Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Recipe for Osmanthus Jelly (with Red Dates & Chinese Wolfberries)! #osmanthusjelly #cavinkitchen #recipe

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One of the first few things i attempted in my kitchen, when i moved into my own humble abode, was osmanthus jelly and for someone who couldn't even manage to fry an egg, i scrambled around for recipe and found a really easy one from "The Hedgehog Knows".

While the recipe is a definite keeper, i have tweaked it a bit after going through quite a number of batches. Hence, i will share my version in my blog for the benefit of friends and relatives who have asked me for it.

  • Plain Water - 950 ml
  • Fine Sugar - 150 grams
  • Konnyaku Jelly Powder - One 10-gram pack
  • Dried Osmanthus Flowers - 4 teaspoons
  • Chinese Wolfberries - 4 teaspoons
  • Red Dates - 5 large ones


Step 01 - Wash the jelly moulds and left them to dry. You can easily get them at places like Kitchen Capers, Phoon Huat and they came in many shapes and sizes! In the event you don't wish to get the moulds (they can be hard to keep), you can use bowls, cups or whatever that can hold liquid.

Step 02 - Remove the seeds from the red dates (got them from Wing Joo Loong) and slice them up. As the dates could be very sweet, i would suggest slicing them into smaller pieces for better distribution

Step 03 - Take out 450 ml of plain water and throw the sliced dates into it. 

Step 04 - Do the same for the dried osmanthus flowers (mine's from Hock Hua Tonic)! Please be mindful that it's 4 teaspoons and not 4 tablespoons. I did the latter once and the end product was a tad too bitter for any saccharine enjoyment! 

Step 05 - Soak the red dates and dried osmanthus flowers for at least one hour. As i am lazy and prefer to do things in stages, i usually prepare the aforementioned the night before. To prevent bugs, i will cover the bowl and put it in the fridge for an immersive, overnight soak.

Step 06 - If your craving is so strong until you die die need to have it that day, you can proceed to soak the chinese wolfberries (from Wing Joo Loong) in 100 ml of plain water for 15 minutes. Drain the chinese wolfberries after that but don't throw away the reddish water! Keep it as you would need it shortly.

Step 07 - Tear the pack of Konnyaku Jelly Powder; the one i used is manufactured by Jim-Willie Trading Co Pte Ltd, a Singapore company! You can purchase them from major supermarkets like Giant and NTUC and it costs about S$1.30 a pack. 

Step 08 - Mix the fine sugar with the koonyaku jelly powder! The recipe calls for 150 grams of fine sugar whereas "The Hedgehog Knows" reduces it to 200 grams. My mom finds it too sweet and i reduced it further to 150 grams. You can also substitute fine sugar with brown sugar.  

Step 09 - Ensure a thorough mix of the fine sugar and koonyaku jelly powder so that you don't get lumps when you pour them into the boiling pot of water later! 

Step 10 - Boil the remaining 400 ml of water in a bigger pot.

Step 11 - Once it starts boiling, proceed to throw in the dried osmanthus flowers and sliced red dates that were soaked in 450 ml of water for at least an hour.

Step 12 - While waiting for the mixture to boil, it's time to place the drained Chinese wolfberries into the moulds. I know of people who hate Chinese wolfberries; hence, you can remove them even though i find that to a great waste of food. p.s. i love Chinese wolfberries. 

Step 13 - Mixture starts boiling again and you can reduce the heat to about half.

Step 14 - Stir the mixture in a fast yet steady circular motion and slowly pour in the fine sugar and konnyaku jelly powder combo; making sure that there's no lump. If lump appears (and it shouldn't if you have followed my instructions), you may use a pair of chopsticks to pick it out. 

Step 15 - The eventual mix would have a glossy, thickened look. Before you do anything, reduce the heat further but do not switch it off. Once the heat is gone, the mixture would slowly harden and this can be disastrous if you decide to make double the servings, as i usually do, and couldn't pour it into the moulds in time. 

Step 16 - Done with the pouring of mixture into the moulds? That's not all; to enjoy osmanthus jelly, you have to wait for the mixture to cool down completely and put the trays of moulds into the fridge! 

End Product! I was supposed to share this recipe before Chinese New Year (CNY) as i had purposely bought the ingot moulds (signifying wealth and prosperity) for this important festival.

Nevertheless, i am not that late as CNY would officially end on 02 March and i believe some of you would continue to entertain guests this weekend. In the midst of this gastronomic festive season, why not make some healthy osmanthus jelly for your guests? Try it; it's really not hard. 

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Hand Bath outside Daiwa Ryokan @ Lake Toya in Hokkaido [Japan]

Now, i have mentioned about foot bath but there's another unique bath at Lake Toya; the hand bath and we were lucky to have it so close to Daiwa Ryokan, our accommodation in the onsen town! 

It may be just piped natural hotspring water but in the cold summer weather at night, it's still very comforting to have it warming your hands! I can just imagine how shiok it would be at this time of the year; winter! 

The activity of soaking our hands was literally a must-do whenever we stepped in or out of Daiwa Ryokan. Please be assured that the heat was just right for us even though we would still recommend you test the temperature of the water before throwing your hands in them; just in case mother nature changes her mood.

Unlike the limited foot baths (there were only two in town); i counted about nine hand baths dotted all over the place at Lake Toya. For more information on their locations, look out for the character "手" on the appended map above.


Monday, February 19, 2018

Daiwa Ryokan (大和旅館) - My First Official Ryokan Stay @ Lake Toya [Hokkaido, Japan]

Staying in a ryokan is supposed to be something one must do at least once in their lifetime and while i was looking forward to a good sleep, i was reminded that this wasn't my first choice.

We had mistakenly booked the wrong date for the one we really wanted and by the time we realized, the rooms were all taken up and we were offered the alternative Daiwa Ryokan.

From the outside, it did appear quite rundown and i was hoping the inside would be better. 

Those who have booked a room, note that the place would be closed from 10.30 am to 1.00 pm for cleaning and it's best to roam around the beautiful Lake Toya before you check in. 

No walking in with those dirty shoes of yours! Change to the slippers offered by the ryokan and banish your shoes to the shoe rack room near the entrance.

A life-size display of ancient and antiquated furniture, decorations and equipment; the kind of setting my mom loves and would likely ask me to take a few photographs with her in them.

Since everyone was busied with the check-in given the language barrier, i took the opportunity to 'escape' to the lower level of the ryokan where a notice pointed towards a place of massive interest. 

The ryokan's hot spring bathhouse! 

I am supposed to put my belongings in the lockers before i proceeded further but the ryokan seemed quite quiet and i guess there's a chance i could take some pictures if there's no one in the onsen.

Luck was on my side even though i was a tad disappointed with the depressing state of the onsen. Filled with greenish water, i was actually a bit hesitant to step into the tubs when i wanted to take a soak later that evening.

Note that it closed at 10.00 pm!  

The elderly gentleman manning the reception was very nice; he automatically passed us a map for ease of navigation and even shoved us a poster publicizing the Toyako Onsen Summer Festival

On the way to our assigned room on level two of the ryokan. There's a dining room on level one but unfortunately, i didn't check it out and just to clarify, our room didn't come with any meals. 

Drew lots again and this time, we got the bigger room 210! 

Floor plan for your reference; throughout our stay, i think there's only another occupied room. Hm.... i thought Hokkaido is popular in summer...

View of Lake Toya from the second floor of Daiwa Ryokan! 

Cool sia; the entire room was on an elevated platform and there's a strong scent of tatami mats! I can bet with you that this intense smell might not be well liked by everyone.

Spacious living room.

There's no closet / wardrobe although i don't really mind since i don't have the tendency to hang anything and even if i do, it's for my pair of jeans which would benefit from being air outside than inside. 

Aside from the Japanese style jacket, you can find yutakas, traditional summer attire for the Japanese, in a basket. With no instructions, i decided not to wear it in case i were to make a fool out of myself. I should have just searched the web for instructions as i found a pictorial one here

Old school television; CRT one which looked like the kind that Sadako climbed out from in the horror movie that i felt was the scariest of all time; The Ring.

There's a smaller room that's dark and you would need to pull the string to switch on the light. 

I noticed the additional door and made a guess that it would contain the materials required for my bedding at night; my experience in my first airbnb in furano had taught me something.

Japanese futons! 

Alex's penchant for constant rest when overseas continued when he enthusiastically laid out the futon so that he can take a short snooze before our next meetup time with our travel mates.

Now, a few things i must highlight to you about the ryokan; there's no air-conditioner (i found a radiator though) and it's not really a big deal since the climate was rather cooling at Lake Toya, even in summer. However, i still needed some air circulation and having the standing fan helped.

There's no curtain which could have been fine but if you were as ignorant as me and decided to sleep in the 'living room', the sun rises at about 4.00 am in summer and i am the kind who will wake up once the sun shines on my butt. Am also the kind who couldn't sleep in bright daylight. Kudos.

Towels, face towels, toothbrushes and razors were provided; key question. Where the hell was the bathroom since i didn't see any!? Again, do pardon my ignorance as baths were to be taken in the bathhouse i mentioned earlier that was located on the lower level of the building. Shampoo and shower gel would be provided in the bathhouse. 

What about toilets?! There's a common toilet along the corridor and it's segregated by male and female. Thank god for that; I am writing the statement on behalf of my female friends.

Urinals in the male toilet and there's one thing i am superbly impressed; the floor was dry, spotless and there's none of the stench you often get in toilets back in the little red dot! 

Curiosity was piqued when i saw the labels on the doors; Japanese style and Western style toilet. By Western style, i am thinking it's likely a seated toilet but i don't know of any Japanese style toilet.

Mystery solved - Western style.

Japanese style would be the squatting kind of toilet which i thought would be better to be labelled as Asian style since squatting toilets are common even in Southeast Asia.

Want to wash your face and brush your teeth? Do them at the sinks along the common corridor too! It's like a walk down memory lane when i was in primary school! 

The ones outside the ladies' room were better looking. I think most Japanese homes have the same kind of vanity sinks as evidenced in my first airbnb in furano and the second airbnb in Otaru.

One of my friends' room that's missing a window; not much of an issue so long you don't have rowdy stayers even though it reflected a lot on the condition of the ryokan.

I did see a few of the above and thought they were merely artistic display of fireworks that would help to brighten up the dull walls.

No, they were really just colourful stickers to hide the defects like holes in the walls, broken floor laminates etc. Well, can't fault them on their creativity. Staying in Daiwa Ryokan was indeed an eye-opener for me.


049-5721 Hokkaido, Lake Toya, 
Toyako Onsen 105, Japan

As above.

A Room for 2 - 9,200 yen

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