Secrets to Popular Japanese Dorayaki Pancake Perfection

Japanese dorayaki pancakes are my go-to when traveling in Japan. The golden almost-cake pancakes filled with red bean paste are perfect for breakfast on the go. Dorayaki are inexpensive, wrapped beautifully and easily slipped into a purse or backpack.

Usagiya in Tokyo is where you’ll find premium dorayaki. (Their doors have been open from 1940. You know they are doing something very right!)  In Osaka, the Akanemaru dorayaki pancakes are the most famous.

Japanese Dorayaki are basically red bean paste pancake sandwiches. The Japanese pancake is slightly sweeter and lighter than your average American pancake. So how hard is it to make a pancake? It’s a breeze, right? Maybe. I’ve got a new respect for the art of Japanese dorayaki pancake making.

Half a dozen fails preceded a golden crop of Japanese dorayaki pancakes. So you can win from the start, here are a few tips for success:

Healthy Quinoa Japanese Donburi Bowl #SundaySupper

Do specific foods contain magic powers? New Year’s Day in Japan brings feasts of osechi ryori: Layers of lacquered bento boxes filled with foods promise good fortune and longevity.  Inspired by the Japanese New Year feast and Southern Living’s promise that black-eyed beans will bring prosperity, I created a healthy quinoa Japanese donburi bowl. (Donburi in Japanese basically means a bowl of rice topped with “fixings.” Instead of sticky white Japanese rice, I substituted quinoa.) Most everyone at the beginning of the year is determined to realize dreams of healthy bodies and rich bank accounts, right?

To ensure riches are yours I packed the healthy quinoa with Japanese chestnuts. The golden nuts are symbols of gold coins. Black-eyed peas were also added. The beans swell as they cook. Southerners in America swear black-eyed peas are a necessity on New Year’s Day if you want your bank account to expand.

Amazing Tips for WiFi and Easy Japan Travel

Joy buzzed through my body. 15 years of marriage later, I was taking my husband on a dream trip to Japan. Nervous energy kicked in too as I packed suitcases. For the first time I was going to meet Japanese friends I’d spoken to on Skype. (iTalki and Café Talk are inexpensive ways to learn and practice Japanese. Discernment of whom you choose to befriend is a definite plus.)

Upon arrival in Osaka’s Kansai Airport, I was still deliriously happy from traveling in business class. (Thanks to credit card air miles.) Standing in line for customs, I caught up in e-mail via FreeWiFi@KIX. (Tokyo airports have similar free Wi-Fi services. Haneda: HANEDA-FREE-WIFI Narita: Click here. Where you are in the humongous airport determines the address.)

It wasn’t until we were leaving our hotel that I realized no Wi-Fi was available! Japanese friends told me of an app that promises connection to free Wi-Fi hot spots…They never worked for me or my husband (whose livelihood requires a high technology acumen.)

For work my husband arranged for an expensive call plan with AT & T. It soon became apparent that wasn’t sufficient. So we purchased a SIM card for his iPhone. (I should have done the same. Next time I wouldn’t worry about saving a few yen. I’d rather share the joy of being in Japan on social media in real time.)

Ina Garten’s Pound Cake, Chocolate, Matcha, Marriage and Compromise

“Being deeply loved by someone gives you strength, while loving someone deeply gives you courage.”
– Lao Tzu

Ina Garten, The Barefoot Contessa’s latest cookbook is dedicated to her husband. It’s all about the recipes her spouse loves. Oh, dear… Ina Garten’s fantastic recipes have always been inspirational. So have her elegant parties. Yet, as much as I love my husband, when it comes to pound cake, compromise is a must in our marriage. My beloved has warm and fuzzy feelings for his New Jersey diner pound cake desserts drizzled with chocolate sauce. As a product of my Japanese upbringing, my palate prefers matcha.

So, when I made Ina Garten’s pound cake...

Ninja Diary, The Royal Antidote for the Blues

Haply I think on thee, and then my state,
Like to the lark at break of day arising
From sullen earth, sings hyms at heaven’s gate
-Sonnet 29, William Shakespeare

In the midst of blessings, sometimes the blues come a-calling. But then I remember my heroes...

Emperor Meiji of Japan (1852-1912) was the ultimate multitasker. He cast aside criticism. He persevered in propelling Japan in a positive direction. After 200 years of isolation, the Tokugawa shogunate (feudal lord system) was toppled and the island opened its ports. Samurai grieved their loss of jobs and status. The West demanded deals that put Japanese at a poor advantage. Wildfire arguments about the country’s future raged across Japan.

Powerful Peppermint Magic in Japan and in Chocolate Cupcakes

Ancient Japanese knew the secrets of peppermint. (The miracles of chocolate and cupcakes came to Japan a few centuries later.) Alongside their Egyptian counterparts Japanese healers were prescribing peppermint for digestive and respiratory issues. Toothaches and headaches were also cured with the perfect mint. The current interest in the natural medicines has put the restorative qualities of peppermint back in the spotlight. (Aromatherapy is huge in Santa Monica. Is it popular in your neighborhood, too?) By the way, peppermint oil is packed with omega 3 fatty acids, iron, calcium, Vitamins A and C.

Ninja Note: Japanese mint is sharper than North American mint. If using peppermint essential oil for health or baking, a drop or two can be potent. (I speak experience. Trays of goodies away have been tossed thanks to my generous dousing of essential oils.)

Chocolate, another magical elixir, was allegedly introduced to Japan by the Dutch in the late 1700s

Amazing Twists on Traditional Tea, Shuhari Matcha Cafe

Centuries of traditional Japanese tea craft mingle with modern treats at Shuhari Matcha Café. Japanese high-quality tea ceremony matcha is whisked and served. Just like the kind that is served by kimono-clad beauties in Kyoto. However, the café also adds creative twists on classic Japanese and American comfort foods. Coconut milk swirls in steaming matcha lattes, cornflakes garnish green tea sundaes and matcha powder speckles balsamic glazed strawberry bread rolls.

ヴェニス(Venice)のおしゃれなAbbot Kinney Blvd守破離(Shuhari)抹茶カフェは観光客を見ながら日本から毎月輸入された前田園(Maeda-en)の抹茶を 楽しめます。 守破離とは、日本の茶道、武道、芸術における師弟関係のあり方の一つだそうです。そのために日本の伝統的な材料を西洋人の好みに合わせて主に抹茶を使った飲み物、さらに、モダンなおにぎりやバーガーやスイーツを提供しているカフェです。このカフェでは、日本の茶道のお点前を体験することができ、

It's A Wonderful Life: 5 Magic Keys from the Japanese Tea Ceremony...#BetterWithMissJones Matcha Frosted Lavender Cupcakes

Matcha mania is sweeping the US at the moment. Bon Appetit has recipes for everything from matcha donuts to matcha smoothies and spa day masks! Starbucks has “shaken, not stirred” 007 sexy iced green tea and sensuous matcha lattes. It makes me giggle to see this matcha storm brewing in America.

In Japan, matcha mania is also alive and well. (And has been around for as long as I can remember.) Myriads of yummy cakes, ice creams feature matcha. Treats from the USA including Kit Kats and Oreos also do exquisite tangos with matcha.

However, unlike the en vogue matcha fad in the US, in Japan there is a sedate side of matcha. The Japanese tea ceremony is a sacred and ancient ritual. 

Dive into Pleasure, 5 Skinny Secrets from Japan, #Gluten-Free #Glutino

Ahhhh, the holidays! Bright lights, beautiful presents and big temptations entice this foodie. Growing up in Japan (babyhood to UCLA) allowed me to glean a few secrets to staying skinny. Yes, Virginia there is a Santa Claus. You can enjoy your Christmas cake and eat it too! Even if you’ve got gluten sensitivities, I promise you can still enjoy all the delights of the season. If you select Glutino’s cookies, crackers and pretzels. Or bake something scrumptious with Glutino brownie, bread or cake mixes.

Secret 1:  Never say never. Say yes to what you want!

Have you ever seen a Japanese bento? It’s basically a lunch box with petite, pretty items from each food group.

Never say never. Say yes to what you want! 

Good News from The Ninja Baker

Holidays bring families together, gifts around the Christmas tree and sweet carols. Or candle lighting of the Menorah with loved ones. In Japan, Christmas is typically a commercial holiday; so, Christmas cake appears. (Bestsellers tend to have tons of strawberries, whipped cream and cute chocolates.)

Keeping with the good cheer of the season, I want to share some sweet news.