Saturday, 28 February 2015

Tokyo Disneyland

Tokyo Disneyland, undoubtedly the most magical place on earth. This may seem like a bolt from the blue, but I live and breathe for fantasy, Harry Potter nurtured me. Disney and Marvel, full of intrigue and feats beyond the comprehension of mankind. Perhaps I'll save my gushing of my favourite characters for another time, coughpeggycartercough, right now, I solemnly swear to blow your brains out. We don't have anything even the barest whisper of Disneyland here, the closest is perhaps Movie World or Dreamworld at the Gold Coast, but they hilariously pale in Disneyland's brilliance. I'm truly fortunate, to have my first Disneyland experience be undoubtedly at one of the best parks in the world.
The awestruck awe began long before I stepped through these gates. No, it began right at the cusp of Disneyland's unique trains adorned with a very familiar character's silhouette. Cookies for the correct guess. Really, I was doing a damn good impersonation of a goldfish and I was ridiculously giddy and deliriously smiley, all common symptoms of the Disneyland! The place I could only dream about.. I was finally here!

He pedalled around encouraging encores. What a job to have! The centre of attention, revelling in his musical craft. My smile seemed to grow impossibly large as the recognition of the music hit me with lashings of nostalgia.

Why haven't you made a grand living for yourself Mickey!

A pillar of candy! Not going to lie, the blissful daydream of my future home filled with these along the grand hallway may have crossed my mind. 

Holographic passport holders! Word to the wise, avoid the wonderful gift stores if you want to walk out with your wallet still in one piece!

A large claim to make considering how Disneyland itself is the embodiment of magic!

Mike Wazowski buns! Put that thing back where it came from or so help me!

Mickey Mouse shaped pans? 1500 yen. Selling individually to starving tourists? Priceless. 

If this place is going to be a tourist trap, it had better be a damn good one! And it certainly delivered! Painstaking detail everywhere, it certainly soothed my anxious Disney purist ideals.

Even the Queen herself would envy such a fine castle. 

Walt Disney, who created this majestic empire. 

I was here just in time for the parade. And I don't know, even though I was constantly surrounded by such magnificence, it wasn't until I was watching the characters I had grown up with, adored..  I'm so incredibly blessed to be in Japan, to be on this trip.. but right there, that feeling of disbelief at that seemed to magnify by ten fold and I found myself blinking back tears. Does that sound a bit ridiculous?  

What time is it? Time to scare. 

Goofy as a scarecrow? Evidently, not a very good one ahaha.

All Disney characters have side jobs! Goofy's gas station doesn't seem to be that lucrative though.. 

The merchandise in each store don't differ all too much, but this wonderful behemoth of a machine was incredible. 

Toon Town! And it really does feel like you're trapped in a cartoon town! Do cartoon physics apply as well? Ahahah

Popcorn delivered from the over exuberant Tigger hard at work!

Step right up into Wonderland! No shrinking via mysterious potions necessary!

Get ready for the incredible restaurant! 

The playing cards as you can see have more than a single ace up their sleeves. Ha. With 52 in a deck, does the Queen have each fulfilling a certain purpose? I love the adherence to detail.. a card painting white roses red? Brilliance 

A heart ended trumpet, vending machine tea pots.. all so intriguing. 

Like strolling through a quaint European town! Even without the rides, Disneyland supplies its own magic, and is the most charming place even teeming with people. 

Because the castle deserves another encore. 

HRMMM. Goofy owns a gas station whilst Mickey works at the space station? What a massive leap! Now in case you're wondering, yes I braved the queues for I couldn't resist Pirates of the Caribbean. And let me just note that the rides in Movie World are nowhere near as intricate nor attentive to canon. The figures were incredibly realistic, the sets fantastic. I walked away, carrying a wealth of story inspirations.

Just as I was leaving, the real castle for us humble visitors. Perhaps one day, I'll stay here, and make the stubborn promise to visit every ride and accomplish every attraction along with Disneysea!



Wednesday, 25 February 2015

Travel Gastronomy: Japanese Hotcakes (ホットケーキ) with Apple Jam

Hotcakes with butter, apple jam and honey

Unsurprisingly, you adopt elements of eating habits that you inhabit with. During my Airbnb experiences, I've developed new tastes, new revelations which aren't limited to travel alone. We all have those friends that possess peculiar eating habits, through our eyes at least. I had a friend that brewed her milo, completely with milk and microwaved (bizarre). But these are a blessing in disguise, I've come away with a broader sense of mind, and breaking out of a culinary rut. On my first morning, the host offered me hotcakes and an apple jam of his invention. Now I don't know what magical apple spawned a jam of a pink hue, and I didn't quite replicate it, but it was enough to whet my desire and soothe the mind.

His secret to cooking delicious hotcakes? Copious amounts of butter of course. I had also developed a liking to maple syrup which I didn't have on hand, but I did have butter which melted into a pool of invitingness. Oh no.

Dice two apples, a squeeze of lemon juice, a hearty dash of vanilla, pinch of salt and 2 tablespoons of chia seeds as a thickener.

Cook for 15-20 minutes with 1 cup of water until soft, and mash half into a jam. For a touch of sweetness, I added 2 tablespoons of brown and white sugar. Moderation is the sweetest indulgence of life.

For the hot cakes, beat 2 large eggs, 200ml of milk and 1 teaspoon of vanilla for three minutes until foamy. Yes, you can't avoid it unfortunately.


Whisk 200g (1 2/3 cups) all purpose flour, pinch of salt, 1 3/4 teaspoons of baking powder and 3 tablespoons + 1 teaspoon of sugar in a separate bowl before adding to beaten egg mixture. Careful not to overmix. LET BATTER REST FOR 15 MINUTES. This allows it to thicken slightly. 

Grease generously with butter. Ladle 1/4 cup increments and cook on medium high heat for approximately 2 minutes on each side until bubbles appear. (As you can see... I overcooked mine slightly.. so uh.. look after them as though they are a blooming infant, but that's why we have bloggers, to avoid their mistakes and succeed them). Serve immediately with whatever your cravings dictate! Simply with butter and lashings of maple syrup? Traditionally with cream and strawberries like a Japanese shortcake? Custard? Or the American route with salted caramel, oreos, chocolate etc. Or my combination of apple jam, nutella and ice cream.. surprisingly delicious.

Japanese Hotcakes (ホットケーキ) with Apple Jam

Apple Jam 

2 apples, diced. 
Dash of vanilla 
Pinch of salt 
Squeeze of lemon juice 
2 tablespoons chia seeds

Add all ingredients with 1 cup of water to a small pot and cook for 15-20mins until soft. Mash half for jamlike consistency. Cool, and store in a sterilised jar in the fridge.

Japanese Hotcakes (ホットケーキ)

Makes 8 large hotcakes
2 large eggs
200 milliliters milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
200 grams all-purpose flour (scant 1 2/3 cups)
8 grams baking powder (1 3/4 teaspoon)
40 grams granulated sugar (1.4 ounces or 3 tablespoons + 1 teaspoon)
Beat the eggs, milk, and vanilla extract together until foamy, about 3 minutes at high speed using a hand or stand mixer.
Whisk the dry ingredients together in a separate bowl. Gently and quickly mix the dry ingredients mix into the egg mixture. Then let the batter rest for at least 15 minutes, it will thicken slightly. 
Heat a heavy frying pan over medium heat. Grease frying pan with butter, with strong conviction. The pan is ready to use if a drop of water will skitter across the surface, evaporating immediately.
Ladle 1/4 cupfuls of the batter onto the pan. Cook on one side until bubbles begin to form and break, about 2 minutes. Then turn the pancakes and cook the other side until brown, about 1 1/2 to 2 minutes. Turn over only once. Serve immediately, however your cravings demand. Enjoy!