Excerpt: Kung Fu Snow White

When I was teaching drama in Tokyo, I could never find the *perfect* script that I wanted, and had to just rely on “good enough” scripts. I’d happy to report that, regardless of the script choice, we always had a ton of fun and made every performance something worthwhile. Now, I’m not saying that I could ever write an original, “perfect” script by any means, but I’m reasonably confident I could manage an original “good enough” one. And thus was born the idea of “Kung Fu Snow White and the Seven Ninjas.”  Cut to three years later, and I never finished things beyond Act One. Maybe it’s about time I brushed that off and see if I could complete it?  Here’s a sample, when the villains, “Number One Student,” her underlings (Newt and Toad), and a Tournament Planner, wonder what to do about Snow White and the upcoming kung fu tournament…

 

TOURNAMENT PLANNER
You know, speaking of make-up stylists, I have a great resource I can make available to you for just a small surcharge to the “fairy tale set” package. Are you ready for this? A magic mirror.

(TOAD and NEWT react appreciatively)

NUMBER ONE
What kind of magic mirror?

PLANNER
You know, it reveals things. Magically.

TOAD
The future?

PLANNER
Well, no.

NEWT
The past.

PLANNER
Not really.

NUMBER ONE
What good is a revelation if it’s not about the past or future?

PLANNER
It reveals . . . the Truth.

NUMBER ONE
Oh! The ultimate Truth?

PLANNER
Is there any other kind?

NUMBER ONE
Ooh! Well, then by all means, by all means. Let’s bring it in here.
(to TOAD and NEWT, as the PLANNER exits)
I didn’t realize guests like that charming Smile-guy would be coming already. Distract them! Yes, distract them until we get everything … properly ready.

(TOAD and NEWT salute, bow and kowtow, exiting opposite. Enter the MAGIC MIRROR. It can be as elaborate as wheeled prop, as simple as a frame for the actor’s head, or as funny/unexpected as a TV displaying a live feed. The actor can poke his/her head through a curtain when summoned, according to the prop.)

Ah! Truly it is a Magic Mirror, my lucky looking-glass! So far I fail to see my glorious reflection, but maybe it just needs the magic words?
(beat)
“OK, Glass.” Answer me this question…

MAGIC MIRROR
(after revealing its face)
Home screen, start up tone:
“Hello, User! Please sign in.”
Username, password

NUMBER ONE
(sighs, then as fast as possible)
numberone4ever underscore 38 at shifu temple dot CO dot CN password beiberfever 1234 baby baby oh

MAGIC MIRROR
Welcome screen home page
“How can I help you today?”
Search field, cursor blinks.

NUMBER ONE
Answer me this question. Who is the best, most brilliant, skilled, sexy, and, most humble, most deserving, and all around ultimate student of the land?

MAGIC MIRROR
Unfortunate beep.
Question is not recognized.
How can I help you?

NUMBER ONE
Don’t tell me.
(checks behind the mirror)
Of course. “Made in Japan,” so it’s set on Haiku mode or something. All right, let’s see–
Student falls, pleading.
Who is the most ultimate?
The mirror reveals!

MAGIC MIRROR
That’s better. Ahem.

Winter fields of snow;
Stepping prayer-like through her forms,
Lowly woman bows.

NUMBER ONE
That doesn’t sound like me at all.

MAGIC MIRROR
It’s Snow, Okay? Snow.
(Pause, then counts the syllables with his/her fingers)
Snow-Snow, Snow-Snow, Snow-Snow-Snow.
Just so you know– Snow.

NUMBER ONE
Okay, Glass… Take a hike!
(recites)
One swift uppercut.
Thousand shards of glass falling.
SMASHED like all my hopes!

MAGIC MIRROR
Gulp! Screen saver, on!

EXIT MAGIC MIRROR

 

Sakura Shandy – a Springtime Beer Cocktail recipe

Soft sakura petals
Wafting through the hushed courtyard
Stillness before change

Just a little haiku to start us off– as I remember how important springtime is in Japan.

Spring is embraced as a season in Japan the same way Christmas is embraced in the West. The stores will suddenly be decked in pink and white; special flavors will arrive in grocery stores and Starbucks; new clothes and festivals are rolled out.

But it’s more than just commercialism and moving heavy blankets back to the closet. Because the winter is gone, with its coldness and darkness that force people to hide away in their homes, and the days start to warm and elongate. The trees begin to grow green and to flower, especially the sakura, or Japanese cherry trees. In the space of a day or two, entire fields of trees, park-wide orchards, the lines of the highways and roadside, all of them burst into cloud-like pinky whiteness of sakura blossoms. And throughout the following weeks, the petals drop like snow in the soft breeze.

It’s no wonder that “hanami” is such an important event. Literally “flower viewing,” the hanami is, in essence, a picnic under a sakura tree. However, the celebration of hanami has reached epic proportions, as the picnics can last hours and can require a cast of dozens– your family might have a hanami, your classmates/best friends, your office, any “in-group” might have its own hanami. What can be better than lounging on blankets in the parks, fields, or, yes, even cemeteries, with snack foods, small cakes, and, of course, beer, with your friends and/or family? (So it’s also no wonder that hanami have often a reputation of getting pleasantly drunk with such friends and/or family!) We’re not used to drinking alcohol in the park in the U.S., so you may have to enjoy this hanami-inspired cocktail in the comfort of your own yard.

Konpai!

sakura shandy

Sakura Shandy (Hanami-inspired BeerCocktail)

1 bottle / 12 oz. C.C. Lemon (or carbonated lemonade)
30 ml / 2 tablespoons rose syrup
2 can (12 oz. each) Kirin beer (or other pale ale)

Make sure you have chilled ingredients! Pour the beer in a small pitcher, then add the lemonade soda and rose syrup. Mix well, and pour into tall glasses (“over ice” is optional, but may be necessary on a humid spring day!)

A more stronger lemonade could be used, of course, or add some fresh juice and lemon slices to the pitcher. The tastes are balanced here for C.C. Lemon brand carbonated lemonade and Kirin beer, so I’m not presenting them here for any “halleluia!” moment of discovery or anything. I just really wanted to use only the Japanese ingredients, out of my nostalgia for sharing hanami times during my time in Tokyo.

Thanks!

 

Chilled Noodles (a.k.a. Hiyashi Chukamen)

Hiyashi ChukamenFiled under: Life and Learning to Live It. Also: Food and Asian Recipes.

         ~~~

August of 2012 found me pulled between three different cultures… Moving away from Japan after living there for five years, spending transition in Los Angeles after growing up there for thirty plus years, and re-planting myself in Taiwan for an upcoming two years.

We all have to settle into our lives in different ways. If you’re lucky, you get to do so quickly and painlessly, or at least as quick and and painless as possible. Which brings me to the topic of food. Whether it’s “comfort food” and home cooking or exotic food and fusion cuisine, being able to worry about food is something so NORMAL that before you know it you realize that, meal by meal, you have made a home.

When arrived at my new apartment in Taiwan, the kitchen was, frankly, disappointing. Smaller than any kitchen I was expecting (and living in Asia, I was expecting pretty small) the place only had ONE outlet, the place where another would be was a light switch. It wasn’t even a grounded three-pronged outlet! (Okay, technically the kitchen had two outlets, but the other was behind the refrigerator.) So at the top of the “To Buy” list was an extension cord, along with coffee maker, microwave, rice cooker, pots and pans, utensils, and on and on until I hit the end of the paper.

The first week I was limited to fresh food and boiling water– and yet, if I couldn’t cook in my apartment, then it wouldn’t feel like I really had ownership of the place. Time to break out one of my favorite dishes from Japan, Hiyashi Chukamen, or Eastern Noodles (a.k.a. Chilled Chinese Noodles). Tasty food that would also allow me to gather some basic staples for my new place and would not be too demanding for my still-somewhat-limited kitchen.

HIYASHI CHUKAMEN

Serves 2

Ingredients:

2 portions of chukamen (Chinese egg noodles)

Dressing:

3 tbsp rice vinegar

2.5 tbsp soy sauce

0.5 tbsp sugar

0.5 tbsp sesame oil

0.5 tbsp dijon or spicy mustard*

Pepper

Garnish:

Pea Sprouts*

Cucumber, julienned

Ham, thinly sliced into matchsticks

2 Eggs, boiled and sliced*

Red pickled ginger (“benishoga”)*

Instructions:

1. Prepare ahead of time the boiled egg and sliced garnish.

2. Prepare the noodles according to the instructions. When rinsing, use very cold water/ice water to completely chill the noodles.

3. Serve the noodles on individual plates, topping with equal portions of garnish.

4. Combine the dressing ingredients and mix well. Pour immediately over the prepared plates.

By keeping the dressing in a separate container, this makes a great lunch for the next day!

Hiyashi Chukamen is a popular Japanese summer dish. I would often get this on the go at convenient stores around Tokyo, but once summer was over, they would no longer serve it! I found a recipe so I could have it all year long, and I further justify it by claiming a bit more  healthiness in this alternative.

_________________________________________________________________

*Substitutions:
Noodles: Other ramen noodles or angel hair pasta can be substituted, but egg pasta is better.
Benishoga: Should be available in Asian markets, but thinly sliced fresh ginger may be used.
Sprouts: I loved the veggie-ness of the pea sprouts, and alfalfa sprouts make a good alternative. The original recipe calls for bean sprouts.
Egg: The traditional recipe calls for eggs scrambled and fried in thin sheets, sliced similarly to the ham deli- sliced.
Mustard: The traditional recipe calls for mustard to be optional and served on the side, but I like a bit of spice with my food, so I mix it into the dressing.

CREDITS: Image by jetalone (Flickr) [CC-BY-2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons