Have you done your holiday shopping yet? If you are still looking for holiday gift ideas, look no further more! Right here, I have my top five holiday gift ideas for you to surprise your friends and family. If your loved ones are passionate about food and wine just like me, they will certainly enjoy the gifts I recommend below.
1. Cookbook: Japanese Farm Foodby Nancy Singleton Hachisu
Funnily enough! My ex-boyfriend gave me this book for Christmas several years ago. He bought me an iPhone 10 X and this book, and I am still using both of them! If you enjoy Japanese food and want to learn more about Japan's culture and comfort food, you can't miss Nancy Singleton Hachisu's Japanese Farm Food.
What do you associate with Japanese food? Let me guess,Jiro Dreams of Sushi, the documentary about master sushi chef, Jiro. Or Netflix's Chef's Tablefeaturing Niki Nakayama, the owner/chef of modern the kaiseki restaurant n/naka. These remarkable Japanese chefs hold high standards in terms of every detail when they prepare food—but do not worry—Japanese food is not unapproachable. Don't forget that street food, such as Okonomiyaki (Japanese savory pancake), and comfort food such as ramen, are essential for Japanese people too!
That's why I want to recommend this cookbook for home-cooks who are interested in Japanese cuisine. Nancy is an American lady from California who fell in love with a Japanese farmer. She moved to Japan after she married her husband. She learned about Japanese culture and cuisine in their eighty-year-old farmhouse. She beautifully said, "Our food is bold, clear, and direct. Age-old cooking methods complement and enhance the natural flavors of vegetables, fish and meat. Unlike most modern Japanese fare, farm food was unsweetened. Authentic Japanese farm food is uncomplicated and intuitive, with a limited number of easily learned methods. Armed with the basics, even a novice cook can re-create this food in a home kitchen anywhere in the world."
I love Nancy's approach to food because it's simple, and there's no fuss. During this past summer, I wrote a blog post called: "Host A Yakiniku Party with Three Simple Recipes," and I used Nancy's recipe as a template to create my own miso salad. It is absolutely delicious and easy to make. For the dressing, I only needed miso, rice vinegar, and sesame seeds. That's it! If you are interested in Japanese food, I would suggest starting with a simple recipe and taste each dish you create at every stage. Get a good understanding of miso, mirin, dashi, and other basic Japanese ingredients.
Nancy does a thorough job in explaining Japanese food and culture, from the pantry items, condiments, cooking methods, and the story behind many farmhouse dishes. She claims, "I deeply believe that it is important to first understand the origin and heart of the food culture before putting your own touch on it."
If you are a fan of Chef Dan Barber, the chef/owner of the farm to table restaurant Blue Hill, you will enjoy reading this cookbook so much! All the recipes Nancy shares are farm to table. The produce is harvested on their farm and then cooked in their farmhouse. In her book, you learn about what grows in the different seasons in Japan and how Japanese farmers celebrate the seasons through simple and delicious home-made comfort food. This book is perfect for those who are interested in Japanese food or want to start a healthy diet next year!
2. Cute Holiday Socks from Forever 21
I have to confess—I have more than two dozen of those socks. Yes! More than two dozens! Since I don't have much freedom in terms of the tops and the bottoms that I wear to work—usually a plain white chef's coat and black chef's pants—my socks are the only place where I have some freedom. You may think I'm ridiculous since no one is going to see my socks. But let me tell you, I have some close chef friends who are also obsessed with cute socks, and we take off our shoes to show each other what socks we're wearing at work! Forever 21 offers tons of food-related cute socks. You can find many Asian cuisine elements on these socks too. My favorites are fortune cookies and pho. They are just too cute to be true, and the prices are reasonable!
3. Taiyaki Pan
I recommend this gift for home-cooks who enjoy making simple and delicious pastries. Taiyaki is a Japanese fish-shaped cake that imitates the shape of the tai (red sea bream), which it is named after. In Japan, the red sea bream is thought to bring good luck and wealth. A common filling is a red bean paste made from sweetened adzuki beans. I've used my Taiyaki pan with many American home-cooks because the concept is very similar to the waffle. Some American students found this Japanese pastry very comforting. You can order a Taiyaki pan from Amazon and surprise your loved ones with this whimsical looking pan! If you want to learn more about Taiyaki, read my blog post: "Taiyaki: Whimsical Fish-Shaped Treats and Cooking with My Kids."
4. Jo Malone Perfume
I've been a loyal fan of Jo Malone ever since I pursued my master's degree in London. Most of her perfumes are fruit-forward and perfect for mixing and matching. You can create your own scent based on what's seasonal. For example, during the summer, I may go for nectarine and apricot and mix it with grapefruit. Now that it's wintertime, on a beautiful Sunday morning, I may mix pomegranate and mimosa and have pomegranate mimosa. What fun! The aroma of Jo Malone perfume is elegant and not too strong. My all-time favorites are mandarin lime basil and English pear. You can buy one or two to surprise your loved ones each year, and after a few years, she will have a whole collection!
5. Zoom Cooking Lesson with Me!
A holiday cooking party? One on one workshop? Couple's date night? I am always here to serve you! Nothing is more special than creating delicious memories and getting connected to the food you cook on your own! If your loved ones want to build their confidence in the kitchen and start to cook more at home next year, book an in-home cooking lesson with me!
Chief Entertainment Officer
Melissa is 100% MIT (Made in Taiwan), where she worked as a food writer. She’s also worked alongside renowned chefs like Ming Tsai and Joanne Chang, honing her craft and gathering stories along the way. Part story-teller, part educator, and part food lover, Melissa brings a special blend of experience, skill, and enthusiasm to her work. She blends her Asian background, her new home of New England, and love of food and culture to bring joy, optimism, and inspiration to food lovers and fun-seekers everywhere.
What sparked your passion for the industry?
The desire to make things by hand. The joy of sharing delicious, hearty food with students. The opportunity for people to get connected via cooking and baking. When a child smiled broadly and told me it’s the best scone he has ever made and eaten, it really made my day!
In your opinion, what’s the most important course?
Well, I usually take a peek at the wine list first. I like tapas style, so the course doesn’t really matter. Cheese and charcuterie are always a good place to start. And since I’m a pastry chef, there is always room for dessert!
Bill Gates is picking up your tab, where would you go?