05.03.2015 - 10.03.2015 32 °F
It's a good thing I brought pants with drawstring or elastic waists, because one of the great pleasures of being in Japan is the food! Until very recently, most Japanese restaurants back home served pretty much the same thing: teriyaki, maybe some sushi or sukiyaki. But Japanese food is so much more varied! Here's a sampling of what we've had in the few days since we've been in Kyoto. Although I can't walk much, I can still eat!
Soba (buckwheat noodles): I had mine with fried tofu strips and scallions; Dick's came with tempura. We both had them hot, as a concession to the cold weather. Also available cold.
Okonomiyaki: a Japanese version of a cross between a savory pancake and crepe, developed during/after the war when food was short. Dick's was stuffed with scallions, squid, and shrimp, and topped with such yummy things as Japanese mayo (it's really delicious! You can buy it at Uwajimaya's); dried fish shavings, dried seaweed, and a variety of sweet and spicy sauces. Can easily be made at home with the recipe at http://www.lovelylanvin.com/2012/01/30/okonomiyaki-japanese-savory-pancake-osaka-style/ and ingredients from Uwajimaya.
Tsukune: grilled chicken meatballs
Ume nigiri: a warm rice ball stuffed with a pickled plum and wrapped in nori (black dried seaweed)
Char-grilled corn in butter (speaks for itself--you can do it at home in a frying pan--cook until the corn chars a bit--brings out the natural sugars)
Cold tofu with dried fish shavings, scallions, and soy sauce
Yakitori (grilled chicken and onions; this version was done over a stainless steel grill--hope to have the real thing--over charcoal--soon)
Cucumber morrokyu: cucumber sticks with barley miso--really yummy!
Daikon salad with a miso dressing
Asparagus wrapped in bacon and grilled--add a squeeze of lemon!
Sweet and sour pork--no, not the Chinese version, but a Japanese version of Western style cooking made with a balsamic vinegar reduction; the dish also included sauteed onions, zucchini, and red bell pepper. Absolutely delicious!
Avocado and shrimp salad
Chef's special salad: a green salad that included salad greens, roasted winter squash, and a variety of other cooked veggies, artistically arranged on a platter
Japanese style risotto: one of my favorite comfort foods: risotto made with Japanese dashi! Delish!
A substantial amuse bouche of some kind of bleu cheese sitting on a crouton, a scrumptious piece of fried fish served with tangy tomato sauce, and something else we can't remember
An appetizer of cooked pork, tiny octopus, and some kind of green belonging to the cabbage family
Marinated raw horse mackerel strips mixed with some kind of julienned veggie;
Yuba (tofu skin) salad with lettuce, tomatoes and other veggies
Shabu shabu where we swished pieces of raw mackerel, sea bream, and scallops, plus some mizuna for veggies and some tofu, in hot dashi and then dipped in the same broth flavored with yuzu kosho (yuzu is a type of Japanese citrus fruit; the yuzu kosho is the citrus mixed with some kind of pepper mixture)
Firefly squid served cold in a mustard sauce: my Lord, was this good! I'm not a big fan of squid, having eaten way too much in my youth (that's another story), but these tiny squids (maybe 1.5-2 inches) were amazing!
Two perfectly grilled and seasoned chicken wings
Beef cubes, mushrooms, and peppers grilled in butter garlic sauce over a tiny hibachi at one's seat and served with two different sauces
Some kind of green udon in a dashi laden with scallions (really satisfying!)
Ham & tomato pizza on a brioche
Bento boxes on the train (too many different dishes to mention)
Firefly squid grilled with raab
Grilled atka mackerel
Braised gurnard aka sea robin with lotus root, sweet potato, brassica greens
Fennel/mizuna salad with tiny fish, yuba, and fried tofu
Maguro (tuna) hambaaga
Warm tofu with soy sauce
Yuba (tofu skin) with fresh wasabi and soy sauce
Panko crusted tofu
Soy milk (tastes like tofu, nothing like American soy milk)
Tofu/dried bean/pea salad
Bamboo shoot salad
Rice with tofu and other grains
Green tea ice cream dusted with matcha powder
Frozen strawberries stuffed and coated with white chocolate
Mango ice cream coated with white chocolate
Chocolate ice cream dusted with cocoa powder
Shiso (a Japanese herb, often served with sushi or tempura) sorbet--really outstanding!
Green tea jelly
Ohagi (sweetened red bean paste wrapped around lightly pounded sweet rice; also lightly pounded sweet rice wrapped around the sweetened red bean paste and dusted with roasted soy bean flour)
Sakura mochi (lightly pounded sweet rice with sweetened red bean paste, wrapped in a brined cherry leaf)
Yomogi daifuku (green mochi stuffed with the sweetened red bean paste)
Ginger senbei (ginger crackers)--we eat them by the handful over a fresh fruit salad Dick makes every morning
Tofu matcha mousse
Of course, the sky's the limit for restaurant meal prices here, but none of the above was anywhere close to being in that category and was served at restaurants varying from cheap to moderate by Seattle standards.
One thing Seattle does have over Japan in food is the availability of good quality reasonably priced fruit. Fruit here is more expensive than it is back home, and the choices are not nearly as varied. And that's not even considering the "gift fruit"--specially wrapped premium fruit. For example, yesterday I saw two smallish but beautiful cantaloupe in a gift box: priced at 8000 yen. That's about $67.