Memoir of Bhutan Trip – Itinerary and some practical info

Where is Bhutan?

This was a question I got  most of the time when I said we are going to Bhutan.

Bhutan is located in the eastern Himalayas, sharing the border with Tibet and India. This small kingdom has been on my “To Go”list for a long time. Why? Because! Bhutan is known as the “happiest country” in the world. Everyone wants to be happy, don’t they !!

Bhutan Trip_a little bit of soy_Tiger's Nest
Tiger’s Nest!!! There are about 750 stairs!
Bhutan Trip_a little bit of soy_Thimphu Festival
The Biggest Festival – Thimphu Tchechu

Obviously, I had a high expectation towards this country and I would like to confirm now that my experience in Bhutan has exceeded my expectations. This kingdom is full of purity and beauty. If I have to describe Bhutan in one word, I would say “Genuine”.  People, food, nature, air…,I felt that everything was genuine.

Throughout the trip, I felt the people were super nice and trustworthy ( but not like “Japanese”nice…We, Japanese, have a good reputation as “kind” or “polite” people, but we are trained to act that way and which is different from”nice” I think, if you know what I mean. The food was simple and tasty (I will write about Bhutanese food another day).  Taking care of nature and their culture is part of their life.

So, did I feel happier now by visiting Bhutan? I have to say YES. I do not know what it is, but I somehow feel calmer and more relaxed.

Bhutan Trip_a little bit of soy_Dzong
Beautiful Punakha Dzong

I would like to record our trip here, which maybe helpful to the people who are considering going to Bhutan, as I assume that not many people around you have already experienced it.

Travel Period : 7 days / 6 nights

Travelling Season :  Autumn. We chose September as there were quite a few big festivals (Tsechu) on in September.

Flight: Perth Australia – Bangkok (Thai Airways) – Paro Bhutan (Druk Air) – We flew out to Kathmandu after that. Thai Airways have a relationship with Druk Air, therefore, our luggage could go to Bhutan directly (we did not need to pick it up at Bangkok). We did not need to go through immigration in Bangkok to transfer to Druk Air.

Travel Agency: Raven Tours. This was a great choice! Highly recommended.

To go to Bhutan, booking the trip via Bhutanese government approved travel agency is a must. Once you decide your travel agency, they can book everything for you including Visa, Hotel, and Druk Air flight tickets, thus, you do not need to worry about anything.

Raven made a personalised tour for us. Our guide was a super cool and smart lady who made our small wishes (but important) come true, such as wearing Bhutanese traditional cloth and taking us out for dinner every night (as we are foodies).  I have no hesitation to recommend them to anyone.

Currency: Bhutanese Ngultrum or Indian Rupee. Take USD. The best place to exchange money is Paro Airport (before immigration).

Cost: minimum $250 USD per person. It might sound too much, but we felt not…. (I know it is not cheap, but!!). This normally includes everything (Hotel, meal tour etc), thus, you will only spend a little in Bhutan (all we spent there was for beer and a little souvenir for ourselves).  If you would like your travel agency to book flights or upgrade the hotel rank, it will be at additional cost.  We went for standard 3 star hotels, but all hotels were great!

Itinerary: Thimpu -> Punakha -> Paro

Thimphu (2 nights) : Attend the Festival at Tashichho Dzong, Hike to Tango Monastery, Largest Sitting Budha, Memorial Chorten, Tashichho Dzong, Nature Hikes.

Punakha (2 nights): Attend the Punakha Festival, Punakha Dochula Pass, Punakha Fortress, Fertility Temple, Talo village and Kham Sum Yule Temple Hike.

Paro (2 nights): Tiger’s Nest, Paro town, Farm House, Archery, Hot stone bath.

Recommendations: The best was I have to say – a usual suspect – Tiger’s Nest. It was really hard to get there, but it was so rewarding. The temple itself was just beautiful. We found a little quite corner in the temple and mediated for a while. It was so peaceful and I felt like my heart was cleansed…. I highly recommend to take a hot stone bath after the hike!

I also enjoyed attending the festivals with the locals – ask your agency to dress you in the Bhutanese traditional cloth!

Next I will write about Bhutanese Food!

Bhutan Trip_a little bit of soy_Himalaya View
Himalayan View from Lungchuzekha

 

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My mum’s Recipe : Anko – Japanese Sweet Red Bean Paste

My memory of Japanese sweets is my mum’s homemade Anko (Japanese Sweet Red Bean Paste).  Well…, it is not exactly the anko itself…. It is more like my mum and my sister.

They love anko. They sometimes had this sudden craving for anko (and I do not know why, but this happened always at night), and the next day, my mum would make it. When they ate it, they looked super happy… The homemade anko must have had some sort of magical power to make these 2 powerful Osaka ladies (especially if you know them…, you know what I mean) calm and speechless…

On the other hand, I have never been a big fan of Anko…. Somehow, I felt it was too sweet….That’s why I had never made it before. However, as I became older, I started missing the sweet anko – age does funny thing to humans!

So here it is! I recreated my mum’s happy Anko. As always, she gave me the instructions and tips  (well, of course she does not know the measurement…). I think it is quite good.

Anko Red Bean Paste 1 a little bit of soy

I made Dorayaki (Red Bean Pancake) by using this anko this time. You can use if for anything else – such as Zensai (Sweet Red Bean Soup), Daifuku (mochi rice cake filled with anko), or even western style sweets (cupcakes and pound cakes will be good!).

It takes time to make, but it is easy. Try it when you have time!

Ingredients:

220g Azuki Red Beans

1200ml of Water

140g of Caster Sugar

1/4 Teaspoon of Sea Salt

Method: 

  1. Soak Azuki red beans overnight (15 – 20 hours).
  2. Rinse the azuki red beans.
  3. Place the azuki red beans and 1200ml water into a big pot. Bring it to the boil. Once it is boiled, turn the heat to low. Skim the scum off the top.  Keep cooking over low heat for about 1 hour or until the azuki red beans become soft and tender.
  4. Add caster sugar and sea salt into the pot. Keep simmering until the liquid is evaporated. This will take about 1 – 1.5 hours.
  5. Once the liquid is evaporated, mix and mash the azuki red beans to the consistency of your liking. Cool it down to use. You can wrap and freeze the anko if you are not planing to use it straight away.

This is Dorataki (Japanese Red Bean Pancake Sandwich). I used this recipe.

http://www.ntv.co.jp/3min/recipe/20100923.html

Dorayaki_Anko_A little bit of soy

Healthy! Super Moist Boiled Chicken with Peanut Sauce

Boiling is a super healthy way to cook chicken breast, but how long do you boil the chicken?

Of course you can boil it until the chicken is dead. However, in my opinion, it is super dry to eat…. well still edible, I guess….

Today, I would like to introduce my way of boiling chicken. I boil it only for 2 minutes and then just leave it for for 1 hour. Technically the chicken will be cooked in the residual heat. I found this way makes the chicken super moist!

Boiled Chicken a little bit of soy
Healthy! Super Moist Boiled Chicken with Peanut Sauce

I would also like to introduce my peanut butter sauce to go with my super moist boiled chicken. I created it, just because I had a leftover peanut butter in the kitchen…( Well, I believe I am not the only one who has it after trying to make satay chicken?). However, it came out great!

This boiled chicken is super versatile. You can use it for salad, sandwich or you can enjoy it with a lot of different sauces. Furthermore, it is super healthy!

Hope you like it and add it onto your regular menu…. 🙂

Ingredients:

1 Chicken Breast – skinless and boneless

2 pinches of Sea Salt for Chicken Breast

800 ml of Water

2/3 Teaspoon of Sea Salt

1 Teaspoon of White Wine or Cooking Sake

For Peanut Sauce

1 Tablespoon of Peanut Butter – no added sugar

1 Tablespoon of Lemon Juice

1/2 Tablespoon of Soy Sauce

1 Teaspoon of Dark Sugar

1 Teaspoon of Sesame Oil

1 Tablespoon of Chicken Broth left over after boiling chicken

Coriander  – chopped for topping

Method: 

  1. Sprinkle 2 pinches of sea salt over chicken breast. Wrap the chicken with paper towels.  Leave it for about 20 minutes at room temperature.
  2. Bring water to a boil and add sea salt and white wine. Place the chicken breast into the boiling water and reduce the heat to medium. Keep cooking for 2 minutes. Turn the heat off.  Put a lid on. Leave it for minimum 1 hour.
  3. Making peanut sauce. Place peanut butter, lemon juice, soy sauce, dark sugar and sesame oil in a bowl. Mix all together. Pour the remaining chicken broth from the boiled chicken to make the sauce to the consistency of your liking.
  4. Slice the boiled chicken and arrange it on the serving plate. Serve it with the peanut sauce and chopped coriander on top.

The remaining chicken broth is full of flavor, so do not throw it away! I normally use it to make soup!

The Easiest Ever Japanese – Nasu Dengaku (Miso Glazed Eggplant)

I would like to introduce my 2nd Easiest Ever Japanese recipe – Nasu Dengaku, which is known as Miso Glazed Eggplant.

Nasu Dengaku a little bit of soy
Juicy! Nasu Dengaku.

Again there is nothing difficult involved in this recipe, basically all you have to do is make miso sauce (by just mixing) and bake eggplant. Ingredients are common Japanese ones which you might already have in your pantry, otherwise can be obtained easily from the shop.

The baked eggplant will be super tender and melting in your month with the sweet and salty miso glaze. It is delicious!

This is another good recipe if you are not familiar with cooking Japanese.  Hope you like it 🙂

Ingredients (serving 2)

1 big Eggplant – about 500g

2 teaspoon of Sesame Oil

Sesame Seeds for topping

For Dengaku Sauce

1 tablespoon of Miso

1 tablespoon of Sugar

1/2 tablespoon of Cooking Sake

Method:

  1. Preheat the oven to 200 °C.
  2. Cut eggplant in half lengthwise. Score the flesh (almost to the skin) around the inner edge of the skin about 5mm in, and then score the same diagonally inside in small squares (see photo).
    Nasu Dengaku step by step
    Nasu Dengaku How to score eggplant flash
  3. Put sesame oil on the surfaces of the eggplant. Place the eggplant facing up on a baking tray. Bake it for about 30 minutes or until the eggplant is cooked and juicy.
  4. In the mean time, mix all ingredients for dengaku sauce
  5. Take out the eggplant from the oven.  Glaze the eggplant with the dengaku sauce. Turn the oven to 220 °C. Bake the eggplant for another 8-10 minutes.
  6. Take it out from the oven. Sprinkle sesame seeds on top. Serve while hot.

 

Healthy! Wasabi Prawn Cocktail – NO MAYO

This is a super easy and super yummy recipe – A Classic British with a Japanese Twist – Wasabi Prawn Cocktail (This may be called “Modern Australian cuisine”? I guess?).

Wasabi Prawn Cocktail No Mayonnaise_a little bit of soy

 

A hit of spiciness from wasabi matches with the rich and creamy avocado which makes this dish interesting! A slight sourness from lemon and saltiness from soy sauce harmonise the flavours. I have to say that this is QUITE yummy….

I use plain yogurt instead of mayonnaise. If you are like me who does not have a jar of mayonnaise in your pantry, this is a perfect recipe for you.

You can serve this as an appetizer or party nibbles. Hope you like it as much as I do 🙂

Ingredients:

8 King Prawns – boiled, peeled, deveined and then medium diced

2 Avocados – medium diced

2 Tablespoons of good quality Plain Yogurt

1 Tablespoon of Lemon Juice

1 Teaspoon of Wasabi Paste

1 Teaspoon of Soy Sauce

Method:

  1. Put plain yogurt, lemon juice, wasabi and soy sauce in a bowl and combine well together.
  2. Add prawns and avocados into the bowl and mix them together. Wasabi Prawn Cocktail No Mayo_a little bit of soy

My Low Carb Recipe – Miso Mushroom Stuffed Zucchini (Vegetarian)

Today, I would like to introduce my second low carb recipe – a well-known Ottoman dish with my Japanese Twist – Miso Mushroom Stuffed Zucchini.

Lupin Miso Mushrrom Stuffed Zucchini_alittlebitofsoy

The rich miso stuffing definitely matches with fresh and light zucchini. I also like the crunchiness and juiciness of zucchini, which makes you satisfied without eating rice or bread.

Instead of flour, I use Lupin Flakes to prevent the stuffing from being runny (As you may have already known, Lupin is a low carb and gluten free legume full of protein and fibre).

I actually think that this is the first time for me to use Lupin as a supporting role…. It does not interrupt the main flavour, is super easy to use and works perfectly! Definitely it is still my favorite super food!

As with my other low carb recipe, this dish can accommodate most dietary requirements  -Vegetarian, Vegan and can be Gluten Free as well.

Hope you enjoy my Japanese twist in this dish 🙂

Ingredients (serving 4): 

2 Zucchini – large

4 pinches of Sea Salt

1 clove of Garlic – finely chopped

200g Mushrooms (about 4 large mushrooms) – roughly chopped

1/2 Onion – chopped

1/4 Red Capsicum  – chopped

1/2 Tablespoon of Miso

1/2 Tablespoon of Cooking Sake (or white wine)

1/2 Tablespoon of Soy Sauce

2.5 Tablespoon of Lupin Flakes

Sea Salt for seasoning

Method:

For Zucchini

  1. Cut zucchini in half lengthwise and scoop out seeds and flesh with a spoon. Chop the seeds and flesh roughly and put them aside (we will use them later).
  2. Sprinkle 4 pinches of sea salt over the zucchini. Wrap the zucchini with some kitchen paper towels and leave it for about 15 minutes. This is to remove the excess water from the zucchini.

For Lupin Miso Mushroom Miso Stuffing

  1. Heat 1 teaspoon of oil (not included in the ingredients list above) and garlic in a medium sauce pan on medium heat. Once the garlic becomes fragrant, add mushrooms, onion, red capsicum and the chopped zucchini seeds and flesh. Stir them with a wooden spoon for a minute or until the vegetables are evenly coated with the oil. turn the heat to low-medium and put a lid on. Keep cooking it for about 3 minutes.
  2. Add miso, cooking sake and soy sauce. Turn the heat to medium and simmer for about 2 minutes. Add lupin flakes and stir all together. season with sea salt as necessary. Turn the heat off and cool it down.

Construction and Baking

  1. Preheat oven to 220° C.
  2. Wipe excess water from the zucchini. Stuff the zucchini with the Lupin Miso Mushroom stuffing and place them on a baking tray. Bake them for 20 – 25 minutes or until the zucchini is cooked. Serve while hot.

Lupin Miso Mushroom Stuffed Zucchini _ alittlebitofsoy

My Tom Kha Gai (Thai Chicken Coconut Soup)

Tom Kha Gai_a little bit of soy

When I eat out and find something tasty, I always think how I can recreate it at home using easily accessible ingredients.

Tom Kha Gai was one of the dishes. I always loved this spicy and creamy Thai Chicken Coconut Soup and wanted to make it at home. The problem was galangal and lemongrass, which are not really common here in Australia. I tried a few attempts using common ingredients, which were “Good”, not “Delicious”.

And, a couple weeks ago, I suddenly made the “Delicious” version of Tom Kha! I seriously do not know what happened, but it came out really GREAT!

In this recipe, I use lemon rind and ginger instead of lemongrass and galangal.

This Tom Kha Gai has a lot of veggies, so that a bowl of this soup becomes a complete meal.

Hope you enjoy this super easy Tom Kha Gai.

 

Ingredients (Serving 4):

For Chicken:

1 Chicken Breast – cut into chunks

1 teaspoon of Cooking Sake (or White wine)

2 teaspoons of Fish Sauce

A pinch of Sea Salt

For Broth

900ml Water

50ml Cooking Sake (or White wine)

1 Lemon and the Rind

1 leaf of Kaffir Lime

15g of Ginger – peeled and cut into julienne

2 cloves of Garlic – finely chopped

1 bird’s eye chili-  finely sliced (remove seeds if you prefer not hot)

A pinch of Sea Salt

1 Tablespoon of Fish Sauce

270ml good quality Coconut Cream

5 leaves of Basil – sliced

For Vegetables – any veggies left in the fridge will be fine! These are what I used;

1 Onion – sliced

6 Mushrooms – cut into 4

100g Green Beans

8 Okra – trim the head and cut lengthwise into half

1/2 Red Capsicum – cut into strips

6 Brussel Sprouts – cut into half

250g Beansprouts

Method:

  1. In a small bowl, marinade chicken breast with cooking sake, fish sauce and a pinch of sea salt for about 20 minutes.
  2. In a large pot, place water, cooking sake, lemon rind, kaffir lime leaves, ginger, garlic and chili. Bring it to boil. Reduce the heat once it is boiled and simmer it for 20 minutes to make the broth fragrant.
  3. Add the marinaded chicken (Method 1) including the liquid into the pot. Cook it for 5 minutes.
  4. Add all vegetables (except beansprout) into the pot and a pinch of sea salt. Cook it for about 10 minutes or until the brussel sprouts are cooked.
  5. Remove the lemon rind, kaffir lime leaves. Add 1 tablespoon of fish sauce, coconut cream and basil leaves. Squeeze 1/4 of lemon and simmer it for another 5 minutes.
  6. Place 1/4 beansprouts in each serving bowl. Pour the Tom Kha Gai over the the beansprouts. Serve while hot with lemon wedges.