Saturday, June 22, 2013

A Japanese Specialty Turns into a Cultural Icon through the Ramen Stadium

 If you've ever been exposed to any type of Asian culture, or been a poor college student, you are probably familiar with the beloved Japanese ramen noodles. These noodles have been loved throughout all of Japan since they were first introduced by the Chinese over a century ago.

 This dish has proved so popular that four different categories and countless toppings have been created to please the eager customers' unwavering appetite for the noodles. Microwavable "Instant Noodles" were even created in 1958 by Momofuku Ando, which swept not only the nation, but the world, and became a Japanese cultural icon by the 1980s. Restaurants cover the nation where people can go and watch a Japanese chef whip up his regional noodle speciality. There is even a museum dedicated to ramen noodles, and I recently learned, a stadium as well. 

If you are a sports fan, than the word stadium might conjure up certain images in your head. While the Ramen Stadium in Japan isn't exactly the typical stadium a sports fanatic may picture- it is pretty epic in its own right. 

Eight popular ramen restaurants gather in one location in Fukuoka, Japan to provide the ultimate ramen experience. Your initial reaction might be that eight places serving the same dish seems repetitive, but each restaurant offers a different style of broth and noodles, so you could easily visit each and never eat the same food! 

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A souvenir shop has also been added, so when you're done trying the noodles you can go and purchase it from the selection of specialty ramens the store offers! The little shop also offers a Ramen gift pack that you'll only be able to find at this location.

If you ever visit Japan, your cultural experience is not complete without a visit to Ramen Stadium, so be sure to add that to the list of places to go! 

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Happy ramen eating! 

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Sushi Day: Appreciating the Beloved Asian Cuisine (Part Two of Two)

ONCEkids Wishes You a Happy Sushi Day!

If you have never before tried the delicious and addicting Asian dish, there is no better time to than on Sushi Day! 

The countless types and styles of sushi make it easy to find at least one sushi dish that will appeal to your taste buds. Since sushi has been loved and consumed by the people of Japan and China for hundreds of years, it is no surprise that over the years several different types of sushi have since emerged. The texture and taste of the different dishes comes from the varying fillings, toppings, and methods of preparation.

The first, Chirashizushi, consists of a bowl of sushi rice that is topped with sashimi and garnishes. Different cooked or uncooked ingredients may be added to the simple and easy-to-make dish depending on the chef or the specifications of the customer. 

The next type of sushi, called Inarizushi, varies depending on where in the world you are ordering it, but its basic ingredients include a pouch of fried tofu filled with sushi rice. There is a version of Inarizushi that also includes green beans, carrots, and gobo in addition to the rice- this version is specifically a Hawaiian specialty!

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Narezushi is the traditional form of sushi, which includes the fermentation process. This complicated but richly traditional process of preparation includes stuffing the skinned and gutted fish with salt, placing it in a wooden barrel, and leaving it there to allow the water seep out. Once six months have passed, the sushi is ready for consumption. Wow, that's dedication! 

The next type of sushi is Nigirizushi, or hand pressed sushi. This variation of sushi consists of a rectangular-shaped mound of sushi rice, with wasabi and a topping of fish draped over it. Typical topping fish include tuna, salmon, or other seafood such as eel or octopus. 

The second to last type of sushi is known as pressed sushi or boxed sushi, or in Japan, Oshizushi. This complex but delicious style of sushi consists of a block-shaped piece formed by a wooden mold, otherwise known as oshibako, lined with toppings and covered with sushi rice. The lid of the mold is then pressed down by the chef to create a compact box. The block is then removed and cut into bit sized pieces. This style of sushi derives from the Kansai region and is a specialty, as well as a favorite, of Osaka

The last type of sushi is the kind that you have most likely seen or heard of before, Makizushi, or rolled sushi. This sushi is typically wrapped in a seaweed covering and cut into six or eight pieces. It can also be wrapped with soy paper, cucumber, or shiso leaves. There are four different variations that have stemmed from this particular style of sushi. These include Futomaki, Hosomaki, Temaki, and Uramaki. These variations come from the different types of fillings and sizes of the Makizushi. 

To learn more about the cultural and diversity taught at Fujimini Island, please click here.

So make sure to pick up some sushi at your local grocery store or head down to an Asian style restaurant to try one of their most delicious dishes! Happy Sushi Eating! 

Sushi Day: Appreciating the Beloved Asian Cuisine (Part One of Two)

Happy Sushi Day! 

Even if it is not necessarily one's food of choice, most people have tried or at least heard of sushi. The love of sushi has been a rich part of Asian culture throughout much of history, since even before the Muromachi period in 1336 AD. 

It was first introduced in Southeast Asia, spreading rapidly through Southern China and eventually to Japan. Its original form is quite different from the sushi we know and love today.

 Historically, the fish is fermented by being wrapped in soured fermenting rice. Once the fish was removed from the rice, it would be consumed while the rice would be thrown out. 

The process for making sushi slowly began to evolve as the dish became increasingly popular. In order to improve the taste and how long the dish could last, vinegar was added to the list of ingredients. 

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As time went on, the preparation and the dish itself continued to change. As the vinegar took away from some of the sourness and increased sushi's shelf life, the fermentation process was eventually abandoned all together.

With contemporary Japanese sushi, the fish is freshly caught rather than fermented, which speeds up preparation. This version of sushi was created towards the end of the Edo period, which lasted from 1799 to 1858, by Hanaya Yohei. 

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Wednesday, June 12, 2013

The Chinese Dragon Boat Festival: Customs and Traditions (Part Two of Two)

Following the legend of Qu Yuan, the famous Chinese man who wrote of his love for his country even after being exiled, the holiday known as the Chinese Dragon Boat Festival was created. It has been celebrated annually for over 2,000 years on the fifth day of the fifth month on the lunar calendar, to honor and pay respect to the historic poet for his unwavering patriotism.  

The customs and traditions surrounding this culturally significant holiday are still very much alive today. One of the most popular and loved traditions of this day can be found within the name of the festival itself- Dragon boat racing

Dragon boats get their name from the fore and stern being designed in the shape of a traditional Chinese dragon. The race originated after the part in the Qu Yuan legend where the people of the village raced in their boats to save him after he drowned himself in the river. The rowers race to the finish line while one team member sits at the front of the boat and beats a drum, an action thought to preserve morale and keep the rowers in sync with one another. The team that wins is to bring a happy life to the people of their village. 

Like most other Chinese festivals and holidays, a particular food is often consumed by the people on the day of the Dragon Boat Festival. For this festival, the food of choice is Zongzi, a pyramid-shaped glutinous rice wrapped in bamboo leaves. Often times, part of the holiday tradition includes not just the family's consumption of the special Zongzi, but also the preparation. 

Besides honoring the great Qu Yuan, another reason behind the celebration of the Dragon Boat Festival is the warding off of diseases and promotion of good health. So the high popularity of the next custom comes as no surprise. On the day of the festival, the Chinese people will clean their houses and then proceed to put mugwort leaves and calamus on the tops of all the doors in the house. The story behind these plants are that the discharge an aroma that will repel bugs and purify the home, thus preventing certain illnesses that often come with warm weather. 

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Another technique on this day purposed at promoting good health and healing is for children to wear five-color silk thread around their wrists, ankles, and neck. The thread is thought to hold special healing properties and protect the children from disease. It is only after the first rain of the summer that they are allowed to remove the thread and throw it into the nearest river. 

To learn more about the cultural and diversity taught at Fujimini Island, please click here.

The Chinese Dragon Boat Festival: The Legend Behind the Festival (Part One of Two)

Today, one of the most exciting Chinese festivals has finally arrived- The Chinese Dragon Boat Festival! This festival has been celebrated on the fifth day of the fifth month of the lunar calendar for over 2,000 years and is held dear to the Chinese for its cultural as well as educational significance. 

The festival's purpose is for the people of China to dispel and ward off diseases, but it also circulates heavily around the legend of the great Chinese poet, Qu Yuan

During the Warring States Period, Qu Yuan acted as a minister in the State of Chu. After standing by his decision to fight against the state of Qin, which, at the time, was an extremely powerful state, he was ultimately exiled by the King. 

Despite this, Qu Yuan remained loyal and loving towards his country. To demonstrate this, he began to write poetry honoring famous individuals and passionately describing Chinese culture and tradition. 

This act of patriotism made him into a well-respected Chinese poet in the eyes of the people of China, a title that lasted throughout Chinese history. 

The legend does not end there. After concluding his last masterpiece, Huai Sha, he proceeded to drown himself in the river rather than have to stand by and see his country conquered by the State of Qin. 

The local people were so distressed by this news, that they rushed to the river and threw food into it to deter the fish and animals from Qu Yuan's body. This tradition still remains alive on the day of Qu Yuan's death, which legend says is the fifth day of the fifth month on the Chinese Lunar Calendar. 

Monday, June 3, 2013

The Last Victim of the Boston Marathon Explosion is Released From Hospital

As of today, the last victim of the Boston Marathon Explosion has been released from the hospital. 29-year-old school teacher, Erika Brannock, attended the marathon, along with her sister and brother-in-law, to cheer on her mother, Carol Downing. As Brannock waited near the finish line to congratulate her mother, they were hit with the explosion that injured 264 people

She tells reporters that she remembers the entire terrifying event, describing how her sister pushed her forward just before everything went silent. After she came to, she could hear the screams of her sister, who was reported in critical condition. 

As a result of Brannock's extensive injuries, she lost her a large portion of her lower left leg. Doctors kept her in the hospital for a longer period of time in an attempt to save her right leg, so it would not have the same fate as her left. 

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Luckily, their decision to keep her longer proved to be the right one and doctors were able to salvage her right leg. Finally, after nearly two months, she was released from the hospital this afternoon and able to return to family and friends, who eagerly awaited her arrival

When speaking to reporters, Brannock tells them, "there are going to be a lot of adjustments. I am going to have to learn to walk again. I am going to have to learn to change a lot of things in my life and be more patient with myself."

Brannock's courage, strength, and determination is truly inspiring. Even when faced with a terrible tragedy, she is able to find hope and persevere. Along, with her family and friends, doctors and staff of the hospital also provided incredible support for Brannock, as well as the public. A fund has even been created in order to help pay for her medical bills