Sunday, September 24, 2023

Duteoptteok and Jatseolgi

Duteoptteok, 3500 won 
Jatseolgi, 2500 won
Biwon Tteokjip

If you’re in shopping in Seoul and want to also indulge in a little time-travel, check out the shops officially designated as “oraegagye” by the local government. Since 2017, this program has celebrated “oldest” shops that have been open for more than 30 years, have had more than two generations of leadership, or have an owner recognized as a holder of intangible cultural heritage.   

Biwon Tteokjip is a oraegagye shop selling traditional Korea confectionery near the Gyeongbokgung Palace. The business was founded in 1949 on the strength of royal court recipes shared by the last imperial cuisine master of the Joseson Dynasty. As far as I can tell, Biwon is still operated by the original owner’s extended family. 

The shop looks extremely modern and rather bland from outside, but when you get through the glass doors there’s a gleaming display case covered in black lacquer and lavishly inlaid with mother-of-pearl. The case holds the day’s offerings—all conveniently labeled in both Korean and English. 


Plump and plushy duteoptteok is a dumpling about the size of sleeping hamster, made from sticky rice, white beans, walnuts, pine nuts, chestnuts, jujube, honey, and citron—it’s a lot of textures and flavors in a cuddly little package! Jatseolgi is a comparatively stripped-down square of just white rice and pine nuts; the texture is both sticky and cake-like, with the clean sweetness of the rice allowing the scent and flavor of the pine nuts to shine. 

Biwon Tteokjip
33-1 Bukchon-ro

Tuesday, August 1, 2023

Uiro at “Time Corridors”

Time Corridors 
¥ 1500 for tea service and admission

Opened in 2022, artist Hiroshi Sugimoto’s “Time Corridors” museum is one of the newest attractions on Naoshima, the “art island” in Japan’s Seto Inland Sea. Getting tickets is a little tricky—they’re timed and limited in number and the website is not especially user-friendly—so I was lucky to stumble right in just as they opened for the morning. The galleries house many iconic examples of Sugimoto’s work in a custom-built setting that manages to be both brutalist and emotionally sensitive. 

The admission fee includes tea and a sweet served in the Lounge. One room has tables made from the trunks of ancient holy trees, while the other has less exciting furniture but a better view of the glass tea room installed in a kind of moat outside the building (the tea room is mesmerizing even when empty and I can only imagine that I saw it in use I’d be speechless for days!).  

I ordered matcha and the sweet of the day, a serviceable uiro. On the spectrum of rice-based treat textures, uiro tends to be on the stodgier end—imagine mochi mixed with Big League Chew. I ate my way through it carefully and savored having a little extra time to look out at the tea house and the view of the island. 

Noshi Ume

Noshi Ume, 乃し梅 
from ¥ 648 for 5 pieces

Like many things that we now enjoy as treats (soda, hard candy, mints…), noshi ume started life as medicine. The recipe for a plum-based throat soother may have originated in Nagasaki, but then travelled to Yamagata Prefecture in the 1600s. In the 1800s, a gelatinizer of powdered seaweed (kanten or agar) was added to improve and stabilize the texture. 

Today the 5th generation owners of Satoya make noshi ume using sour, aromatic plums from Yamagata. Thick slices of the chewy, sticky gel are packaged as they have been for over a hundred years, between dried bamboo leaves; simply peel back the leaves to nibble away without dirtying your hands (and then toss the “wrapper” in the compost!). Nostalgic, portable, and delicous, noshi ume can be found in the souvenir section of many department store food halls throughout Japan. 

If you like fruit roll-ups, membrillo, or even gummi bears, this is a treat to seek out. Satoya also sells shigure, strips of noshi ume rolled in sugar, for those who prefer their plum goo a little chewier and crunchier. 


Saturday, June 24, 2023

Coffee Karintō

Coffee Karintō

Karintō are crunchy, bite-sized batons of yeasted wheat dough that is deep fried and coated, most often with a sweet glaze. 

Like most wheat-based treats, karintō were originally brought to Japan from another country, but it’s uncertain whether they were introduced by the Chinese in the 700s or the Portuguese in the 1500s. At any time during that span, both wheat and sugar were so expensive that karintō would have been a luxury food. As the availability of these ingredients increased and prices came down, karintō would have become more common; street vendors began selling them by the mid-1800s. 

Traditionally glazed with either white or brown sugar, modern karintō are available in a wide variety of flavors such as ginger and coffee. I purchased these from a Tokyo branch of Daiso, the   Japanese version of a dollar store. 



¥970 / box of 10 pieces 

On my first morning in Kyoto and I headed out early enough to see tiny school children delightedly greeting their classmates and elderly joggers charging up miniature Mt. Funaoka. As I wandered east past the Daitokuji complex, I spotted a building across the street with all the classic indicators (weatherbeaten wooden sign, sliding doors, minimalist display window, verdigris lamp) that something inside is both edible and old-fashioned. 

Approaching the window I saw a hanging scroll, a single peony, and a plate with two slices of cake and a hand-painted label. Among the jumble of kanji were two that I could make out: “pine” and “wind.” And just then, through the fabric of my mask, I caught a whiff of something rich, sweet, and a little funky! 

The 250-year-old confectionery Matsuya Tobei is famed for matsukaze (“wind in the pines”) an unusually savory cake made from flour, sugar, malt, white miso, salted soybeans, and sesame seeds. The miso already nudges this moist, dense cake in a distinctly umami direction, but then it’s topped with fermented, salted black soybeans called Daitokuji natto (a “dry” natto, so no slime in sight). As an emotional eater, I am not unfamiliar with the taste of tear-soaked cake, and that’s the closest comparison I can offer. 

Matsukaze is used in autumn for tea ceremony but is very nice with coffee at any time of the year—and thank goodness! As it’s only sold by the box, I had a little more than I could handle and was able to distribute the excess at breakfast at my guest house. People from 5 different countries agreed: matsukaze was unlike any cake they’d ever had before. 

Matsuya Tobei 

Daitokuji Kitaoji, Kita-ku (in front of Daitokuji-mae bus stop) 


Sunday, May 28, 2023

Danpatjuk and Sipjeondaebotang

Danpatjuk and Sipjeondaebotang
The Second Best in Seoul

If you arrive in Seoul feeling cruddy, there’s a silver lining: many must-try Korean delicacies emerged from food-as-medicine traditions. After 15 hours on the plane and 30 feverish hours in bed, I was happy to spend a couple of hours slowly making my way across town to a little cafe called The Second Best in Seoul. 

Founded in 1976, the shop’s original stock-in-trade was the medicinal tea sipjeondaebotang (one website offers the poetic translation, "wholly and dearly protect and preserve everything”), a murky brew of 10 different roots and herbs including peony, milkvetch, angelica, lovage, cinnamon, and licorice. It looked like a mud puddle, tasted slightly abusive, and made me feel noticeably perkier. 

Having taken my medicine, I enjoyed my reward: a helping of danpatjuk, the hearty sweet porridge for which the shop is currently famous. Rather than letting all the ingredients stew together, Second Best assembles each bowl to order; this allows customers to savor the range of flavors and textures contributed by the silky red bean soup, meaty whole red beans, gummy ginkgo nuts, bready chestnuts, and gooey rice cake. 

From the unassuming name to the vintage decor, everything about The Second Best in Seoul is humble, straightforward, and welcoming. The menu also includes ginger and jujube tea, cinnamon punch, and a fermented rice drink. 

The Second Best in Seoul
서울서 둘째로 잘하는 집
122-1 Samcheong-ro
Jongno-gu, Seoul
South Korea

Friday, May 19, 2023


Goshiki-mame 五色豆
Sohonten Funabashi Mamecho Shotenfrom ¥270 for 100g

Goshiki-mame, or five-color beans, have been popular Kyoto souvenir since the Taisho era more than a century ago. At the core of each crunchy little pebble is a roasted bean; as with konpeito, the core is repeatedly tumbled in a vat of melted sugar until a substantial candy coating builds up. The colors represent the north, south, east, and west districts of Kyoto, with the fifth color (brown) representing the Imperial Palace. Brown definitely tastes of cinnamon (an appropriately elite flavoring back in the day) and yellow is ginger, but the others…?  

I found these in a little shop next to the Nishijin Textile Center. I was temped by the wooden gift boxes of goshiki-mame and candied sweet potato, but already weighed down by more sweets that I could safely consume. Luckily, they also sell loose mame in smaller quantities from boxes so I got a small handful bundled up in the shop’s wrapping paper.

Sohonten Funabashi Mamecho Shoten 総本家 船橋豆長
396 Tatemonzencho
Kamigyo Ward 
Kyoto 602-8434

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Macadamia Coconut Brittle

Macadamia Coconut Brittle
Ed & Don's

If someone you know is heading to Hawaii for vacation, and if you selflessly volunteer to take care of whatever needs tending in their absence, you might just be rewarded with some tropical delicacy or other. Try hinting that a can of Ed & Don's Macadamia Coconut Brittle would be just the thing.

Made by hand on O'ahu since 1956, this crackly brittle is full of both actual butter and buttery macadamias.  Add in the toasted coconut, and this confection's perfume is so potent, you get some residual satisfaction by huffing the empty can. 

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Goat Milk Fudge

 Goat Milk Fudge
Toggenburg Goats of Arizona, $8

Two questions to which I will always answer YES: 

"Would you like a sample of fudge?"

"Would you like to hold a 3-week-old goat?"

I heard both from Suzanne Eaton at the Yuma Farmers Market stall where she and her husband Bob sell goat milk-based soaps, lotions, cheese, and fudge.  The Eatons raise Swiss Toggenburgs, the oldest domesticated breed of goat.  Because the girls need to get used to being handled during milking, the Eatons often bring youngsters along to the market, where the spend the morning charming the crowds from a playpen next to the tent.  

Although her mother sounded about as happy as a car alarm, the baby only struggled for a few seconds when Sue hoisted her out of the pen and into my arms.  Then she leaned in and started to nibble delicately at my chin.  I was proud to play this small part in creating the next generation of rich, chewy goat milk fudge. 

Saturday, February 22, 2014

Bienenstich II

Das Bratwurst Haus, $4.99

Opened about 3 years ago by a former American GI and his German wife, Das Bratwursthaus is Yuma's one-stop shop for Bavarian specialties--whether edible or collectible.  When the Haus closes down for summer, the owners head back to Germany to stock up on wine, beer, decorative nutcrackers, and souvenir tea towels. 
The umlaut-heavy menu offers full meals as well as a roster of schmankerl or Bavarian snacks.  Desserts include both daily specials and old standbys such as strudel, schwarzwalder kirschtorte (black forest cake), cheesecake, and karrotten kuchen.  I had my eye on the unfamiliar donauwelle (yellow cake topped with chocolate cake and cherries, covered with German butter cream and chocolate glaze) but sadly, this labor-intensive torte only appears on special occasions.  Instead, I opted for bienenstich (a 15th century "bee sting" cake with layers of yeasted pastry, cream, and sliced almonds) and followed the dirndl-clad waitress' suggestion that I enjoy my dessert in the Bavarian manner:  warm and washed down with beer. 

Das Bratwurst Haus
204 S Madison Ave
Yuma AZ
928 / 329-4777

Friday, February 21, 2014


Tacos Mi Rancho, $1.50 

It's not certain where the Spanish and Portuguese got the idea for churros, but they certainly took the treat with them wherever they went.  Found today throughout the Americas and the Philippines, most churros are made by extruding soft dough through a star-shaped die into hot oil.  The resulting crisp sticks may be eaten plain, or glazed, sprinkled, or filled with ingredients ranging from cinnamon sugar to fruit paste to cheese.  Often eaten at breakfast with a cup of hot chocolate, a churro hot from the fryer also makes fine end to a good meal.

Tacos Mi Rancho
188 S 4th Ave
Yuma AZ
928 / 783-2116

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Back in Time Pecan Pie

Pecan Pie
Back in Time Pie Shoppe, $4

Starting in 1864, Yuma's Quartermaster Depot played a vital role in the operation of US Army posts throughout the southwest.  Located on a bluff over the river, the Depot's warehouses were both secure and accessible, an ideal place to store necessities such as clothing, food, and ammunition; the goods were delivered by river, then distributed as needed via mule-drawn wagons.  With the arrival of the Southern Pacific Railroad in the late 1870s, the Depot had outlived its original use, but it continued to to house tenants such as the Signal Corps, Weather Bureau, and Customs Service, until eventually becoming a state park. 

With the state facing severe budget cutbacks in 2009, the city took over the operation of the Depot's Heritage Area, five original buildings housing exhibits on everything from military insignia to irrigation.  Searching for ways to simultaneously attract new visitors and enhance those visitors' experience of the park, someone came up with a genius idea:  pie. 

Since late 2012, the Back in Time Pie Shoppe has offered a wide variety of pies, baked on site, sold from glass stands on a crowded counter, and served on doily-covered tables by women in long skirts and aprons.  You can borrow your favorite teacup from an assortment on the wall, or find a keeper among the many antiques and trinkets for sale in the tearoom and adjacent shop.  You can hold a tea party, play "teago" (the Shoppe's version of bingo), and pick up a loyalty card that allows you to come in for pie without having to pay for park admission. 

Sure, it's a little on the kitsch side, but the Shoppe offers a sensory experience straight out of the Depot's glory days, when pie was an everyday food, often made with and ingredients at hand (like the local nuts in the pecan pie above)--and sometimes served by charming waitresses like those found at 19th century Harvey House restaurants at rail stations throughout the southwest. 

Like attractions in many tourist towns, the Back in Time Pie Shoppe is closed during the off-season--in this case, summer. 

Yuma Quartermaster Depot
Corral Building
Yuma AZ 
928 / 323-2034

Date Rolls

Date Rolls
Yuma Quartermaster Depot, $3.50 /.5lb

For a cold:  hot soup.  For a hangover:  bloody mary mix.  For when a sudden shift to a hot dry climate leaves you feeling like a wrung-out rag:  gallons of water and a pack of date rolls.  Available from the Yuma Visitor Information Center's fridge, each energy-packed log is made from fresh dates pureed into a smooth, creamy fondant, then rolled in either shredded coconut or chopped nuts. 

Yuma Quartermaster Depot Visitor Information Center
201 N 4th Ave
Yuma AZ
928 / 783-0071

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Date Shake

Date Shake
Basket Creations, $4.75 / 16oz with extra dates

Native to the area around Iraq, the date palm has spread around the world thanks to its rich, sticky fruits and an ability to thrive in deserts.  First introduced to North America's southwest in the 1760s, the trees were subsequently planted by orchardists in arid regions of Nevada, California, and Arizona.  But despite the high quality of their products, the domestic market for dates has generally been lukewarm.  

One bump in popularity came in the 1930s, when Russ Nichol, owner of a roadside stand in the California desert, discovered that dates are a delicious addition to milkshakes.  Since the hot, dry areas where dates grow best are also great spots for a winter vacation, date shakes became a must-try refreshment.  

As the sunniest spot on earth, Yuma Arizona is both an ace date producer, and the kind of place where a milkshake makes a great lunch.  At Bard Date company's downtown storefront, Basket Creations, date shakes are available with your choice of ice cream and in either smooth or chunky formats.  Both are flavored with date puree, but the chunky version also includes a handful of roughly chopped dates that sink to the bottom of the cup and swell up as they soak in the dregs of melted ice cream, turning into a kind of accidental custard.  

Not in date country?  It's easy to whip up your own date shake by soaking chopped dates in a little boiling water until soft and then blending them into a smooth paste that you can for topping or blending with vanilla ice cream.

Basket Creations
245 S Main St
Yuma AZ
928 / 341-9966 

Sunday, February 16, 2014


Arizona yards, free! 

As much as I enjoy elaborately crafted treats, nothing beats found food.  Encountering fresh pecans for the first time, I gorged myself under the tree by squeezing them together two at time until the weaker shell gave way, allowing me to scrabble out the sweet, soft meat inside.  Best of all was eating those nuts that conked me on the head as I snacked:  sweet, sweet, revenge.