“Konichiwa” (hello) from Japan!
I am writing this post from Singapore airport having spent the past week in Japan, and what a memorable week it has been!
First stop Tokyo – what an amazing place! It is such a safe and clean city and the people are so disciplined and polite. There’s no litter or graffiti anywhere and the pavements are lined with bikes, none of which have any form of lock or chain. My hubby and I both looked on in amazement as we watched the local booze man leave his open roof truck, stacked full with crates of alcohol, completely unattended while he made his deliveries!
However, food is my passion and this is what I loved most about Tokyo, which took me by complete surprise as this was the aspect of the trip I was most nervous about. I had visions of being surrounded by plates filled with tentacles, fermented eggs and “food” that looked like it could jump off of the plate and run for freedom. Would I be restricted to a diet of rice and noodles for my entire stay?
Well I am relieved to say that this was most definitely NOT the case and I have instead succeeded in testing the stretch-ability of my favourite pair of jeans to the extreme – how an earth do Japanese women maintain such slim figures when they are surrounded by so many tempting foods!
Our first meal was at a Katsu restaurant called Katsukura in the Shinjuku region of Tokyo. Katsu is a Japanese dish of breaded, deep fried meat (usually pork or chicken), which doesn’t sound particularly extraordinary, but believe me, my taste buds were tickled pink! Katsukura serves THE BEST Pork Katsu I’ve ever had the pleasure to eat. Just as impressive was their side of dressed shredded cabbage – whoever knew cabbage could taste so good?! Anyone visiting Tokyo should definitely make Katsukura a destination.
The next day we decided to visit the renowned food hall of Isetan Department Store and what we thought would be a quick “look see” visit soon became a marathon munching session. I knew my waistline was in for a good beating as soon as I took my first breath inside – the aroma was awesome! We weren’t able to walk past more than two or three food counters without buying a little something ” just to taste”.
Isetan has everything from elegantly decorated cakes and pastries, to fresh sushi and the cutest (and totally more-ish!) mini katsu burgers. We both managed to scoff a couple of the burgers, followed by candied sweet potato, pork Katsu and egg sandwich pockets, jam stuffed brioche buns and a delicious apple pastry before our stomachs finally forced us to stop.
Of course, we were able to recover from our food hangovers in time for dinner that evening, which is just as well, as we had planned my first ever Okonomiyaki experience. Okonomiyaki doesn’t involve folding paper, practicing yoga, or doing martial arts (thank goodness!), but is actually a layered pancake. With stacks of pancake, fried onion, egg and bacon, food heaven is finally accomplished with a drizzle of the most amazing soy sauce based dressing – nom, nom, nom.
The pancake is cooked on an open Teppanyaki grill, the pancake is then served onto a hot plate embedded in the table so it stays warm to the last bite. Okonomiyaki is such a quick and simple dish to prepare and uses everyday ingredients, I can’t wait to try making one myself. It may have been my first okonomiyaki, but it certainly won’t be my last!
After saying goodbye to Tokyo we headed south to the village of Yuasa for a friends’ wedding – congratulations to the happy couple (you know who you are)! This was an experience I will treasure forever.
The day began with a Japanese tea ceremony in the Horinji temple. This was a fantastic experience. It involved women wearing the most beautiful Japanese traditional dress, preparing and presenting us with the best matcha green tea I have ever tasted. Unlike any other afternoon tea I have experienced, a Japanese tea ceremony is very ritualistic. Firstly bows must be exchanged as the “tea master” serves their guest, then the guest should raise their tea in a gesture of respect for their host and rotate the bowl so as not to drink from its’ front.
The ensuing wedding was colourful, emotional and completely breathtaking, ending in a spectacular Kaiseki Ryori multi-course dinner – I have never seen so much food! Again, Japan did not let me down, with each dish being pure perfection, not only tasting out of this world, but presented as a work of art. I also couldn’t help but notice that persons plate looked 100% identical to the next, with not one item being out of place – only in Japan!
As I look back on my time in Japan I am still filled with anxiety, but now this concern is of a different nature – when, oh when, will I get my next “fix” of authentic Japanese food?
Followers in the UK, France, Germany, Italy, or Spain can now buy our favourite kitchen tools and gadgets at the Arugula & Rocket Cookshop on Amazon. Readers in the USA can purchase directly from the Tovolo website.