Valentine’s Day The Japanese Way in Bellevue

Unique Two-Prong Valentine Celebration

In Japan, on Valentine’s Day, it’s the women who give gifts to men. Yes, the 14th of February is celebrated differently there. It’s a strong tradition of women giving chocolates to men on Love Day, so much so that you’ll be seeing large displays in department stores and grocery stores of chocolate, usually heart-shaped, from as early as mid-January. Days before Valentine’s, stores are packed with endless varieties of chocolates of every imaginable style and presentation. There are also lots of other non-chocolate choices, as cookies and other sweet treats, also chocolate-making kitchen tools. And women, long ques of them!

Valentine’s Day chocolate is not limited to just husbands, boyfriends or ‘your crush”. Friends, family and office mates are on the list, too. In fact, there are several types of chocolate-giving on Valentine’s Day. There’s Giri-choco, which means ‘obligation chocolate’. The gift is given to friends, bosses, family members, work colleagues or other men who the giver isn’t romantically involved with. It’s an obligation, not to be regarded as a statement of romance.

There’s Honmei choco, the chocolate reserved for a boyfriend, husband or lover, a special someone in your life to shower with affection in the form of chocolate, cookies and other sweet treats. To separate the concept of honmei (meaning loosely ‘real objective’) from others made out of giri (obligation), the women tend to make the chocolate themselves. It’s a sign of how valuable is the object of affection, that extra effort is put into the gift.

Jibun-choco is the chocolate you buy and enjoy for yourself. Tomo-choco is ‘friend chocolate’ and is given by women to other female friends. Gyaku-choco means ‘reverse chocolate’ and is given by a man to a woman. It’s not traditional, hence, not common at all.

Then comes White Day. Exactly one month after Valentine’s Day, men return the favour – as many as three times more the value of the gift they received from any woman. On March 14, men of all ages are expected to give gifts, three times more the worth, to any woman from whom they received giri-choco from the month prior. Men are expected to give chocolates and other gifts like handbags, lingerie, apparel, or flowers that come in white color.

For Men and Ladies: Valentine’s at FLO

Looking to celebrate Valentine’s Day in Bellevue (or even on White Day)? What lovely way to show affection than an exquisite dinner at Flo. Be sure to book a table soon for a hassle-free Valentine’s Day.

The True Origins of the Japanese Tempura

It’s European, Not Japanese

People who love fried foods are also in love with tempura. The delicious and crunchy batter coated dish – be it seafood, meat or veggie inside – is a comfort food for most. Most of us would thank the Japanese for inventing tempura, however, we are barking up the wrong tree, for tempura did not originate in Japan.

In 1543, a Chinese ship with some Portuguese sailors on board was headed to Macau, but was swept off course and ended up on the Japanese island of Tanegashima. These were the first ever Europeans to step on Japanese soil. The Portuguese came with guns, not to harm the inhabitants, but to trade. And though the Japanese didn’t like them, they found their ammunition useful as they were in mid-war at the time. Thus began a Portuguese trading post in Japan, starting with firearms and then other items such as soap, tobacco, wool and even recipes.

The Portuguese stayed until 1639 when they were banished because the Japanese regarded their religion, Christianity, as a bit too dangerous to the Japanese culture. Even if they had sailed away, the Portuguese left behind a rich part of their legacy, especially where food was concerned.

The Japanese today deviated from tradition and made the batter less heavy, incorporating fish, other veggies like eggplant, carrots, sweet potatoes, shiitake mushrooms, and of course, the famous shrimp tempura. If you travel to Portugal now, you’d recognised the green beans tempura and you’d say they’re Japanese. You’ll soon know you’re mistaken. The Portuguese even made their tempura crispier by adding a starch called nutrios. They still cook those green beans of old and they’ll tell you it’s nostalgia.

We Tempura Everything in Bellevue, Almost

When you come to FLO in Bellevue, enjoy our hot food selections which include the classic tempura. See that we gave it a unique flair. It’s just the way we do things here.

Osechi Ryori: Going Traditional for New Year in Bellevue

The Concept of Osechi Ryori

A traditional feast is observed in Japan at the start of the New Year. People go back to their hometowns, pay a respectful visit to their local shrine, and enjoy traditional food. That traditional food is the popular osechi ryori, granted a status as a UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage.

This practice goes back to the Heian period (794-1185). Ritual offerings of food are conducted to be presented to the gods on sechinichi days. These days marked the changing of the seasons based on the traditional Chinese almanacs. Some days are more important than others, and by far the most important one is the beginning of the New Year. On this day, special dishes were offered to various gods and members of the elite society partake of it as well.

Long been practised, this tradition soon spread to the rest of society and by the Edo period (1603-1868), they were being practiced commonly around Japan. Various beliefs came about, curiously and especially that on the first days of the New Year, any kind of work – including cooking – was to be avoided. One theory suggests that the deities shouldn’t be disturbed on these days by the sounds of cooking, or that those who are preparing the foods, especially women, should enjoy their rest and not have to work.

The osechi then was only simple food, like vegetables boiled in soy sauce and vinegar. Over the centuries, many more food varieties were added such that it became a more elaborate affair. These dishes have a special meaning.

Black beans, called Kuromame, mean health, so that a person can be able to work hard in the coming year. Kazunoko is herring roe, means many children. Kōhaku kamaboko is a red and white fish cake not only represents the Japanese flag colors, but also mean evil spirits (red) and purity (white). Tazukuri is sardines boiled in soy sauce and symbolic of a plentiful harvest. Datemaki is an omelette mixed with mashed shrimp or fish paste, associated with learning and scholarship. Kurikinton are sweet dumplings out of chestnuts.; yellow in color, associated with gold and financial prosperity. Kobu is connected to the word yorokobu, or happiness. Tai is made into the traditional food that is fed to a baby 100 days after birth; it’s meant to bring joy and happiness in the new year. Shrimp and Soba both mean longevity.

So if you’re invited to an Osechi Ryori, it’s good to know its background and what those foods mean.

New Year with Osechi

Here at Flo in Bellevue, we bring you this very special cuisine in the Japanese tradition of Osechi Ryori. Greet the New Year with our wide exquisite selections set in beautifully crafted presentations.

The Black Cod

Black Cod: The Succulent Non-Cod Fish

Many fish are called cods and there are many cods in the market sharing similar traits – firm, white, meaty flesh. A few of the most common are Atlantic Cod, a favorite for fish and chips; Lingcod, a favorite for recreational fishing by anglers on the West Coast; Pacific Cod, the second most abundant white fish in the world; Alaskan Pollock, the oilier and stronger-tasting most abundant white fish in the world, used in fish sticks and fast-food fish sandwiches; then there’s the Black Cod.

Black Cod or Sablefish is often called ‘butterfish’ due to its intensely rich, buttery flavour, yet very delicate texture. It is a deep-sea fish, living 5,000 feet (or up to 9,000 feet) in muddy depths below sea level in the Pacific Ocean, from Alaska to British Columbia. It is available in Eastern Pacific (from Southern California to Bering Sea) and Western Pacific (from Kamchatka and Russia to Southern Japan). Its predators are Salmon, Sperm whales, Pacific halibut and Orcas. Its diet consists of squid, small fishes and jellyfish.

However, it is not a true cod. Black Cod just resemble regular cod fish. But they mature early and are are long-living (like up to 90 years). This makes them a good sustainable source of food.

Like salmon, black cod can contain as much omega-3 (EPA and DHA), has three times more saturated fats than salmon and has many of the other nutrients found in salmon as well, such as vitamin B12. It also contains amino acids and other minerals like calcium, iron, magnesium, phosphorus, and potassium. Its rich succulent taste and texture is often compared to that of sea bass. It can also substitute for Chilean Bass.

In Japan, black cod is an essential element for sushi. Its high fat content allows it to go through different forms of cooking – frying, steak, smoking, broiling, baking and grilling.

Enjoying Bellevue Black Cod

You will just love Flo’s broiled Black Cod marinated in house-made Saikyo Miso sauce and served with light-tempura enoki mushrooms. It makes one great dinner.

Udon and Soba: Perennial Noodle Favorites in Bellevue

Everyone’s Favorite Japanese Noodles

Udon and soba are so very typical Japanese noodles that they have been integral to the Japanese diet and culture. Both can be added to other ingredients, blending well and giving texture and flavor to the whole dish. They can be served hot or cold even if they are cooked similarly- in a large container of boiling, salted water and considered done when they reach the right consistency.

There are many different varieties of udon and soba in different regions of Japan, though both originate from China. Udon came to imperial Japan during the Nara period (710-784 AD) while soba came much earlier, during the Jomon period (13000 BC to 300 BC)

The noodles also differ in their composition. Udon noodles are made out of wheat flour – they are thick and white in color. They are best eaten as fresh as they are soft and chewy. Neutral in flavor, they are able to absorb strong-flavored ingredients or dishes from curried broths to toppings that include deep fried fish, various vegetables, pork, etc. The texture of dried udon is, however, more dense.

Soba noodles are made out of buckwheat, with a strong nutty flavor. If they have wheat in them, and many do, it means they are not gluten-free. Pure buckwheat soba is gluten-free and stronger in flavor. The noodles are thin and soft, a lot chewier and nuttier than udon. Dried soba looks like flat spaghetti and is usually light beige to dark brown-gray in color.

Both udon and soba are extremely popular, filling noodles to be eaten at any time of the day. While there are other Japanese noodle types, like yakisoba, ramen and somen, the udon and soba are the much loved, traditional and versatile favorites in any honest-to-goodness Japanese restaurant.

Enjoying Udon and Soba in Bellevue

Here at Flo, we serve your favorite noodles together with other great classics. They are our lunchtime specials. We’ve got Tempura Udon or Tempura Soba or our Nabeyaki Udon. Enjoy our noodles like nowhere else, only here at your Japanese restaurant in Bellevue.