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Feasting My Way Through Japan


rarerollingobject
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  • 8 months later...

Thanks for the heads-up, rro. I'm looking forward to it. And great timing (for me) -- I just finished reading Rice, Noodle, Fish: Deep Travels Through Japan's Food Culture. It's been nearly 30 years since I lived in Japan for a little while, in unagi country, and I still miss the food from time to time. People often are surprised when I tell them I enjoyed some of the best French cooking, ever, at a modest little place in Middle-of-Nowhere, Shizuoka-ken.

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"There is no sincerer love than the love of food."  -George Bernard Shaw, Man and Superman, Act 1

 

Gene Weingarten, writing in the Washington Post about online news stories and the accompanying readers' comments: "I basically like 'comments,' though they can seem a little jarring: spit-flecked rants that are appended to a product that at least tries for a measure of objectivity and dignity. It's as though when you order a sirloin steak, it comes with a side of maggots."

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23 hours ago, rarerollingobject said:

@buffy - Tokyo, Kyoto, Osaka, Koya-san, Hiroshima, Fukuoka, Kurokawa/Mt Aso, and back to Tokyo.

 

That's if my planned travelling partner is still coming with; if I end up going alone, I might just stay in the big cities.

 

Good eating any which way.

Koya-san is fantastic ... do you do a temple stay ? They sometimes offer hands on food preparation (zen-vegetarian, of course). I envy you !

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OK, so, an excellent flight in to Tokyo. Qantas business class is leagues better than it used to be; sake and Japanese pork belly buns and yuzu-shy highballs with shochu, but more importantly, I even slept!!

 

I'm a pretty seasoned traveller and no drug, no flat bed, no jetlag, no time zone changes, no alcohol has ever worked for me - I've finally established what I need to do to be able to sleep on a plane, even a little bit; just watch that bloody 'Lion' movie, cry till I've exhausted myself in heaving, whole-body-wracking sobs, and promptly fall asleep with the general effort of emoting via external stimuli. The old cry like a baby, sleep like a baby routine..must remember that.

 

And I know this is not a makeup forum or anything, but if you're in the market for a new eyeliner, let me heartily recommend the Tom Ford Eye Defining Pen; how you can cry every skerrick of makeup off your face and lips but your eyliener stays put is clearly a secret between Tom Ford and god.

 

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Anyway, Tokyo is heaven because within 20 minutes of arriving at my hotel, dumping my bags and setting out to roam the plains, I was eating this tuna sushi set (I know, I know; I promised to restrict myself to only two tuna meals while I am here, which feels like a very big sacrifice for me, but not as much as for the tuna), before being reunited with one my true love - Family Mart convenience store fried chicken. 

 

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"Convenience store fried chicken?! WTF??", I hear you ask. And in any other country, that would indeed be a truly disgusting proposition. Japan is not like any other country. Believe.

 

Repairing for the evening in my hotel room's massage chair, with fried chicken, a bottle of sake, and Japanese food TV? Bliss.

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On 17/03/2017 at 7:27 PM, Duvel said:

Koya-san is fantastic ... do you do a temple stay ? They sometimes offer hands on food preparation (zen-vegetarian, of course). I envy you !

 

Yes, I'm staying overnight in a temple. I didn't know there might be a chance to help with the food..I'll look into that! I'm obsessed with Koya gomae tofu.

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Ohhhhhh...I want to go back to Japan SO BADLY! It's been six years. I'm due.

 

Sushi at the Tsukiji fish market in Tokyo at 6 a.m., just after the boats come in, is the most memorable food experience I've ever had.

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Don't ask. Eat it.

www.kayatthekeyboard.wordpress.com

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Went to Tsukiji for breakfast, @kayb!

 

After tearing myself away from my Beloved - the massage chair in my hotel room -

 

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- I wandered off to the fish market for an uni donburi (raw sea urchin on a bowl of sushi rice) and some grilled crab.

 

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Didn't stay all that long because I've been to the market many times before, so walked around to Hamarikyu Gardens to see if any cherry or plum blossoms were out yet; only these punters.

 

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Caught a river boat to Asakusa and then slowly made my way back to the hotel for a giant, marathon nap and a simple dinner of tempura and cold soba with wasabi, green onion and dipping sauce.

 

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Then I walked the streets for a bit before coming across this place, going in to which seemed like a perfectly terrible idea, so of course I did.

 

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Since I am nothing if not an Everyday Lady, I spent a very fun hour here making them seriously regret their marketing choices.

Edited by rarerollingobject (log)
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Ohhhh. Jealous. I MUST go back soon.

 

If you are a fan of the massage chair, take a couple of days, get on the bullet train, go to Hanamaki (about three hours, as I recall, north into the mountains) and stay at the hot springs resorts. Wonderful baths outdoors in the hot springs, and then a massage to relax every cell in your body.

 

There was good food. I don't remember what it was. I was too relaxed.

 

 

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Don't ask. Eat it.

www.kayatthekeyboard.wordpress.com

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2 hours ago, rarerollingobject said:

Went to Tsukiji for breakfast, @kayb!

 

After tearing myself away from my Beloved - the massage chair in my hotel room -

 

IMG_2778.thumb.JPG.483189b6f2056ba60990fb0902c1c20c.JPG

 

 

- I wandered off to the fish market for an uni donburi (raw sea urchin on a bowl of sushi rice) and some grilled crab.

 

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Didn't stay all that long because I've been to the market many times before, so walked around to Hamarikyu Gardens to see if any cherry or plum blossoms were out yet; only these punters.

 

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Caught a river boat to Asakusa and then slowly made my way back to the hotel for a giant, marathon nap and a simple dinner of tempura and cold soba with wasabi, green onion and dipping sauce.

 

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Then I walked the streets for a bit before coming across this place, going in to which seemed like a perfectly terrible idea, so of course I did.

 

IMG_2842.thumb.JPG.7ecb7d8d9639caea34f6edb5e2911597.JPG

 

Since I am nothing if not an Everyday Lady, I spent a very fun hour here making them seriously regret their marketing choices.

 

I am concerned that there may not be enough uni for you in that bowl.  Or there may not be enough uni left in the ocean for me.  Not sure which concern is more concerning to me ;).  In other words, I am insanely jealous.  Will follow your culinary adventure with great pleasure!

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Things I did yesterday; queued for sushi for 45 minutes with these legends, was complimented twice on my "polite waiting, amazing for a foreigner" (??), ate said sushi, accidentally ate a 200 year old clam and felt sick with guilt but not enough to NOT eat it.

 

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In my defence, what happened was  I thought from the picture on the menu that they'd be scallops, so ordered them, much to the sushi chef's surprise.

They came and I knew straight away from the size and the texture that they weren't scallops, but shrugged and ate them anyway, mystified but not thinking too much of it.

It's only when I got the bill and paid, that I afterwards noticed that the two slices of clam alone were far more expensive than the whole rest of the sushi meal put together; out of curiosity as to what I'd eaten and why it was so luxe, I went back and asked and the chef kept saying "200 years, very old!" in Japanese and I assumed I was misunderstanding (I wasn't), so with a lot of Google Translate (the chef ultimately grabbed my phone and typed into the Translate app in Japanese and handed it back to me in English), I established that I'd just eaten something older than Sydney University...yikes.

 

Then I went to Nihonbashi Mitsukoshi and bought six Pierre Herme macarons, and ate them in bed like a goddamn rockstar.

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Edited by rarerollingobject (log)
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And today - after an excellent Japanese breakfast in my Tokyo hotel - grilled fish, onsen tamago egg, fresh soft tofu, potatoes and green beans simmered in dashi, pickles, fresh yoghurt, rice, seaweed and an iced matcha.

 

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I hopped a train to Kyoto, eating en route a snack bag of dried scallops, an ekiben of gyudon (beef simmered in mirin, soy and sake) and beautifully rare steak. As well as a little packet of chicken fried with shiso and sour plum (ume) seasoning.

 

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I've rented a house in Kyoto, because I wanted to do a bit of (simple) cooking, so after buying some wonderfully marbled beef, some rice, some pickles and some eggs, and a bit more fried chicken with this cute mini Kewpie mayonnaise, the house automatically drew me a bath into which I retired with a yuzu-shu and fresh sliced yuzu.

 

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Could not be happier.

 

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Edited by rarerollingobject (log)
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I spent most of today at Kitano Tenmangu shrine in Kyoto, for their once-a-month antique and flea market. Lots of food, too!

 

I took video too: 

 

 

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Sweet hot rice sake dosed with fresh ginger:

 

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Crystallized ginger:

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Anyway, I was very good about not buying anything, for the sake of luggage and the fact that I'm after some very specifically-shaped sake glasses, which will take up most of my weight allowance when I do find them.

 

And when I say 'anything', I mean apart from a beautiful abalone shell bowl, some wooden spoons, and a giant pack of crystallized ginger; all things designed to give Australian Customs a conniption, no doubt.

 

I then traipsed back to Kyoto Station to find Ramen Koji (Ramen Street), a hidden-away-in-a-corner-of-the-station cluster of branches of the most 15 or so famous ramen shops of Japan. I had the Iroha black ramen from Toyama, and a side of gyoza.

 

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Here's a a walk around of the shops that I took: 

 

 

I stopped in then at Isetan to buy dinner; a snack of beautiful hotaru ika baby firefly squid, which you eat dipped in a dab of hot mustard; shiso leaves, massively marbled beef, uni and tuna.

 

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So feeling that I'd been quite parsimonious because all I'd eaten all day had been the ramen and the gyoza, dinner was a pre snack of the squid, and then sushi rice, smeared with wasabi, wrapped in raw beef, topped with uni and folded into a shiso leaf and down the hatch. With some very nice sake, too.

 

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Then a tuna donburi on sushi rice:

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And dessert was a raw egg yolk that I'd cured in ponzu (citrusy soy sauce) all day, folded up carefully in a slice of wagyu, and lifted delicately, quiveringly to my lips.

 

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So, as you can see, I'm not suffering here. ;) 

 

Edited by rarerollingobject (log)
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2 hours ago, cdh said:

Like a rock star!  How long can you keep this up? I'm kinda craving a big green leafy salad just thinking about how rich everything looks so far...

 

You wouldn't complain if you were here in person..my wild-eating, thirsty-drinking, loose-moralled ways are what make me fun ;) 

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19 minutes ago, rarerollingobject said:

 

You wouldn't complain if you were here in person..my wild-eating, thirsty-drinking, loose-moralled ways are what make me fun ;) 

 

OK, now I'm waiting for pictures of the last of that trio. ^_^

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"There is no sincerer love than the love of food."  -George Bernard Shaw, Man and Superman, Act 1

 

Gene Weingarten, writing in the Washington Post about online news stories and the accompanying readers' comments: "I basically like 'comments,' though they can seem a little jarring: spit-flecked rants that are appended to a product that at least tries for a measure of objectivity and dignity. It's as though when you order a sirloin steak, it comes with a side of maggots."

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A perfect day; it rained, so I had every excuse to be an even more terrible tourist than usual; got out of bed at 12pm and took myself out for one of the main reasons I'm in Kyoto; to try the coffee at Arabica in Higashiyama, one of the new generation Japanese espresso specialists. A beautiful cafe, and incredible coffee that I've been reading about for months. Yes, I had to queue for 40 minutes, because the Japanese are onto good coffee like a fat kid on a Smarty, but it's just outside one of the main temple areas, where lots of young Kyoto couples like to promenade, so it was perfect people-watching territory for one of my favourite things in Japan; young guys in kimono. If anything, I love them more than women's kimono. I made like a total creeper and took pictures of every one I saw. However, I dare not invoke the eG mods' wrath by attempting to post a slew of non food photos, so if you want to see them you can head over to my Insta at https://www.instagram.com/rarerollingobject/

 

But the coffee:

 

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Then I went to find the most beautiful ramen shop in possibly the world; Ramen Muraji, in Gion. It's run totally by women, a rarity in the macho world of ramen-making. GET IT, GIRLS.  

 

Anyway, it actually WAS the best ramen I've ever tasted; thick, collagen-y chicken stock, so rich it makes your lips stick together, with a blanket of thinly-sliced lemons to cut the fat and a side of the crispiest fried chicken to cut the fat-cutting. 

 

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Then I walked around in the rain for ages, and stopped in at a sake bar for a 4pm tipple, purely because the place was called Pass the Baton, and I was struck by the perfect design of its noren entry-way curtain. Anyway, the owner gave me like six free cups of sake so I got very drunk and forgot to take pictures.

 

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And just some supermarket sushi for dinner; not bad for AUD$13!

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A GREAT day. Full of all my favourite things; coffee, ramen, women living their best lives and smashing the patriarchy, sake and objectifying boyzzzz. :B

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      The Dong people (also known as the Kam) are noted for their tea, love of glutinous rice and their carpentry and architecture. And their hospitality. They tend to live at the foot of mountains, unlike the Miao who live in the mid-levels.
       
      By the time we arrived, it was lunch time, but first we had to have a sip of the local tea. This lady did the preparation duty.
       

       

       
      This was what we call black tea, but the Chinese more sensibly call 'red tea'. There is something special about drinking tea when you can see the bush it grew on just outside the window!
       
      Then into lunch:
       

       

      Chicken Soup
       

      The ubiquitous Egg and Tomato
       

      Dried fish with soy beans and chilli peppers. Delicious.
       

      Stir fried lotus root
       

      Daikon Radish
       

      Rice Paddy Fish Deep Fried in Camellia Oil - wonderful with a smoky flavour, but they are not smoked.
       

      Out of Focus Corn and mixed vegetable
       

      Fried Beans
       

      Steamed Pumpkin
       

      Chicken
       

      Beef with Bitter Melon
       

      Glutinous (Sticky) Rice
       

      Oranges
       

      The juiciest pomelo ever. The area is known for the quality of its pomelos.
       
      After lunch we headed out to explore the tea plantation.
       

       

       

       

       
      Interspersed with the tea plants are these camellia trees, the seeds of which are used to make the Dong people's preferred cooking oil.
       

       
      As we climbed the terraces we could hear singing and then came across this group of women. They are the tea pickers. It isn't tea picking time, but they came out in their traditional costumes to welcome us with their call and response music. They do often sing when picking. They were clearly enjoying themselves.
       

       
      And here they are:
       
       
      After our serenade we headed off again, this time to the east and the most memorable meal of the trip. Coming soon.
       
       
    • By liuzhou
      Last week, Liuzhou government invited a number of diplomats from Laos, Malaysia, Indonesia, Myanmar/Burma, Poland, and Germany to visit the city and prefecture. They also invited me along. We spent Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday introducing the diplomats to the culture of the local ethnic groups and especially to their food culture.
       
      First off, we headed two hours north into the mountains of Rongshui Miao Autonomous County. The Miao people (苗族 miáo zú), who include the the Hmong, live in the mid-levels of mountains and are predominantly subsistence farmers. Our first port of call was the county town, also Rongshui (融水 róng shuǐ, literal meaning: Melt Water) where we were to have lunch. But before lunch we had to go meet some people and see their local crafts. These are people I know well from my frequent work trips to the area, but for the diplomats, it was all new.
       
      So, I had to wait for lunch, and I see no reason why you shouldn't either. Here are some of the people I live and work with.


       
      This lovely young woman is wearing the traditional costume of an unmarried girl. Many young women, including her, wear this every day, but most only on festive occasions.
       
      Her hat is made from silver (and is very heavy). Here is a closer look.
       

       
      Married women dispense with those gladrags and go for this look:
       

       
      As you can see she is weaving bamboo into a lantern cover.
       
      The men tend to go for this look, although I'm not sure that the Bluetooth earpiece for his cellphone is strictly traditional.
       

       
      The children don't get spared either
       

       
      This little girl is posing with the Malaysian Consul-General.
       
      After meeting these people we went on to visit a 芦笙 (lú shēng) workshop. The lusheng is a reed wind instrument and an important element in the Miao, Dong and Yao peoples' cultures.
       

       

       
      Then at last we headed to the restaurant, but as is their custom, in homes and restaurants, guests are barred from entering until they go through the ritual of the welcoming cup of home-brewed rice wine.
       


      The consular staff from Myanmar/Burma and Malaysia "unlock" the door.
       
      Then you have the ritual hand washing part.
       

       
      Having attended to your personal hygiene, but before  entering the dining room, there is one more ritual to go through. You arrive here and sit around this fire and wok full of some mysterious liquid on the boil.
       

       
      On a nearby table is this
       

       
      Puffed rice, soy beans, peanuts and scallion. These are ladled into bowls.
       

       
      with a little salt, and then drowned in the "tea" brewing in the wok.
       
      This is  油茶 (yóu chá) or Oil Tea. The tea is made from Tea Seed Oil which is made from the seeds of the camellia bush. This dish is used as a welcoming offering to guests in homes and restaurants. Proper etiquette suggests that three cups is a minimum, but they will keep refilling your cup until you stop drinking. First time I had it I really didn't like it, but I persevered and now look forward to it.
       

      L-R: Director of the Foreign Affairs Dept of Liuzhou government, consuls-general of Malaysia, Myanmar, Laos.
       
      Having partaken of the oil tea, finally we are allowed to enter the dining room, where two tables have been laid out for our use.
       

       
      Let the eating, finally, begin.
       
      In no particular order:
       

      Steamed corn, taro and sweet potato
       

      Bamboo Shoots
       

      Duck
       

      Banana leaf stuffed with sticky rice and mixed vegetables and steamed.
       

      Egg pancake with unidentified greenery
       

      Stir fried pork and beans
       

      Stir fried Chinese banana (Ensete lasiocarpum)
       

      Pig Ears
       

       
      This may not look like much, but was the star of the trip. Rice paddy fish, deep fried in camellia tree seed oil with wild mountain herbs. We ate this at every meal, cooked with slight variations, but never tired of it.
       

      Stir fried Greens
       
      Our meal was accompanied by the wait staff singing to us and serving home-made rice wine (sweetish and made from the local sticky rice).
       
       
       
       
      Everything we ate was grown or reared within half a kilometre of the restaurant and was all free-range, organic. And utterly delicious.
       
      Roll on dinner time.
       
      On the trip I was designated the unofficial official photographer and ended up taking 1227 photographs. I just got back last night and was busy today, so I will try to post the rest of the first day (and dinner) as soon as I can.
    • By shain
      It's been more than a year in which international travel was challenging to impossible, but gladly this is changing, as more countries are able to vaccinate their population.
      Greece had managed to return to a state of near normality, and opted to allow vaccinated individuals to enter. And so I decided to go on a slightly spontaneous vacation (only slightly, we still had almost a month for planning). To the trip I was joined by my father, to whom I owed some good one-on-one time and was able to travel on a short-ish notice.
       
       
      Many people are yet unable to travel, and many countries are suffering quite badly from the virus, and therefore I considered if I should wait some time with this post. However, I hope that it will instead be seen with an optimistic view, showing that back-to-normal is growing ever closer.
       
       
      We returned just a few days ago, and it will take me some time to organize my photos, so this is a teaser until then.
       
       
       
       
    • By Drew777
      I'm a Brit. I'm also a closet Frenchman.  To cap it all, I'm happily retired in Bangkok, the city of a street food culture that's second to none. The Thais are healthy and slim. I'm just this side of alive and far from slim. Lockdown has me fantasizing about my days working in London, Paris and New York, an existence, if one could call it that, revolving around gastronomy of one kind or another. They paid me, not so very much as it happens, to do what I enjoy doing most in life. We all get to do it, but I was one of a fortunate few who made it his metier. Well all that's in the past now, but I still dream of my time in Paris when lunch was a tad short of 2-hours, little-known local bistros remained affordable until the day they were discovered by La Bible (Michelin Guide) and the students were revolting - this was the summer of '68, for heaven's sake. Someone should open bistro here in Bangkok with a table d'hote of Soupe a l'Oignon gratinee, Blanquette de Veau, a stinky Epoisses and Tarte Tatin to finsih with creme fraiche. Ah, it's back to lockdown and pad Thai. 
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