food

Holiday at Home: "Our Japan trip was cancelled, so we brought it to our living room instead."

Australian Pork
Thanks to our brand partner, Australian Pork

Two years ago, we had an amazing family holiday in Japan.

The 10 days in Tokyo included catching up with friends, trips to zoos and parks, daily bowls of ramen, a trip to Disneyland, a ride on a bullet train and more dumplings than I care to admit.

tokyo map
The days before social distancing. Image: Supplied.

This year we had planned to go back, tying in with our friend’s wedding. Life had other plans (hint: COVID-19) and so, when our trip was cancelled, we decided to recreate a Japanese-style weekend at home to cheer ourselves up.

Here's how we made it happen.

Get the paperwork out of the way first.

I think I prefer this kind of paperwork. Image: Supplied.
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When my husband suggested we do some origami, I’m sure he was thinking of something relaxing like a crane.

No, instead of something easy, my children wanted to go straight for the master-level origami – ninja throwing stars. Too many episodes of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles perhaps?

One very helpful YouTube video, some paper cuts, and a few tears later, we had two very happy ninjas attacking us.

3, 2, 1, let it rip!

One of the highlights of our previous Tokyo trip for my son was a visit to a five-storey toy shop, complete with a whole wall of Bey Blades.

We stocked up on a load of this famous Japanese toy at the time, and two years later we are still being forced asked nicely to battle him.

To get in the Japanese spirit I encouraged the children to host a mini tournament between them while I got chopping in the kitchen.

Its fair to say he won. Image: Supplied.

What’s cooking?

Naturally we wanted to create something delicious for our main meal. We regularly make dumplings and ramen at home, so we thought we would go for something a bit more adventurous.

One of the dinner highlights of our trip was going to an incredible Okonomiyaki restaurant, where you cook your own meal on the hot plate in front of you on your table.

Okonomiyaki is a Japanese-style savoury pancake, packed with veggies like cabbage and spring onion, and your choice of meat. Its name means ‘grilled as you like it’, as it’s one of those dishes that really allows for customisation.

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While the red-hot table at that restaurant posed some serious safety issues for my then (very wriggly) six and four-year-olds, it was so much fun cooking our dinner while we chatted with our friends at the table that night.

We wanted to recreate this feeling, so we used this okonomiyaki recipe from the Australian Pork website.

In Japan, pork is very popular. Locals consume as much pork as they do chicken and beef combined.

I opted for some pre-made pulled pork, as I wanted to make this quick, easy and delicious. I made sure to throw it into my online supermarket shop and got it delivered just in time (but you could make it yourself or ask your butcher).

It’s so versatile - we also use it in nachos, tacos, burritos, ramen, toasted sandwiches, or just on a wrap. But it’s also perfect for okonomoyaki (pronounced o-konomi-yaki).

The other ingredients are pretty simple: just plain flour, egg, sesame oil, carrot, red cabbage, spring onion, Kewpie mayonnaise (the Japanese brand in the cute squeezy bottle), and kecap manis (a sweet soy sauce).

Our okonomoyaki up close. *MOUTH WATERS* Image: Supplied.

Get the chopsticks out.

Traditionally you chop up the okinimoyaki while still on the grill and serve it from there so that it’s always hot and fresh.

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We tried getting everyone to eat with chopsticks but in the interest of honesty, we all ended up going for the tried and true method of eating with our hands.

To me, that's the sign of a happy meal!

okonomiyaki
Get that pork on your fork. Or chopstick. Or hand. Image: Supplied.

Let it go…

No trip to Tokyo would have been complete without a trip to Disneyland, and for my daughter this really was the best day of her life.

With no spinning teacups in our lounge room, we decided that the next best thing would be to bust out some karaoke and hand her the mic to belt out her favourite tones.

By the fourth round of Frozen songs we decided it was time to get on with the next activity...

The trip was let go but this amazing performance will not be. Image: Supplied.
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Gotta catch them all.

After the sing-song we sat down to watch a movie. We toyed with the Studio Ghibli options, but in the end Detective Pikachu (a Pokémon film for the uninitiated) won out. All of these are available now on Netflix.

After eating, snuggles are always great! Image: Supplied.

As for the grown-ups, we waited until the children were in bed and watched Lost in Translation – still such a great movie. To snack on? Wasabi peas of course!

It was so much fun having a theme for our weekend at home. We may not be able to travel right now, but we got to remind ourselves just why we fell in love with Japan and its unique culture.

From our incredible pulled pork okonomiyaki to our origami artistry, we found that having a cultural theme allowed us to spend quality time together as a family.

We've decided to continue our themed weekends... next stop, Mexico!

READ MORE: The 'Mexico' edition of 'Holiday at Home'.

Don't forget to share your favourite Japanese recipes with us below too!

Feature images: Supplied.

Australian Pork

 

Get some Pork on your fork.

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