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Archive for June, 2013

Experimental yoghurt

Few weeks ago I learned that yoghurt can be home made, and really simply. One just needs to mix a little bit of yoghurt with milk and put it in a magic French yoghurt machine that looks like…

Yoghurt-Machine

for 12+ hours. I don’t think the machine has to be French either.

A week or so after learning this marvelous fact, my friend who owns such a magical French machine and I experimented with different yoghurt flavors ranging from standard to bizarre:

Experimental-Yoghurt

We ended up making six flavors and the results were mixed but overall good:

Banana: Our baseline flavor, just as expected and just as tasty.

Red Fruit Jam: Any jam works pretty well and this one performed marvelously.

Green-Tea-Powder

Green tea: From Green tea powder with sugar included. The bitterness of the green tea was a bit too strong and off putting.

Lychee

Canned Lychee: Chopped the fruit and included the sweet syrup. Surprisingly the flavor and sweetness got overwhelmed by the sourness of the yoghurt, and the lychee really couldn’t be tasted.

Ginger

Ginger Honey: The ginger was infused in the yoghurt while being processed and removed later. When tasted, the pleasant sweetness of the honey is followed up with the slight spiciness of the ginger which in no way is bad, but somewhat peculiar. I can imagine this recipe being perfected and being served in a fancy modern French restaurant as one of the elements of a dessert platter.

Anko

Anko (Sweet Red Bean Paste): Anyone who has lived in Japan or tried its confectionary probably has experienced anko, the sweat paste made from azuki beans (and lots of sugar). The sweetness of the Anko perfectly balanced out the sourness of the yoghurt in a delicious East meets West combination. Unfortunately the anko I found was the pure paste kind which didn’t leave much for the texture. I can imagine anko with some of the beans still present will make this recipe even better (to be tried next).

Like many experiments, there were failures and there were successes. However, the discovery of the Anko Yoghurt made the entire experience more than worth it. We will also definitely try again in the future, any suggestions for recipes?

Bonus picture, random yoghurt liquor I found in Japan. It tasted… pretty unique.

Yoghurt-Liquor

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The underrated Frankfurt

Frankfurt-Sky-View

Almost nine years ago when I backpacked around Eastern and Central Europe, I ranked all the cities I visited, and Frankfurt ranked at the bottom of 17 cities. At the time I wrote:

“While there is a small square in the center of town with historic architecture, it’s rebuilt post WWII and cheesy, something you expect to be made from plastic and presented in Disney Land. The rest of the city is pretty ugly and non descript reminding me of all the cities I will be driving through in couple days.” (I was driving from Texas to California after the trip)

So when I accepted the offer from Panasonic to work in Frankfurt, it was ironic to say the least.

Now that I’ve been here for over a year and a half, I’m starting to appreciate how fantastic this city is.

This probably comes at a surprise to most people who haven’t lived here. I’ve met many people who have taken business trips to Frankfurt and hated it. Germans in general don’t like Frankfurt either, because, well, it’s not very German. The city was almost completely destroyed during WWII and the subsequent construction rush led to a rather drab concrete cityscape. The skyscraper skyline, really the only one in Germany, is enchanting but unappreciated by Germans who mostly prefer smaller medieval towns and villages or historic cities.

So what makes Frankfurt so fantastic?

To start off, it’s the perfect size. With a city population of 705,000 and a metropolitan population of 5.8 million (includes Darmstadt, Mainz, Offenbach, Wiesbaden, and more), there are enough things happening without it being too massive like Tokyo, London, or Paris where traversing the city can be rather time consuming. The public transportation system in Frankfurt is also one of the best in the world and would be flawless if not for Deutsche Bahn’s inability to stay on schedule.

Frankfurt is also a very international city with nearly 25% of the residents being foreign. Many multinational corporations have their offices in the Frankfurt region (like my company) and as a result, there is a lively expat and restaurant scene. Some of the best African food I’ve had were in Frankfurt, and good Japanese food is only few minutes away on the subway. Unlike most other parts of Germany, English is very well understood in Frankfurt (making me even lazier in learning German) for those who are linguistically challenged.

Frankfurt airport is one of the big four airports in Europe, and unlike Charles de Gaulle in Paris or Heathrow in London, it’s very close to the city. As Frankfurt is located in the center of Europe (the geographic center of the EU is supposed 40km east in a small town called Gelnhausen), most European cities are within four hours flight time and as the 11th busiest airport in the world (3rd within Europe), you can pretty much get a direct flight to most major cities in the world. Furthermore, within four hours, you can take a train to many major European cities such as Paris, Amsterdam, Berlin, Munich, Zurich, Brussels, Hamburg.

Frankfurt itself is not a top-tier tourist destination with the aforementioned architecture and the lack of unique tourist highlights. It definitely pales in comparison to Paris, Berlin, or Rome, but it does have a fantastic museum scene and a really kitschy Apple Wine Tram (borderline tourist trap). However, many of the top German tourist destinations are easily accessible from Frankfurt by car or train. Most of Germany is within four hours of public transport and destinations like Heidelberg, Cologne, W├╝rzburg (the northern tip of the Romantic Road), and the Middle Rhine can be comfortably done on a day trip.

The weather in Frankfurt is no paradise, and the winters can be tough with long nights and some snow though it’s not as extreme as Stockholm, Copenhagen, Helsinki, or Reykjavik. On the flip side, the summers are fantastic with warm temperatures, moderate humidity, sunshine, and long days. The people really know how to enjoy the summers, flocking to the Main river for picnics or throwing festivals almost on a weekly basis. The wine region of Germany is close to Frankfurt and many summertime wine festivals can be easily day tripped.

Lastly, Germans consider Frankfurt to be very expensive, but compared to places like Paris, New York, Munich, or London, rent is affordable and compared to places like Oslo, Helsinki, or Amsterdam, groceries and eating out is cheap. You can have a fantastic meal for two with wine for under thirty euros in Frankfurt.

After reading this, you’re probably not surprised that in 2012, Mercer ranked Frankfurt to be the 7th best city in their quality of living survey. It’s really a great place to live… oh, and they have a fantastic Ultimate Frisbee team, but of course I’m not biased or anything…

(Photo credit)

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Doing the same thing over and over

Origami Wings

Albert Einstein (supposedly) once claimed that insanity is “doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.”

I like to say that one definition of creativity is “doing the same thing over and over again but differently.”

In Japan, when we eat with disposable chopsticks wrapped in paper, we like to create folded chopstick stands so that the chopstick doesn’t touch the table. Most people make the standard upside down boat, but I’ve always challenged myself to create something different every time.

Sometimes it comes out very slick. Other times it just looks hideous. I never documented these. However, last year at work, I often had Hanuta snacks which came in gold and silver wrappings that made for great origami material. Everyday I tried to fold something different and decorated my office with it.

Since then I stopped eating Hanutas (the decorations became a reminder of how much calories I ingested) and took down the origami to make space for new office mates, but before throwing them away, I decided to photograph all of them.

Fun little creativity exercise.

Click to enlarge

Click to enlarge

Photo Scene

Photo Scene

 

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