Category: Japan

Forest Bathing @ Hampstead Heath

Wood shack at Hampstead Heath, photo by PH Morton

Hampstead Heath, photo by JMorton

I love this Manet-like impressionism photo at Hampstead Heath by PH Morton

Forest Bathing @ Hampstead Heath

Forest bathing has become an accepted form of relaxation and stress management in Japan.  It was started in the mid-80s.

But what is forest bathing?

It involves going into a woody land or forest, a green space, and hike leisurely; relax and breathe in all the freshness and negative ions, the so-called air-borned vitamins’, given off by the surrounding trees and plants.

Let all the stress of the day melt in the comparative embraces of the forest.

In London, there is a woodland called Hampstead Heath, a 320 hectares of open, green space perfect for forest bathing, among other things.  It is a place for a great family bonding.  There are numbers of ponds, there is even a ‘secret garden’ which is architecturally excellent.  It also covers a natural swimming pool for ladies and also for men, there are the Parliament Hill, the Kenwood House, Highgate pond, etc.

Be astounded at how great Hampstead Heath is, when it is just 6 kilometres away from the very busy bustling city centre of London, the Trafalgar Square.

It is a place for biodiversity: human meets natures and wildlife in a capsule of forested heath.

So Londoners, now the weather outside is no longer frightful, put on your walking shoes and have a forest bath!




Masks, photo by PH Morton


#1 Noh Mask

#2 Zo-Onna Mask

#3 Hannya Mask, represents a female demon

#4 Hanakobu Akujo

#5 Uba

These masks can be currently and readily admired at the V&A Museum, East Asian gallery.

Masks are used for protection, disguise, performance and entertainment.

The above masks were Japanese and were sculpted from wood.  They were based from the 14th century classical Japanese theatre called Noh which was much loved and patronised by the Shogun, supreme military leader.

Soft Shell Crab Tempura

Soft Shell Crab Tempura, by Arnold Gamboa

Soft Shell Crab Tempura

Soft shell crabs are just the normal typical everyday edible crab.  In a life of a crab, it undergoes some sort of moulting where it sheds its old tough tight casing and develop a new one to grow into. The new casing  is soft and this is when the is crab taken into the kitchen to delight the tastebuds of the gourmets for a soft shell crab


  • 2 soft-shell crabs
  • 85 g  plain flour
  • 1/2 salt
  • 1/2 sugar
  • 200 ml carbonated/sparkling water, chilled
  • Panko bread crumbs
  • oil for deep-frying

Method of Preparation:

Make up the tempura batter by mixing the flour with the salt and sugar.  Gradually add the chilled sparkling water.  Stir until there are no lumps.  Don’t go on stirring and daydream. 🙂 Note: over stirring will create gluten, which will make the batter stodgy.

Using a large platter, spread the panko bread crumbs.

Power up the deep fryer and heat the oil to 180ºC

Dip the crab into the tempura batter, ensuring all parts are covered.

Roll in the crab into the platter of panko bread crumbs. Cover every nook and cranny. 🙂

Shake gently and drop the crab into a deep fryer and let it sizzle until crispy all over.  This should take about 3-4 minutes.

Carefully fish out the crab and let it cool over some kitchen paper towels, which will absorb excess oil.

Repeat procedure with the next crab.

Enjoy with some green salad.


Egg Rolls Recipe

I have been seeing lots of egg rolls as a side dish in many Korean and Japanese drama.  It looks so good that I thought I should try making some.

It is fairly easy to make and quite quick as well.  Just remember to cook these under very low heat to give you a chance to manoeuvre the egg pancake into a fairly neat roll without burning it.

Egg Rolls Recipe

  • 3 eggs
  • 1 tablespoon milk
  • 1 tablespoon carrot, finely chopped
  • 1 tablespoon onion, finely chopped
  • 1 tablespoon green part of spring onion, finely chopped
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper for seasoning
  1. Crack the eggs into a mixing bowl, beat in the milk and season with salt and freshly ground black pepper.  Whisk until combined and no lumps are left, otherwise run into a sieve to remove any remaining lumps.
  2. Add in the carrot, onion and spring onion and stir until combined.
  3. Lightly oil a medium size frying pan or a pancake pan over a low heat.
  4. Pour in half of the egg mixture into the pan, when half-way cooked, slowly and carefully fold the omelette into a roll using a flat spatula and a pair of chopsticks (if available) and push it into the left side of the pan. As a space is created from the omelette roll, pour in half of the remaining egg mixture to it.  When the consistency starts to set, connect it by rolling it to the first batch, thus creating another layer.  Finally pour in the remaining egg mixture; do the same, roll in to make a stack.  Just imagine making a Swiss Roll. 🙂
  5. Transfer to a chopping board and slice into bite size pieces.


Japanese Grilled Avocado Recipe

Grilled Avocado

Japanese Grilled Avocado Recipe


  • 1 tsp miso paste
  • 1/4 tsp dried chilli flakes
  • 25 ml orange juice
  • 1/2 tbsp sugar
  • 1 tbsp mirin
  • 125 ml soy sauce
  • 1 tbsp lime juice
  • 2 avocados
  • Wasabi paste (optional)

Method of Preparation:

  1. Put the miso paste, chilli flakes, orange juice, sugar, mirin, soy sauce and lime juice in a sauce pan and bring to a boil under a high heat, stirring frequently.  Heat until it has thickened slightly but not turned into a syrup. Turn off the heat.
  2. Slice the avocados in half lengthways and remove the stone carefully and leave the flesh in its green outer skin.
  3. Brush the flesh with the miso & soy sauce from the pan and grill the avocados flesh down for about 3-5 minutes until the char marks are visible.
  4. Grill again with the skin down.
  5. Score the flesh several time, neatly (see photo above) and brush with the sauce
  6. Divide and then pour the rest of the sauce into the centre of the avocados.

Serve with a grilled fish, a bowl of rice, wasabi paste and a small bottle of rice wine.



Tonkatsu Recipe

Tonkatsu, photo by Carol Elep

Tonkatsu Recipe

Tonkatsu is a Japanese breaded pork chop, a lovely choice if you are eating Japanese and yet not really into sushi, there are some people who are not!

To make a crispier Tonkatsu use a Japanese style bread crumbs called Panko which thankfully is available in supermarkets like Tesco here in the UK.  Panko gives the extra crunch to the recipe and yet apparently less absorbent of oil.  If somehow you can’t find Panko, just use a couple of white breads, cut off the edges and then leave to ‘harder’ in the open for at least 3-4 hours.  And then run them in into the food processor to turn them into crumbs.

Below is the recipe:

  • 2 boneless pork loin chops
  • salt
  • pepper
  • 1/4 cup plain flour
  • 1-2 eggs
  • 1/2 cup panko or bread crumbs
  • oil for deep frying
  1. Make small cuts all over pork chops with tip of knife. Sprinkle salt and pepper on both sides of meat.
  2. Coat the meat with flour, dip in eggs, then cover with bread crumbs.
  3. Heat deep frying oil to 350 F, and deep fry crumb-covered meat. You can check the temperature by dropping a bread crumb. If it comes up to the oil surface right after it’s dropped, it’s good.
  4. Fry until color turns golden brown and meat floats in the oil, about 5-8 minutes, turning once or twice.
  5. Set the meat on a cooling rack for a minute. Cut into 5-6 pieces.

Banana Katsu Recipe

Banana Katsu @ Wagamama, Photo by PH Morton

Banana Katsu @ Wagamama, Photo by PH Morton

Wagamama is fast becoming a family favourite restaurant.  We find their food delicious and unfussy.  I supposed Wagamama created a simplified version of authentic Japanese food to suit most tastes, especially the Western palate.

We love the ramen; it being just really a soup is surprisingly very filling.  The ramen comes in various recipes: pork, seafood, chicken and beef.

To round off a good meal, Wagamama has a selection of tempting desserts, one of is the Japanese banana katsu, which is a crunchier fritter.

The recipe below calls for panko breadcrumbs.  Don’t let this put you off trying this recipe.  Panko is just from a regular white bread, where the crusts have been trimmed and discarded.

Banana Katsu Recipe


  • 1 tablespoon flour
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 3 tablespoons panko breadcrumbs
  • 2 large bananas, peeled but left whole
  • vegetable oil, for deep frying
  • icing sugar, for dusting
  • 4 scoops of vanilla ice cream, to serve


place the flour in a bowl, the beaten egg in another and the breadcrumbs in the third

dip the bananas first in the flour, then in the egg and finally in the breadcrumbs until coated

put 5cm (2 in) of the vegetable oil in a pan and heat to 180°c, or until a cube of bread added to the oil brown in 30 seconds

deep fry the bananas for 3-4 minutes or until golden brown

remove carefully with a slotted spoon, drain on kitchen paper and dust with icing sugar

divide between 2 plates and serve with the ice cream.

Serve and enjoy.

Chicken Karaage, a Benjamin Alves Recipe

I saw a bit of GMA’s Mars on youtube and like the recipe of the Japanese version of a fried chicken. Thanks to Benjamin Alves, the guest celebrity cook, for making it looks so easy to make and yet so yummy. All the women in the show were all saying how good it was.

Chicken Kaarage

Chicken Karaage

Chicken Karaage, a Benjamin Alves Recipe


6-8 pieces of boneless, with skin on chicken thighs; each thigh, depending on the size, should be cut into two or three pieces.
1 tablespoon ginger, freshly grated
2-3 cloves garlic, grated
2 tablespoons soy sauce
1 tablespoon sake
2 teaspoons brown sugar
1/2 – 1 cup cornstarch/cornflour
vegetable oil for frying
slices of lemon to garnish

Method of preparation:

In a large bowl, season the chicken thighs with the salt and pepper. Set this aside.

Make the marinade using a different container. Mix thoroughly the ginger, garlic and brown sugar with the soy sauce and sake.

Pour this mixture onto the chicken thighs. Mix well to soak all the crevices of the chicken thighs.

Cover the bowl with cling film and leave to marinate in the fridge for at least an hour.

After an hour or so, heat the oil in large frying pan or wok for deep frying.

Before frying each of the chicken pieces, roll each one into the cornflour and then let it sizzle in the hot oil until done.

Serve with your favourite sauce.


Lamprocapnos spectabilis (bleeding heart)

Peter, James, Stacey, young Nathan and I were walking through the vast wooded area of Hampstead Heath yesterday which was on route to the Easter fair, when came upon the Hill Garden, which we always called the “secret garden” of Hampstead Heath. We used to bring our son, James, to the secret garden when he was still a young boy during most spring/summer weekends as Hampstead Heath is near where we live.  But during the past few years we have not been to the secret garden.

Anyway yesterday, Peter saw and showed me these precious little beauties of little flowers growing within the walls of the secret garden. They were heart shapes and beautifully strung over a stem of delicate plants. They were stunning, truly a wonder of nature; like colourful little jewels.

Peter and I have never seen these plants or flowers before.

We did not even know what they were called. So googled for spring heart-shaped flower and Wikipedia came out with Lamprocapnos.

There was apparently an old Japanese legend for this flower. It was so sad.

If you look at the flower closely and be able to disect it, the legend of the flower will become very relevant.

The Japanese legend goes….

Once upon a time, a young man fell madly in love with a high-born Japanese girl. Their differences in status did not deter the young man from courting the girl. To show his love, he reared a couple of the most adorable rabbits and then sent these to the girl. (see outer part of the flower for the rabbit shape, refer to bottom-most photo)

The girl loved the rabbits but not the man.  This did not dissuade the man’s affection.

Next he sent the girl the softest, most beautifully woven silken slippers.  Again the girl was overjoyed with the gift but still would not accept the man’s love and affection.

The desperate man spent the last of his savings to give the most grandiose present that he could think of to the girl.  He bought her a pair of earrings.

The girl happily accepted the gift but haughtily turned down the offer of marriage from the man.

Finally the man realised that it was a lost cause.  With so much hopelessness, he plunged his knife straight to his heart.

A plant grew from the spot where he died.

My love-lies-bleeding.
~Thomas Campbell

Lamprocapnos spectabilis (bleeding heart) Photo by PH Morton

Lamprocapnos spectabilis (bleeding heart)
Photo by PH Morton

Lamprocapnos spectabilis (bleeding heart) Hill Garden Photo by PH Morton

Lamprocapnos spectabilis (bleeding heart) Hill Garden
Photo by PH Morton

Lamprocapnos spectabilis (bleeding heart) Hill Garden - Nr Hampstead Heath Photo by PH Morton

Lamprocapnos spectabilis (bleeding heart) Hill Garden – Nr Hampstead Heath
Photo by PH Morton

Bleeding heart thrives in shady areas so they would be ideal to plant until trees or against a shady fence.

They can be planted all year round.