Misc


I first learned of The Lunchbox, an Indian romantic film where tiffins play a big role, through a friend on Facebook, where she posted the trailer and her thoughts on the film. I was intrigued enough to even mention the possibility of our going to the cinema to see it one day to Blai. To my surprise, an invitation to attend a screening of The Lunchbox popped into my inbox a few days later and I didn’t hesitate in accepting it.

Here’s the international trailer for the film.

It’s a lovely and sweet story, modelled around the whole system of dabbawalas in Mumbai, the highly efficient tiffin delivery system. It’s so efficient that it’s said that only 1 delivery mistake is made in 6-8 million deliveries. Well, this plot only happens due to one of these rare mistakes! Anyway, I don’t want to give away anything of the story – go see it yourself! Watching it made me wish that Ram’s was next door for an Indian vegetarian lunch!

The screening was quite fun too – in the funky screening room in the basement of the Soho Hotel.

What a fantastic screening room they have at The Soho Hotel

We were each provided with a dabba (tiffin) of Indian snacks that went perfectly with the film. If you’re curious what was in the dabba, here’s a link to photos of all of the snacks.

Thank you very much, Jake and Curzon, for the invitation!

For my family, it’s all about the eating at Christmas time. This year, I’m in Vancouver with my father and I’m finding it quite a challenge not overdoing the cooking for two! Like last year, I cooked a Chinese meal for Christmas Eve and this year, there was a steamed fish again – and this time, this was a brilliantly fresh giant trout my father found at a local supermarket. I feel like I’m starting a new tradition with the Asian Christmas Eve meal.

Steamed Trout

And for dessert? A big bowl of jelly, tinned fruit and some honey and walnut frozen yoghurt.

And last night's jelly, tinned fruit and honey and walnut frozen yoghurt...

On Christmas day, there was steak! Steak with a mushroom and pepper sauce, roasted Brussels sprouts and sweet potato fries. I do believe I’ve converted my father to sprouts! It’s not a conventional Christmas meal but steak’s great for smaller parties.

Steak, Sprouts and Sweet Spuds

For dessert – homemade sherry trifles. These were supposed to be individual serving sizes until my brother pointed out that they were huge. Oops. Yup, that’s a pint glass. And yes, they were extremely rich and definitely filled us up!

Trifle

What did you have for Christmas?

Wherever you are this year (I’m in Vancouver!), I wish you and your loved ones a very merry Christmas! Happy eating!

Last year, my friend Roxanne and I managed to visit four Nordic Christmas markets in one day and only missed out on the Danish Christmas fair. This year, we vowed to visit the Danish one to finally tick that off our list! On the same weekend as all the other Scandinavian markets (it happens on only one weekend each year – keep an eye out for next year’s!), we made our way to the Danish YWCA near Finchley Road. It’s a beautiful grand building and yes, that day there were a lot of Danes about. This Christmas Bazaar cost £2 per person for entry.

Danish YWCA

There were not one, not two, but three eating ‘zones’ interspersed between the craft and grocery rooms and raffle tables. The first was outside with the wreaths and evergreen branches for sale. There was a Tulip hot dog stand!

A Tulip Hot Dog Stand

I loved all the hot dogs I ate in Copenhagen oh so many years ago and here was my chance to get one with the full Danish works again: ketchup, mustard, remoulade, diced raw onions, crispy fried onions, sliced pickles. And I even went for the bright red sausage (the rød pølse)!

Hot Dog!

Inside, we found rooms of traditional Danish Christmas crafts and even a groceries room full of Christmas goodies. The crafts were indeed very beautiful and I yearned for a reindeer head to decorate my living room.

Inside

Crafts

The Head of Rudolf

I didn’t buy anything major this year but I did leave with a few packs of Danish Christmas biscuits – mmm, such buttery buttery biscuits.

Outside in the back garden, a marquee had been set up as a sort of cafe serving drinks, meatballs and aebleskiver, the Danish spherical pancakes. Aebleskiver are delicious! They’re have a much more tender crumb than I imagined and they’re just perfect with jam and powdered sugar.

Æbleskiver

Everyone seemed to be drinking either gløgg or these yellow cans of chocolate milk. I had to try one of the latter and it is very moreish!

Chocolate Milk

Back inside the building, we finally made our way to the last room for eats – the YWCA’s canteen turned into a cute and cosy cafe where one could have various savouries, sandwiches and pastries.

I had to try the liver pate smørrebrød after one woman waxed poetic about hot liver pate. This was some good pate and I bet it would have been even better if it had been served hot.

Liver Pate Smørrebrød

Chicken and mushroom puffs were very generously filled and served hot.

Chicken and Mushroom Puffs

We finished with a slice of Christmas kringle – a puff pastry with plenty of dried fruit and spices of the festive season.

Christmas Kringle

We were stuffed by the time we left. Highly recommended! Keep your eyes peeled for when the 2014 weekend is – this year, I also reported the dates on Twitter.

After work finished, we had most of a day free in Nagoya; that night, we were going to take the shinkansen to Tokyo to spend our last few days in Japan there. Our original plan was to try an onsen in the morning, followed by a visit to Nagoya castle and then back to the hotel to pick up our luggage and head for Nagoya station to catch the train. That plan didn’t really materialise, especially when we realised what an amazing, awesome, fantastic, magical, relaxing place the onsen was.

Only I’ve just discovered that there’s a major difference between onsens and sentōs. Onsens refer to public hot spring baths in Japan whilse sentōs are public bath houses that don’t use waters from natural thermal sources. Both have the same strict set of rules for their use. Ours, the Yu-no Shiro Ōsone onsen, is called an onsen but is in the style of a supersentō, a large scale bathing facility with multiple pools and facilities.

This was the onsen we visited near Ozone station in Nagoya. We entered and removed our shoes where we store them in provided lockers. We then traipsed upstairs along tatami lined stairs and floors to the main reception where we had to wait for an English speaking receptionist to help us work the Japanese-only vending machines. We all bought tickets for entry and tickets to rent towels and a pajama-like outfit to wander around the public areas – the total was about 1000 yen for each of us.

The Supersento

Our small group then split up (male/female) and were guided to the changing rooms and shown how to use the lockers and where the showers were. There were plenty of signs with rules all around. One must wash before entering any of the baths. No one with tattoos allowed. Children must be accompanied by adults. One must be fully naked in the baths (this was a confidence booster)!

Of course, I have no photos of the actual baths themselves! There are lots of photos on their website though (my favourite had to be the carbonated bath, with all the little bubbles accumulating on your body!).

After a couple of hours trying each and every bath and sauna (there was a huge TV in the sauna!), we regrouped for lunch in our pajama-like outfits at the self-service restaurant downstairs. It was then that we decided that we’d much rather laze around all day in this magnificent place than go visit a castle. Ahem.

Anyway, here was the self-service restaurant, one of the extra facilities at the onsen.

Self-Service Restaurant

Meals had to be purchased via vending machine. You’d select your meal (we ordered by matching up the words and prices in the picture menu and on the vending machine), pay your money and get a ticket that you’d then pass to a lady in the kitchen. She’d prepare your meal, shout out your number and you’d go and collect it.

Buy your tickets here for your meal

I wanted just about everything on the menu – there was sushi, sashimi, noodles, stuff on rice, etc, etc. I eventually chose the miso katsu lunch set (only 650 yen!) which included the miso katsu, a massive salad (and a whole range of amazing Japanese salad dressings to try), rice and a bowl of hot udon noodle soup. Oh, and pickles. Gotta have the pickles.

Miso Katsu Set

This was another Nagoya specialty, the deep fried cutlet covered with a very thick and very rich red miso sauce. It’s very strong in flavour and I loved it!

Miso Katsu

I wish you could have seen the tea dispensing machines! All the free hot or cold toasted or green tea you could drink!

We were looking for dessert after our meal and the lure of this ice cream vending machine was just too much for us.

Ice Cream Vending Machine

Squeezy cider sorbet!

Squeezy Sorbet!

Apart from the restaurants and vending machines, there were multiple rest and sleep areas and this was one of the rest areas – each sleep bed had its own personal TV screen!

Rest Area

While the boys chose to snooze off their lunch, I headed back up to the baths for another hour.

Just before leaving the onsen though, I managed to get a massage in one of the ridiculuosly high-tech massage chairs (just visible at the bottom of the restaurant photo). Sure I could have scheduled a proper massage (that facility was also available) but this 10 minute massage only cost me 200 yen. And with that massage, I also had a coffee milk from this Meiji milk vending machine.

Milks Vending Machine

Awww yeah, that’s some tasty coffee milk.

Delicious Coffee Milk

What a fantastic and relaxing day that was. We still talk about it and dream about opening up a bathhouse in London! We were the only non-Japanese people there that day and they clearly don’t get many tourists but don’t let that put you off! They’re very welcoming and it really is one of the best things to do in Japan.

Yu-no Shiro Ōsone onsen
Ozone-Cho, Higashi-ku
Nagoya 28-7 Higashiozone
(within the Ozone Castle Town)

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