Japanese Bento Boxes

Japanese bento boxes are packed lunch boxes or takeaway containers that are made out of wood, plastic, or metal. Bento boxes are often filled with cooked rice, meats, fish, pickled and/or cooked vegetables, and egg. They are usually made by parents to give to their children for lunch in school or sold as takeaway foods from restaurants or train stations. These bento boxes are often nicely decorated and look very cute. I’m not exactly sure if I would be able to eat from the bento boxes if they looked this cute!

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Adventures to Nagoya and Kyoto

It’s been about a few weeks since I’ve came back from my trip to Japan and since school is canceled again because of the recent snowstorm, I decided to write about my trip.

Before even going to Japan, I had a layover in Beijing, China for 2 hours. Well that was a trip itself…While I was on my flight to Beijing, they decided to cancel my flight from Beijing to Nagoya due to the lack of people. So you can pretty much understand how worried and confused I was when I arrived to Japan. First off, you are not even allowed to stay in China for more than 3 days without a visa. Second off, I had to explain my situation to customs and the ticketing officers with the basic Chinese
I know which still led to confusion from the language barrier. And third off, trying to figure how and when I would be able to get to Japan while trying to find my suitcase.

All in all, after a few hours everything worked out. I found my suitcase, the airplane carrier I was traveling on was able to book me a (free) ticket and hotel room, and the next day I was able to fly to Nagoya.

*Note: when traveling, expect the unexpected. You’ll never know what will happen. Make sure you have enough money, a way to contact someone from home, and keep track of your belongings at all times.

When I finally made it to Japan and my friend picked me up, I felt like I was in a whole new world. Everything was in Japanese, smaller, and the very best-cuter. You could see mascots and pictures of famous anime characters from e.g. Pokemon or Love Live!

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We were around Nagoya for about a week and then spent about 2 days in Kyoto. Even though I was only there for about a week and a half, we were still able to see and plenty of things.

The first day we went to the aquarium in Nagoya. There I was able to see not only fish but seals, turtles, penguins, whales, dolphins, and some really ugly fish (and I mean ugly).

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Throughout the days in Nagoya, we did a lot of shopping, went to Nagoya castle, Nabana no Sato (a winter wonderland of lights, a science museum, and one of my all time favorites-the Pokemon Center.

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Before New Years, we visited Kyoto for about 2 days. Each day we went to about 3 different sites. This included Kiyomizu temple, Fushimi Inari-taisha, Kinkakuji temple, and Sanjusangendo (Buddhist temple with 1000 statues). On the way to all the places, there were vendors and souvenir shops all over the place. One of my favorite things I saw at most of the shops were the amount of kokeshi dolls. If you’re not sure what kokeshi dolls are then you can read about them in my blog post here:

https://christinathepolyglot.wordpress.com/2013/01/01/kokeshi-dolls/

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Visiting all the places was definitely a lot of fun. Another thing I enjoyed about being in Japan was the food. I was able to try so many different foods and desserts while I was there. And there’s so many I already miss eating. I tried tonkatsu (pork cutlet), okonomiyaki (vegetable pancake with meat and sauce), fried shrimp, loco moco (even though it’s technically Hawaiian), kishimen noodles with miso, different types of soups, real ramen with dumplings and rice, melon bread ice cream, cakes, strawberry cheesecake kit kat, and so much more!

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All in all you can say I had a great trip. I’m so lucky and thankful to have such a good friend (who’s like my twin) to allow me to stay with her and her family and show me around like she did.

Japan is definitely a great place to visit and I highly recommend to go if you ever get the chance!

First Two Weeks

Tomorrow is the two week mark since I’ve been in Germany. Before I came here, I thought the German culture and American culture/lifestyle were at least a little bit similar. Well, I was wrong. The food/meals, school, transportation, etc. are a lot different.My life here is completely different than my life in America.

Food/Meals: The meat and other foods are a lot larger here than I expected. The food is always fresh, and almost always prepared-unlike in America where we seem to just grab something out of the freezer and cook in the microwave. For Fruhstuck (breakfast), I normally eat muesli on schooldays and eggs or bread with meat, cheese, and meat on weekends. During school, I’ll have Pausenbrot (bread or a sandwich eaten during breaks). Then after that is Mittagsessen (lunch), which is the largest meal of the day. Lunch for me is always something different: Maultaschen (my favorite), spaghetti, pizza, cordon bleu with french fries, sausage, doner, etc. And then is Abendsessen (dinner), which is usually just bread or brezel with meat, cheese, butter, etc. German food is delicious, especially the desserts.

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School: The school I am attending is called a Gymnasium. In the Gymnasium that I’m attending, there are Grades 5 through 12 (I believe). My classes change everyday, and each class (or lesson) is 90 minutes long. 3 days a week I have 3 classes (or blocks) and I get to leave at 1 pm. In between each period is a 15 minute break. On Monday, I have 4 blocks and I get to leave at 3:30 pm. After the third block, there is a 30 or 45 minute break for lunch. On Thursday, I have 5 blocks..which means I don’t get to leave school until 5 pm. Leaving at 5 pm isn’t actually all that bad. The class subjects are almost all the same like in America except for Religion. All my classes (except for English and Spanish), are taught in German (of course). The first couple days, I didn’t understand at all. But everyday, I learn more German and understand more and more. Something else that is different is that we are allowed to leave the school during the breaks (well, not leave leave), to enjoy the fresh air or go into town to get food.

Transportation and Punctuality: I go to school everyday by bus, however, not a “school bus.” Every school morning and afternoon, I get on the public bus and it is always packed of school kids-so it seems like a school bus. But on the bus are kids from different schools and can get off wherever they want to. Public buses here are really convenient, you can pretty much go anywhere by bus-but you have to wait sometimes awhile for them to come. The cars here, I was told, are mostly manual and not automatic. And the trains and subways..can’t say anything about them yet because I haven’t been on any so far. As for punctuality, when the bus is scheduled to come at a certain time-it will be there exactly at that time. If you have plans to meet someone, always be there at the schedule time.

Environment: The Germans definitely care about the environment. The streets and sidewalks are always clean, and never littered with trash. They recycle and have individuals recycling bins for paper, glass, plastic, etc. And they conserve water. I really wish we did this in the United States. I never really realized how much we’re wasting until coming here.

So far, I like my new life in Germany. Like I said, it is definitely different. Sometimes it can be a little difficult being in a new culture. So far, I made a lot of mistakes and mispronounced a lot of words. But it’s from these mistakes, that we learn the most.

Below are some pictures of Wertheim, two of the castles in my area, the Main and Tauber rivers, etc.

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Chinese Dumplings

I have less than one week until I depart for Germany, and in exactly one week I will arrive in Germany! To keep my mind off my anxiousness, I decided to write about Chinese dumplings. Why? I absolutely love dumplings, and I especially love Chinese dumplings.

So today I will be writing about the five types of Chinese dumplings (and buns) I mostly came across (and ate) while I was in China: baozi, tangbao, xiaolongbao, jiaozi, hundun (aka wonton).

包子 Baozi is a steam filled bun. Baozi is filled with either meat or vegetable fillings. Two types of baozi are 大包 dabao (big dumplings) and 小包 xiaobao (small dumplings).

baozi

汤包 Tangbao (“soup dumping”) is a large baozi filled with soup and meat (usually). There are two forms of tangbao. The first (traditional) looks like a regular baozi, and is directly bitten into and drunken. The second (modern) is that the soup liquid is drunken by a straw and the skin is eaten afterwards. Tangbao is my favorite Chinese dish. 我要吃汤包!

soup dumpling

小笼包 Xiaolongbao (small basket buns) is a small baozi that is steamed in a small bamboo basket.

xiaolongbao

校子 Jiaozi is a dumpling that is filled with meat and vegetable filling. It is wrapped with a thin piece of dough, and is compressed and compressed with the fingers. There are three types of jiaozi: steamed, boiled, pan fried.

jiaozi

馄炖 Hundun (wonton-Cantonese) is a type of dumpling usually filled with meat. It is usually mixed with spices, salt, and garlic or green onion. Wontons are boiled or deep-fried. In China, each region has its own variation (Beijing, Sichuan, Ningbo, Shanghai, Cantonese..).

wonton

So You’re Going to South Korea: Customs and Culture Shock

Last summer, I went to South Korea for the first time to visit my relatives. This summer, a few of my relatives came to the United States and stayed with us for the past two weeks. Being in South Korea last summer really opened my eyes. The Korean culture and the American culture are quite different from each other. If you’re going to South Korea, there are two things you should be aware of: the Korean customs and culture shock. 

The 3 major Korean customs you should be aware of are bowing, dining etiquette, and gift giving.

Korean bowing is similar to the American handshake. Bowing can be used for different occasions such as greetings, farewells, and showing gratitude. However, in South Korea, it is very important to bow towards people older than you and higher rank than you. This is important because of the respect towards age and seniority. Age and seniority can impact how one may bow to another. The younger or lesser person initiates the bow and bows lower to the older or senior in order to show respect.
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Before entering a Korean home and even some restaurants, everyone is expected to take off their shoes. Walking into a Korean home with shoes on is considered to be of great disrespect.
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Koreans eat with chopsticks and spoons, unlike Americans who eat with forks, spoons, and knives. When using chopsticks while eating, never put your chopsticks in the rice as it is considered rude. Moreover, it is not appropriate to pick up any plates while eating because all plates and bowls are expected to stay on the table. When drinking, Koreans use both hands to pour a drink for someone else. Koreans use both hands to hold the glass when someone else pours your drink. The person of lower seniority or age turns their head away from the elder or senior to show their respect.

Giving gifts in South Korea is considered to be very common. When visiting a Korean household or first business meeting, always bring a small gift such as fruit, good quality chocolates, or toilet paper. Do not buy expensive gifts as Koreans may feel obligated to buy a gift of equal value. Gifts should not be wrapped in green, white, or black paper since this is considered to be unlucky. Contrary, giving a wooden goose is a sign of luck. Do not sign any cards in red ink or give a gift in a set of four in which indicates death. Both hands are used when giving or receiving gifts.

Now, let me talk about culture shock. Going to another culture can be overwhelming. As soon as you enter the country, everything is different. When I walked off the airplane and entered Incheon International Airport last year, the first things that I noticed were that everything was written in Korean, everybody was speaking in Korean, and everybody for the most part looked similar. Towels in South Korea are about the size of a wash cloth/hand towel (I would suggest bringing your own towel from home). It is completely normal for two people of the same sex to hold hands (two friends holding hand, mother-daughter holding hands, etc.). When this happens in the United States, people would automatically think that the people holding hands are homosexual or view it as strange. Another thing is that Korean pizza is very “special.” When we ordered a chicken pizza last year, the pizza was topped of with chicken, corn, some other vegetables, and other weird toppings; The pizza also came with a side of pickles.
DSCN3588Another thing is communal dishes/plates. While eating, there is your main dish-usually soup, rice, and your side dishes. Usually, you don’t get your own plate. You’ll have your own rice bowl, but all the other dishes are shared. All the food is placed in the middle, and everyone eats directly from these dishes.
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For anyone going to South Korea, I hoped this blog post will help you prepare before you go!

La cocina ecuatoriana

For my Spanish final, I decided to a powerpoint on la cocina ecuatoriana or the Ecuadorian cuisine in English. So let me enlighten you with some information on the Ecuadorian cuisine. 

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The Ecuadorian cuisine is very diverse. The typical diet of Ecuadorian natives are rice, Andean potatoes, meat, and seafood with fruits and vegetables. Ecuador is famous for its Andean potatoes, seafood, and many exotic fruits such as chirimoya (white, pulpy fruit is full of black seeds with a green outer skin-can get as big as a small melon-skin and seeds are discarded), granadilla (small, pale orange-pink, egg-shaped fruit containing black seeds and gray pulp-skin is discarded), pitahaya (bumpy yellow fruit-the pulp, which is semi-transparent, grayish and full of tiny black seeds-skin is discarded), and oritos (finger bananas-sweeter and richer in taste).

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Ecuador is divided into 3 regions: the Costa, the Sierra, and the Oriente. Cuisines differ from region to region. The Costa region is the fertile tropical lowland west of Andes. Seafood is popular at the coast since the abundance of fish in the flowing rivers and coastal waters. The typical dishes of the coastal regions makes use of the foods typically grown along the coastal plains such as bananas, coffee beans, cacao, sugarcane, and rice. The Sierra region is the Andean region of high mountains, valleys, and basins. In the hill country and mountain valleys, temperate crops such as cereals, especially corn, vegetables, particularly bean and potatoes; and fruits are grown. The typical foods of the Sierra are mainly based off potatoes, corn, cheese, and avocados. The Oriente region is the jungle lowland east of the Andes, almost uninhibited. The main staples of the Oriente region is the yuca also known as cassava (a starchy root, kind of like a potato or yam) and fruit. (1=Coasta, 2=Sierra, 3=Oriente).

 

Ecuador regions
The main meals of the day are el desayuno (breakfast), el almuerzo (lunch), and la cena (dinner).
Breakfast usually starts anytime from 6:30 a.m. to 9 a.m. Breakfast usually consists of eggs with potatoes or rice, and served with corn tortillas, coffee, toast, and/or fruit.
desayuno
desayuno huevos y tocino
Lunch is the biggest meal of the day. It starts from noon up to 2 p.m. It is traditionally two to three courses. A soup dish is usually served with rice dish, meat, fish, vegetables, or salad. Then, dessert and coffee can be eaten afterward.
almuerzo ecuatoriano
Dinner is a lighter meal. It starts anytime from 6 p.m. to 10 p.m. Dinner can be as simple as bread and coffee/herbal tea. Dinner can also be as large as lunch, it depends on the human being and/or family.
pan para cena
Let’s talk about some of the different kinds sopas (soups):
Locro de papa is a soup made of potatoes, cheese, and avocadoes.
locro
Chupe de pescado is a fish and vegetable soup.
chupe de pescado
Encebollado is a soup that is made of tuna, yuca, onions, tomatoes and sprinkled with lemon juice.
encebollado
Fanesca is a milky broth served with fish, green beans, lima beans, and a chocho bean.
fanesca
Caldo de leche is a cream soup usually with vegetables.
Menestra is a thicker lentil stew usually served with vegetables and either meat or fish.
• And guatitas is a stew made of pieces of cow stomach and served with peanut sauce and potatoes.
Los mariscos, or seafood, is popular at the coast. Some of the most popular seafood are prawns, shrimp, lobster, shellfish, and squid. A popular seafood dish in Ecuador is ceviche. Ceviche is a a seafood dish that is made of raw marinated fish marinated in lemon or lime and seasonings. And it can be made of fish, shrimp, shellfish, squid, or a mixture of all these seafood.
ceviche de camaron
ceviche de concha
ceviche mixto
Two delicacies known in Ecuador are cuy and caldo de pata. Cuy is roasted guinea pig. It is a traditional dish in the Sierra region, which is usually reserved for special occasions since cuy is not cheap. In Ecuador, guinea pigs are bred for the sole purpose of being eaten, and not as pets.
cuy
Caldo de pata is a broth containing chunks of boiled cow hooves. It is believed by hopeful men to increase virility.
caldo de pata
Some other Ecuadorian dishes are empanadas, tamales, seco de pollo, lomo salteado, bollos de pescado, humita, patacones, llapingachos, and chifles.
Empanadas are small, deep-fried pastries stuffed with meat or potatoes
empanadas
Tamales are a mixture of cornmeal, meat, cheese and spices wrapped in banana leaves
tamales
Seco de pollo is stewed chicken and rice with slices of avocado.
seco de pollo
Lomo salteado is a dish made up of pieces of sirloin that have been soaked in vinegar, spices and soy sauce and then stir fried with parsley, tomatoes and red onions. It is usually served over rice or French fries.
lomo salteado
Seco de chivo is braised goat – or more commonly, lamb or mutton.
Bollos de pescado are fish and peanuts wrapped in banana leaves.
• Humita is steamed corn cake that is are prepared with fresh ground corn with onions, eggs and spices and wrapped in corn husk.
Patacones are made of fried plantains, salt, and oil.
Llapingachos are fried potato pancakes stuffed with cheese and onions.
llapingachos
• And chifles are fried plantain or green banana chips.
chifles
Some desserts in Ecuador include bienmesabe, flan, tres leches, come y bebe, espumillas, dulce de higos, dulce de zapallo, dulce de leche, and alfajores.
Bienmesabe is a coconut cream cake.
bienmesabe
Flan is a baked custard, and there a few varieties in Ecuador such as coconut flan with orange caramel, vanilla flan, caramel flan, and pineapple flan.
flan
Tres leches is a sweet, runny sponge cake. Tres leches literally means “three milks cake,” because it is soaked in three types of milk-evaporated milk, condensed milk, and whole milk.
tres leches
Come y bebe is a drinkable fruit salad composed of papaya, pineapple, banana, and orange juice. Come y bebe literally means “eat and drink,” since you can both eat and drink it.
come y bebe
Espumillas is a meringue cream dessert that is usually made of fruit pulps from guava or guayaba, egg whites, and sugar.
espumillas
Dulce de higos is a dessert made with figs simmered in panela syrup or hard brown cane sugar and spices
Dulce de zapallos is a dessert made with squash or pumpkin simmered in panela syrup or hard brown cane sugar and spices
Dulce de leche is a milk candy sauce that tastes similar to caramel. Dulce de leche, however, is prepared by slowly heating condensed milk and sugar.
• And alfajores are shortbread cookies filled with dulce de leche.
alfajores
With the wide variety of exotic fruits it has, Ecuador also has a wide variety of fruit juices such as jugo (juice) de piña (pineapple), mora (blackberry), maracuya (passion fruit), naranja (orange), sandia (watermelon), naranjilla (a jungle fruit), melon, taxo, guanabana, guava, papaya, tomate de árbol (tree tomato), etc.
jugo de naranjilla
jugo de sandia
Other drinks found in Ecuador are agua (water), chicha, leche (milk), té, café, and refrescos (sodas) such as Coca Cola, Pepsi, Sprite, Fanta, etc. Chicha is a traditional libation (drink poured as an offering), which is found throughout the Sierra region. It is made from fermented corn, rice, or yucca. And in some of the rural parts of Ecuador, chicha makers augment the fermentation process by adding human saliva. They would chew the ingredients and spit them back into the pot.
chicha

Toasted Sunny Side Up Egg Sandwich Recipe

Here’s my recipe I use to make a toasted sunny side up egg sandwich-which is quite simple to make!

For 1 Sandwich

Ingredients:

2 slices of bread

1 egg

1 bag of shredded cheese (or 1 cheese slice if you prefer)

Butter (personal preference)

Salt and pepper to taste (personal preference)

1 cooking spray

1 pan

1 spatula

Directions:

There are two ways to toast the bread.

1. Spray the pan with cooking spray

2. You can either put the 2 slices bread in the toaster/toaster oven or spread butter on each side of each of the slices and cook them on the pan.

toasted bread

3. Crack the egg in the pan and put the heat up to medium or low.

uncooked egg

4. When the egg starts to turn white, sprinkle some cheese on top (don’t use the whole bag! unless you want to...)

eggs sunny side up in pan

5. Wait for the cheese to melt a little, then turn off the heat.

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6. Carefully remove the egg with the spatula, and lay the egg on one of the bread slices.

7. Close the sandwich with the other bread slice. Cut the sandwich diagonally with a butter knife (so the yolk spills out), and enjoy!

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