Alright, it doesn't look like much, but behold the Best Macaron on Earth. Clearly not made by me (yet! :D), this Pistachio Macaron can be found at Chez Paul at the Aeroport de Nice. It comes straight out of the refrigerated display and must be eaten right away.

The filling appears to be a white chocolate-based ganache, I believe, and has a smooth, cool taste that isn't overpoweringly sweet. The pistachio biscuit is in perfect harmony with the ganache, crispy, but not crunchy, chewy, but not gummy. And although Chez Paul has a decent selection of other flavours, pistachio rules them all.

The perfect macaron.

Myself and two other french people have called this the best macaron they've ever tasted, and that's after heartily perusing the selection at Paris' Laduree. Oh, Chez Paul. You give me something to strive for.

Tonight I had a craving for fondant au chocolat. The ingredients are easy to find, so I made some for a midnight snack!

Trust me, with the double contrasts of the crisp baked outside and melted chocolate inside, the warmth of the dessert and cool, freshly whipped cream.... it was reaaallly good.

Here's the translated recipe from A Touch of Cuisine.

Makes 2 servings

50g bittersweet chocolate
2 squares of the same bar of chocolate
55g butter
40g sugar
30g flour
1 egg

First, preheat the oven to 220°C. In a bain marie, melt the chocolate. Once it's melted, add the butter and remove to cool as soon as it's blended.

Whip the eggs and sugar until fluffy and pale yellow-white, then mix in the flour using a spatula. Finally, fold in the chocolate mixture.

Butter and flour the ramekins and place a square of chocolate at the bottom of each. Tip: if you use a brush to butter the ramekins, then brushing vertically, from bottom to top lip, helps the fondant (or souffle, whatever you're making) rise straight up.

Divide the batter between the two ramekins, about halfway each. Bake for 15 minutes, then wait 15 minutes before turning them over onto a plate. Serve preferably with whipped cream or vanilla ice cream. Enjoy!

Here's an oldie but a goodie. Kenzo's Chocolate Mousse, which he made for my 22nd birthday a few years ago, and many other times after :)

Mousse au Chocolat

- 4 large eggs or 5 medium eggs
- 200g of dark chocolate
- a rounded tablespoon of creme fraiche (optional)


Separate the egg whites from the yolks. Put the yolks aside to use later. In a large bowl, add the egg whites and a pinch of salt. Now, use either a whisk or electric mixer to whip the egg whites until soft white peaks form. With a strong arm and the right technique, it should take about 5 minutes to obtain the required stiffness.

Next, break the chocolate into pieces and put into a bowl with 2 tablespoons of water. Heat in microwave for 30 seconds or until the chocolate is soft. Use a spoon to stir the chocolate until smooth. If you're using creme fraiche, add it here. It will keep the mixture creamy and keep it from hardening. 

Next, stir in the egg yolks. Make sure the chocolate has cooled enough (not too much hotter than room temperature) or else your eggs will cook!

Finally, carefully place your stiffened egg white into the bowl containing the melted chocolate. Do not stir to combine - use sweeping movements, trying to 'envelop' the egg white with the chocolate.

Once the colour looks even, place into the refridgerator for at least 3 hours. Overnight is better!

Bon appetit! 

Here's the full photo recipe from Kenzo's photo gallery.

Today, thinly sliced beef was on sale for ¥298 for a pack of 440g! That's enough to feed both of us dinner and leave us sleepily full. The only problem was, a search for Yakiniku sauce only turned up a couple of results.

This is where learning Japanese comes in handy.

A search for yakiniku no tare (焼肉のたれ) brought us to this Japanese cooking site. More googling and image searching yielded our translation for this Yakiniku Sauce recipe:

  • Soy sauce - 100ml
  • Sugar - 4 tbsp
  • Roasted sesame seeds - 1 tbsp
  • Sesame oil - 1/2 tsp
  • Chile bean paste - 1/2 tsp
  • Minced garlic - 1 clove
  • Minced ginger - 1 piece about the same size as the garlic glove
  • Black pepper - pinch
  • Ishimi Togarishi ~ red pepper flakes- to taste

The instructions? Mix everything together and marinate meat in it. We marinated for about 30 minutes. There's also a note that says it seems like a lot of sugar, but the quantity seems to make the final result quite oishii. We agree.

Note: We made a couple modifications this time because of a lack of ingredients (we omitted the chile bean paste and ishimi togarishi), and our yakiniku still was very tasty. Perhaps we'll try to refine the recipe with more precise measurements in the future.

It's getting hotter in Kyoto - and as much as I'd like to go out for matcha ice cream every day, ¥300 a pop gets pricey. So, we decided to make some homemade sherbet! Placed back into the oranges and topped with a mint leaf, we get the very cute Orange Givrée ("Frosted Orange").

At a lack of an ice cream maker, we went the Grade 4 science experiment route: using the ever-useful Ziploc bag.
  • 2 medium-sized oranges (or 100ml orange juice)
  • 3 tbsp sugar
  • 200ml milk
  • 1 tbsp lemon juice
  • mint leaf (for decoration)
  • 4 tbsp salt (for cooling)
  • ice cubes
  • ziploc bag (preferably heavy duty)

Cut the tops off both oranges and scoop out the flesh and juice into a bowl. Avoid breaking the orange peel, but try to empty the orange as much as possible - the emptier it is, the more sherbet you'll be able to fit, and the neater the result will look. 

Rinse the emptied-out orange shells under cold water, then place in freezer to keep them frosty. Now, strain the orange flesh to obtain about 100ml of juice.

In a freezer (heavy-duty) ziploc bag, add the juice, milk, lemon juice and sugar. Seal firmly and shake to mix. (Eventually we'd like to get a smaller, sealable metal container to replace the ziploc bag, but for now the ziploc bag works fine.)

Now, put the ice and salt in a big container - this can be a big ziploc bag, but we use a 2L tupperware container because it protects our sensitive hands from the cold and insulates better.

Place the bag of sherbet ingredients in the salt/ice container and seal well. Now, shake for 6-8 minutes, until the sherbet has stiffened sufficiently. Remove the sherbet bag and dry off on a towel.

We usually prepare this before our meal, so I stick the ice cream bag in the freezer while we eat. When dessert time comes, I take out the sherbet and oranges and fill them right before eating. I've tried filling the oranges then putting the oranges in the freezer, but this just creates a giant, sticky mess when the oranges roll around.

Ta-da! Here's to making ice cream quickly and cheaply!

Cost for 2: ¥89

2 Oranges @ 3/¥100.........33 yen
50g Sugar @ 500g/¥100......10 yen
200ml Milk @ 1L/¥100.......20 yen
1/3 Lemon @ 2/¥100.........16 yen
65g cup Salt @ 500g/¥100...10 yen

Risotto was one of those dishes that we made only for special occasions back home - mostly because the required type of rice - arborio - was an expensive, specialty rice. Well, it turns out that Japanese rice (aka sushi rice) is a decent substitute for arborio, and we have a 10 kilo sack of the stuff at home. Risotto time!

Here's Kenzo's recipe, modified for ingredients found in Japan.

Makes 2 servings.

1 medium sized onion
2 tbsp olive oil
1 cup of Japanese rice (short grain)
1/2 cup of sake
3 cups of chicken stock
3 tbsp butter
a handful of Parmesan cheese*
Cooked toppings: eg. mushrooms, chicken, small pieces of carrot...

1. Dice the onion into small pieces. In a frying pan, sauté them on medium-low heat in olive oil until limp.

2. Add the rice (do NOT wash the rice first) and stir in the pan in order to coat all the grains with the delicious onion-flavored oil. Continue stirring over low-medium heat until the grains start to look translucent (about 2-3 minutes).

3. Next, pour in the sake (this is for flavoring as well as to pick up any caramelized bits of onion from the pan). Continue stirring until most of it has been absorbed.

4. Now, add about 2/3 cups of chicken stock into the pan, and stir until the stock has been mostly absorbed. Do this until all of the chicken stock has been absorbed. It should take about 20 minutes with 3 more additions of chicken stock.

While the rice is cooking, prepare some toppings to flavour the risotto. For example, we just cut some leftover carrot and eggplant and grilled it on the side. You can also just sauté the vegetables in a pan on a second burner, and even add some strips of chicken to make it meat-a-tarian.

5. When you pour the last (4th cup) of stock in the pan, stir in those toppings as well. When all of the chicken stock has been absorbed (warning: the rice should still be wet, with ~1tsp of liquid still visible), turn off the heat.

6. Fold in the butter and Parmesan cheese - it should have a creamy texture. That's it!

Serve immediately to prevent dryness. Bon appetit!

* Here in Kyoto we can only seem to find Kraft Parmesan :( Real stuff would be better, to add a gooey texture, but the powdery kind adds flavour, at least.

Cost for 2: 290 yen

Rice (385g) @ 3000 yen/1kg ................55 yen
Onion (1) @ 100 yen/10 onion ..............10 yen
Olive oil (30ml) @ 250 yen/350ml ..........20 yen
Sake (100ml) @ 100 yen/200ml ..............50 yen
Chicken stock (600ml) @ 250 yen/6300ml ....25 yen
Butter (1/7 stick) @ 350 yen/stick ........50 yen
Parmesan (1/10) @ 400 yen/can .............40 yen
Carrots (1/3) @ 100 yen/3 sticks ..........15 yen
Eggplant (3/4) @ 128 yen/4 ................25 yen

Last week my research lab had a welcome party for the new members, one of them being me! I was a bit apprehensive at first, being the only non Japanese speaking person at the party, but they were awesome hosts.

They walked me over to a Izakaya just a block away from the university, where multiple labs from the Informatics department were having their welcome parties too. Basically, us techies were taking over the place :)

I ended up chatting with some undergrads and a fellow gal named Suzuki-san, who were all super friendly and happy to chat in English, especially after some Asahi ^_^ We all got a little red, and once everyone was comfortable and loosened up (hee) the newcomers introduced themselves. They did it in English, which was great! I tried to say a few words in Japanese and was happy with the response. 

Afterwards, we parted ways, upon which I learned a new expression: otsukaresamadesu. It's said to colleagues when saying goodbye and means something like "thanks for all the hard work you have done."

I'm really happy to be in such an active and social lab. Tomorrow is my first lunch meeting with the lab at school. Although I'm breaking my head over kanji and grammar for the moment, it'll be good to start getting accustomed to their lab culture. I can even post the robot photos that Colleen and Luke brought me when they visited us yesterday.  Yay cubicle decorations!

Edit: I learned in class yesterday that otsukaresamadesu stems from the same word as tsukareta, which you say when you're tired. So literally I guess the expression means "you have honorably tired yourself out (thanks)"