Monday, February 16, 2015

Kyoto Travel Post: Maiko Transformation

Kyoto. Truly one of the most amazing and mesmerizing places I've ever traveled to in Japan. On this trip, I went during the height of autumn (with my significant other) granting us the opportunity to witness nature's spectacular change of colors. Abundant with history, tradition, and excellent food, there is no shortage of things to do or see (or crowds for that matter). Aside from the numerous locations we visited and treats we sampled, the most unforgettable moment would have to be my maiko transformation.

To those who are unfamiliar, a maiko is an apprentice geisha. Iconic of traditional Japan you may recognize them with painted faces, elegantly styled hair, and dressed in full kimono. Contrary to popular misconception, they are not prostitutes but rather highly skilled performing artists. As traditional female entertainers they are trained in various Japanese arts such as classical music, dance, games, and conversation. My experience did not include training in these arts, but they did include 1.5 hours in makeup, hair, and finally kimono followed by an epic photo shoot. Here's a look at the complete ensemble:

Of the numerous studios available in Kyoto, I chose Maiko-Henshin due to the quality of their pictures and great value. Considering that the entire experience cost me under $200 USD, this was well worth the money. I went during their promotion and chose their "Special Campaign to Celebrate Completion of New Head Shop" package which included hair, makeup, kimono, studio photos, and an outdoor photo shoot with your very own photographer. For additional details please see their website for more information. Note: If you are terrible at posing for pictures (like me) don't worry! They will guide you to that perfect photograph. Without any further ado, here are some highlights of that day.

After the photo shoot you are given 20 minutes free time to wander around the immediate area. I advise that you bring your own camera to take more pictures, walk around, and feel like a celebrity. Though I must warn you that a lot of people will flock to you for pictures. I forfeited my rickshaw ride so I was allotted 40 minutes. Here's what I did with it:

And so concludes my maiko adventure. To those of you who plan on visiting Japan, I highly recommend this activity. Take a break from the crowds and numerous temples and transform yourself into an apprentice geisha.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Sopa de Tres Frijoles (Three Bean Soup)

Fall is here! And what better way to kick off a long term hiatus than with a hearty soup recipe. I haven't posted in awhile but this is truly too good not to share. I first tasted this soup when my coworker brought some over to work to share with everyone. It was her DJ roommate's famous three bean soup recipe and she very nice to have packaged a portion for everyone to take home. Impeccable timing because unfortunately for me, that was the same day that I caught the flu. This soup was the perfect remedy for feeling sick and super awesome to have after a long day at work. Who knew DJ's could cook right? (Check him out here!) I'm sure what I have here isn't the exact recipe but the outcome is nevertheless delicious. This version is a bit thicker and meatier than the original so I hope you enjoy. Warm yourself up with some sopa de tres frijoles (three bean soup) as the weather continues to cool down. ¡OlĂ©!

P.S. Many thanks to Helen and Richard for sharing their soup with me!

Sopa de Tres Frijoles
1 cup pinto beans
1 cup black beans
1 cup lentils
1 can chicken broth
1 large brown onion, diced
3 cloves garlic, chopped
2 chicken breasts
3 tablespoon olive oil
1 1/2 teaspoon oregano
1 1/2 teaspoon cumin
1 small can roasted green chili pepper, mild
8-10 cups of water
salt and pepper to taste
green onion, chopped
cilantro, chopped

1. Sort the beans by removing twigs, rocks, and such. Rinse and soak beans for half an hour. (No need to soak the lentils they cook fairly quickly, but I would advise rinsing them. )
2. Rinse the chicken breasts and pat dry with a paper towel. Season one side with salt, pepper, cumin, and oregano.
3. In a large pot, heat up 2 tablespoons of olive oil over medium heat and place the chicken breasts seasoned side down. Allow the chicken to sear and caramelize. Season the other side and flip the chicken breasts. When both sides are nice and browned, remove the chicken breasts from the pot. (They do not have to be cooked through.)
4. In the same pot, add another tablespoon of olive oil and saute the garlic. When the garlic becomes fragrant, add the diced onion. Add the chicken breasts back into the pot when the onions become a little browned.
5. Add the pinto beans, black beans, spices, green chili pepper, chicken broth, and water into the pot. Bring to boil, turn down the heat, and allow to simmer for two hours or until the beans are tender, stirring occasionally.
6. After the two hours, add the lentils and cook for an additional 15-30 minutes, or until tender. Remove the chicken breast from the pot, shred the meat in a bowl, and put the chicken back into the soup. Adjust the thickness of the soup by adding more water and bringing it back to a boil.
7. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Garnish with cilantro and green onion to enjoy. :9