Thursday, March 26, 2015

Skylanders Light & Dark In Stores + the Lego Shield Helicarrier.

I was in our local Walmart the other day and I saw one of the staff pulling Skylanders out of just opened boxes.  Turns out that Skylanders Trap Team Light and Dark figures are now available.  I also saw a rare Kaos black trap, so they are available if someone hasn't snarfed them up to sell on eBay, God bless their little capitalistic souls...  Now you can unlock those levels that need them.  Play on.

Then the day after that, I was in the mall and walking by the Lego store with my Starbucks when I saw the Shield helicarrier.  That is sure tempting to get, just like the Imperial star destroyer set. 

BTW, if you haven't seen this yet, this short hand drawn animation called Tie Fighter is an amazing piece of work by a fan.  It took the guy four years to finish and it is worth a watch.  Does the Empire win?  Watch to find out!

Friday, March 20, 2015

Home Style Instant Ramen

A great many people like instant ramen.  I like instant ramen, but not the North American varieties in general as I don't like the texture of the noodles or the flavour packets.  I prefer noodles from Hong Kong or Japan.  When I make it at home, I like to throw in some extra ingredients to jazz it up and not just eat noodles a soup.

Here are some of the types I like from Hong Kong from Nissin.  They aren't your typical beef or chicken or oriental flavour.  Lots of soy / pork flavours here.  Like most instant ramen, you boil these for 3 minutes and they are ready.
From top to bottom Black Garlic Oil, Shoyu Tonkotsu, and Tonkotsu flavour Nissin Ramen.
To add some vegetables and other items to the ramen, I keep frozen corn, and packages of frozen vegetables around to add to the ramen.  To cook these properly, add the frozen vegetables (just a small handful of corn, green beans, yellow beans, carrots) to the cold water, put on high heat, and then add the noodles to cook when the water boils.  The vegetables are nicely cooked by the time the noodles are done.  You can then garnish with some meat (like sliced roast beef, turkey breast, ham, etc.) or a soft boiled egg or a fried egg.  In Hong Kong you add like some luncheon meat (SPAM or some other brand like Holiday) and a fried egg to top it off.  You now have a more savory and satisfying meal.  Some examples of at home ramen next.

SPAM, egg, veggie ramen
Ramen with fried egg, veggies, turkey and a piece of cold fried chicken
Just a ramen with a boiled egg, green onion, carrot.
Everyone has stuff they like to add and that is one of the wonderful things about instant ramen.  You can personalize it any way you like.  I'm more of a traditional type so I don't deviate much, but it tastes pretty good.  Later!

BTW, this soft boiled egg recipe works like a charm if you're trying to boil eggs without having the yolks turn chalky.   Put the eggs in their own pot of cold water, make sure the water covers the eggs for at least a 1/2 inch or so.  Boil the water with the eggs in it.  Once the water is at a rolling boil, then take the pot off the heat.  Keep the eggs in the hot water.  Set a timer for 7 or 8 minutes for a nice firm yolk, but not overdone.  Once the timer goes off, dump the hot water and immerse the eggs in cold water to stop the cooking.  All done now.  If the shells don't come off easily this is often because the eggs are fresh.  The shells separate easier on old eggs.

More Ramen and Japanese Pop Culture Posts

Saturday, March 14, 2015

Visiting Tokyo in April

Well, I'm doing the itinerary for a short 7 day trip to Tokyo in early April, 2014.  Hopefully, I'll just catch the tail end of the Sakura viewing season for the first time.  I'm looking forward to see the cherry blossoms and experiencing a cherry blossom rain in a slight breeze!
Shinjuku at night
I'm also going to catch a few sights I haven't seen before and also want to revisit some locations to shoot photos.  One of these days I'll probably do a cheap Kindle ebook of things to do and places to go in Tokyo for the traveller looking for both some cultural highlights, anime culture, and some just fun cool stuff.

Day 1
Arrive Narita in the late afternoon.
  • Drop bags off at the hotel in Shinagawa.
  • Hop on a train down to the Meguro Canal to see the cherry blossoms there.
  • Visit Daikanyama afterwards to see T-Site and the area which I've never seen before.
  • Eat ramen, probably at the Shinagawa Station Ramen Street close to the hotel.
Day 2
Hopefully, the cherry blossoms are still out as they don't last for more than 2 weeks of full prettiness.
  • I'm going to visit some of the gardens around Tokyo and want to make a day of it.
  • Visit Koishikawa Korakuen Gardens and Rikugien for some classic Japanese landscape gardens.  Maybe see the Tokyo Dome as I'm in the area.
  • Tokyo Station exploration for Character Street, Tokyo Station Ramen Street, Kitte Building, Tokyo Station front facade, and the area around it.  Plenty of specialty shops in the station and in the malls there.  Shopping for specialty Kit-Kats in the store there and other goodies.
Day 3 
I'm off to the Skytree first thing in the morning.  Most things don't open early so you can visit the Skytree, Gardens, Temples, or Tsukiji Fish Market, or just walk the streets. Going to the very top. If I'm lucky and the air is clear, you can see Mt. Fuji and have great sky high views of the city.
  • Check out the Solomachi Mall at the Skytree and visit the Chiba Institute of Tech Robot Museum there to see the bots and the lifesize Macross Valkyrie.
  • Walk around it to get some canal photos with the Skytree in it, local streets.
  • Visit Sensoji Temple, Asakusa area or Ueno Park / Yamashiroya toy store.
Day 4
Visit Akihabara. If this is a Sunday, then Chuo Dori should be a pedestrian walk so it should be busy with people.
  • Plenty to visit in Akihabara.  Check out Anime Center, Gamers, Kotobukiya (their own building), Animate, and Good Smile x Animate Cafe for exhibits and shopping.
  • Buy gashapon at the Gashapon store / Yodobashi Camera.
  • Visit Eorzea Cafe (Final Fantasy Theme) above the Honey Toast Cafe
  • Places to visit: Cure Maid Cafe, New Radio Kaikan Building, new Volks store near it on the corner, Sega Arcade (Gundam pods), Gundam Cafe, Akiba Culture Zone, the backstreets, look for canned ramen and oden machines, and check out Maach Ecute Kanda Manseibashi (mall in old train station) south across the river.
  • Kanda Myojin Shrine that is featured in Love Live! and also was in The Amazing Race.

Day 5
Visit Ikebukuro.  This is the second otaku hub now in Tokyo. 
  • Visit the Kit Kat Chocolatory Shop in the Seibu department store.  
  • Visit the Ikebukuro Animate Main store, the Ikebukuro Evangelion Store, Pokemon Mega Center in Sunshine City, and Shonen Jump Theme Parks.
Day 6
Visit Shibuya / Shinjuku / Harajuku / Omotesando.  This is the home of the famous Shibuya Crossing, Hachiko the dog.
  • Visit Kiddyland, Omotesando Hills, Daiso, my favourite Starbucks at Tokyu Plaza, Kyushu Jangara Ramen, Gyoza Bills, and photograph architecture.
  • Look for the Giant Godzilla Head on top of Toho Cinemas
  • Photograph Memory Lane / the streets there.
  • Eat Tonkatsu at Katsukura on the 14th floor of Takashimaya Times Square.
  • Might go south to visit the Ito Yokado Supermarket and Aeon Shopping Center Near Shinagawa.  Do some food shopping.
  • Visit Parco, Spanish Steps in Shibuya.
  • See if this is still there. Banana Vending Machine Shibuya Station, by exit number 3, in front of Book 1st on the first basement floor
Day 7
Visit Tsukiji Fish Market, take lots of pictures, eat fresh sushi. (I believe Tsukiji is closed Sunday and most Wednesdays)
  • The popular restaurants have really long lines and I'll look for the shortest line.  I'm not going for the Tuna auction, but just want to see it and the streets before it closes and moves to the new market.
  • Visit Ginza in the afternoon.  In Ginza I'm hoping to photograph the streets and eat some good food. 
  • Visit Ginza Matsuya / Mitsukoshi, UNIQLO Flagship Store, Ito-ya, Kaukiza Theatre, Komparu-yu Bath House, International Forum, the big Muji Store in Yurakucho, Yakitori Alley in Yurakucho.
  • Eat at Kimuraya Bakery, Ten-ichi for Tempura, Choushiya for the original croquette.
  • Visit Odaiba in the evening.  See the Giant Gundam light up, maybe Gundam Front, visit Aqua City Ramen Street, visit Fuji TV roof, Aqua City Rooftop Shrine, Noitamina shop in Aqua City.  Visit Toyota Megaweb for concept cars.
Day 8
This is a free 1/2 day. 
Depart Tokyo for home. 

Optional Things To Do / Swap with
Mount Takao Visit (one hour by train from central Tokyo)
Edo-Tokyo Open Air Architectural Museum (like 40-45 minutes by train from Central Tokyo)

That's plenty of things to do each day and I'll probably end up cutting back on the list.