• Welcome to the eG Forums, a service of the eGullet Society for Culinary Arts & Letters. The Society is a 501(c)3 not-for-profit organization dedicated to the advancement of the culinary arts. These advertising-free forums are provided free of charge through donations from Society members. Anyone may read the forums, but to post you must create an account.

Sign in to follow this  
Followers 0
smallworld

eG Foodblog: smallworld - Spring in Tokyo

207 posts in this topic

Today I went shopping by bus, to Oizumigakuen station.

gallery_7940_5772_54459.jpg

No, this is not an attempt to be sexy. I literally can't fit in the seat, unless I splay my legs like this. It's not so bad while I'm sitting (unless I have a restless type sitting in front, and then it's no fun at all having by knees banged around) but getting in and out is a challenge.

Speaking of sexy, here's a little treat for the fellas:

gallery_7940_5772_87510.jpg

This lovely young thing has no trouble fitting into her seat, because she is sitting in the courtesy seats (reserved for the elderly, pregnant and physically impaired). Luckily no elderly, pregnant or physically impaired riders boarded but if one did I can guarantee you she wouldn't have budged. She is applying her make-up, and when she got off the bus she marched straight into the middle of the sidewalk, almost knocking over an old man. She shot him a dirty look as she passed.

Kids these days...

gallery_7940_5772_27520.jpg

I walked back from the station, hitting a few more shops on the way. It mostly a straight walk up a long shotengai (shopping street) which is lined its entire 4km length with cherry trees. It will be beautiful around the end of the month but is not much to look at right now.

Above is a newly opened Okinawan restaurant that we've been meaning to go to. I love Okinawan food, and Okinawa itself, having been three times.

gallery_7940_5772_47541.jpg

This is Bikkuri Donkey, which serves hambaagu (Japanese style hamburg steaks). It is a chain, but all the shops have different exteriors, usually crazy like this one. The food is pretty good and the price is right, so we go occasionally. Bikkuri Donkey literally means Surprised Donkey. I'd rather not know why the donkey is surprised.

gallery_7940_5772_71243.jpg

The shop in the middle is called Kantarou and I'm hoping to show you a bit more of it on the weekend. It didn't used to have all the signs out front so I'm a bit worried that it's not doing well. I hope the food hasn't changed.

gallery_7940_5772_2498.jpg

This little side street is where the salarymen go on the way home from work. It is a collection of tiny restaurants and bars, including ramen, yakitori, various nomiya (drinking establishments) and snack. Snack are wee bars presided over by a Mama-san, usually middle-aged. Sometimes there is a younger hostess or two, sometimes it's just Mama-san. The customers are men only the entertainment consists of drinking, karaoke and banter.

gallery_7940_5772_40093.jpg

Umakamon is a takoyaki/monjayaki/okonomiyaki/teppanyaki restaurant. It's closed right now but we've been before and it's pretty good. I love the octopus on the shutter.

gallery_7940_5772_6166.jpg

Some cashiers are so fast that before I can smile and say "Fukuro wa iranai desu" (no bag, please) my purchases have been wrapped and double-bagged. It happened twice today. Each wagashi (Japanese sweet) on the left is individually wrapped in plastic, then taped up in a plastic tray, then taped up in a paper bag, then put in a plastic bag. The bread on the right was put in a paper bag, the pastry in a plastic bag, and they were put into a bigger paper bag along with another plastic bag and twist tie for to put the bread into later.

gallery_7940_5772_703577.jpg

This kare-pan (deep-fried curry bun) was my afternoon snack.


My eGullet foodblog: Spring in Tokyo

My regular blog: Blue Lotus

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
... nattou, an extremely stinky and slimy form of fermented beans.

Can you offer any insight, please, into what makes nattou an attractive prospect, or even a plausible acquired taste? It always seems to be mentioned in the same breath as words like 'stinky' and 'slimy'. As a big cheese-fan I can relate to stinky, I suppose, but slimy isn't my favourite texture...

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

gallery_7940_5772_31419.jpg

Here are today's groceries. I forgot to mention that last night's class was my last of the week, so my weekend is already underway. And when my husband gets home in a few hours the fun will begin. So far, some of you may be under the impression that we eat very healthily. Well, some of you are about to be proven wrong. The weekend is when we do our real eating.


My eGullet foodblog: Spring in Tokyo

My regular blog: Blue Lotus

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
... nattou, an extremely stinky and slimy form of fermented beans.

Can you offer any insight, please, into what makes nattou an attractive prospect, or even a plausible acquired taste? It always seems to be mentioned in the same breath as words like 'stinky' and 'slimy'. As a big cheese-fan I can relate to stinky, I suppose, but slimy isn't my favourite texture...

Yes, it's just like strong smelling and tasting foods like blue cheese or anchovies. The smell and flavour is an acquired taste. As for the sliminess, the Japanese have a special affection for slimy foods like mountain yam and okra. It's just another texture here.

Nattou is an attractive prospect because it's healthy, cheap and, if you can get over the smell and slime, tasty. If you can't it's no big deal, and plenty of Japanese don't like nattou.

I didn't like nattou until I had it deep-fried. Now there's a cooking technique that will make anything taste good.


My eGullet foodblog: Spring in Tokyo

My regular blog: Blue Lotus

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

gallery_7940_5772_19656.jpg

Beef was on sale today and I went a bit nuts. Here we have two kinds of Iwate-gyu, a "brand" of beef from Iwate in northern Japan: kata-rosu (shoulder roast?) and sankaku-bara (not sure what this cut is in English, but it's the coral coloured triangle in this diagram). The pork is kurobuta-bara (Berkshire pork belly), my favourite meat in the world.

gallery_7940_5772_63113.jpg

A closer at the sankaku-bara. I usually use pork for shabushabu because it's much cheaper than beef, which we only eat a few times a year. I also prefer the flavour of pork, but I certainly don't mind good wagyu once in a while, and this blog was a good excuse to buy it.

gallery_7940_5772_24605.jpg

This is udo, a kind of sansai (wild mountain vegetable) and a sign of spring. It is often described in English as similar to asparagus or fennel. I've never tried fennel and I don't think udo tastes like asparagus; to me udo is like very fresh celery dipped in honey.

gallery_7940_5772_40930.jpg

It is tender, crisp and quite nice looking. It is all edible but as the skin is course and strong and a bit bitter the skin is usually cooked separately.

gallery_7940_5772_28164.jpg

Here the inside and top has been parboiled and dressed with soy sauce and katsuobushi while the skin was made into kimpira (saute flavoured with soy sauce, sake and mirin).

gallery_7940_5772_67264.jpg

The table is set with a konro (tabletop gas grill) and condiments for shabushabu.

gallery_7940_5772_36562.jpg

Aside from the meat there are kuzukiri noodles, which are clear noodles traditionally made from kudzu starch (don't know if a different starch is used now or not), tofu (not shown), and vegetables: hakusai (napa or Chinese cabbage); shiitake; mizuna greens; negi (long onion); maitake mushrooms; enoki mushrooms.

gallery_7940_5772_49039.jpg

The traditional shabushabe pot is modeled on the Mongolian hotpot. It is beautiful to look at but not at all necessary, and I think most people just use a regular pot.

gallery_7940_5772_35859.jpg

The tofu, vegetables and kuzukiri are placed in kombu dashi (kelp stock) and left until cooked. The meat is held with chopsticks and swished around in the hot stock for a few seconds until done. The swishing sound is described as "shabu shabu" in Japanese, giving this dish its name.

gallery_7940_5772_54210.jpg

The beef is best a little undercooked. This piece of kata-rosu is dipped in gomadare (sesame sauce).

gallery_7940_5772_8636.jpg

Pork must be fully cooked of course.

gallery_7940_5772_27134.jpg

Tofu in gomadare topped with thinly sliced negi.

gallery_7940_5772_3530.jpg

This piece of sankaku-bara is dipped in ponzu oroshi, grated daikon mixed with ponzu.

When the shabushabu ingredients are all used up the meal ends with udon noodles cooked in the remaining broth, but we were too stuffed to finish the shabushabu ingredients, so the udon will make a quick meal tomorrow.

And now if you'll excuse me, I've got some serious digesting to do.


My eGullet foodblog: Spring in Tokyo

My regular blog: Blue Lotus

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
So far, some of you may be under the impression that we eat very healthily. Well, some of you are about to be proven wrong.

Whew! :biggrin:

I was getting worried there for a second...


"I took the habit of asking Pierre to bring me whatever looks good today and he would bring out the most wonderful things," - bleudauvergne

foodblogs: Dining Downeast I - Dining Downeast II

Portland Food Map.com

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

The shabushabu is just beautiful! Thank you so much for posting that! Everything looks gorgeous and delicious! The udo is so pretty. I'd love to try that!

I wanted to say how much I am enjoying my trip to Japan! The blogs are my favorite part of eGullet, I think!

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

The kare-pan looks delicious. I hope it was. I would like to taste udo sometime but the nearest Japanese market is 70 miles away and I don't remember ever seeing it there.

I usually order my Japanese goods from a store in San Francisco area.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

aaaah, kare pan, warm from the Sogo oven, slightly crunchy and a teeny bit oily on the outside, fluffy and soft on the inside with that gorgeous mild curry filling......miss it...crave it.....no idea how to duplicate it??...any ideas?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
So far, some of you may be under the impression that we eat very healthily. Well, some of you are about to be proven wrong. The weekend is when we do our real eating.

I thought you you were going to show us some junk food. Your shabushabu still looks healthy.

I like udo, too, but I like real, wild ones much better.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Beef was on sale today and I went a bit nuts. Here we have two kinds of Iwate-gyu, a "brand" of beef from Iwate in northern Japan: kata-rosu (shoulder roast?)

I believe the English (North American) equivalent for kata-roosu is "chuck." I'm not a huge meat eater, but I associate "roast" with a large cut that is used for roasting (prime rib, etc.). I think it would be called "thin-sliced" or "stir-fry" chuck here.

The U.S. Meat Export Federation has a good chart showing US cuts (in katakana) here. I also found this chart of equivalents to be useful.

According to the latter chart, sankaku-bara would be "chuck rib."


Edited by sanrensho (log)

Baker of "impaired" cakes...

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

This morning I took out the moeru gomi (burnable garbage, meant for the incinerator). Garbage is collected five days a week in my area, in the mornings. Garbage is not put in front of every house but instead each block has a central collection area-- usually in front of someone's house. Some areas have a garbage committee of housewives who keep the area clean and make sure people throw away their garbage correctly, in other areas it's up to the family (or more correctly, the lady of the house: garbage disposal is usually the wife's job) who lives at the garbage collection site.

Garbage should be disposed of in the morning before 8:30. Night time disposal is frowned upon or outright banned because cats and other night time creatures will get at it and cause a huge mess. Luckily my apartment building has a covered disposal area and nobody bothers us if we occasionally throw stuff away the night before, and the garbage trucks don't actually come until late morning, so I don't have to hurry out with the garbage every morning. At my last apartment the rules were strictly enforced and the garbage trucks came right at 8:30.

The garbage schedule is as follows:

Tuesday: paper recycling, plastics (only plastics stamped with the correct mark)

Wednesday: burnable garbage (kitchen scraps, fabric, leather, rubber, and unidentifiable plastics)

Thursday: non burnable garbage (metal, broken glass and ceramics, small electronics, light bulbs)

Friday: plastic bottle, glass bottle and can recycling (each gets a separate bin)

Saturday: burnable garbage.

gallery_7940_5772_52838.jpg

My area is became a test area for a new category of garbage, plastics. Apparently Tokyo's landfill will only last another 30 years so the government needs to divert some of the non burnable garbage elsewhere, and plastics were the sensible solution: fully recyclable and also burnable in modern incinerators.

Above is the new guide to throwing away garbage. I have a few students in my area who are complaining loudly about the new rules, as before they just threw the plastic away in the burnable garbage (which was a mistake anyway, as plastic was supposed to go out with the non burnable garbage). I'm not crazy about having to find a place in the house to store a new category of garbage but I think the new rules are good, especially if the plastic actually does get recycled. Who knows though. On the back of the guide is a Q&A with one of the questions asking what the plastic will be recycled into (couldn't understand the answer). The next question asks if plastic is safe to incinerate (the answer is yes, of course). So I have a feeling that the latter will happen more often than the former.

gallery_7940_5772_27644.jpg

Here is a guide to properly disposing of instant ramen packaging and yogurt drinks. Complicated stuff. Hopefully complicated enough to discourage people from buying that crap.

We haven't bought regular instant ramen in years, since discovering the "non cup noodle". It is the same as regular instant ramen except that it comes in a little pouch instead of a big styrofoam bowl. You just open the noodles and broth into your own bowl and pour in hot water as usual. It stuff is only available at the health food store, sadly. Regular supermarkets and convenience stores usually have an entire aisle dedicated to instant ramen in styrofoam bowls.

We were excited last year to see this product: Cup Noodle Refill(Japanese link). Here is a short video showing how it works (it's in Japanese but the visuals are so thouroughly easy to understand that it's almost spoof-like). A local supermarket started selling the refill pouches of noodles and we bought a few, assuming the cups were just sold out and we could buy them afterward. When we still couldn't find them days later we asked a clerk and were informed that the store doesn't sell the cups! Unsuprisingly the refill pouches eventually disappeared from the shelves and I have never seen this product again. The website is still up though so it must be sold somewhere. I really hope it eventually catches on.


My eGullet foodblog: Spring in Tokyo

My regular blog: Blue Lotus

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
So far, some of you may be under the impression that we eat very healthily. Well, some of you are about to be proven wrong. The weekend is when we do our real eating.

I thought you you were going to show us some junk food. Your shabushabu still looks healthy.

I like udo, too, but I like real, wild ones much better.

I was, but we were too full after dinner and ended up going to bed early. Happens often. Don't worry though, the weekend is just getting started!

To answer and earlier question, I have no plans to make onsen tamago but who knows. I haven't fully mastered the technique and I never what I'm going to get when I crack open the egg. Sometimes it's a hard-boiled egg, sometimes raw, and occasionally it's an onsen tamago!

The regular stove-top directions are not hard to follow but the problem is I'm trying to find a low energy way to do it, like in a rice cooker already on warm or in a thermos.


My eGullet foodblog: Spring in Tokyo

My regular blog: Blue Lotus

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
... nattou, an extremely stinky and slimy form of fermented beans.

Can you offer any insight, please, into what makes nattou an attractive prospect, or even a plausible acquired taste? It always seems to be mentioned in the same breath as words like 'stinky' and 'slimy'. As a big cheese-fan I can relate to stinky, I suppose, but slimy isn't my favourite texture...

Yes, it's just like strong smelling and tasting foods like blue cheese or anchovies. The smell and flavour is an acquired taste. As for the sliminess, the Japanese have a special affection for slimy foods like mountain yam and okra. It's just another texture here.

Nattou is an attractive prospect because it's healthy, cheap and, if you can get over the smell and slime, tasty. If you can't it's no big deal, and plenty of Japanese don't like nattou.

I didn't like nattou until I had it deep-fried. Now there's a cooking technique that will make anything taste good.

I am also intrigued about Nattou - I have never heard of it before (not surprised thou, since i live in chicago and have never been too far from the United States (I cannot wait when I have the means to travel - some day...)

Can you describe the taste a little but more?

And - what I really want to know - what makes Nattou so healthy? The fact that it is beans )fiber, protein, etc) or the fact that it is fermented? And, anyhow - what about fermentation makes it healthy????

Signed, Bewildered and perplexed in Chi-town (lol)

P.S. I too, am LOVING your blog....I may not 'chime in' or 'comment' often, but boy am I following along :)


"One Hundred Years From Now It Will Not Matter What My Bank Account Was, What Kind of House I lived in, or What Kind of Car I Drove, But the World May Be A Better Place Because I Was Important in the Life of A Child."

LIFES PHILOSOPHY: Love, Live, Laugh

hmmm - as it appears if you are eating good food with the ones you love you will be living life to its fullest, surely laughing and smiling throughout!!!

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Thank you so much for your lovely blog. I can't add much to what others have said so well. Do have to ask- is there a real parrot?- (former Mollucan cockatoo owner here)

No parrot, our building doesn't allow pets. I've always thought I'd get a cat if allowed, despite heavy allergies, but after playing with some parrots and other birds at a bird park last summer I want a bird! They're wonderful little creatures.

aaaah, kare pan, warm from the Sogo oven, slightly crunchy and a teeny bit oily on the outside, fluffy and soft on the inside with that gorgeous mild curry filling......miss it...crave it.....no idea how to duplicate it??...any ideas?

No idea, I'm not a baker at all. But kare pan has always struck me as being very similar to piroshki (or at least Japan's version of piroshki). Maybe you could find a recipe for piroshki dough and stuff it with a thick mild curry?

Edit to add question:  Is your level of environmental consciousness common in Japan?  Because it sure isn't (unfortunately......  :hmmm: ) in the US, at least not in my circle.

No, but concern for the environment is growing slowly. And the Japanese still have a big frugal streak, consuming far less waste and energy than North Americans. Despite my complaints about over packaging, the average family's garbage output is quite small. I remember feeling great shame at the huge bags of garbage I was lugging out while the neighborhood housewives were carrying these tiny little bags. Still don't know how they do it. People here are also in the habit of heating or cooling only the rooms being currently used (and even then not very much) and central heating is still rare. I hate being cold in the winter and am still trying to get used to it, but I have to admit it's admirable.

It's just amazing watching people cook here. And the pros are even better. If you ever come to Japan, get yourself to a "fruit bar" or "fruit parlour" and sit at the counter where you can watch the chef (fruit cutter?) do his stuff.

Now, THAT I would LOVE! I occasionally go with Chris to his favorite sushi place, and love watching that ballet betwixt fish and knife and all the garnishes and fillings. I do not eat there, but with the fruit bar, it would be the entire experience. Is it possible to have pictures from one?

I'm afraid not, and to get pictures I'd have to go into central Tokyo, which I didn't have time for this week. So do you not eat sushi?

I think it's funny you have soap there.  I used to, but my Japanese friends laughed at me, so I took it out.  During winter it's way too cold to wash my hands with the toilet water, anyway! :biggrin:

Do you think you and your husband (I have actually seen a picture of him ages ago on your blog--which you forgot to mention was recently nominated for an award!) might ever move back to Canada, or elsewhere in the world?

I've heard that soap can gunk up the innards of the toilet but I have seen soap used with this type, usually ancient toilets in old izakaya and restaurants. I'd rather wash right there with soap and cold water than just rinse in the water or go elsewhere to wash properly.

The longer I live in Japan the more I want to move back to Canada. I really miss my family and the place itself. I do love Japan and still find the daily challenges of living here extremely stimulating but I also sometimes feel that I just want to, well, live. I no longer need constant adventure, and I certainly can't picture growing old here. My husband likes Canada in the summer but hates winter and also worries about finding a job. He really likes Southern California and would settle there in a second if work and visas weren't a problem.

No matter where we live, one of us will be away from the family, friends and culture we grew up with. This is a dilemma faced by every international couple and I'm not sure how things will end up.


My eGullet foodblog: Spring in Tokyo

My regular blog: Blue Lotus

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Breakfast:

gallery_7940_5772_30905.jpg

Green tea and wagashi (Japanese sweets). This was supposed to be dessert last night but we were too stuffed, and since wagashi doesn't keep long we had to finish it up quick. On the left is mame daifuku, which is anko (sweet azuki bean paste) wrapped with mochi (sticky rice cake) with whole beans (don't know what type). Beside it is kusamochi, which is the same bean paste wrapped in mochi flavoured with yomogi (mugwort, a springtime herb). On the other plate is kohaku doumyouji, a springtime wagashi similar to sakura mochi. It consists of two seperate pieces of anko-stuffed sticky rice, wrapped with a preserved cherry leave and garnished with a preserved cherry blossom.

The contrasting textures (slightly chewy mochi, soft anko, firm beans) and flavours (sweet anko, slightly bitter yomogi, salty cherry leaf and blossom) are very nice.


My eGullet foodblog: Spring in Tokyo

My regular blog: Blue Lotus

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
I didn't like nattou until I had it deep-fried. Now there's a cooking technique that will make anything taste good.

Okay, inquiring minds want to know: how does one get nattou into a deep-fryable form? Make little balls and coat them in panko, like a dumpling or croquette? (I understand that korokke are big in Japan ... )

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I wonder if the yunomi (tea cup) on the right of the photo (the one with a female face) is one of meoto jawan (tea cups for a married couple). I think I used to have the same one as you have.

As for deep-fried natto, I think she meant natto tempura. My son liked it (probably still likes it), and my wife used to make it for him. I like natto, but not the smell that filled the whole condo unit when natto was deep-fried!

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

gallery_7940_5772_46073.jpg

The first jinchouge (sweet daphne) blossoms popped open this week in front of our building. I smelled them before I could see them and just the fragrance brought happiness and relief: spring is really here. There are a few early spring flowers that bloom before this but only jinchouge truly indicates that winter is finally over.

gallery_7940_5772_38767.jpg

On the way to lunch we saw this old man walking his cat. Certainly not something you see every day around here!

We ate at Kantarou-zushi, our favourite sushi restaurant. We're not exactly regulars (the last time we were there was for my birthday a year and a half ago) but have been going occasionally for years. It is quite near our current apartment but before we moved we would happily come by bike, the 40 minute ride being well worth it. I showed a picture of the exterior yesterday and wanted to get a some shots of the interior and the chef, but today when I asked he declined to give permission. He has very strong opinions on every subject (and is not afraid to air them-- he even dissed Jiro and Kyube, two of the most famous sushi restaurants in Tokyo) and went on a bit of a tirade about how the food was the main event and he as the chef is not important at all. He is very friendly and extremely good at what he does, but man he does he ever like to talk. That's the only thing wrong with this place though so we don't mind very much. We were also quite please that the chef and his wife (who works just as hard as her husband, doing all the non sushi making work) remembered us. There are only two places, including this one, where we are greeted with "Maido!" which literally means "every time" and is a welcome for regulars only. It feels nice.

gallery_7940_5772_422.jpg

My husband threw all caution to the wind and decided to drink, so we started with a large bottle of Kirin Ichiban shibori-- I prefer Ebisu but am not picky about beer at all. The chopsticks are my own, and they are resting on their chopstick wrap. "My hashi" ("my chopsticks", or portable, reusable chopsticks) are used by a very small but growing number of people who have realized how wasteful disposable chopsticks are. I'd like to see "my hashi" used by everyone but I don't think they will truly take off until Louis Vuitton comes out with a designer chopstick holder.

gallery_7940_5772_54369.jpg

This is our otoshi, an appetizer that is automatically served when you order alcohol. Sometimes it is free but at this place and most others you have to pay for it, despite not asking for it. I don't like the custom but when I tried this maguro (tuna) and toro (tuna belly) lightly marinated in soy sauce, I had no complaints at all. Perfect fish, perfectly seasoned.

gallery_7940_5772_53659.jpg

A better look at the toro. Normally I can't eat it by itself, preferring it as sushi since the the seasonings in the sushi rice seem to help cut the grease. But this wasn't overly greasy at all, just sweet and rich and delicious.

gallery_7940_5772_47633.jpg

This plate of sushi was omakase (chef's choice) and cost 2000 yen (there are cheaper options including a 1200 yen lunch on weekdays). From back left: ikura (salmon roe), tobiko (flying fish roe, not really visible), tamagoyaki (thick omelete), tekkamaki (cucumber and tuna roll). Front: o-toro (the fattiest and best grade of toro), hirame (flounder), ama-ebi (sweet shrimp, raw), chuu-toro (medium grade toro), unagi no shirayaki (salt-grilled eel), kani (crab, cooked).

Ama-ebi is another thing I can't normally eat as it is too sweet and rich and can leave an unpleasant aftertaste. This was totally delicious though. The unagi was a nice treat too, as it is usually grilled with a thick sweet sauce which I don't really think matches sushi well. This sauce-free version really let the flavour of the unagi come through, and it was surprisingly nice with the sushi rice.

The hirame was amazingly soft, the result of the chef's "shigoto". Literally "work", shigoto refers to the preparation of the fish, and there's more of it than you'd think. He dismisses most sushi today, saying "it's just raw fish on rice!", and is very proud that he takes the time to do things like marinate the fish with kombu (kelp) and other seasonings, or cook it, or even age it when necessary. The hirame is a great example, because I've had sushi elsewhere made of extremely fresh hirame-- the fish was plucked from a tank and butchered right before my eyes-- and although it tasted fresh it was unpleasantly firm and chewy. At Kantarou-zushi mere freshness isn't enough, and the hirame had a wonderfully subtle yet deep flavour that the fresh version lacks, and was so soft it almost melted on my tongue.

gallery_7940_5772_59630.jpg

The toro, both types, were also really good, but that's kind of a given. I think these also had some kind of "shigoto" done to them, but am not sure what. I actually eat tuna of any form very rarely, at first because of overfishing but now the apparently high mercury levels recently discovered in some tuna is a big concern. I know eating it in small amounts once in a while won't hurt me, but as a food that is already expensive and close to being fished out of existence it's an easy choice to avoid it. However, an occasional indulgence is quite nice.

gallery_7940_5772_5919.jpg

We were given this o-suimono (clear soup) free. It is ara-jiru (soup made of fish scraps), maybe made with buri (yellowtail) or a similar fish. It was full-flavoured but in an amazinly refined and elegant way for something made of scraps (does that even make sense? some of this stuff is just so hard to describe properly). I like ara-jiru and often make it at home, but I can only dream of cooking something like this myself.

gallery_7940_5772_32331.jpg

We were happy with what sushi the chef had served but really wanted two of our favourites from this place: tako no yawaraka-ni (soft-braised octopus) and kohada (gizzard shad). The octopus is so amazingly soft I can't even believe it's octopus, but the flavour confirms that it is (and that's a good thing if you are a cephalopod lover). The kohada is one of the things that my husband can only eat here, as the amount of vinegar used to marinade it is much less than usual.

Everything was excellent but if forced to choose favourites I'd say the hirame, o-toro and kohada were best, with the unagi and tako no yawaraki-ni coming close.

The total bill was 6410 yen, a little more than I'd wanted to pay but very good value nonetheless.


My eGullet foodblog: Spring in Tokyo

My regular blog: Blue Lotus

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Some ingredients for tomorrow's lunch:

gallery_7940_5772_21244.jpg

Strawberries. I eat them as much as I can when they're in season (which is winter and spring since most of them are from greenhouses) even though I don't think they are nearly as good as the strawberries from back home. They are plenty sweet, at least the good ones, but I find that the sweetness comes at the expense of actual strawberry flavour and fragrance. They are also hard, sometimes almost crunchy, which is good in that they don't bruise easily and keep very well, but bad in that STRAWBERRIES AREN'T SUPPOSED TO BE CRUNCHY! Sorry for all-caps but this is something I feel strongly about. I realize that not everyone agrees and Japanese strawberries have plenty of fans, and I could be guilty of looking back at Canadian strawberries with rose-tinted glasses. I do admit that the strawberries I had on a visit home last summer weren't as good as I remembered, but then again it was late July and the very tail end of the season.

I could go on and on about the strawberries but this blog is plenty long as it is so I'll spare you the rant. I will admit that when strawberries here are good they are really, really good. It's just a bit different from how I think a strawberry should be.

These cost 298 yen which is quite cheap (400 or 500 yen is the norm, and I've seen a box of half a dozen or so very large perfect strawberries sold for 5000 yen).

gallery_7940_5772_52070.jpg

Soramame (fresh fava beans). These are sold in the pod, which is lined with a soft and cushiony fuzz that I'd love to make a mattress out of. Soramame are a spring vegetable, and this is the first time I've seen them. The pods are a little small-- at their peak there will be three or four beans in each one.

gallery_7940_5772_17691.jpg

Fuki (butterbur), another spring vegetable. These came cut up but I was hoping to find these whole, as they come as a long stock with a lily-pad like leaf. It looks pretty and also the leaves are edible. They are similar in looks to rubarb or celery, but have are hollow at the centre like a straw.

gallery_7940_5772_13962.jpg

They are extremely stringy and like many spring vegetables have aku (bitterness) that needs to be removed. To do that you rub them well with salt (in the process giving your hands a nice exfoliation), boil them briefly, then shock them in ice water.

gallery_7940_5772_16240.jpg

After that the remaining strings are peeled off. I just put the cutting board up on top of an old drying rack, as suggested by you lovely readers. My back is singing with joy and I feel like such an idiot for not trying this earlier. Thank you!

I think all the preparation involved in fuki and other sansai (mountain vegetables) is the main reason why many western cuisines have largely stopped using wild vegetables. They are a lot more work than yasai (cultivated vegetables) but have such fresh, delicate flavours and give such a sense of season that it's very that nobody knows what they are anymore.

I actually found fuki growing wild when I went home a few years ago, but no amount of salt-rubbing and boiling could make them edible. Probably far too late in the season (June) but maybe the type was a little different.

gallery_7940_5772_79998.jpg

Time for cake, which we eat cake every few months or so. Any more often and we'd get too used to it, and cake is not a habit we need. The cakes and pastries here are just so amazingly good compared to those in North America. I didn't even like cake before I came here. I'm still really picky but have, for good or bad, found plenty to like here.

These ones are from Planetes, which sells its wares in top-class depachika (department store food basements) but makes it all right here in my neighborhood. I normally avoid any kind of sweet gooey stuff like custard and whipped cream, but everything I've had here is amazing and has just the right level of sweetness and goo.

My cake has strawberries, whipped cream, flaky pastry, strawberry jelly, custard cream and more pastry. His is some kind of chocolate mousse stuff filled with cream, with chestnut glace and walnuts. He reports his cake was excellent, as was mine.

gallery_7940_5772_52901.jpg

Our basic weekend snacks are popcorn, popped on my whirly-pop thingie which at first I thought was the silliest thing in the world but is totally worth the cupboard space it takes up, and pretzels, from a giant Costco bag which will apparently last us the rest of our lives. Those staples are supplemented with the occasional package of sembei (rice crackers), potato chips and the like. I'd love to describe them all but it's 9:15 for god's sake, and I need to get off the computer. Will take pictures of anything we open, and try to get them posted tomorrow. Can't believe there's just one day left of this!


My eGullet foodblog: Spring in Tokyo

My regular blog: Blue Lotus

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
The hirame is a great example, because I've had sushi elsewhere made of extremely fresh hirame-- the fish was plucked from a tank and butchered right before my eyes-- and although it tasted fresh it was unpleasantly firm and chewy. At Kantarou-zushi mere freshness isn't enough, and the hirame had a wonderfully subtle yet deep flavour that the fresh version lacks, and was so soft it almost melted on my tongue.

Thanks for your description of that sushi restaurant. I remember the thread on the restaurant that you started in the Japan Forum years ago. I want to say something about hirame and other white fish and ama ebi. No offense intended to the chef. I think it's more appropriate to say that you can enjoy the chewy texture of white fish and ama ebi when they are fresh and then you can enjoy their taste the next day, when the protein is decomposed into amino acids. And, I hear that Korean people prefer the chewy texture of hirame (correct me if I'm wrong).

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I have enjoyed your foodblog very much and will be sorry to see it end. I love your writing style, and you give a wonderful sense of your slice of the world. That sushi looked amazing and I would love to have those choices available around here. Since we don't, I usually get mostly unagi, which is delicious and harder to mess up.

gallery_7940_5772_16240.jpg

I just put the cutting board up on top of an old drying rack, as suggested by you lovely readers. My back is singing with joy and I feel like such an idiot for not trying this earlier. Thank you!

That sounds like a good solution. Another possibility (a pricier one, unfortunately), is a thick end-grain cutting board on rubber legs. Chinese round cutting boards (the ones that look like a thick slice from a tree) are another possibility, but may be prone to splitting.

Great job, and I look forward to your last day!

ETA: Um, that didn't come out right. I look forward to today, not to the ending of the blog. You know what I mean.


Edited by C. sapidus (log)

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

The longer I live in Japan the more I want to move back to Canada. I really miss my family and the place itself. I do love Japan and still find the daily challenges of living here extremely stimulating but I also sometimes feel that I just want to, well, live. I no longer need constant adventure, and I certainly can't picture growing old here. My husband likes Canada in the summer but hates winter and also worries about finding a job. He really likes Southern California and would settle there in a second if work and visas weren't a problem.

No matter where we live, one of us will be away from the family, friends and culture we grew up with. This is a dilemma faced by every international couple and I'm not sure how things will end up.

Nicely put, Amy. The balance of work, family, and being where you want to be is the eternal frustration for expatriates.

For must of us, we either choose what our work will be, or where we will live. It's a lucky person that gets both of those criteria to match.

Peter

P.S. - and thanks again for this blog! You've answered a number of questions that were nagging me, like shooting pictures in stores.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

What a weekend!

When you buy good ingredients and make something like shabu-shabu at home, exactly as you like it, do you think it makes you more reluctant to spend money on dining out?

I'm also surprised to find that somebody else thinks that otoro can be TOO fatty!

And your broad beans were a great find - certainly haven't seen any in the shops yet.

So how did you eat the fuki/ butterbur in the end? I agree with how much work they are - as much time to prepare the fuki as to prepare a whole separate meal, I'd guess :biggrin: .

I see you've got those "France-pan koubou" snacks (top left) in your photo. Did you like them?

By the way, you can find "over-the-sink" chopping boards, but one that doesn't cover the entire sink is more useful - because you can sweep trimmings straight into one of those triangular waste-catchers.

About personal chopsticks - do you just toss the little bag in the laundry when you come home? I keep wondering if the INSIDE of my little chopstick bag is really clean!

As for the dilemma of the international couple...sigh.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
As for the dilemma of the international couple...sigh.

double sigh!!

Btw, I used to think I loved California Strawberries, but Ontario strawberries rock!! They're so juicy and sweet( but a bit small). I made the most kick arse strawberry jam last year, I wish I could remember the recipe. I'll take an Ontario strawberry over a US strawberry any day!!

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Guest
This topic is now closed to further replies.
Sign in to follow this  
Followers 0

  • Similar Content

    • By chefmd
      My son married a lovely young lady from Yakeshi, Inner Mongolia, China.   Mongolian: ᠶᠠᠠᠠᠰᠢ ᠬᠣᠲᠠ (Ягши хот); Chinese: 牙克石; pinyin: Yákèshí
       
      We had a wedding in the US but her family also wanted to have a traditional wedding in China.  DH and I have never being to China so this was an exciting opportunity for us!  We spent a few days in Beijing doing touristy stuff and then flew to Hailar.  There is only one flight a day on Air China that we took at 6 in the morning.  Yakeshi is about an hour drive from Hailar on a beautiful toll road with no cars on it.  I wish we took pictures of free roaming sheep and cows along the way.  The original free range meat.
       
      The family met us at the airport.  We were greeted with a shot of a traditional Chinese spirit from a traditional leather vessel.  Nothing says welcome like a stiff drink at 9 AM.  We were supposed to have a three shots (may be they were joking) but family took pity on us and limited it to one only.
       

       
    • By Panaderia Canadiense
      Wow, this is my third foodblog for the eGullet….  Welcome!   I'll be with you from Palm Sunday through Holy Sunday to give you all a taste of the veritable food festival that is Easter in Ecuador.  As usual, I intend to eat on the streets, visit a plethora of small shops and vendors, and talk about (and eat copious amounts of ) the specialty dishes of the holiday.
       
      A bit of background on me and where I am.  I'm Elizabeth; I'm 33 years old and since the last foodblog I've ceased to be a Canadian expat in Ecuador, and become a full-fledged Ecuadorian citizen.  I run a catering bakery out of Ambato, and I deliver to clients on the entire mainland.  I've got a large customer base in nearby Baños de Agua Santa, a hot-springs town about an hour downslope of me to the east; I'll be visiting it on Wednesday with close to 100 kg of baked goods for delivery.  Ambato, the capital of Tungurahua province, is located almost exactly in the geographic centre of Ecuador.  It's at an average elevation of 2,850 meters above sea level (slightly higher than Quito, the capital) - but this is measured in the downtown central park, which is significantly lower than most of the rest of the city, which extends up the sides of the river valley and onto the high plain above.  We've got what amounts to eternal late springtime weather, with two well-marked rainy seasons.  Ambato has about 300,000 people in its metro area; it's the fourth largest city in the country.  But maybe the most important thing about Ambato, especially to foodies, is that it's a transport hub for the country.  Anything travelling just about anywhere has to pass through Ambato on the way; it gives us the largest, best-stocked food market in South America.  I have simply staggering variety at my fingertips.
       

       
      This view, which was a teaser for the blog, was taken from my rooftop terrazzo.  It is a fraction of the panorama of the river valley that I see every morning, and since Easter is traditionally somewhat miserable weather-wise, the clouds stick to the hilltops.  The barrio you can see in the middle distance is Ficoa, one of the most luxury districts in the city.  Ambato is notable amongst Ecuadorian cities for having small fruit farms (300-500 m2) still operating within city limits and even within its most established barrios - it's from this that the Ambato gets one of its two sobriquets: The City of Fruits and Flowers.  The tendency for even the poorest barrios to take tremendous pride in their greenspaces gives the other: The Garden City.  My barrio, Miraflores Alto, is a working-class mixture of professors and labourers, and my neighbours keep a mixture of chickens, turkeys, and ducks in their yards; someone down the hill has a cow that I frequently hear but have never seen.  Consequently, if the season is right I can buy duck eggs from my neighbours (and if the season is wrong, entire Muscovy ducks for roasting.)
       

       
      Today, I'll be doing my largest fresh-food shopping at the Mercado Mayorista, the largest market of its kind in South America - this place covers nearly 30 square blocks, and it exists to both buy and sell produce from across the country.  Sundays and Mondays it also opens up to a huge, raucous farmer's market where smaller quantities are available for purchase.  Sunday is the day of the freshest food and the largest number of vendors.  And I'm going to cross more than half the city to get there - I've moved since the last blog, and my new house, on the slopes of the river valley is further away than the old one on the high plain.  I promise to take many pictures of this - particularly close to the High Holy days, the Mayorista is alive with vendors and there will be special sections cordoned off for sales of bacalao, truly enormous squashes, and if it follows the previous years' trends, a festival of Hornado (about which more later).  Apart from mangoes, which are just finishing up their season, it is harvest time across the country, and the Mayorista will be well stocked with all manner of fruits and vegetables.
       

       
      To start us off, I'll demystify one of my teasers a bit.
       

       
      The Minion head that peeks out of my cupboard every day belongs to my jar of ChocoListo, the Ecuadorian equivalent of chocolate Ovaltine.  Since I gave up coffee for Lent, it's my go-to morning beverage.  ChocoListo normally comes in the plain white jar with orange lid that you see in front of the Minion; that's now my hot chocolate jar because I just couldn't resist when the company came out with the specialty jars.  I firmly believe that one is never too old to have whimsical things!
       

    • By therese
      Good morning, y’all, and welcome to the party chez Therese.
      As per the teaser, this week’s foodblog does indeed come to you from Atlanta, where I live with my two children (hereafter known as Girl and Boy) and husband (hereafter known as The Man). Girl is 11, Boy is 14, and The Man is old enough to know better.
      Atlanta’s huge: the total metro population is about 4 million, and there are no physical boundaries to growth like rivers or mountain ranges, so people just keep moving (and commuting) farther and farther out of town. Atlantans can be divided into ITP (inside the perimeter) and OTP (outside the perimeter), the perimeter referring to the interstate freeway that encircles the downtown area and surrounding neighborhoods, separating it from outlying suburbs. The politically minded may note that these areas could be designated red and blue. I’ll let you figure out which is which.
      We’re about as ITP as it gets, with home, work, school, and restaurants all in walking distance. The neighborhood’s called Druid Hills, the setting for the play/movie “Driving Miss Daisy”. The houses date from the 1920s, and because Atlanta has so little in the way of “old” buildings the neighborhood’s on the National Register as a Historic District. Charming, sure, buts lots of the houses need some updating, and ours (purchased in 1996) was no exception. So we remodeled last year, including an addition with a new kitchen, and this week’s blog will look at the finished product.
      So, some encouragement for those of you presently involved in kitchen renovation, some ideas for those who are considering it.
      But never mind all that for the moment: What’s for breakfast?


      Dutch babies, that’s what. And even better, these Dutch babies are produced by my children, the aforementioned Girl and Boy. The first picture is right from the oven, the second is after the somewhat messy job of sifting powdered sugar on top. They are delicious (the Dutch babies, I mean, not the children) and a great weekend treat.

      The Man drinks coffee in the morning whereas I prefer tea. He's not up yet, having played poker last night. I'm hoping he makes it out of bed in time for dinner.

      I also eat fruit whereas he prefers, well, anything but fruit. This is not such a bad thing, as it means that I don’t have to share the fruit. Pomegranates are a pain to eat, but not so bad if you’re reading the newspaper at the same time. This one’s from California, but you can also grow them here if you’ve got enough sunshine (which I don’t).
    • By Shelby
      Good morning, everyone and happy Monday!  
       
      It's me again....that girl from Kansas. 
       
       
      This is VERY spur-of-the-moment.  I was sitting here yesterday thinking of all of the canning etc. that I needed to do this week and I thought, well, why not ask you guys if you want to spend the week with me while I do it?  I got the ok from Smithy so away we go!
       
      This will not be nearly as organized as my first blog was.  But, really, when does a sequel ever measure up to the first?     
       
      Most of you know all about me--if you missed my first blog you can read it here.
       
      Nothing much has changed around here.  Same furry babies, same house, same husband  .
       
      Right now we have field corn planted all around the house.  In the outer fields we have soybeans that were planted after the wheat was harvested.  Sorry for the blur....it was so humid the camera kept fogging up.
       

       
      I just came in from the garden.
       
      I snapped a few pictures....for more (and prettier) pictures you can look in the gardening thread.  I always start out saying that I will not let a weed grow in there.  By August I'm like..."Oh what's a few weeds" lol.
       
       
       
      Here's a total list of what I planted this year:
       
      7 cucumbers
      8 basil
      23 okra
      4 rows assorted lettuce
      20 peppers-thai, jalapeño, bell, banana
      4 rows peas
      5 cilantro
      1 tarragon
      2 dill
      many many red and white onions
      7 eggplant
      3 rows spinach
      57 tomatoes
      5 cherry tomatoes
      7 rows silver queen sweet corn
      11 squash
      4 watermelon
      2 cantaloupe
      6 pumpkin
       
      I killed the cantaloupes...and I tried damn hard to kill the squash lol.....sigh...squash bugs came early this year and we sprayed with some kind of stuff.  WOW the plants did not like it, but they've come back and are producing.
       


      I just love okra flowers

      Found some more smut   
       

       
       
       
       
       
       
    • By Pille
      Tere õhtust (that’s „Good evening“ in Estonian)!
      I’m very, very, very excited to be doing my first ever eGullet foodblog. Foodblogging as such is not new to me – I’ve been blogging over at Nami-nami since June 2005, and am enjoying it enormously. But this eGullet blog is very different in format, and I hope I can ’deliver’. There have been so many exciting and great food blogs over the years that I've admired, so the standard is intimidatingly high! Also, as I’m the first one ever blogging from Estonia, I feel there’s a certain added responsibility to ’represent’ my tiny country
      A few words about me: my name is Pille, I’m 33, work in academia and live with my boyfriend Kristjan in a house in Viimsi, a suburb just outside Tallinn, the capital of Estonia. I was born and schooled in Tallinn until I was 18. Since then I've spent a year in Denmark as an exchange student, four years studing in Tartu (a university town 180 km south), two years working in Tallinn and seven years studying and working in Edinburgh, the bonnie & cosmopolitan capital of Scotland. All this has influenced my food repertoire to a certain degree, I'm sure. I moved back home to Estonia exactly 11 months and 1 day ago, to live with Kristjan, and I haven't regretted that decision once Edinburgh is an amazing place to live, and I've been back to Scotland twice since returning, but I have come to realise that Tallinn is even nicer than Edinburgh
      I won’t be officially starting my foodblog until tomorrow (it’s midnight here and I’m off to bed), but I thought I’ll re-post the teaser photos for those of you who missed them in the 'Upcoming Attractions' section. There were two of them. One was a photo of Tallinn skyline as seen from the sea (well, from across the bay in this case):

      This is known as kilukarbivaade or sprat can skyline A canned fish product, sprats (small Baltic herrings in a spicy marinade) used to have a label depicting this picturesque skyline. I looked in vain for it in the supermarket the other day, but sadly couldn’t find one - must have been replaced with a sleek & modern label. So you must trust my word on this sprat can skyline view
      The second photo depicted a loaf of our delicious rye bread, rukkileib. As Snowangel already said, it’s naturally leavened sour 100% rye bread, and I’ll be showing you step-by-step instructions for making it later during the week.

      It was fun seeing your replies to Snowangel’s teaser photos. All of you got the continent straight away, and I was pleased to say that most of you got the region right, too (that's Northern Europe then). Peter Green’s guess Moscow was furthest away – the capital of Russia is 865 km south-east from here (unfortunately I've never had a chance to visit that town, but at least I've been to St Petersburgh couple of times). Copenhagen is a wee bit closer with 836 km, Stockholm much closer with 386 km. Dave Hatfield (whose rural French foodblog earlier this year I followed with great interest, and whose rustic apricot tart was a huge hit in our household) was much closer with Helsinki, which is just 82 km across the sea to the north. The ships you can see on the photo are all commuting between Helsinki and Tallinn (there’s an overnight ferry connection to Stockholm, too). Rona Y & Tracey guessed the right answer
      Dave – that house isn’t a sauna, but a granary (now used to 'store' various guests) - good guess, however! Sauna was across the courtyard, and looks pretty much the same, just with a chimney The picture is taken in July on Kassari in Hiiumaa/Dagö, one of the islands on the west coast. Saunas in Estonia are as essential part of our life – and lifestyle – as they are in Finland. Throwing a sauna party would guarantee a good turnout of friends any time
      Finally, a map of Northern Europe, so you’d know exactly where I’m located:

      Head ööd! [Good night!]
      I'm off to bed now, but will be back soon. And of course, if there are any questions, however specific or general, then 'll do my best trying to answer them!
  • Recently Browsing   0 members

    No registered users viewing this page.