Well, it's been awhile, and have I missed it? No! Hahahah! Sure, I love to cook, and it's been fun blogging along, but I like to travel even more and I'm having a great time here in Japan. We've only been here 3 days and already we've done all kinds of things like been to the Tokyo Fish Market, the Meiji Imperial Shrine and yesterday we went north to Nikko to see the famous Tokugawa Shrine with the three monkeys posing see no evil, hear no evil, say no evil.
That said, Japan is daily proving to be a land of great food, be that home-cooked, from restaurants or packaged, and I thought that since I am indulging in the good stuff first hand, I'd send a few pictures your way to show you what you're missing!
The first night we we're here, the Imais (the family that we're staying with) had a welcome feast for us. Among the awesomeness were starters like homemade pork shumais steamed pork dumplings, homemade samosas, homemade pork springrolls and edamames. This of course was accompanied with copious amounts of Sake, because that's how I do business... Next came out two types of roast pork, Smoked and Herbed flavors, with two dipping sauces, one orange and the other oriental flavor, and also a Tomato, Cheese and Biscuit Tart that I was told was a Martha Stewart Recipe (and obviously not Japanese) but was honestly one of the best things ever! For dessert we had Mango parfaits and I had more Sake :)
The next day was an exploration of Tokyo. We started the day at the Tokyo Fish Market, which supplies the countless restaurants of Tokyo with all of their seafood, if you can imagine that...
We met Mariko for lunch at a conveyor-belt sushi restaurant, which was a hilarious experience, complete waiters who greet you loudly and bow excessivly, and of course there's the strange hillarit of the conveyor belt of sushi circling around in front of you.Nevertheless, it was tasty and about as fresh as can be, thanks to the two skinny chefs standing in the middle of the conveyor circle slapping together roll after roll after roll... For dinner we met the Imais at an Okonomika restaurant which also was a crazy crazy experience. Okonomika are eggy pancakes filled with the filling of your choice, and topped with a sweet brown sauce and mayonaise as they grill. This restaurant was much more than that though; an energetic mix of hibachi, beni-hana, and that Ultimate Samurai game show! The first dish was garlic scallops fried on the hibachi, and then a salad that the waiter topped with pepper from a 4 foot pepper grinder! Next came out thin-slice sesame marinated beef tongue and then tender beef with a sweet-soy dipping sauce. After that was Tofu and Cucumber in cold sesame sauce, and finally the ubiquitous Okomika, which was a strange square-shaped egg pancake, about an inch thick, and filled with vegetables. The chef tops it with onions and then drizzles it with brown sauce, and then bows and back peddals about 5 feet, brandishes a squirt bottle of Mayo and surrounds the sizzling pancake in a circle of Mayo that he squirts from across the room!
The next morning we headed for Nikko and picked up Bento Boxes for the train ride. I got one with Brown Rice mixed with chopped clams and topped with smoked eel and two smoked fishes, accompanied by pickled vegetables. It was tasty, and Bento Boxes are officially the coolest brown-bag lunches/breakfasts ever.
After spending the afternoon at the shrines in Nikko (which is one of the most beautiful places I've ever been, rich in pagodas and richly-painted shrines nestled in the jagged mountains under the mists and towering cypruss trees) we found a small restauraunt where we were the only ones eating. I ordered a bowl of Udon that came topped with pickled green beans, fish cake, vegetables and Yuba, which is a product made from the skin skimmed off the top of the water created from soy milk and tofu production. It was good and pretty to boot.
We got home pretty tired from walking the thousands of staircases in Nikko, but that was okay because Yoko had asked to cook us dinner. She told us not to expect much, but that must have been her Japanese modesty speaking because it was amazing. At first I was worried because she said that she made Salmon and I HATE salmon. Raw or cooked, I have always found it too fishy and only appreciate it smoked. However, not wanting to be rude I tried her salmon and boy am I glad I did! It wasn't fishy at all, and was the moistest piece of salmon I've ever seen and I ate every bite! She told me that she made it by topping it with potato starch and then steaming it, and she served it with a spicy mayonaise sauce and also two types of salad, one with garlicy green beans and the other a dish called Sunumono. Sunumono, I gather is any salad-type dish (vegetable or seafood) with a sweet vinegar sauce. The one that Yoko made was a refreshing combo of thin sliced cucumbers and small dried fishes that she topped with a rice vinegar, sugar and soy sauce dressing.
But honestly, the star for the meal for me was the bowl of mushroom rice that I topped with Skudani. Skudani are a discovery I've made, and are fish of varying sizes, from miniscule to anchovy size, smoked and preserves in sweet soy and sugar, and they are my new love here. You top your rice with them and there are few tastier things in life. I have already eaten millions of these little guys and plan to eat a few billion more before I am forced to leave this tasty island.
Well, that does it for now. I'm going to keep enjoying the next two weeks here, both the scenery, the food and the Sake, and if I'm feeling up to it, I'll try to post again and tease you all with somemore pictures of the deliciousness that is Japanese cuisine!