Monday, January 12, 2009

Japan - The food

"Pictured is a sampling of my meals in Japan throughout various parts of Honshu and Kyushu in December 2008 and January 2009."

No matter where one goes in the world, one of the best ways to get immersed into the culture is to eat indigenous food.

While in Japan, I had zero American food, although that can be a discrepancy if you count my Mr.Doughnut chocolate doughnut and McDonald's sandwich I had an hour before flying back to the United States.

Little did I know, Mr.Doughnut was once an American staple for purchasing the breakfast pastry. I had believed the franchise only operated in Asia and mainly Japan. Oops.

And as for McDonald's, well, I hate airline food, so it seemed like a good idea to eat a McChicken sandwich in Narita's terminal an hour before my 24-hour journey back to Baltimore. Granted, it was literally the last meal I had before leaving the country.

Anyways, I made it a point to try and remember to photograph every single thing I ate while in Japan. While I didn't quite remember every time, above is a sampling of what I did pig out to.

During my last trip, I was scared to take pictures of my food. I never have done here in the United States and when I did pull out my camera I felt if all eyes were on me, as if they were saying, "Look at that crazy American!"

But I got over that quickly this trip. In addition, I realized that one sushi bar I went to in Shinjuku, near my hotel in Tokyo, which I again visited, had the same chef working. I wondered if he remembered me. Ha.

During my first week, I only had sushi the very first night I was there and that wasn't such a good idea as being dehydrated and having no sleep for over 30-hours left me feeling miserable the first night there. Despite that, sushi again became a staple food choice. I even had it for breakfest, lunch and dinner one day.

I ate a lot of what one would call "traditional" Japanese foods. Many I had tried last time, too.

Some of the pictured includes: sushi (rotating bars and non), soba, zenzai (a sweet porridge made of azuki beans) and much like it is manju (which is sweet bean paste in a pastery), pork cutlet aka tonkatsu, thick wheat-flour noodles aka udon, moche, real ramen, yakitori or grilled skewers, and many others.

Now let me mention my favorite meals. Obviously, I love sushi and it's not the same in the states, but this trip I seemed to be loving the hotate or what we call scallop, especially with lots of wasabi. Mmm, I love wasabi.

My absolute three favorite meals held a close ranking. First was the nabe party, which is a hot pot full of all sorts of shell fish and was homemade by my friend Yamagata san's wife. I was told it was made with some of the freshest fish from her hometown in Hokkaido.

Second goes to my all time favorite Japanese street food of takoyaki. These are popular circular matters of batter, which house: octopus, tempura scraps, pickled ginger, konnyaku, green onion, and then is topped with a sweet sauce, seaweed, mayonnaise, and fish shavings. I finally got them from their origin of birth: Osaka.

Third place goes to the Japanese pizza or as they call it, okonomiyaki. This was the first time I had one. These are a pan-fried batter cakes with various ingredients. In easier terms, it's a huge pancake made mostly of fried egg, cabbage, tons of fish, and bacon, then then topped with mayonnaise and sweet sauce. It's all cooked in front of you like an American hibachi grill. Delicious.

Honorable mention goes to the REAL hibachi grill dinner that was cooked over hot coals in an "as-authentic-and-Japanese-as-you-can-get" restaurant.

OK, so this is getting rather lengthy. Let me wrap this post up.

I loved just about everything I ate, but did have some issues. Since I don't drink caffeine anymore (its almost been a year) I celebrated with joy when I found Sprite in a vending machine and in turn drank a lot of beer and water. I ate tons of rice cakes for breakfast. I tried eating raw egg in steamed rice and almost got sick 20 minutes later. Alas, I didn't get to try blow fish, again.

And finally, if you didn't know, rotating sushi bars allow you watch sushi go by as you chose what you want (it can often be call merry-go-round-sushi). When you're done a waitress counts your plates and you pay the bill. Well, I should have thought of it, but I witnessed the first electronic sushi plate counter. Classic!

Stay tuned for a return to some assignments I missed posting from last year, a new year of assignments and maybe one or two more posts on my trip.


Blogger Jim Lasher said...

Nice Photographs. I look forward to seeing more on your website when it's up.

I trust your had a chance to try okonomiyake in Hiroshima where I believe it is best. Kanto-style is different.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009 12:16:00 PM  

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