For those who don’t know, I just spent a week in Japan visiting my brother Stewart and his lovely girlfriend Papi, hence the lack of posts over the past couple of weeks. It was fun. Really fun. And I got to eat a lot of good food. Really good food.
So, here it is (drumroll, please …)
The Top Ten Things I Ate in Japan:
Ok. Number 10 on my list goes to Umaibo. They’re basically big, cigar-sized Cheetos that come in tons of interesting flavors. Salami, Mentai (marinated pollock roe), Corn Potage (a creamy corn and onion soup), Tonkatsu (pork cutlet sauce), Cheese, and more. Yeah, yeah. I can feel you all judging me right now. Cheetos? On a food blog?! Just trying to keep it honest, people. Just trying to keep it honest. I also got rather addicted to a chocolate-covered version, but I don’t want to talk about it.
Pronounced cow-piss (yum) … unless my brother lied to me, which is entirely possible. Probable, even. Anyway, Calpis was my beverage of choice while I was in Japan. I had it in a bottle. I had it in a mug. I had it in a glass. I had it on the trains, in the parks, and on my bicycle. And now that I’m home, I have it in my dreams. It’s a light, somewhat milky drink that has a slightly acidic flavor, similar to vanilla-flavored yogurt. It’s also really good with Chuhai, which is shochu or vodka mixed with carbonated water and lemon. It’s also really really good with any of the other items on my list. Which brings us to 8 …
One day for lunch, Stew and I went to a sushi restaurant near his house. And not just any sushi restaurant. At this place (I’ve forgotten the name, so I’ll call it Heaven), they serve magical sushi that comes to you on a conveyor belt. Every plate is $1 and you can grab whatever you want. Whatever you want! My mind was blown. I think my weight doubled that day.
On another one of our outings, we stopped by some Japanese hipster cafe. Apparently everything was organic, but I couldn’t read a thing so don’t quote me on that. My brother ordered us each a vanilla ice cream cone with red bean paste. I’m not usually a huge fan of bean paste, but this stuff was different. Looser, more texture. And it went perfectly with the ice cream.
My brother and a couple of his friends took me out for ramen one night. My only experience with ramen has been eating it with a plastic fork from a styrofoam cup, usually just before rent was due. Needless to say, I wasn’t expecting anything close to what was served! It was de-licious. There are many styles of ramen, but I believe what I had is called Tonkotsu (“pork bone”) ramen. Thank you, Wikipedia. It had a cloudy white pork broth that was flavored with miso, soy sauce and mayu (a blackish aromatic oil made from either charred crushed garlic or sesame seeds). I ordered mine spicy and with a soft boiled egg. Great choice. If you ever order it, get the egg. Get the egg. Get the egg. Get the egg.
All you can eat. While I love the sound of that sentence, it usually translates to a lot of mediocre food that tastes … alright. I was pleased to discover that wasn’t the case at this restaurant. We had the most tender beef, the best salads, grilled onions, bacon-wrapped-asparagus, and tons more. I wish I had payed closer attention to everything Stewart and Papi were ordering, but I can only listen to so much Japanese before I start to forget all of the words. Major props to both of them for ordering well and cooking it all to perfection on the built-in grill at our table.
On one of our outings, we went to a really good restaurant that specialized in tonkatsu, which is a pork cutlet breaded in panko and deep fried. I ordered that plus a fried croquette. The meal was served with rice, shredded cabbage and miso soup. Plus, we all got to prepare our own dipping sauces with ground sesame seeds, a few sweet sauces, and spicy mustard. Everything was great. I ate it all.
You may have noticed that this is not a picture of Kobe beef. That’s because this was the first meal we went out for in Japan and I was still in my I don’t want to look like a tourist at this restaurant phase. As if being the only white girl in the room speaking English wouldn’t give me away. Anyway, the photograph is of a street in Kobe where the restaurant was. That’s right. I ate Kobe in Kobe. And it was the softest, most tender beef I’ve ever had. I could’ve eaten it with a spoon, but that would’ve added to the tourist spotlight so I used chopsticks.
Ok, here’s the part where I seriously start to consider moving to Japan. My favorite desserts involve either pastry or some type of custard or cream. This dessert involved both. It was absolutely delicious, warm and crisp on the outside, cool and creamy in the center, and dusted with powdered sugar on top. I hear there’s a place that sells them in Orange County, but I just can’t let myself get my hopes up until I taste them for myself. If it’s true, I’ll let you all know. Scout’s honor.
Last, and the opposite of least, the best thing I tasted while in Japan: cha siu baau. In English? Steamed buns filled with barbeque-flavored pork. They are actually a Cantonese food, which would explain why we ate them in Chinatown and like #2 (not to be confused with number two, gross) I hear you can get them in Orange County. Again, no promises on whether they compare to the ones I ate in Japan, but I’ll do my best to find out. Anyway, these guys were worth every penny. And they were worth the six airplanes, the train rides, the packing and the jet lag. They. Were. Incredible. Epic. Unforgettable.
So, that’s the best of what I ate on my trip to Japan! Anything I missed? Anything I should go back for?
P.S. More recipes are coming soon. When the jet lag loosens its grip on me.