We recently finished my school’s cultural festival. The theme was the world, so each class picked a country to learn about and create a classroom display of. The students made traditional clothing from their country and put on a fashion show. There were also lots of live performances. Each club also had activities. My ESS club (English Speaking Society) created the traditional Gunma Prefecture game of Jomo Karuta in English, had an English translation machine (actually a giant box with two students sitting inside who would translate sentences from Japanese to English) and English Omikuji (traditional fortune slips). They also chose some dishes for an international cooking project. The club members translated the recipes and created a display about each of the dishes that they made and tasted. They chose baklava, Indian rice pudding seasoned with cardamom and topped with golden raisins and pistachios, Swedish baked apples, and guacamole.
Most of the club members liked all the dishes, but some of the students thought that the cinnamon in the baklava and cardamom in the rice pudding were too strongly flavored (strong spices are not common in Japanese cooking, so some people really don’t like them). Baklava and rice pudding were both declared, “very sweet!” The rice pudding was certainly sweet, so I will reduce the sugar by quite a bit if I make that recipe again.
This was the first time I’ve made baklava, so I didn’t realize that the sugar syrup has to be heated to the proper temerature or the baklava won’t set. Since the syrup wasn’t heated enough, it ran out of the baklava squares when we put them on a plate. I still have plenty of leftover phyllo, so I’ll try to make another batch sometime soon. (Phyllo is available from The Meat Guy and FBC here in Japan.)
For the baked apples, I was planning to substitute corn syrup for the Swedish syrup in the recipe, but I forgot to buy it, so I made a homemade “corn syrup” from sugar instead. It’s probably a good thing, too, because I don’t know what I would have done with the rest of the bottle of corn syrup. 🙂
rice pudding (shamefully out-of-focus)
The guacamole was the most unfamiliar dish to most of the students. They said that they rarely eat avocados, and corn tortilla chips are also not very common, so I had to go to the import store, Kaldi Coffee Farm, to get them. Almost all of the students really liked it though, and they snacked on the guacamole while they were working on their other projects for the festival. The one ingredient that they left out of the guacamole was the chopped cilantro. They said it tasted like the smell of kame-mushi, which they described as a kind of stink bug. I can see why they wouldn’t like that flavor in that case!
2 ripe avocados (they should feel slightly soft when squeezed but should not be brown inside)
juice from half a lime
large pinch of salt
1-2 tablespoons chopped red onion
1/4 cup chopped tomato
half a clove of garlic, finely minced
1-2 tablespoons fresh cilantro, chopped
pinch of chili powder
Cut the avocados in half. Use a spoon to remove the pit and scoop the flesh of the avocado into a bowl. Add the lime juice and a large pinch of salt. The lime juice helps keep the avocado from turning brown. Use a fork to mash the avocado roughly. There should be some chunks left in the mashed avocado. Add the remaining ingredients and stir together. Taste the guacamole and adjust the seasoning by adding more of any of the ingredients. For the best flavor, wait at least 30 minutes before eating. Serve with tortilla chips