Sunday, December 16, 2018

The Different Between Stonefish and Japanese Fugu

Stonefish (left) and Japanese fugu (right)

At my previous article (Stonefish: Venomous Spikes, but Delicious Meat), some friends confused between two venomous fishes, stonefish and Japanese fugu. Sure, they have different scientific names, organs source of poisonous and the way of handling their poisonous.

Scientific genus for stonefish is Synanceia, while famous genus of Japanese fugu is Takifugu. The most poisonous and prestigious fugu called torafugu translated to tiger blowfish in English.

Spikes, 13 spikes are venomous parts of stonefish; thus, sting is the way of poison to penetrate human body. Japanese fugu has a liver as the most poisonous organ, and there are some other venomous parts as well, include skin, ovaries and eyes.  

Certificate to sell and buy of Japanese fugu, credit to Natrainner

Toxic for Stonefish is Verrucotoxin, whereas Tetrodotoxin is poison for Japanese fugu. Tetrodotoxin is more dangerous than cyanide, measured by 1200 times deadly compared to cyanide. Exposure to Tetrodotoxin by “a pinhead” could kill an adult in hours.

Handling of both stonefish and Japanese fugu needs the special chef. Since the most dangerous, it is tough to get license to sell and buy Japanese fugu. Like going to college, training is rigorous and could be 4 years. Long hours of training, but not everybody will pass and get certificate.

In term of price, stonefish price is US$30 per-kg (US$15 per-pound) in the American grocery. I don’t know any restaurants offer stonefish dishes. As far as I remember, Japanese fugu dish is 5 thousand yen (US$45). 

However, through Google searching, the price of Japanese fugu dishes could range as cheap as US$9 to as expensive as US$200.

I love many Japanese foods such as Sushi, Onigiri, Okonomiyaki, Kare raisu, Ramen, Yakitori and Udon. But not fan of poisonous Puffer fish or Stonefish, and not raw fish. 

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Thursday, December 13, 2018

Stonefish: Venomous Spikes, but Delicious Meat

Stone fish sold in an ethnic grocery

I saw Stonefish, an ugly and venomous creature in an ethnic grocery several days ago. Stonefish’s spikes are most deadly spikes compared to other fish. The venom called as verrucotoxin is a neurotoxic venom which could kill an adult by an hour. 

At least, the venom results in extreme pain to the people. Body reaction may in forms of heart failure and severe shocks. Wounded can’t be healed for long time, goes months, and even years for some cases. 

Sashimi of Stonefish, credit to Shaira Luna

I ask to the grocery employees, why they sell the Stonefish. One clerk said that it is because of deliciousness. The answer was quite surprising me, I never expected that venomous fish is a good food for eating.

I am googling, the outcomes: wow, the fish is one of favorites menus in several Asian countries. The people over there either fry or boil the fish, then mixed with special seasoning. Look very delicious.

Japanese is eating raw Stonefish as sashimi, namely “Okoze.” Special chef needed to prepare this kind of sashimi. In case you don’t know, sashimi is a slice of raw fish eaten with special “seasoning,” usually wasabi paste and sauces.

I love sushi, sushi with salmon or fish eggs, but never eat sashimi when I was in Japan long time ago. I just know that Okoze sushi also sold here in America. 

In nature, the fish lives in Pacific and Indian oceans. There are 5 species, namely Synanceia alula, S. horrida, S. nana, S. platyrhyncha and S. verrucose. The size very much depends on species, the range of weigh is 1 to 5 pound (0.5 to 2.5 kg) and length size is around 14 to 20 inches. 

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Saturday, December 8, 2018

The Small Size of Coconut Tree

Young green coconut attached on a dwarf tree

Naturally, coconut trees (Cocus nucifera) could reach 60 ft (20 meter). Not only difficult to harvest, but also dangerous of falling the fruits. Hundreds of people dead every year due to falling of coconuts. Higher compared to be killed by lightning and shark.  

Biologists have successfully created hybrids by crossing tall and dwarf varieties with result of shorter trees. In addition to small size (less than 2 meter height) that the fruits could be picked easily, and the trees produce quicker. 

Water and flesh of young coconut

Shorter plant takes 2 to 4 years for producing, whereas the taller varieties need 5 to 9 years to produce fruits after planting. The advantage of dwarf trees that they have more coconuts per year than taller ones. However, shorter trees have life span around 25 years only, while taller ones up to 100 years. 

Here, in the USA, the ethic groceries sell brown and green outer skin coconuts. The green is young coconut for fresh consumption. People drink the water and eat the flesh (meat) of young coconuts.

Brown refer to mature coconut. People used older fruit for many purposes, include for source of cooking oil, beauty products (skin moisturizer and softener, prevent wrinkle and improve skin elasticity) and source of medicine (treats skin burns and blisters, and prevent infections).  

Coconut contains good medium chain triglyceride of saturated fat (raising good cholesterol), magnesium, protein, highly potassium, iron and number of vitamins (K, B-6, E and C). It is believed that consume coconut water and flesh may promote good functions of muscle, digestive system and heart contractions.

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Tuesday, December 4, 2018

When Will Cashiers Extinct?

Counter without cashier

Many jobs have disappeared in recently and many more in next 10 years in America. If they are existing, they might be in different fashions. There are many reasons, some of them are cheap labor costs elsewhere, immigration and consumer tastes. 

However, the most reason is automation or high technology to conduct service and produce consumer goods. Several jobs are predicted to be extinct soon include postal workers, jewelers, telemarketers, cashiers, manufacturing workers and even farmers. 

A digital receipt, credit to Walmart

Since last years, we saw more than 80% counters are without cashiers in Walmart, the biggest grocery store in the USA. It is mean that we must check out by ourselves. The system made difficult for us at first, but we are getting familiar now.

We not only pay electronically for groceries, but also could get digital copy of purchase receipt by registration at Walmart Supercenter. No receipt paper and might save tropical trees for future generations. In this sense, automation is good for us.  

Friday, November 30, 2018

PJ’S, the Local Coffee to Compete with Starbuck

Black coffee

Starbuck coffee known as one of American symbols, has 28,218 coffee houses worldwide, even no corner without Starbucks in the USA. More than 2 thousand stores are opened each year which contribute to sales and share prices increasing in recent years. 

Since coffee is one of promising business, many states create their own brand to compete with Starbuck. We easily find grounded coffee beans as a gift or a souvenirs in tourist destination areas across America.

Cappuccino and regular coffee 

I stop by in one of coffee houses when I visited New Orleans, Louisiana last week. The PJ’s is a local coffee shop, founded by Phyllis Jordan (PJ’s) in Carrollton neighborhood, New Orleans in 1978. Since then PJ’S expanded its business to 150 locations across USA.

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Open hours

PJ’S plans to open new 100 franchise in several countries include Vietnam, Kuwait and Malaysia. Coffee business is booming in the South East Asia countries. Now, they have many choices in addition to Starbuck coffee.

PJ’s seems to compete with Starbuck in term of product variations, room convenient and even open hours. Surprisingly, the shop opens very early morning at 5.00 AM weekdays. Hopefully, the competition would bring up quality, variation of drink products and down the price.    

Tuesday, November 20, 2018

Sweet Tangerine Fruit in My backyard

Sweet tangerines

Tangerine is varieties of citrus, come from place called Tangier, Morocco. Tangerine with scientific name Citrus tangerina is hybrid of Mandarin (Citrus reticulata), well known fruit of China's origin. The fruit first time come to Florida, USA is a quite long time ago, around 1800s.

Florida once to be center of Tangerine production in the USA. However, diseases created great loss to tangerine farmers, especially in the last 11 years. Bacteria spread by insects, psyllid caused wrinkling fruits, then trees died slowly.

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Branches bear a lot of fruits

California replaces Florida as center for Tangerine production in the USA currently. California has produced 41 percent of citrus, include Tangerine, Valencia and Navel. Tangerine is growing popular right now. 

We planted a Tangerine tree in the backyard and harvest the fruits in November every year. The citrus has thin and loose skin; thus, we could pull away the skin from the fruit easily. The orange is sweet, even as one of the sweetest fruits I ever eat. 

In the southern parts of USA (Florida, Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana and Texas), Tangerine grows well, and the fruits ripe from October to January. Many people said that Tangerines sweeter and stronger flavor than other oranges. 

Why not Just try it? 


Thursday, November 8, 2018

Limousine and Motorcade in Funeral Procession

Polices blocked my way

I was frightening when police motorbike and cars stop me suddenly while green light turn on. I ask myself:” what wrong with me?” Then, I saw at least two Limousines and many other types of cars pass through from another road (my right). 

It was first time for me to see funeral procession in the America. Funeral processions have the rights to continue their driving even when red traffic light, and we must stop to allow procession pass though while our traffic light is green. Never cut in a funeral procession.

We may resume our traffic after the last vehicle of procession pass through by looking the flags. The last vehicle usually has at least two flags and it has light flashing sometimes.    

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Monday, October 29, 2018

A waterfall in the National Park of Smoky Mountains

A small waterfall

Around 22 million visitors, recreational visitors and non-recreational visitors have come to national park of Great Smoky Mountains yearly. The mountains cover two states, Tennessee and North Carolina.

We come through Tennessee entrance, luckily no entrance fee for smoky mountains. This is the only national park without entrance fee in the US. However, the relate tourist industries contribute billion dollars to revenue of states annually and encourages communities small scale enterprises that good for local economy. 

A small stream

We choose hiking routes provided by national park, since that we could observe beauty of nature through the trail. We found wild flowers seem to bloom year-round. We could also see a waterfall, rivers and streams.

There are dozens of waterfalls recorded by national park. We walk no more than 2 hours around, thus we can’t see a lot of things, but we feel amazing enough about the great Smoky mountains.  

Leaves colors start to change

There are around 100 species of trees in the great smoky mountains, include hickories, maples, oaks and sweetgum. In the early October, many trees start to change their leaves colors: green to yellow to red. 

Leaves colors changed

The best time to see fall foliage is from mid-October to early November. We could see yellow, half green, brown and red leaves at lower and mid elevations of the mountains. Look so wonderful for me. 

Thursday, October 18, 2018

Live Brown Crabs Sold in the Grocery

Live brown crab

We have at least 6 types commercial crab sold in the USA markets, they are: dungeness crab; snow crab; jonah crab; stone crab and king crab. In facts, there are around 40 species of king crabs, but 3 only are widely sold in the market that are brown (golden), blue and red. 

What I found in the market is brown crab, scientific name is Lithodes aequispinus. The crab could reach 11 pounds weight and 6 feet leg span from tip to tip. The size I saw in the grocery in my town not so that big. The weight might be close to 4 to 8 pounds (2 to 4 kg), but the leg no more than 1.5 feet.

This crab distributed all over the world from North Sea to Atlantic Ocean to Bering sea to Mediterranean Sea. King crab which we saw in American groceries mainly come from Alaska, but also import from as far as Norway and Russia. 

Price sold in the groceries around US$ 6 per-pound, thus one brown king crab with 8-pound weight reaches price of US$ 48. Very much expensive for me.

Cooked crab shells turn to red 

How to cook live king crabs? It is easy, just boiling or steaming in the pot for no more than 30 minutes. Some groceries sold frozen crabs, these crabs cooked already, need several minutes to reheat by microwave or oven. 

All species of crabs or even shrimps regardless of their natural (raw) colors (brown, blue, black or golden), their shells will turn to red when cooked.

Tuesday, October 9, 2018

Coconut Oil: From Cooking to Health Treatment

Kinds of coconut oil products sold at groceries

I used to cook, especially to fry with coconut oil more than 10 years ago, but surprisingly many coconut oil-based products are developed recently. When I come to the Walmart grocery at my town, there are plenty of multi-purposes coconut oil products. 

Yes, there is coconut oil for cooking. But many other coconut oil-based products made me interest such as for coffee (hot drinks) blending, for fragrance, for dipping (like spooning out pudding), for moisturizing skin and many others. 

Naturally refined coconut oil

I bought a naturally refined coconut oil, an organic product from Walmart. The cost is US$9.8 for 56 oz size. It is called as "a naturally refined," because without using chemical during processing of product, simply just traditionally or mechanically processing. 

In respect to health, naturally refined is one of the best oils, because contain a good fat (cholesterol-free) and can be consumed as an immediate source of energy. It is good for substitutes of margarine and butter in baking or cooking. 

In treatment, it is a perfect for skin cares (hand, body or face), since the oil is a good moisturizer. I my self use coconut oil for shaving cream, moisture my skin and treat my hair to grow healthier.  

I am using coconut oil to treat my hair for the last 3 months. I treat my hair for around 15 minutes, then wash with organic hair wash. The result makes me happy: I feel my hear grow well, even shinier (look from mirror), softer and healthier.  


Tuesday, October 2, 2018

Pumpkins Sold in the Small Farmer Market

Decorate of plastic pumpkins

Since the middle of September, one of farmer markets in our town has sold the pumpkins. We noticed four different kinds of pumpkins, they are (actually, I don’t know exactly, but I just guess) large orange pumpkins (Cucurbita maxima); common pumpkins or summer squash or styrian pumpkin (Cucurbita pepo); blue jarrahdale; and kinds of cushaw. 

Large pumpkins are ready for carving

As we know that the large pumpkins for decorating during October (before and during Halloween), but some people eating the seeds and flesh. However, these pumpkins not grown for eating purposes or not good for eating directly (after boiling), but might be suitable for making pie. 

Small pumpkins or common pumpkins (Cucurbita pepo)

We have several pumpkins with a little bit small size than pumpkins for carving, one of them has scientific name Cucurbita pepo. This pumpkin is grown specially as source of food. The pumpkin also called as pie or sugar pumpkin due to its sweetness. This pumpkin could be used as oatmeal, roasted veggie, soups and loaves. 

Blue jarrahdale

Blue jarrahdale pumpkin is smaller in size, I do not know what purposes of this pumpkin grown for: either for eating or decorating only or both. I read from “google” that Blue jarrahdale is bigger pumpkin actually, and be used for food and pie as well.

Some kinds of Cushaw?

Cushaw pumpkin is called as winter squash, harvested from winter to spring in American south. The color is green striped, but many varieties are yellow or half yellow and green. We found bigger and smaller size, the bigger ones could reach to 20 pounds and 11 inch in diameter each. 

Nutritionist said that pumpkins contain vitamin C, potassium and fiber. Thus, very good for supporting health of our heart. Potassium also known as good mineral for control high blood pressure or hypertense treatments.

Tuesday, September 25, 2018

A Quiet Corner of Populous Amsterdam

Small “motels” for rent

Amsterdam, Holland is a crowd city, like there are a lot of party every day for me. But, many important public buildings include restaurants, coffee shops, theaters, museum and other relate entertainment premises are walking or cycling distance.

Almost any corners of Amsterdam or big cities in the Holland could be reached by public transportations, they are buses, trams and metro lines. The regular schedule for these public transportations are from early morning (6.00 AM) to midnight (12.30 AM). 

Do not be worry after 12.30 AM, city of Amsterdam provides limited number of buses until 7.00 AM. Thus, public transportation available 24 hours. Quite different with many cities in the USA where public transportations almost not exist with very restricted operation hours.  

However, we could avoid populous of Amsterdam by finding a quiet corner with a beautiful scenery, but still not far from the heart of city. The location around 2.5 km from   Dutch National Opera and Ballet.

There are floating houses in one of canals that we could rent for several days. We might take meal while enjoying the excited views. Many “friendly” or tamed swans swim around, and even we could feed them. 


Thursday, September 20, 2018

Banana Chips Sold in the Groceries

Banana chips 

I know that banana can be processed into chips, but I never taste it. When I visited to one of Mexican groceries in the city, I bought several medium bags. The price is quite cheap compared to potato chips. The taste little bit sweet and crispy.

Some people told me that there are two ways to make banana chip, first by frying with cooking oil and second by baking with oven of higher temperature. In Asia, it is popular to make banana chips by frying, while here in the USA, we often use oven to make chips.  

Medium bags of banana chips

The steps to make banana chips are following: Banana be peeled and sliced with whatever size we like (such as a thick of coin size). Sliced bananas could be dipping into flavor or certain ingredients or seasonings. Many people use honey, lemon juice or sugar liquid as dipping. Then either baking or frying. 

I never make banana chips by myself. I will try in the near future. Homemade is fresh and healthy.