Japan – Food

I loved the food in Japan, I was even converted to eating Japanese breakfast every day instead of toast or a croissant. So I was eating fish at three meals per day. I also walked a great deal, more than 85 miles in 12 days, with no pains in my feet, I think the reported benefits of fish oil are indeed true.

Japanese food is very much based around Dashi, which is a stock made from dried fish flakes – usually tuna and kelp – large leaves of a particular kind of seaweed. Also Miso paste which is made by fermenting beans.

A stall selling dried fish flakes of many varieties. You can of course buy ready-made dashi but its not hard to make and has a far superior flavour. The smell is quite hard to get used to, so I didn’t get too close.

Rice crackers with seaweed

 

Mung beans I think
Bunches of very fresh herbs are everywhere, these are coriander.
Or maybe these are!
Little flower stalks are often laid on top of cooked food or sushi as decoration but are eaten too, they’re quite perfumed and have a slightly medicinal taste. As I understand it, they are flowers from a kind of mint or basil known as Shiso, the leaves are also used and are put on the plate, before the food.
Shiso leaves
Wasabi roots sitting in water to keep fresh and cool. Their amazing flavour evaporates(?) extremely fast and in the best restaurants, its not only grated fresh every day but fresh for each served dish.
I think these are a type of Okra, sadly I didn’t get to try them.
Two varieties of aubergine than are readily available in the UK. Tiny deep purple ones and plum light mauve ones, used for different reasons, I suppose.
The head of that day’s tuna, being kept on ice, to show how fresh the stall’s wares are.
Asparagus, lovely fat spikes, at the height of the season in early October. Delicious as Yakatori, wrapped in bacon (very thinly cut Japanese style) and cooked on skewers over a charcoal grill – with a beer of course.
Wooden spoons in a huge range of sizes
Japanese cooking knives, a famous shop where they make the knives themselves and sharpen right before you buy it, to make sure it is ultra-sharp.
All sorts of small china tableware, mostly chopstick rests and tiny dishes for wasabi, grated daikon, pickled ginger  or soy sauce.
A sushi and sashumi banquet, glorious. Three or 4 types of fish, mackerel, prawns, salmon roe, omelette and pickled ginger
Another fabulous meal or raw tuna decorated with cucumber and Shiso leaves and flowers, wasabi and radish, a bowl of miso soup waiting with its lid on to keep warm. Soy sauce and pickled plums in the dishes at the back. Pickled plums are a revelation, so delicious.
Horribly out of focus, maybe beer had been taken already. A massive dish of minced raw tuna, of the best kind, there are three types, the basic tuna which is most likely cooked, the middle tuna which can be eaten raw or cooked and the best kind which is much higher fat content and most usually eaten raw. Then a large dollop of salmon eggs plus the usual decorative edible additions. There is some rice under there somewhere too.
An unusual restaurant in Tokyo in that everything is specifically organic, free range, all sources known and a high proportion of vegetables. Here are tofu, toast with pate and fried sweet potato, as well as couscous with herbs and mixed salad of lettuce, beetroot and chicken.
Part of a 7 or was it 9 course banquet at a hotel in Hakone in the mountains. Sadly I didn’t keep the printed menu (in English) so I don’t know exactly what any of it was. There were some gloriously unexpected tastes, not all of which were palatable but mostly they were utterly delicious. I can recognise raw tuna, raw white fish, maybe sea bream, cucumber, radish (the red slice under the tuna), wasabi paste, a daisy? the white rectangles are bamboo shoots, I think and theres a Physallis in its papery outer layer at the back.
Another banquet at the restaurant used in the filming of Kill Bill. A huge noisy, crowded, theatrical place with excellent food cooked to order on massive grills right in front of us (to the right in this shot) We saw a famous Sumo wrestler there, he needed four chairs, two at the back and another one under each leg.
And finally – street food, there are tiny kitchens all over Tokyo and Kyoto serving first quality rapidly cooked to order food of many types. In this one you can sit at the bar and in others you just take away. Also no-one throws away any rubbish, the packaging/containers are either left at the stall or taken home. Public waste bins are few and far between, as it is understood that each person deals with their own waste. It makes for incredibly clean streets.

 

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