session and a lot less achy afterward. A prolonged stick-handling drill was a real killer for me. I could feel lactic acid building up in my arms. Still, the practice will definitely guarantee me to tone the upper arms and lift my butt by this summer. Therefore, I shall swear that I will attend it every week. Besides, seeing all the friendly faces at the ice rink is definitely worth a 45 minutes car drive across London…

Recent London seems to have stepped back into the mini-winter again. The sky has been overcast and swept by chilly wind. And it makes me crave for a bowl of steamy ramen noodle!
While mum & I were in Tokyo in last January, the city was grasped by a very cold weather system. It was exceptionally chilly by Tokyo’s standard and in spite of a hotel staff cranking up our room’s A/C to the maximum, we still felt not enough warmth.
‘Shouldn’t we line our stomach with something hot?’ So we grabbed our coats and paid a visit to a noodle bar in Hacchobori…

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Ta-dah, behold my Kimchi Miso ramen. It was certainly fiery and spicy as the colour of the broth suggested and helped me to feel toasty from the inside. The only minor complaint was the seasoning for being too salty? Since I hardly used any additional flavouring, especially salt, on my food usually when I was in the UK, I found some of the foods in Japan a little too salty for my liking.

The prefecture of Nagano, where my mum lives, is well-known for its residents’ longevity. The average life expectancy for both male and female, are well into their 80s. As a daughter, I am very glad that my mum lives in an environment where it encourages its residents to lead a healthy & long life. However, the majority of her generation, born between the 30s and 40s, went through the post war hardship which has resulted in their frugal attitude as well as discipline towards food and lifestyle…

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My mum’s Kenchinjiru (建長汁) – hearty vegetables soup with salmon roe on top – is one of my favourites. Diced Satoimo (里芋) – taro root, carrot, Daikon radish, Konjac, thinly sliced burdock (牛蒡gobo) & tofu were stirfried with sesami oil first, then shimmered in the pot with water and seasoned with soy sauce, mirin, sake and salt. Mum was extra careful not to season the soup too strongly so it was packed with “umami” from the vegetables alone.

While my 3 weeks holiday in Japan, I had a glimpse of modern Japanese eating habit. Comparing it with that of my mum’s generation’s, the younger Japanese’s diet seemed to be far more westernised and consisted of more commercially processed foods rather than home-cooking.
It is purely my private observation and therefore not a general consensus but the recession in which the Japanese are trapped since the early 90’s has changed the way they behave towards food. The immediacy of pleasure tasty foods provide has shifted the general public’s attention from what they own to what they eat. It’s almost like the drabness of recession fades or forgotten while one’s sensory system locks on a tasty morsel in the mouth – the solace sought in comfort eating. Whatever the reason the Japanese diners queue up for plates of towering pancakes or bowls of noodle large enough for 3 portions or tables for “eat as much as you can” style buffet, the eating habit as the rest of the world perceive to be the Japanese way of healthy lifestyle is changing.
While the materialistic obsession in the 80’s only hurt the individual’s bank balance, the present OTT comfort eating tendency will sure to develop to future general health problem. Already, a part of the Japanese children is reported to have diabetic conditions due to a diet heavy on carb and sugar. Comparing my mum’s generation who grew up with not enough food around, an environment in which the present younger generation exists is saturated with an insanely plentiful amount of tasty food. This reality makes me wonder how long the Japanese can flaunt their top place in a worldwide longevity table. Not only that, I am concerned that they will develop serious health problems in future if the present overindulgence continues.

Today’s lunch at my beloved Shoreditch Grind. A bowl of Feta & Falafel salad…

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The salad contained rocket, crumbly feta cheese, balls of falafel, red & yellow cherry tomatoes and pomegranate. The dressing was sweet with a hint of chilli. It was delicious.

And my flat white…

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Who can leave Shoreditch Grind without tasting their celebrated roast?

I feel much less tired now so try my best to update the blog more often and regularly…

Kaori by Kaori Okumura

Taste Of Nagano

When it came to starting her days, my mum loved nothing more than a thickly sliced bread, toasted, buttered lovingly and jam being spread, corner to corner.
While I would have liked to eat Japanese style breakfast of rice, grilled fish & miso soup any morning, mum was adamant that her breakfast had to be consisted of toast, coffee, a small bowl of salad and a large bowl of yoghurt.
Since she was a kingpin of the house, there was no point in arguing with her.

A jar of jam in the fridge went soon empty because it had to be spread over one extra toast. So I bought a new jar at St.Cousair, Daimon…

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St.Cousair is a winery and farm located in Iizuna, a beautiful field only 30 minutes drive from Zenkō-ji. Their products, wines, jams and bottles of dressing & sauce are available through their outlets all over Japan. And they have one outlet right by the Zenkō-ji entrance.

Upon my visit, I found the shop teeming with shoppers and tourists picking up treats and souvenirs for home…

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I loved their jams because they were free from added sugar. We found their blackberry jam and pear jam especially tasty…

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Opposite St.Cousair, there was a noodle bar specialised in Soba – noodles made from buckwheat flour…

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It is alleged that Soba in the form of noodles – Soba-kiri (そば切り) was originated in Nagano. The oldest written record of the cuisine is from the 16th century. However, the history is believed to stretch back beyond the 15th century, being served to samurai warriors during the Sengoku Jidai – the Warring States period. As noodles became a popular way of consuming this hardy dark-grey grain, soba, it gradually became known as Shinano Soba or Shinshu Soba – “Shinano” & “Shinshu” are old names of Nagano…

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The balance between buckwheat flour and plain wheat flour affects the taste and texture of the noodle greatly. Ni-hachi (二八, two-eight) soba, consists of two parts of wheat flour and eight of buckwheat; Juwari (十割, 100%) soba, the finest (and usually most expensive) variety, consists entirely of buckwheat. With more wheat flour blended, the colour of soba noodle appears paler and the texture becomes smoother. However, 100% buckwheat one is more flavoursome. As a child I did not like Juwari because the string was thicker and felt coarse when it was chewed. But as I grew older, I started to appreciate more distinctive aroma of Juwari soba and in the end, became a huge fan. It’s funny, isn’t it?

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Soba is eaten hot or cold throughout the year. However, the most popular time to slurp it is on New Year’s Eve as Toshikoshi soba (年越し蕎麦), year-crossing noodle. This custom, typically the noodle is eaten as a part of late dinner, is believed to have started around the 17th century. There are a few theories regarding the origin of the custom. The most popular one is that a long strand of soba noodles symbolizes a long life and also buckwheat plant being well-known for its hardiness in a harsh climate, Soba represents strength and resiliency.

If any of you ever have a chance to visit Nagano, how about taking home a box of refined taste of Nagano as a gift? Soba or jam, both of them are wholesome and very good for you!

Kaori by Kaori Okumura

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