Life Hack: Using an electric kettle as an instant noodle-maker

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RocketNews 24 (by Casey Baseel):

Cooking udon, or any other kind of fresh pasta, just got a whole lot easier.

Excluding the pot of leftover curry and can of Ebisu sitting in my fridge, I think my T-fal electric kettle might be the most wonderful thing in my kitchen. All I have to do is fill it from the tap, flip the switch, and in seconds I’ve got a pot of boiling water with which to make tea, coffee, or hot chocolate.

It also comes in handy if I’m craving noodles, since the spout makes it easy to pour into cup ramen. But it turns out an electric kettle can be useful even for making noodles of the non-instant variety, as shown by Japanese Twitter user @aya_royal_1025.

@aya_royal_1025 hails from Kagawa, which is so famous for udon noodles that it’s jokingly called “Udon Prefecture.” As a staple food of the region, Kagawa’s residents of course spend a lot of time every year cooking udon, which would ordinarily entail boiling a pot of water, tossing in the noodles, then stirring them as they cook.

At some point, though, @aya_royal_1025 came up with a quicker way of getting things done: just toss the uncooked noodles into the kettle along with the necessary amount of water and flash cook them with the press of a button.

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Despite the unorthodox cooking method, @aya_royal_1025 says the resulting noodles aren’t soggy or mushy, an also promises that they taste just as good as udon made in the traditional manner.

There are a couple of things to be aware of. For starters, @aya_royal_1025 doesn’t mention one way or another whether using the kettle for a purpose it clearly wasn’t originally designed for has any effect on its longevity. Also, since you’re now using the kettle to cook instead of just boil water, you’ll want to wash the apparatus out when you’re done, so that no udon residue sticks to its inside (just like you would after making noodles in a regular pot). Finally, a normal-sized kettle is only going to have room to make a single-person-sized portion.

But if you’re in the mood for some actual udon (or any other kind of noodle) even though you’re strapped for time, this sounds like an amazingly convenient way to speed things up in the kitchen.

Nissin’s Japanese instant foods get a Halloween makeover in four limited-edition products

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RocketNews 24:

With Halloween becoming an increasingly recognized event in Japan, we’re sure to be seeing plenty of products featuring pumpkins, black cats, ghosts and witches in shops across Japan as we enter the month of October. And the instant food market is no exception to the trend, as Nissin Foods, known around the world for their Cup Noodles, come out this month with four unique Halloween-themed instant food products.

That’s right, you can be sure to get a taste of Halloween this year, even if you have no time to cook!

Supermarkets and convenience stores in Japan may feel just a little bit “darker” than usual, as four Halloween items in distinct black packages come on sale from Nissin starting October 5. You’ll be able to choose from cup noodles, risotto, udon noodles and yakisoba noodles, and the packaging even comes illustrated with cute original Nissin characters like “Pumpkin Mask”, “Gourmet Witch” and “Count Dracula”.

Let’s take a look at the line-up of Nissin’s instant Halloween foods:

▼ Here’s the “Cup Noodle Pumpkin Potage Flavor.” The instant noodles we’re all familiar with have been combined with a soup containing the sweetness of pumpkin and the rich flavor of cheese. The ingredients used include pumpkin, cheddar cheese, carrots and cabbage.
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▼ And this is the “Cup Noodle Risotto Pumpkin Potage Flavor.” If you’re not in the mood for noodles, this item contains rice instead of noodles in the same pumpkin-and-cheese soup.Untitled 2

The other two items don’t exactly use Halloween related ingredients, but they’ve been created with a black color theme to get you into the Halloween spirit.

▼This “Donbei Black Curry Udon” features the usual thick Donbei udon noodles known for their chewy texture, along with a rich, dark pork-based curry flavored soup containing dried minced meat, potatoes, carrots and negi leeks.

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▼ The “Nissin Yakisoba U.F.O. Squid Ink Flavor” is a variation of the popular U.F.O. Yakisoba fried noodles in a black squid ink (Ikasumi) flavor with some anchovy flavoring and red pepper added to give the taste a little spice and depth.

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So, was there an item that caught your fancy in particular? We think the pumpkin potage soup certainly sounds tasty. (But then again, many Japanese people have a soft spot for anything pumpkin, chestnut or sweet potato flavored, especially during autumn.)

Well, whichever one might appeal to you the most, one thing that’s certain is that you’ll be able to (kind of) get into the Halloween spirit in minutes with these instant foods. Maybe you can even have an “Instant Halloween Party” with the items—that’s one party where the cooking certainly won’t be a hassle. Plus, All the noodle items will be priced at 180 yen (US$1.50), while the risotto will cost 220 yen ($1.83), so it’ll be easy on your wallet as well. To everyone trying the Nissin Halloween line-up this autumn, have a happy and haunted instant dining experience!

Japanese Zen Buddhist temple starts selling instant vegan soba and udon noodles

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RocketNews 24:

Upon coming to Japan, a lot of people are surprised to discover just how difficult finding vegetarian food can be. Many people imagine Japan as a country that eats very little meat, and while that’s definitely true in comparison to North America and western Europe, the flipside is that you’ll find at least a little bit of meat in just about all dishes, including salads and vegetable stews with surprising frequency.

Things get trickier still if you’re trying to stick to a vegan diet. Even something as simple as noodles are generally out, since almost all broths are made with meat or fish stock. But if you’ve got an aversion to meat coupled with a craving for soba or udon, you’re in luck, with two new types of vegan instant noodles produced by a Zen Buddhist temple.

As a temple of the Soto sect of Zen, Yokohama’s Soji Temple is primarily concerned with nourishing the souls of worshippers. The institution’s newest venture, though, is more concerned with your physical nourishment, as evidenced by its name, Zen-Foods.

Many devout Buddhist monks in Japan adhere to a strict vegan diet called shojin ryori. In recent years, the cuisine has obtained a somewhat chic status, bolstered by its healthy image and connection to temple lodges that have become increasingly popular places for travelers to stay.

Under the supervision of Soji Temple, Zen-Foods has produced two types of instant noodles, both completely animal product-free, in accordance with the rules of shojin ryori.

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The Gahomen Soba buckwheat noodles, despite their elegant background, are made like any other instant variety. Open the lid, sprinkle on the soup powder, add hot water, and wait three minutes for everything to cook. Once it does, you’ll have a bowl of soba, swimming in a kelp/soy sauce broth, topped with soybeans, fried tofu, kikurage mushrooms, and an assortment of chingensai, warabi, and zenmai greens.

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Meanwhile, the Gahomen Udon wheat noodles’ has a vegetable broth seasoned with salt. While soba and udon toppings are largely interchangeable in Japanese cuisine, Zen-Foods gives its two types of noodles completely different accompaniments. With the udon, you can look forward to lotus root, green beans, and taro, among other veggies.

The udon does require a little more patience, though, as its cooking time is listed as five minutes. Looked at another way, though, that’s two more minutes for quiet meditation, self-reflection, or simply looking forward to your hot, healthy meal.

Gahomen Soba and Udon can be ordered here, directly from Zen-Foods, in packs of 12 for 3,600 yen (US$30).

10 distinctly Japanese comfort foods

RocketNews 24:

Comfort food” is traditional cooking that tends to have a nostalgic or sentimental connection, often one related to family or childhood: the grilled cheese sandwiches your mother used to make; the thought of your grandmother’s bread pudding makes your mouth water; the way the whole house would be filled with the intoxicating aroma of roasted turkey or ham at Christmas? Because of such memories, these foods comfort us, especially when we’re longing for home or feeling especially vulnerable.

Not surprisingly, the sentimental Japanese have their own comfort foods. While you might think they’d be waxing over the octopus tentacles of home, very few of the dishes we’re about to talk about have much to do with seafood. Many Japanese comfort foods have a rice connection and may even center around the unique relationship between mothers or wives and their role in family food preparation. And in Japan, make no mistake about it–her kitchen rules!

Here are 10 distinctly Japanese comfort foods:

1. Miso soup and rice (味噌汁とご飯)

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Miso soup and its companion bowl of rice are sometimes described as a “marriage.” This is the food Japanese miss most when they leave home to live on their own for the first time or if they travel abroad and tire of “Western breakfast.”

Miso soup is hardly ever served without its faithful rice. For centuries this edible couple has been considered the main part of a classic, healthy Japanese breakfast. “Mom’s miso soup” is, quite simply, to die for. And each Mom adds her own touch to the recipe, so the subtle flavors vary according to household. So powerful is this aromatic duo that the mere thought of smelling miso upon waking up in the morning can leave a study-abroad student salivating as he or she is transported temporarily back to the mother ship.

Other than the miso base, other ingredients in the soup may include dashi broth, tofu, chopped green onion, wakame seaweed and a plethora of others. See some miso soup anime ads that bring out the true miso spirit.

Try making it! Learn how to make miso soup in the Rocket Kitchen. No miso? No problem–miso can be made at home too!

 

2. Onigiri (おにぎり)

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While women’s hands are said to be too warm to become sushi chefs, those ostensibly hot hands surely come in handy when it comes to making rice balls. This favorite snack, made from either fresh steamed rice or leftover rice from the night before, is standard fare for bento lunches and picnics. All good outdoor gatherings feature the highly portable and nutritious triangular-shaped sticky rice ball, which is geometrically formed by squeezing it just so in the palms of the hands. Each ball is filled with one of a number of ingredients from sweet salmon to sour plums, and the triangle of rice is girthed with a seaweed belt so moist, it doesn’t actually stick to your lips like the papery convenience-store kind.

According to Japanese aesthetics, any food tastes better with proper scenery, so you’ll find rice balls at every “Hanami” cherry blossom party.

 

3. Tempura (天ぷら)

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This favorite food of foreigners is also a favorite of the Japanese (even though tempura is thought to have originally come from Portugal). Surely, worldwide, everyone loves tempura! And mama’s home made has gotta be the best. But I can’t help think that the nostalgia surrounding this food (the taste of which doesn’t vary that much from kitchen to kitchen) has to do with the method of preparation: the wife dutifully stays in the kitchen throughout the meal, only emerging occasionally when the next batch of piping hot veggies are ready to be served to her expectant family. And of course a Japanese wife is happy, perhaps even ecstatic, to do this, in order to fulfill the expectations of the perfect mother who, at least in the old days, was said to “make and serves food with all her heart” (kokorokomete ryoriotsukurimasu).

Tip! Be sure to have fun with your tempura–make it colossal!

 

4. Okonomiyaki (お好み焼き)

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A close runner up as an all-time favorite by foreigners and Japanese alike is oknomiyaki (literally “grilled as you like it”). What could be more fun than playing with your food? Mix up the cabbage with a combination of okonomiyaki flour and milk, add a raw egg, then ingredients such as mochi, cheese, fish, pork, or corn (anything really–as you like it!). Leave it on the grill to cook then top it with sweet okonomiyaki sauce!

Whether Hiroshima style or Osaka style, oknonomiyaki satisfies even the most unsophisticated pallets. It’s what I serve to my parents who don’t like Japanese food (surely the only two people left in the world). This pancake-like food is certainly interactive and gets everyone communing at the table.

Not only that, but such comfort foods pull at the heartstrings of boys when they become myopic, nostalgic adults missing their mommies. In Japan, the relationship between mothers and sons is supposed to be extra special (sorry girls!).

Watch it! A video of one man’s gourmet food trip through Japan, including oknomiyaki.

 

5. Tamago Kake Gohan (卵かけ御飯)

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This simple dish is so fast, so simple, and so good! Just a raw egg, a little soy sauce (if you like) and some cooked white rice will give you a meal on the go. One of our RocketNews24 writers who grew up eating TKG, says it’s her go-to comfort food. Just pour the raw egg yolk over the rice and mix it together: ta-da! Isn’t that convenient?! Who said you couldn’t cook Japanese food?

Make it! Try Rocket Kitchen’s Ultimate TKG

6. Nabe (鍋)

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Nabe is one of those foods in the “cooked in large earthenware pot” family. It is stewed in a vessel that sits in the middle of the table. Meat and vegetables are added throughout the entire dinner session, with each person around the dinner table reaching into the pot with their chopsticks to pick out their own vegetables or meats (or perhaps dished out by mom) as the ingredients slowly cook. This dish is only shared with family or good friends who you’re absolutely sure don’t have any contagious diseases. The constant dipping of your chopsticks into the broth to dig out mighty morsels means that you’ll be sharing your germs. On the other hand, you can console yourself that the boiling broth may kill most of the cooties someone might unknowingly be passing on. Nabe, a winter food, is usually associated with close friends and family, the equivalent of sitting around a bonfire with a guitar and singing songs together. Being invited to a nabe party is a definitive indication you’ve been accepted into the inner circle. Try yosenabe–or “fling it all in” nabe!

Make it cute! Tips on how to make your nabe look as kawaii as possible!

 

7. Okayu (おかゆ)

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When Japanese feel a cold coming on, they reach for okayu–a warm, easily digestible watery mush made from rice. It’s also the food of choice if you’re missing your teeth. Even Kiki, the heroine of the anime film Kiki’s Delivery Service, can be seen eating okayu in a scene when she is sick. So next time you’re feeling a bit under the weather, do what Kiki does and try some rice porridge!

Make it! Ghibli-inspired rice porridge

8. Udon (うどん)

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While both ramen and udon noodles are loved by the Japanese, I’m going to stick to Udon here because, well, it’s Japanese (whereas ramen in technically Chinese) and udon is the Wall Street Journal of noodles–it’s way more sophisticated than ramen. Ramen’s reputation is that of an easy, greasy food eaten when you’re in need of something filling and moreish but not especially good for you–often after a night out drinking. But while ramen satisfies, udon nurtures. The warmth of steam emanating from a large bowl of udon, and enveloping your face in the wintertime is enough to warm you to your toes. It’s no wonder that in Kagawa Prefecture, the udon capital of Japan, and where they are known to eat udon while in the bath, that they’re using the long unleavened egg dough to generate power. How cool is that?!

9. Curry Rice (カレーライス)

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Curry rice doesn’t sound like it’s Japanese, and surely its origins aren’t (Japanese curry comes from India by way of the British navy, would you believe), but the way the Japanese have modified their knock-off version is distinctly their own. It’s sweet, gooey and heaped over sticky rice! And it’s usually not spicy at all. Kids and adults alike love this cheap, easy-to-prepare food, usually made from boxed curry you buy at the store. And anything can be added to it including meat and veggies. For me, I prefer the real thing, but the fact is that Japanese kids grow up eating and loving the Japanese version. Curry rice is served in school lunches, at ski resorts, on the beach, and at restaurants everywhere. It’s ubiquitous, which means it’s a fallback food anywhere, anytime. Except abroad, where you’ll rarely, if ever, find it.

Tip! Twelve meals to make using leftover curry

10. Ochazuke (お茶漬け)

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We saved ochazuke for last because this dish is consumed at the very end of a meal. Ochazuke is most likely only encountered by foreigners who dine with Japanese, so may not be well-known to mere tourists. But most foreigners’ first encounter is similar: You’re at the end of a meal, feeling like a total pig because you’ve eaten so much amazing food. You’re sitting back in your chair, hands folded over the swollen stomach, thinking you couldn’t eat another bite of anything even if it were apple pie, when suddenly, someone at the table pipes up, “Let’s have ochazuke!” They tackle the waiter who dutifully takes away one thing from the table: the leftover rice. This is taken back to the kitchen, where the chef mixes it with green tea (and perhaps some other things). The rice concoction is brought back out to the table and presented as the last course, like a sort of savoury dessert. It’s warm, it’s delicious, and you somehow find a little extra room in your distended stomach for it before completely passing out.

Tip! Just combine green tea and rice.

 

New Japanese karaoke parlor welcomes Muslims by introducing traditional halal menu

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RocketNews 24:

Anyone with dietary restrictions who has been to Japan will know that it can be quite frustrating. If you’re a vegetarian, you’ll be shocked to hear that the fish head in your miso soup “isn’t meat.” And if you don’t drink, well, good luck at the nomikai (drinking parties).

For Muslims who follow a halal diet of no pork, alcohol, and other restrictions, it can be extremely difficult. Pork-broth is very common in Japan, alcoholic mirin and sake are often used in cooking, and in Japan animals who have been slaughtered according to Islamic guidelines are about as rare as a mosque. But thanks to a halal-friendly karaoke parlor that’s just opened in Tokyo’s Yotsuya, Muslim customers finally have a place to kick back, belt some tunes, and not worry about dictionary-checking every ingredient.

The Manekineko karaoke parlor in Yotsuya – which opened its doors on December 25 – may just be one of many Manekineko chain karaoke parlors all over Japan, but it’s still a first of its kind in the country. In addition to the normal menu available at all of its locations, it also offers an entire selection of food and drinks that strictly adhere to the halal guidelines set forth in Islam.

▼ Now Muslims in Japan can finally experience the joy of doing this for hours.

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On December 24, just in time for the parlor’s opening, the Malaysia Halal Corporation (MHC) inspected Manekineko and gave them a “Local Halal” certification after verifying that everything was done according to proper halal standards. This was no mean feat: not only can the items on the halal menu not contain pork, alcohol, or anything else that goes against the MHC’s requirements, but none of the food or drinks can even be prepared in the same area or be served using the same utensils as non-halal food. This means there are separate glasses for halal drinks,separate trays to bring food, and even an entirely separate kitchen for preparing the halal food in.

 

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Now having halal food is all fine and dandy, but is it any good? Just looking at the menu it seems to offer most of the typical karaoke parlor fare: there’s ramen, udon, yakisoba, edamame and more, which is great since it allows Muslim customers to get a taste of Japan without worrying if it’s something they can even eat. Unfortunately there doesn’t seem to be much in the way of Middle-Eastern food like lamb, hummus, or (oddly enough) curry, but it’s still a great first step.

▼ The menu also contains a generous helping of Engrish, including “corny pizza” and “fried t corn.”

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And it’s not just the menu that’s accommodating of Muslim customers. The new Manekineko also includes a whole prayer room inside the building as well, to be used by anyone who wants to perform one of their five daily prayers. The room faces toward Mecca, and can comfortably fit four people, allowing Muslim customers to stay at karaoke longer and not worry about having to leave and go somewhere else to pray.

Apparently Manekineko has big plans to attract even more Muslim customers. Aside from expanding their halal menu to more parlors, they’re aiming to offer party plans during Ramadan for customers to break their fasting with, start a “Muslim student discount” to entice students studying abroad in Japan from Islamic countries, and expand into Southeast Asia using what they’ve learned.

“We want to create an environment where our Muslim customers, and our regular customers, feel comfortable enough to stay and have fun for a long time,” said Manekineko PR representative Takayuki Ezawa. They’ve certainly gone above and beyond in that respect, and it’s always nice to see the sometimes slightly xenophobic Japan open up its mind, and its karaoke boxes, to welcome other cultures.

Parlor Information
Hours: 9:00 a.m. to 6:00 a.m. (the following day)
Price: 9:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m., 150 yen (US$1.25)/30 minutes
6:00 p.m. to 6:00 a.m., 300 yen ($2.50)/30 minutes (holidays/weekends are 350 yen ($3.00)/30 minutes)
Requires signing up for a 200 ($1.50) yen membership.

10 Asian soups to keep you warm over the holidays

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 Audrey Magazine:

On a blistering cold night, a steaming hot bowl of soup is the tastiest cure to the shivers and well, almost everything else right? Now that winter is full steam (sorry) ahead, here are ten different Asian soups, from the popular to the underrated, that you should try eating and possibly try making this winter!

1. Kuy Teav

Image courtesy of khatiya-komer

A Cambodian delicacy, kuy teav is a Camobidan Chinese pork noodle soup made from a clear broth and flat rice noodles. Kuy teav is usually enjoyed as a breakfast dish from street vendors, but we feel that it’s comforts will last throughout the day!

2. Soba

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Unlike the popular ramen, soba noodles are made from buckwheat flour. Soba can be a year round dish and is typically served either hot and in a soup for winter or chilled with a dipping sauce for summer. Also, soba differs from udon in that soba noodles are thin while udon noodles are genuinely thicker.

 3. Laksa

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A spicy MalayasianChinese fusion dish. There are three main types of laksa: curry laksa, asam laksa and sarawak laksa. Curry laksa has a coconut curry base, while asam laksa has a sourfish soup base, and sarawak has a sambal belacan base. No matter which type of laksa you choose, it’s sure to give you a kick!

4. Taiwanese Beef Noodle Soup

Image Courtesy of S.O.F.A.T BLOG

There are many different types of beef noodle soups out there. However, the red-braised beef noodle soup was invented by Chinese refugees in Taiwan during the Chinese Civil War. Today, Taiwan considers this red-braised beef noodle soup a national dish. With it’s tender beef and spicy broth, it is sure to be a comfort during those chilly months.

5. Tong Sui

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Tong Sui literally means “sugar water” in Cantonese and is a soup dessert that is a Cantonese delicacy.

6. Bakmi Ayam

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Bakmi ayam, or often shortened to mei ayam, is an Indonesian noodle soup that is very simple but delicious. The main ingredients are wheat noodles, chinese bok choy (cabbage), and slices of chicken and mushroom. Eaten separately or together with the broth, the soup is delicious either way!

7. Sinigang

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Sinigiang is a Filipino dish. A tamarind-based soup, Sinigiang is usually sour because of ingredients such as guava and ripe mango.

8. Soondobu Jjigae

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Soondubu jjigae is a spicy Korean tofu soup. It’s typically served in a hot stone pot with other dishes such as rice, meat, or banchan on the side.

9. Milagu Rasam

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Milagu Rasam is a pepper tamarind-based South Indian soup. Supposedly, both the black pepper and tamarind are natural heat-inducing ingredients for the body. Either way, milagu rasam is a tasty method to staying warm!

10. Bun Mang Vit

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Pho is probably the most famous Vietnamese soups, but Bun Mang Vit, a duck and noodle soup, is also another tasty option! The main ingredients here are duck, bamboo shoots and vermicelli noodles, but the lemongrass, ginger and chili give this soup a nice kick.

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L.A. Japan Fair 2013 this weekend!

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 L.A. Japan Fair 2013 will be held Saturday, Oct. 12, from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. and Sunday, Oct. 13, from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. at the OC Fairground, 88 Fair Dr., Costa Mesa.

The event will introduce contemporary and traditional Japanese culture through stage performances and more than 100 booths. Highlights include:

Ramen Festival featuring “limited edition” from Japan, San Diego, and even Hollywood. Participating shops include Tsujita Ramen, Daikokuya Ramen, Tajima Ramen, Keika Ramen and O-Udon.

Sanrio booth, featuring photos with Hello Kitty, a Hello Kitty Bounce House, games, prizes and more. Open 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Saturday, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sunday. Admission: $15.

Tohoku Fair, which will support the northeastern prefectures affected by the 2011 earthquake and tsunami by promoting their products.

• Sake Fair, which will enable visitors to feel first-hand the variety and difference in the aromas and flavors of Japanese sake, including Nanbu Bijin Daiginjo, Yatsushika Tokubetsu Junmai, Hananomai Junmai Ginjo, and Onikoroshi Daiginjo.

• Japanese electro-pop-rock musical group SouLandscape, which consists of vocalist NAHO and keyboardist K.K.

• Singer/songerwriter/music producer Ki-Yo (aka Kiyotaka), originally from Sendai.

• Singer/songwriter/pianist Koaru Enjoji, originally from Sapporo.

Kishin Daiko from East San Gabriel Valley Japanese Community Center.

• 4YU Studio, a line-dancing studio in Garden Grove.

• Doki Doki Maid Café, whose mission is to satisfy all of your “kawaii” and “moe” cravings.

Other participating businesses include Creamy Mom (crepes), Gyutan Tsukasa (beef tongue), Tanota (takoyaki), Genki Sushi, Happy Curry, Sushi Roll, and Essential Health Center (massage).

Tickets are $5 for a one-day pass, $8 for a two-day pass. For more information, visit www.c-japanusa.com or www.facebook.com/japanfair.

Check out this link:

L.A. Japan Fair 2013 this weekend!