Turn a cheap ice cream into a luxury dessert with katsuobushi bonito fish flakes

This surprising recipe creates a richer, more flavourful bowl of ice cream.

Just last week, one of our Japanese-language reporters was watching Gatten!, a TV programme on national broadcaster NHK, when one of their segments immediately caught her attention.

Discussing ways to use up leftover katsuobushi bonito fish flakes, a staple in Japanese households, the presenters had some clever suggestions for viewers, with ideas like katsuobushi-infused oil, katsuobushi-infused butter, and even katsuobushi-infused alcohol drawing “oohs” and “ahhs” from the audience.

However, out of all these inventive recipe ideas, there was one that really stood out from all the others: katsuobushi ice cream. While fish-flavoured ice cream might not sound that appealing, the presenters were adamant that mixing fish flakes with ice cream actually transforms it into a more luxurious dessert. Sachi, our Japanese-language reporter, was keen to try out the recipe to see how much truth there really was to this odd-sounding claim.

For those keen to walk on the wild side of vanilla ice cream, here’s NHK’s recipe:

 200 millilitres (6.8 ounces) of vanilla ice cream
 2 grammes (0.07 ounces) of dried bonito fish flakes
Pinch of salt

1: Rub the bonito flakes in the packet to loosen
2: Add the bonito flakes and salt into the ice cream and mix well

Sachi chose to use a tub of Meiji Essel Super Cup Ultra Vanilla — one of the cheapest and best-loved ice cream varieties on the market — for this experiment, and was incredibly impressed with the ease of it all.

It took less than a couple of minutes to add the fine pieces of fish flakes to the ice cream, and when she tasted it, she couldn’t deny that there was a new depth of flavour created by the addition of bonito.

However, it was at this moment that she realised she’d forgotten to add salt to the mix. Sachi grabbed a pinch and mixed it in and it was at this point that she was totally won over by the unusual combination. The plain vanilla ice cream was even more delicious than ever!

The flavour was so well-rounded and had such a rich depth to it that it tasted entirely different to the plain vanilla ice cream she was used to. The addition of salt and fish flakes brought the texture and flavour up to a whole new level, giving it a luxurious taste that made her feel like she was eating a much more expensive brand of ice cream.

While she couldn’t explain exactly why the ice cream tasted so high-class, she guessed that it had something to do with the umami from the smoked bonito fish. Since there was little fish aroma emanating from the dish, her cat was curious enough to come over and take a sniff as well.

Totally satisfied with the upmarket ice cream she’d just created, Sachi was tempted to keep some for afterwards, but according to the presenters on the TV show, the mix tends to taste a bit more salty after it’s frozen, so it’s best to eat it after the mix is freshly made.

Sachi says this is one of the easiest and best ice cream recipes she’s ever come across, and she wholeheartedly recommends trying it. If you’re looking to be even more creative with your ice cream this summer, though, don’t despair — you could always try adding ramen or soy sauce for an extra boost of unique Japanese flavour!

Photos © SoraNews24 

Häagen-Dazs ice cream sandwich milkshakes now available at pop-up cafe in Tokyo【Taste Test】

Häagen-Dazs fans will want to check out this limited-time-only cafe before it’s gone at the end of the month!

Häagen-Dazs has proven their commitment to providing us with quality ice cream by constantly releasing premium, fancy, limited-edition flavors like gold-dusted Matcha Opera ice cream. Their delicious flavors are sold as cups, ice cream bars, and, my personal favorite, Crispy Sandwiches.

In this summer heat, though, eating an ice cream sandwich is going to be a messy experience. Luckily, right now we can get the same delicious flavors in a Crispy Sandwich-flavored milkshake at the newly opened Häagen-Dazs Crispy Sandwich Beach Cafe, which is now open in montoak, a cafe and lounge in Omotesando, Tokyo!

They’re offering three delightful flavors: Caramel Classic, Hojicha Wa no Ka, and Triple Berry Rare Cheese, and they cost 700 to 800 yen each (US$6.29-$7.19). Each shake is blended with real Crispy Sandwiches, and topped with half of a Crispy Sandwich, some whipped cream, and other flavor specific-toppings, which means you’re going to get more than enough Häagen-Dazs from one of these babies.

We tried out the Hojicha Wa no Ka, flavored with roasted green tea, first. It’s made with black sugar and topped with whipped cream, red beans, and a Hojicha Wa no Ka Crispy Sandwich, which gives it distinctly Japanese nuances. With each sip through the thick straw, the earthy aroma of roasted green tea fills your mouth, but just when you think that’s the end of it, a refreshing sweetness bursts forth for a lip-smackingly tasty flavor.

If you mix in a little bit of the whipped cream and read beans as you go, it tastes just like a Japanese sweet served with green tea. Plus, the pieces of the wafers that have melted into the shake give an extra nice touch to an already complex flavor. You won’t be able to stop drinking this one!

The Caramel Classic, with its crunchy topping of caramel nuts, is a very satisfying drink. It’s not too sweet, and has a hint of bitterness to it, which gives it a very mature flavor. It seems like something a rich lady would be drinking as she walks her perfectly coiffed toy poodle around Omotesando.

The Triple Berry Rare Cheese is a very summery milkshake. The berries provide a nice sweet and sour aroma to the shake, while the pink color gives it a very bright appearance. With strawberries mixed in along with a bit of jam, this shake has an undeniable fruitiness that berry fans will love.

These shakes are big. You’ll want to bring a hearty appetite with you when you stop by this stall, so we don’t recommend that you come on a full stomach.

If you want a little bit more than a milkshake, though, they also have Crispy Sandwich Shake Parfaits, but they’re limited to just 100 per day, so if you want to try one, you should get there early. They are priced at 1,296 yen each ($11.65).

Though this pop-up stand will only be open until July 29, you can still enjoy at least one of the flavors after it closes. The Hojicha Wa no Ka Crispy Sandwich is now available in supermarkets and convenience stores nationwide, so if you really just can’t live without more of that roasted green tea flavor, you’re in luck.

Cafe Information
Häagen-Dazs Crispy Sand Beach Cafe / ハーゲンダッツ クリスピーサンド ビーチカフェ
Address: montoak, Tokyo-to, Shibuya-ku, Jingu-Mae 6-1-9
Take-out hours: 11:00 a.m. to 7 p.m. (last order 7 p.m.)
Eat-in hours: 11:00 a.m. to 10 p.m. (last order 9:30 p.m.)
montoak’s hours: 11 a.m. to 2 a.m. (Mon-Thur, Sun); 11 a.m. to 3 a.m. (Fri-Sat, the day before a holiday)
Website (Japanese only)

Top/Featured Image ©SoraNews24
Insert Images: ©SoraNews24, PR Times

Häagen-Dazs Japan gives us another Crispy Sandwich flavor to swoon over: roasted green tea

Sweets lovers will have another mouth-watering creation from Häagen-Dazs Japan to tempt them this summer, this time in a Japanese roasted green tea flavor

Hojicha (roasted green tea) appears to be quite the hot ingredient in Japan at the moment, finding its way into a variety of foods and beverages from limited edition Starbucks Frappuccinos to even flavored beer.

And now Häagen-Dazs Japan has just added a new item to the ever-growing list of Hojicha-inspired treats with their “Hojicha Wa no Ka (Japanese Confection) — Arranged with Brown Sugar” Crispy Sandwich. As far as we can tell from the released information, the ice cream looks as good as the name sounds.

The product is hojicha ice cream with a brown sugar sauce filling, covered with a hard brown sugar and hojicha shell, all sandwiched between two sheets of crispy hojicha-flavored wafers. Drooling yet, everyone?

They even have a picture of the ice cream’s cross-section with detailed explanations on their dedicated webpage. The diagram explains how (1) the top outer layer is a hojicha-flavored wafer, (2) the second layer is a hard brown sugar and hojicha shell, (3) the third layer is refreshing hojicha-flavored ice cream, and (4) at the very center is a rich brown sugar sauce.

Apparently they wanted to create an ice cream product as delicately flavorful as a Japanese confection, and from what they’ve described, it sure looks like they’ve succeeded. The highly aromatic roasted tea and smoothly sweet brown sugar are bound to be a delightful combination and also a brilliant way to use Japanese ingredients in a western dessert.

The Hojicha Wa no Ka Crispy Sandwich will be available at supermarkets, convenience stores, and department stores from July 10 at a price of 294 yen (US$2.66), so keep an eye out for it if you’re looking for a cool, refreshing treat in Japan this summer!

Source: Häagen-Dazs Japan news releaseHäagen-Dazs Hojicha Wa no Ka special webpage
Top image: Häagen-Dazs Hojicha Wa no Ka special webpage
Insert images: Häagen-Dazs Japan news release, Häagen-Dazs Hojicha Wa no Ka special webpage

Vanilla-flavoured creamy seafood cup ramen from Japan: Makes your noodles taste like ice cream

Because there’s nothing more refreshing in summer than seafood ice cream.

In the world of instant noodles, Nissin’s Cup Ramen brand often takes centre stage in Japan, pushing aside its competitors with irresistible flavours like pizza and Chicken Nugget French Fries, but there’s another brand that’s been stepping out from Cup Ramen’s shadow in recent years, with a tub of noodles that’s 1.5 times the size of others.

Called Super Cup 1.5 Bai (which translates to Super Cup 1.5 times), this brand of noodles comes from Japan’s instant noodle specialists at Acecook. And while they’ve dabbled in unusual flavours before, they’re looking to steal the limelight this summer with a brand new taste sensation that’s got everyone talking: vanilla-flavoured creamy seafood ramen.

Looking at the product itself, it’d be easy to mistake this for a tub of ramen-flavoured ice cream, but the image of the soft-serve on the packaging comes with a disclaimer next to it, which reads: “Does not contain vanilla ice cream“.

That’s not to say they’re not trying go evoke the sense of eating an ice cream with their product though, as that’s exactly the appeal of these new noodles, which are said to be a perfect balance between the rich, creamy prawn-and-scallop seafood broth and the sweet scent and flavour of vanilla.

Though the noodles need to be prepared the usual way, with the addition of boiling water, the inclusion of vanilla in its own separate powder packet allows the consumers to control the amount and timing for blending the flavour into their noodles. Adding it towards the end, after the noodles have cooled, will bring out the flavour of a creamy seafood ice cream.

According to the company, the new ramen was created to help celebrate a landmark anniversary for their Super Cup 1.5 Bai, which has been satisfying the appetites of Japanese noodle lovers for 30 years.

On sale from 30 July at stores around the country, the new vanilla flavoured creamy seafood ramen is set to retail for 210 yen (US$1.90) plus tax, which is just three yen less than a tub of Baby Star ramen ice cream.

Source, images: PR Times

The Deep Matcha Matcha of Matcha-Cha, an awesome green tea sweets cafe in an unexpected place

An amazing place for lovers of green tea in the City of Angels.

As much as I love living in Japan, I’m also seriously fond of my hometown. So whenever I get a chance to go back, I spend a few days immersing myself in the sights, and tastes, of Los Angeles.

And then, after a few days, I start craving Japanese food. On my most recent trip to California, I managed to make it exactly one week before literally having a dream about eating Japanese desserts, and so I found myself on the freeway speeding towards L.A.’s recently opened Matcha-Cha matcha green tea sweets shop.

Los Angeles is diverse enough that it has more than one Japanese enclave. While most of them are centered in Little Tokyo, on the east edge of downtown, Matcha-Cha is further west in the Sawtelle neighborhood, which sometimes gets referred to as “Little Osaka.” However, it’s actually Kyoto that plays a part in producing Matcha-Cha’s desserts, since the shop sources its matcha green tea powder from Japan’s ancient capital.

▼ We’re not sure what constitutes a “matcha problem,” but if yours is not having a green tea dessert in your hands, Matcha-Cha is here to help.

Aside from the stylish simulated sakura trees, the first thing you’ll notice when walking up to the store is a display window next to the entrance, filled with models of Matcha-Cha’s desserts and beverages. Food models like this are an iconic part of Japan’s restaurant culture, and their presence here is a reassuring touch for anyone who’s enjoyed Japanese cuisine in its homeland, much like the broth-appropriate noodle thicknesses as Las Vegas’ Monta Ramen.

Macha-Cha’s desserts come in three different varieties: matcha pancakes, soft serve ice cream cones (matcha, strawberry, or mixed), or “signature soft serve ice cream,” as the cafe calls its parfaits.

Colorful pictures of each can be found on the menu to help first-timers choose, but if you’re a hard-core Japanese sweets fan, it’s actually a pretty easy decision. You don’t go all the way to a green tea dessert shop to eat strawberry ice cream, and you can make matcha pancakes yourself pretty easily, so despite my usual indecisiveness in ordering food, to me the matcha parfait is a no-brainer.

Specifically, that’s the “Deep Matcha Matcha Signature Soft Serve Ice Cream,” which differs from the non-deep version by drizzling glistening matcha sauce on top.

▼ Matcha-Cha’s Deep Matcha Matcha wants to make absolutely sure you know it’s matcha-flavored.

Inside the cafe there’s only a tiny bench for customers to sit on while their food is being prepared, with nowhere to actually eat. This being Los Angeles, though, there’s a pretty good chance that whenever you stop by Matcha-Cha, you’re going to have the sort of warm, sunny weather that’s perfect for eating outside, and in front of the entrance are tables and chairs so that you can eat underneath the artificial cherry trees, making the experience feel a bit like a hanami cherry blossom viewing party.

Running through the cast of characters in the parfait, the star is, of course, the matcha ice cream. Sometimes overseas green tea ice creams skimp on the matcha and can end up with a strangly minty, almost toothpaste like aftertaste. That’s absolutely not the case at Matcha-Cha, though. It’s matcha ice cream is authentic and delicious even by Japanese standards, and as the matcha syrup melts and mixes in with the cream, the flavor becomes even more richly satisfying.

Accompanying the ice cream are a trio of Pocky sticks, which seem a bit like a concession to foreign Japanese sweets fans, for whom Pocky is often the gateway experience to the wide world of Japanese snack foods. It’s a little surprising that Matcha-Cha uses the ordinary chocolate version instead of Matcha Pocky, but a little contrast isn’t a bad thing, especially since chocolate and matcha go so well together.

▼ And if you really want green tea Pocky, you can always use the stick like a spoon and scoop up some extra ice cream before taking a bite.

There’s also a nice-sized serving of anko, sweet red bean paste, which is a bit more in line with what you’d find at a dessert place in Japan. As I’ve mentioned before, anko makes everything better, and that holds true here, with its smooth texture and hint of saltiness adding just the right amount of pleasing complexity to the taste and texture.

Oddly, the one component Matcha-Cha stumbles over are the shiratama mochi dumplings. Shiratama aren’t particularly hard to make (they’re even a common cooking class project for elementary school students in Japan), but the ones here had an unusual stiffness to their outer layer and were on the dry side. It’s possible they simply came from a bad batch, though, and at least they’re dusted with matcha powder.

As you’ve probably noticed, Matcha-Cha’s parfaits are served in an edible waffle cone bowl. Unless you eat your dessert with blinding speed, you’re going to end up with a mouthwatering mixture of melted ice cream, matcha powder, and anko at the end, and thankfully the bowl doubles as a handy drinking vessel that you can thoughtfully sip from like you’re having a confectionery tea ceremony.

▼ The non-deep Matcha Matcha, on the left, leaves off the matcha sauce, but is identically priced at US$5.75.

As Japanese as Matcha-Cha’s desserts may be, the portions are American-sized, and the Deep Matcha Matcha left me happily stuffed, yet almost instantly looking forward to a repeat visit. The cafe is open until 11:30 on Fridays and Saturdays and 11 during the rest of the week, making it easy to get your matcha fix whenever the mood strikes.

Restaurant information
Address: 11301 W. Olympic Blvd., #122, Los Angeles, CA 90064
Open 11:30 a.m-11 p.m. (Sunday-Thursday), 11:30 a.m.-11:30 p.m. (Friday-Saturday)

Photos ©SoraNews24

We try 7-Eleven Japan’s latest fancy desserts: ice cream macarons【Taste test】

Meringue meets ice cream in convenience store chain’s latest summer-themed dessert offering.

While the temperature and humidity is still bearable, at least here in Kansai, summer is coming. While frantically fanning yourself and putting a bag of frozen edamame beans down your T-shirt are both excellent ways to try to beat the heat, cold drinks and ice creams are a rather more enjoyable way to fight off the high temperatures. To that end we decided it was high time to sample the luxurious new macaron ice creams available from 7-Eleven. It’s practically a public service announcement.

The new macaron ices, as they’re officially known, come in two different flavours, chocolate mint and mixed berry, each sandwiched in the crisp, sugary meringue goodness of two differently coloured macarons for desserts that hopefully taste as good as they look.

Chocolat, because it tastes fancier when you spell it the French way.

With Herculean effort we were able to artfully place the first of the two ice creams on a plate to take a photo before snaffling it down, in the interests of a proper food review, you understand. Our first impression when we opened the cool-green packaging was the refreshing smell of mint that poured out. Our appetites were well and truly whetted.

The mint-flavoured ice cream is capped by a vivid blue mint macaron on one side, and a rich brown chocolate macaron on the other. Despite the notorious fragility of meringue-based macarons ours seemed to have survived their frozen journey intact. As for the taste, the mint of the ice cream was cool but not overpowering and the macarons were sweet yet thanks to the ice cream not sickly.

Next up was the Mix Berry and its gaudy pink and purple macarons. Again, opening the packet released a strong summery fragrance, this time of berries. The pink macaron was strawberry-flavoured and the purple one tasted of blueberries, while the ice cream is also strawberry for a full berry blast. The slight citric tang of the berry flavour and the creaminess of the strawberry ice cream complement the macarons nicely without being too much. The two elements also add to the sated feeling you get from eating just one of them, not too bad when they come in at a not-unreasonable 153 calories each.

Seven Eleven clearly have an eye on capturing the taste buds and shutter clicks of the Instagram generation, as these sweets definitely have photogenic good looks, seemingly designed to grace a fair number of profile and background pictures across social media, with the delicious mix of sweet macaron and creamy ice cream.

Convenience stores in other countries might not be known for their quality or taste, with a stereotype of convenience that makes up for other shortcomings, but here in Japan a trip to a convenience store and a look at the limited-edition goodies on sale will soon have you reconsidering that, with delicious offerings from all of the main chains.

On the packaging the words FROZEN TREATS apparently warrant capitalisation, and they’re not wrong, they are both frozen and a treat that satisfies both our sweet tooths and our dislike of overheating. The new ice cream treats went on sale on 12 June and sell for 248 yen (US$2.30) each including tax and are our latest weapon in the fight to keep cool, and happy. Also, if you need more tips to survive the four-month long heatwave that is Japanese summer you’re in the right place.

Photos ©SoraNews24

Love fireworks and ice cream? Häagen-Dazs lets you enjoy both at this Hanabi Bar in Tokyo

Launch gorgeous digital fireworks into the night sky for each ice cream you finish. And try out the new summer flavor while you’re at it.

Japan has just entered its sweltering summer months, the perfect time to dig into some icy cold Häagen-Dazs ice cream. Summer over here is also a period filled with magnificent displays of fireworks, and few things in life can compare to watching beautiful pyrotechnics while enjoying an icy treat.

A time-limited Häagen-Dazs Hanabi Bar opened its doors to the public recently in the Tokyo City View Observation Deck, drawing people in downtown Roppongi Hills into its cozy interior, where customers can drink in the stunning panoramic view of Tokyo.

When night falls, videos of fireworks are projection mapped onto the bar’s large glass panels, simulating brilliant pyrotechnic explosions over the city. The light performances run four times every hour starting from 7 p.m. to 10:30 p.m., with each session spanning five minutes.

▼ Entry to the observatory costs 1,800 yen (US$16.40).

When the fireworks display is on, customers who finish their ice creams can insert their leftover ice cream sticks into a special box, causing a digital pyrotechnic to launch and flare up in the night sky.

▼ Visitors can purchase an exclusive brand new flavor
of Häagen-Dazs ice cream here: the Peach and Berry Juicy Bar.

Wrapped in an outer casing of mixed berry puree and a layer of soft white peach pulp, the creamy core’s mellowness and rich scent lifts the tasty dessert to luxurious levels. Bursting with refreshing fruitiness, this is one summer treat you’ll not want to miss.

As an added bonus, the first 50 customers each day dressed in pink to match the color of the new ice cream bar will receive a voucher allowing a one-time free entry into the observatory.

As the limited event only lasts until 3 June, those hoping to join in the fun will have to hurry before it’s all over. While lucky customers get to sample the new Peach and Berry Juicy Bar before everyone else, the fruity dessert will go on sale all over Japan starting on 5 June.

Häagen-Dazs fans might miss spring’s triple cherry blossom mochi ice cream, but with the snazzy Peach and Berry Juicy Bar, there’s a lot more to look forward to in summer.

Event information
Häagen-Dazs Hanabi Bar
Address: Tokyo-to, Minato-ku, Roppongi, 6-10-1, Roppongi Hills Mori Tower, Floor 52
東京都港区六本木6-10-1 六本木ヒルズ森タワー52階
Open: 1 p.m.-10:30 p.m. (Fireworks display 7 p.m.-10:30 p.m.)
Last entry: 10 p.m.

Source: Häagen-Dazs Hanabi Bar via PR Times
Images: PR Times