Oz life, 2 weeks down

Hello good people over the interwebs! I have been in the lovely lovely city of melbourne (sorry for the low case, but this keyboard seriously is making my life difficult) for exactly 2 weeks now. Impatient (and a tad perfectionist) as I am, I’ve had my moments of doubt and darkness; but very brief moments, since the shining new gym, sauna, jacuzzi and steam room in the apartment building I’m currently staying help with dealing with life crisis. So far I have walked across and around and up and down the streets of this beautiful city that has 4 seasons within one day. So far it has been rather pleasant even during the worst days, mind you.

Yarra river view.
Yarra river view.

After Asia times, coming to this Western environment has been such a shock that I have been eating sushi (hand rolls) every single day except for maybe 1 day. They’re everywhere! You can have them with brown rice, sometimes even black…and I can’t get enough. Specially when at the end of the day there’s discounts! I was not supposed to talk about sushi here…besides sushi, there’s a fair amount of other Asian heritage (and food), so one can easily feel homey, if the H&m and Ikea aren’t quite it. Food-wise, I also love the farmer’s markets. It is surprising how much cheaper food there actually is. And you get to have the conversations with the sellers, assuming they’re not too busy. And deals here and there as well, i.e a whole box of peaches for 2 dollars. From experience I can say that it is not easy carrying a box of peaches around town for a day.

You find this kind of stuff all over the place.
You find this kind of stuff all over the place.

I have kept myself pretty occupied with wandering and wondering about the future: I did agree to start writing blog posts for workingholidayjobs.com.au, which might mean more rambling on this turf, but who knows. I also got the opportunity to re-create the smoothie and juice menu for this one super cool and mouth-wateringly delicious semi-hipster restaurant-cum-coffee shop St.Ali, which I am pretty stoked about. Whee!
I do have a day job hopefully scored, but that remains to be seen, and today I finally managed to fix my missing apartment issue. Up until now I have had the luxury of staying at a friend’s well-set apartment in the CBD (Central Business District). I have truly enjoyed the brand new gym facilities and the rest, so we’ll see how I’ll settle to the “normal” life. It is about time I get a “normal” life, right?

I don't run here but I do see why some people do.
I don’t run here but I do see why some people do.

Yess, life. It is happening all the time but so far trying to arrange life has been a bit of a hassle. Like with the sim card that didn’t work after a week of trying, 6 online chats, 2 attempted phone calls from concierge’s phone, 2 promised calls to be made to my friends’ phone that never happened, and 2 days of waiting for a new sim card that never arrived. Amaysim, you did not deserve all that attention, attempt, and aggression I had for you. I hope no one will have to go through the same, when all the apartment ads and bureaucracies are asking for your phone number and you don’t have one.

Attitude.
Attitude.

There’s nothing wrong with hand rolls.

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How I Roll

Sushi, probably the best-known definition of Japan and the Japanese cuisine, is definitely one of my favorite things to eat and make myself. Rather than the conventional white rice rolls and balls topped with all sorts of sea creatures, I prefer to jazz things up a bit. By “a bit” I mean skipping the rice, which technically makes these rolls not sushi, since sushi is based on su-meshi¬†rice. Sushi or not, these rolls are as modifiable as far as your imagination goes, and my results have always been rather pleasing.

Here’s few ideas on What and How to Roll.
If you want your rolls raw, opt for ingredients that require no cooking (duh). If heating is not a problem, then you have more options to choose from. Since there is no need for washing, soaking, boiling and waiting for the rice to cool, the rolls are ready to be devoured quite quickly. Fast food at its’ best, specially if you don’t cut them!

Step 1: “Rice”
First of all, the base of the roll doesn’t need to be rice-like. You can opt for quinoa in stead of rice, or puree or chop some cauliflower into tiny bits to make it resemble rice (add some cashews for extra creaminess). Sprouts, salad or chopped cabbage work as well – the result just won’t be so conventional sushi-like. If you use cabbage, sprinkle it with some salt and squeeze excess liquid out. Mixing some chia seeds in gives more texture, but also helps to bind the moisture. If the base is too moist, it might be hard to roll and the nori might break.

Chopped veggies for filling
Chopped veggies for filling

Step 2. Veggies
Go crazy. Anything works – the more color, the prettier! Avocado gives creaminess, carrots and bell peppers are nice and crunchy, mushrooms are always good…try your favorites, but don’t over-stuff the roll – you’re supposed to be able to actually roll it (or then just eat it like a temaki handroll, but still it shouldn’t be too fat). If you wish, season the fillings with wasabi, pepper or which ever spices you wish.

Few favorite combos:
Sprouts, avocado, fresh mint and mango
Cauliflower “rice”, avocado, cucumber, red bell pepper
Salad, strawberries, cucumber, fresh basil

Cabbage-chia (mushroom powder) base with veggies, ready to be rolled
Cabbage-chia (and mushroom powder) base with veggies, ready to be rolled

Step 3: Ready to Roll
Place a nori sheet on a dry cutting board (or use sushi bamboo rolling mat). Spread your “rice” evenly, leave about 1/3 of the top of the nori without filling. Top the “rice” evenly with veggies, and hope for the best. Moisten the top edge with water, fold the front edge over the fillings. Keep rolling until the end, making a firm tube. Place the seam on the cutting board, and use your best knife to cut even pieces.

Quality nori and knife are essential in cutting the rolls
Quality nori and sharp knife are essential in cutting the rolls!

 

The rolls are best served with tamari/shoyu soy sauce, with gari (pickled ginger). And what’s sushi without misoshiru (soup)? Oh, and edamame (soy beans) would make a perfect appetizer to this. All to be enjoyed with a nice pot of sake and a cup of green tea, of course.

Itadakimasu!
Itadakimasu!

Have you tried making sushi yourself? What is your favorite kind of sushi – conventional, fusion or other?

Gong hey fat choy – Chinese New Year

This year I am lucky to have experienced New Year’s celebrations twice – both of them completely different than anything I’ve experienced before! In Japan I missed the annual fireworks, but today my “loss” was made up in the Hong Kong’s Chinese New Years fireworks spectacle. Yesterday I, along with probably few million others, got to witness the New Year’s parade, and the day before that I was smushed in the crowds in Victoria Park’s market.

Enthusiastic shoppers in Victoria park
Enthusiastic shoppers in Victoria park

The Victoria Park (flower) market resembled the Finnish Vappu (mayday) market quite a lot, except that here you couldn’t really see any of the stalls since there was so many people. The flowers and fruit trees were beautiful, but pretty much everything else on sale was carnival crap. I am glad to have stumbled upon the market on my morning “jog” (which turned to walking and eating in the market area).

The (non-Chinese) carnival spirit
The (non-Chinese) carnival spirit

The Parade in Tsim Sha Tsui was rather popular, to say the least. We were there few hours early, and the streets were already packed. I have to say, that the parade was a slight disappointment, specially after such a long wait. It was interesting, and definitely worth it, but not that “Chinese” since half of the groups were from somewhere else.

Hong Kong Disneyland partying
Hong Kong Disneyland partying

The parade had some interesting costumes and talented performances, so it was nice to see. However, the subway ride afterwards was a “bit” hectic and cramped. It is funny how much I have been in crowds these past few days, although most of the shops and restaurants have been closed and the streets have seemed almost deserted. Almost!

Blasting in the air for 30 mins
Blasting in the air for 30 mins

Today’s fireworks were spectacular, and definitely made up for the ones I missed on our new year. I am not that familiar with the Chinese traditional customs, but I doubt Gagnam style as background music for fireworks has not been that common for celebrations. I wish I knew half as much about the Chinese New Year’s traditions as I know about the Japanese oshougatsu, but this weekend was interesting as it was, everyone was happy and festive and we got an extra day off! Looking forward to the next festival, which seems to be in few weeks!

Busy in China

Oh, Hong Kong. So different from Japan, though there are many things that are similar. I find the same products, sushi, and some of the same kanji, but other than that everything seems very different. So far I have pretty much been working every day, and then in the evenings wander around and fall to my bed. So much to see, but also so much time!

Quiet street in the afternoon
Quiet street in the afternoon

It seems odd to compare Hong Kong with Japan, since they both have their own characteristics. This place seems more international, yet also very traditional Chinese at the same time. So far, I have got my home-fix from Ikea, but also seen pig faces on dirty concrete ground, turtles piled in a cage with frogs, and the various Chinese medicine shops that sell bunch of smelly stuff.

Geese drying up on the street
Geese drying up on the street

Every day is an adventure, and I believe there will be new things to discover after few months. It definitely is an advantage, that I am accustomed to the Asian cultures before coming here, since now I know most (well, at least some) of the weird foods. My goal here is to eat as much fruits and study as much about mushrooms as possible, since it seems like they are pretty big deal here (and of course FSF plays a role in that…today I tasted shiitake, originated from Oita! So, I guess I can’t leave Beppu behind.

This could be Japan!
This could be Japan!

Now that the Chinese New Year’s is upon us, I believe that will give me something to write about. At some point I will also reveal you the Paul Yee Mansion penthouse – and of course some of the things I experience with the shrooms and Four Sigma Foods.

Old Capitals

Last post about Japan for a while; here in Hong Kong I have been caught up with work and all the hustle and bustle of the city. Moving on to a new country, and new era for me! But for now, the old capital Kyoto and even older capital, Nara. My last days of Japan, including the aforeposted setsubun were rather different than any other trips I’ve had.

Geishas do exist, and they are constantly hunted by paparazzi and photographers alike
Geishas do exist, and they are constantly hunted by paparazzi and photographers alike

I lived in Gion area, right in the middle of the historical Geisha spirit (and tourists). I did not visit the Golden or Silver temple, since I was busy with the setsubun parties and other places.

Fushimi Inari, few of the 8000 gates
Fushimi Inari torii, bright red despite the rain
Holy water, kamisama no mizu
Holy water, kamisama no mizu
Temple, the name started with H
Temple, the name started with H

Other than the beautiful religious spots, I enjoyed the other visual treats of the Japanese harmony.

Japanese traquility
Japanese traquility

Nara, the town of Daibutsuen buddha statue and the deer that eat crackers from your hand and may poop on your feet, was not bad, either.

Oh deer!
Oh deer!

The deer were aplenty during daylight, but after that they all oddly vanished.

Enjoying the light festival
Enjoying the light festival
Holy deer water
Holy deer water

From the peace and tranquil to the metropole and smog of Hong Kong – it’s a completely different world in here!