Little thrills, little trips, little ideas


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Hubby Bento #29 – On the move lunch and its not sandwich

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Last week was very hectic for my husband, back to back site meetings without time to sit down for a meal. He’s an architect, running to several sites within a day. Some evenings, he would come back without having eaten lunch. I believe many of us experienced that many a times in our work life. Therefore, I insisted he take his lunchbox along and eat in the car if necessary. He was glad he did. I prepared 2 types of onigiris and left-over fried chicken for him. First onigiri is saba soboro rice ball, I used the recipe from Japan’s famous chef, Harumi Kurihara. She made saba soboro (鯖そぼろ) served on top of a bowl of rice. It was very easy to make and I adapted it into a rice ball. The second onigiri is chestnut rice ball. Since chestnuts are in season now in autumn, I was able to get raw Japanese chestnuts from the supermarket, toasted them and mixed with rice. Two very easy, yet tasty recipes. Below is the recipe for making 1 Saba soboro onigiri

Ingredients
1 fillet from 1/2 mackerel
1/4 onion (minced)
2 shiitake mushrooms (can use dried ones too, just soak for 30 minutes until soft and squeeze excess water out from the mushroom lightly)
1 cm ginger minced
1 tbsp vegetable oil
1/2 tbsp sake
1/2 tbsp sugar
1 tbsp mirin
2 tbsp soy sauce
pepper

Use a tablespoon to scoop or scrap the mackerel flesh from the skin from head to tail avoiding the centre portion where the bones are. Remove the mushroom stems and roughly mince them. Heat the oil in a frying pan over medium fire, add in the ginger and the mackerel. Stir fry the mackerel until the flesh turns flaky, add the shiitake mushrooms and onions. Add the sake, sugar, soy sauce and mirin. Keep stirring until there is a little liquid left in the pan. Cook some rice and cool it down before mixing with the saba soboro. Do not mix in too much liquid from the soboro sauce or the rice ball will be wet and soggy to form. Wrap the mixed rice with a piece of cellophane wrap and start shaping it without getting your hands dirty. Since the soboro has salt in it, I did not add salt into the rice, however I added a little when mixing it with the chestnuts. It was a nice sweet nutty contrast to the savoury saba soboro onigiri.

 


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Hubby Bento #28 – Stewed Squid and Ume Pork Belly Wrapped Asparagus

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EASY EASY EASY! Bento

This stewed squid is one of the easiest recipe I have tried and its sweet savoury flavour goes well with white rice. It is also often called tender squid stew. Here’s the recipe:

Stewed Squid
1 whole squid cleaned and cut into rings
2 tablespoons each of mirin, sake, sugar and shoyu
2 thin slices of ginger
some whole green peppercorns (optional)
Grated kabosu or lemon zest

Throw all the ingredients except the zest into a small heavy pot. I added some leftover soup stock and bring it to a boil. Then lower the heat to let it slow simmer for 20 minutes. After its cooked, mix in some grated kabosu/ lemon zest before serving

Ume Pork Belly Wrapped Asparagus
Thin slices of Pork Belly
Asparagus
Ume plum paste

This recipe is really easy too. Just spread a little of ume paste on one side of the pork belly. Place 1 asparagus on 1 pork belly slice  and roll them up. Sprinke a little of salt & pepper on the outer side of the rolled pork bellies before sautéing them until the asparagus is cooked and the meat is lightly browned. Be careful ume paste is salty, so moderate the amount of salt used.

Steamed Kabocha カボチャ
Its easy to carve any pattern on the skin once its steamed.

Have a great day ahead! “^x6”


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Baby Sloth Bento

www.ongling.comI am embarrassed to confess that the animal that I thought was a slow loris for a long time is actually a sloth  ^‡^” …. So I have been giving wrong information to my little one all along. They are all equally adorable animals, slow loris, sloth, baby tarsier….big eyes.

Glad I found out the fact before I post this bento photo up, if not, it will be unimaginable embarrassment in public…haha…≥†≤”

In this bento, I made the baby sloth out of shoyu-flavoured rice, face and facial features made out of hanpen and nori cutoffs.
Other bento items  include

Pork belly wrapped Asparagus sautéed with a pinch of salt
Negi Chikura with crabstick filling
Sausage and Tomago flower
Apple chunks and edamame

Well, you can never be too old to learn from mistakes and gain new knowledge!


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Hubby Bento #27

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Over the weekend, I bought some freshly made squid mentaiko chinmi during a Kyushu fair in the Japanese supermarket, Isetan. it hosts Japanese food fairs regularly showcasing specialties from different preferture. Isetan is a very well known departmental store brand in Japan and in many parts of the Asia alongside its established counterparts like Takashiyama, Mitsukoshi, OIOI, Tokyu store,  Hankyu, Seibu,etc. I am a big fan of Isetan supermarket! “>x<”

Wikipedia
Chinmi (珍味
) is a Japanese term meaning literally “rare taste”, but more appropriately “delicacy“. They are local cuisines that have fallen out of popularity or those cuisines that are peculiar to a certain area. Many involved pickled seafood. The three best known chinmi of Japan are salt-pickled sea urchin roe (uni), salt-pickled mullet roe (karasumi) and pickled sea cucumber innards. (konowata)

In this bento, there were rice balls mixed with steamed sweet potato (satsuma imo) and minced shiso leaf & myoga, tomago-yaki and shishito peppers wrapped in pork belly grilled with seasalt (shio-yaki)

All the foods prepared were placed in this beautiful megawappa bento box from Yoshinobu Shibata Shoten, Japan.  There is a little writeup about the cedar wood artisan on my previous post Hubby Bento #25 . Do check it out. 😉


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Red Hair Girl Bento

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Red Hair Girl

Today I made a little girl out of mashed potato and instant noodle, Tz’s two favourite foods. For the sides, I have steamed siew mai (meat dumplings), broccoli and a chicken ham flower. Tz asked me who she is and I made up a silly story that this girl is a grown up Ponyo. He believed me….^x^….and told me he would take good care of her. I told him to eat it……..Ò⌈Ó

Red Hair Girl
Face – mashed potato
Eyes & nose – hanpen (surimi) & nori
Mouth – crabstick, hanpen & nori
Hair – instant noodle with tomato ketchup & a little olive oil

Have a great day! 😉


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Sushi Yoshitake 鮨よしたけ (Ginza, Tokyo)

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I was very fortunate to have celebrated my birthday this year at the 3 Michelin stars restaurant, Sushi Yoshitake in Tokyo. This is my first time in four years that I was away from my family and enjoying my birthday trip with my BFF. Therefore, its a short break of total self-indulgence!  I have done my research thoroughly as to which restaurant to dine in on my big day and I must say Sushi Yoshitake surpassed my expectations. My girlfriend and I are still raving about the mind blowing experience. Sushi Yoshitake was highly recommended by my friend who has experienced many Michelin star and non Michelin star restaurants in Tokyo. I am not a big believer of Michelin-star restaurants as I had some not so impressive meals in some of them. However, Sushi Yoshitake ranked pretty high in Japanese local restaurants rating website, Tabelog (http://tabelog.com/en/tokyo/A1301/A130103/13024076/). The other sushi restaurant which I was able to patronise was Hashiguchi, worthy of Michelin star but the owner chef refused.

The main reason I settled on Sushi Yoshitake is because of one dish only, the awabi(abalone) liver paste. More about it later.
The omakase restaurant has only 7 counter seats and a table for 4. Its located in the bustling Ginza nightlife area packed with bars and restaurants in narrow buildings. Our reservation was at 8.20pm, so we thought we could arrive earlier to have a pre-dinner drink while waiting. We were shocked when we were greeted by an old industrial-like metal door locked, next to a narrow dark staircase with many empty grocery carton boxes stacked up on top on one another. It was not an inviting sight. We were obviously confused and wondered if we got the right address (its located on the 3rd floor of すずりゅうビル Suzuryu building). After a phonecall to the restaurant, we realised that the restaurant is only open at 8.20pm. So, we had to unglamorously sit by a small alley walkway on the ground flour in our dinner dresses and 3-inch heels, inhaling foul smells from the street drains. Ha ha… it was quite an hilarious experience, we kept laughing about it.

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Well, the distasteful metal door finally opened to a quaint and cosy lobby before we entered into the main dinning area. Its common in Japan, especially in small restaurants, to be welcomed by the maître d’ who is coincidently the wife of the owner chef. We were presented with an English written welcome note explaining how we should enjoy our meal in proper Japanese way.  This does not mean they are any less Japanese, it shows that they are doing their best to spread traditional Japanese culture to the world, especially when the Japan is hosting the 2020 Olympics. Moreover, the chef and the assistants cannot speak much English.

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Chef Masahiro Yoshitake

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All 3 chefs working in harmony just on 1 dish

Chef Yoshitake is quite an easy-going tall gentleman, speaks a little English and entertains his guests pretty well. Obviously, I tried to use sign language with my elementary Japanese to ask him questions. I hope I did not get on his nerves as I was super curious.

I had specially brought along my camera with macro lens just to take photos of the dishes, unfortunately, only phone camera was allowed. So I apologise if the quality of the food pictures have been compromised.

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Amuse-bouche Ikura (Hokkaido), Grated radish & Okra

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Tai Madai 目鯛 Seabream lightly grilled

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Preparing the tender octopus

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Tender Octopus 鮹 の柔らか煮  – simmered in rich sweet savoury broth

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Awabi (Abalone) liver paste 肝のソース- Mother of all foie gras

This is the “piece de resistance” item in the restaurant. This is the reason why I was here. The rich beautifully seasoned awabi (abalone) liver paste 肝のソース makes french fois gras pales in comparison. My friend and I both mourned at the same time when we first savoured it and both agreed we have been elevated to “Heaven”! Seriously, after tasting this, our favourite uni (sea urchin) moved down in rankings on our must-eat list. So so yummy! The abalone liver paste was to be enjoyed in 2 ways. First, as a dip for  steamed awabi 蒸し鮑 (abalone) meat and second, mix well with rice. Chef Yoshitake had to stop me from slurping up most of the paste before there is no paste left for the rice. I was eating it like a pudding. >x<
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Seared Bonito (katsuo 鰹 or かつお)

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Mozuku konbu, sea urchin, grated yam, chia seeds

I love Chef Yoshitake’s creative ways of mixing the ingredients. This dish was very good too, packed with different textures and flavours.

After tasted simmered or cooked dishes, we were served 11 types of sushi with Chef Yoshitake’s amazing “shari” sushi rice.

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Shari sushi rice with red vinegar

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Ika sushi

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Barbecuing the ika legs, the lovely charcoal grilled squid aroma filled the room

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Grilled Ika Legs

chutoro

chutoro 中とろ (medium fatty tuna)

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Kohada コハダ (Gizzard shad), Baby Gizzard Shad is called Shinko

Sanma サンマ / 秋刀魚 (Mackerel pike with liver paste)

Sanma サンマ / 秋刀魚 (Mackerel pike with liver paste)

Hokkaido Hotate 帆立 (huge scallop)

Hokkaido Hotate 帆立 (huge scallop)

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Chef surprise for my birthday – Uni 海栗 Tower sushi (sea urchin)

Chef Yoshitake prepared an extra tall uni sushi for my birthday, I felt so privileged and I could not contain my excitement! He said this was his first time making such a tall uni sushi with 2 types uni 海栗 (Hokkaido and Miyagi Prefecture). The rest of the patrons were eyeing at it with jealousy that one of them ordered 2 uni towers for himself!
uni

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Kuruma Ebi 車海老 Tiger Prawn Sushi

While the assistant chef was cutting and peeling the Kuruma ebi, I was eyeing intently at the prawn heads. I casually asked the chef what happened to all the ingredients not served on the table like the prawn heads and shells, abalone skirts, etc. He said they would all go to his italian restaurant’s kitchen, Osteria da K.[Káppa] www.dakappa.co.jp. Thats what so wonderful about Japanese cuisine, nothing goes to waste! So I requested for the prawn heads to be served to me instead and he surprised me with them being deep-fried! So tasty!

Deepfried Kurama Ebi Prawn Heads

Deepfried Kuruma Ebi Prawn Heads

Other dishes that were served in this meal (sorry, forgot to take photos for some) were otoro 大トロ (fatty tuna sushi), Anago 穴子 sushi (Sea eel), Temaki Tuna hand roll, sweet tamago egg custard 玉子焼き and Miso Shiru (Light miso soup infused with myōga 茗荷)

I am so thankful for this meal. I hope to come back again even sooner to savour the omakase again may be in the next season.

Sushi Yoshitake
3F, Suzuryu Building,
8-7-19 Ginza Chuo-ku Tokyo,
tel. 03-6253-7331)
To make reservations, get your hotel concierge to reserve for you. They only accept reservations one month ahead.


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Hubby Bento #24 – Oboro Konbu Rice Balls

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I was able to buy a few Japanese ingredients during my Tokyo trip, mostly dried stuff like this super white oboro konbu おぼろ昆布 (from Hokkaido) which I used in this bento to wrap rice balls. It has very delicate texture like extra fine tissue fabric and seasoned with a lovely light vinegar flavour. In Kanazawa, I have seen sashimi wrapped in this konbu too. Since this konbu is made up of thinly shredded konbu, its not very easy to handle by hand, it takes a little practice.

For this bento, I have prepared shiitake mushroom rice mixed with abalone pieces for the rice balls. The side dishes are sautéed white mushroom with urap urap dressing (Indonesia javanese dressing), crispy chicken thighs with Japanese mixed spice and rbi (prawn)  tomago-yaki.

Shiitake Mushroom Rice Balls with Oboro Konbu
Ingredients : 3/4 cup rice, 4-5 pieces of dried shiitake mushroom soaked overnight or soaked until soft (do not discard the soaked water), a small handful of Japanese dried anchovies (Niboshi にぼし), 1 teaspoon of small azuki red beans, 1-2 tablespoons shoyu, oboro konbu, thinly chopped abalone meat (you can use clam meat too)

Rinse the rice well before cooking. In the rice cooker, throw in all of the ingredients including the soaked mushroom liquid. Top up the water level with just water if necessary. Its the normal water level for cooking rice. Once cooked, discard the anchovies and set aside the shiitake mushrooms before making the rice balls. You can either slice the mushroom into thin pieces or leave it out and use as a side dish like I did. (I simmered the mushrooms in shoyu, mirin, sake and a little water for about 8-10 minutes.)

Cool down the cooked rice, mix in the abalone meat before shaping them with cellophane wrap and your hands. Gently take out 2 long or 3 short pieces of the oboro konbu and wrap them around the rice balls. I have tied shredded pandan leaf string around the rice balls for my husband to easily pick them up with hands.

Sauteed white mushroom with urap urap dressing
Ingredients : 5-6 White mushrooms, a pinch of salt, 1-2 tablespoons sake
Cut the white mushroom into thin slices. Saute them in a little oil, salt and sake until all the liquids are being absorbed back into the mushrooms. Toss them with urap urap dressing. You can see the dressing recipe at my previous post Hubby Bento #22

Crispy Chicken Thigh with Japanese Spice Mix
Marinate Ingredients: 1 piece of chicken thigh cut into nugget sizes, 1 teaspoon grated ginger, 1 1/2 tablespoon shoyu, 1 teaspoon mirin and 1 tablespoon sake.
Other ingredients : 1/3 cup rice flour, Japanese spice mix Shichimi (七味唐辛子, seven-flavor chili pepper) or Chinese 5 spice mix
Marinate the chicken overnight.
Mix the rice flour sprinkle with some salt and the spice mix. Adjust the amount of spice mix according to your liking. Put the flour mix and the chicken pieces into a zip lock bag. Toss it to evenly coat the meat pieces.
Pan fry them in a pan with a little oil until both sides are golden brown and crispy.

Ebi Tomago-yaki
Ingredients: 1 egg, 1 1/2 tablespoon chicken stock, a sprinkle of salt and sugar, a prawn chopped into small pieces.
Mix all the ingredients well and spread thinly in a frying pan and cook over low heat.  Before the egg starts to set, gently roll it up using either a pair of chopsticks or and a spatula. Let the rolled-up tomago-yaki cook for a little longer to ensure its fully cooked inside.


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Hubby Bento #21 – Couleurs des fleurs d’été

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Pardon my French (for any grammar mistake if any, a little rusty…>ω<) for the title of this bento.

I did not have time to do grocery early this week, however managed to make my husband lunch box with left-over ingredients in the fridge, which include a small portion of cabbage (unused from a steamboat dinner we had few days ago), a small capsicum (sitting in the corner of my vegetable compartment for a week already), a frozen lamb steak, half cut frozen squid and 1 fish cake (both left overs from the steamboat too). This is the advantage of making bento for 1 or 2 persons as the portions used are small so its a good way to clear out the remaining food in the fridge.

In this box, I prepared:

Cabbage carrot kinpira
Recipe is similar to lotus root kinpira, just replace the lotus root with chopped cabbage.

Fried Capsicum with lentil quinoa stuffing
I made multiple cuts into one end of the capsicum’s skin about 3/4 way so it will open like the petals of a flower with the other end still intact. The lentil quinoa stuffing recipe is similar to the lentil quinoa patties I made previously. I filled up the capsicum with the stuffing and fried the capsicum in vegetable oil over medium fire until the stuffing turned light golden brown, probably about 4-5 minutes. Pretty quick.

Grilled Lamb steak with rosemary
I simply seasoned the lamb steak (about 150 grams, thick and round) with some salt and pepper, put a few springs of rosemary and 2 crushed garlic on a hot pan with little oil and placed the lamb on top of the herbs. Cooked each side for about 4 minutes on medium high heat. Its medium-done, light pink on the inside.

Squid, sujiko salmon roe & mashed potato mayonnaise salad
This is pretty easy. I made some semi-mashed potato salad with mayonnaise, mirin and sour cream. Mixed in some steamed chopped squid, 1/2 teaspoon of salmon roe for salty crunchy texture and carrot pieces from the kinpira.

Mixed Onigiri rice with mashed purple sweet potato

Tomago-yaki and fish cake skewer

I tried to make the colours of the food “POP”  to compensate for the “old” ingredients used. Anyway, my husband did not notice a single difference since he never check what foods in the fridge except for his fruits and candies.

I apologise if my recipes here are a little scrappy as I am really trying to keep myself awake now writing this post, its past midnight here. Too sleepy….zzzzzzz.

Nevertheless, I hope you enjoy this post. Good night from my side of the world…..


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Kame Sushi (Yamashiro onsen, Kaga)

I have been trying to find time to write reviews on some of the restaurants I have visited when I travel but kept pushing it back to the last of the to-do list on the blog.(ashamed…) I am going to try to clear some of the backlog a step at a time. I hope the readers will enjoy or benefit from these short reviews. I will try to improve on them overtime as I am new to restaurant reviews. I only know how to eat and enjoy for now….=∩∨∩=

During April 2015, a few months back, my family travelled to Kanazawa Japan to enjoy the Spring Cherry Blossom season. We drove down to Kaga, a city located in southwestern Ishikawa PrefectureJapan. Therefore, there is bountiful seafood from the Sea of Japan. Kaga is also a well-know onsen region too. I managed to soak in the local onsen culture at the main sentō in Yamanaka Onsen (a beautiful riverside onsen village) and then drove to Yamahshiro Onsen (about 20 minutes away) to enjoy great sushi at this quaint little restaurant, Kame-Sushi.

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Its a corner eatery perched on the downward gentle slope of a side street. The only way we could spot the restaurant at night is the bright glowing light box in front of the restaurant. There is parking diagonally opposite. Its a kappa-style sushi place but there are 3 or 4 tatami style table sitting for bigger groups. The owner chef (taisho) is quite a young tall gentleman, always smiling. Its a good thing he speaks a little English. We sat at the counter and ordered omakase sets since we have no idea what’s in season and good. As expected, the seafood we tasted here is really fresh and sweet, better than one we visited in Kanazwa (recommended by our hotel, quite expensive too). At Kame-sushi, we paid much less, enjoying the omakase with extra orders and a big bottle of local sake. The biggest highlight of the meal is the deep sea prawns, Gasu ebi (humpback prawns). They are the sweetest and juiciest prawns I have tasted so far. They are quite big too. They were the special of the day besides the Nodoguro. I wanted extra serve but 1 hour later, all the prawns were gone x∩x . Below are some of the delicious sushi served to us by the chef. Forgive me if I did not list all the names of the sushi we ate, can’t recall some of them, was high on seafood and sake!

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Owner Chef

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Check out more photos on the popular Japanese restaurants review site: http://tabelog.com/en/ishikawa/A1702/A170201/17000513/

Kame sushi website : http://www.kame-sushi.com
Address : 17-8-2 Yamashiroonsen Kaga Ishikawa 石川県 加賀市 山代温泉 17-8-2
Telephone : 0761-76-0556 (+81-761-76-0556)

 


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My Humble Wagashi Creations

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Ever since my first wagashi (Namagashi, to be specific) class in Kanazawa in April, I have been spellbound by the beautiful creations made by wagashi masters, the meaning behind different wagashi for each season and their purpose in festivals and tea ceremonies. Many designs created are usually inspired by Haiku poems.

I finally took up the courage to make wagashi again after my second class in Singapore with ABC cooking studio. However, both classes, the wagashi pastes were pre-prepared. I had to do some research on my own to create the paste from scratch without the original white bean (or navy bean) which is found only in Japan. I used lima beans as a substitute. Its a long process but through this, I learnt to appreciate the art of making wagashi even more. So here are some of my humble creations for summer.

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Summer Peach

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Chrysanthemum in full bloom

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Love Birds

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Summer wagashi