Thanks Alistair, you threw down a gauntlet there. I appreciate that you tried to cover for my recent absence, but I think I’m going to try to play my lack pf posts off by calling it food related research.
I spent quite a bit of time traveling recently and had the opportunity to sample quite a bit of awesome food. My first major trip found me exploring Japan. Most of the food I had was new and unusual (to me), but all of it was good.
Japan was crazy. Crazy in that great, really interesting, and very fun kind of way. Every experience was amazing and taught me a lot. I did have one small problem: I didn’t speak a word of Japanese. Ordering food wasn’t always the easiest thing to do; I butchered the Japanese language each time I tried to read from my guide book. Fortunately, many Japanese restaurants have models of the food in the front windows. You can just point to a plate and rub your belly while chomping your teeth. They either bring your food or laugh at you.
Unfortunately, the models of the food didn’t always help me really know what I was eating. And when restaurants did have English menus, many were badly translated or had no descriptions. (Apparently one of my desserts was “bean”. I had no idea what to expect, but I got a warm, sweet, bean paste with a single, odd, tiny fruit in it.) I’m an adventurous eater who isn’t picky, so I took it all in stride.
The top left of the above photo is a great snack of tempura that I had one afternoon. I bought these in the food area of one of the giant department stores in Ginza, Tokyo. It helped keep the hunger at bay until I went to a sushi bar for dinner.
Next to it is one of the many soda machines that were scattered about the city. Boss and Pocari Sweat seemed to be popular drinks. Unfortunately, I can’t report on the taste as I never tried them. I suppose Tommy Lee Jones liked to advertize for Boss. It seemed odd seeing his face plastered around.
Bottom left is a great sushi breakfast I had on my first morning in Tokyo. I woke up pretty early and made my way over to the fish market. After taking in the sights there (lots and lots and lots of seafood, most of which I would have no idea how to cook) I found a little sushi place and did my best to order something tasty. I think I did just fine.
And of course, I couldn’t pass up on a photo of Suntory Whisky–”For relaxing times, make it Suntory time.” All I knew about Suntory was a whisky from Lost in Translation. Apparently Suntory is a huge company. I found their brand on everything from snacks to bottled soft drinks.
One fun meal I had was a sort of Japanese pancake called Okonomiyaki. It was served in a kind of DIY restaurant. I was seated at a small table with a griddle in the center and given a menu. I looked through and choose one of the recommended combinations: a mixture including eggs, cabbage, green onion, and bacon, among other things. The menu was whisked away and the griddle turned on as green tea was served. Soon after, a bowl containing the ingredients was brought out and laid in front of me with some spatulas, a jar of oil, and some jars of spices and sauces. I smiled at her. She smiled at me. I smiled again and shrugged.
She quickly understood that I had no clue what I was doing. After some interesting miming, I finally understood that she wanted me to dump all the ingredients onto the skillet. Once I made a mess of dumping everything into a pile, she held up four fingers and said “Four minutes,” then held her hands together horizontally in front of her and made a big deal about turning them over and repeated, “Four minutes.”
I smiled and repeated the gestures. That much I could figure out, so I ordered a beer and patiently waited about four minutes, then flipped the food and waited four more minutes.
Unfortunately, leaving me alone such a long time without assistance may not have been in her best interest. I got confused again and almost botched the whole thing. In my defense, five minutes on your own with nothing to do when you are hungry feels like an eternity. I almost started slathering sauce all over the thing and was ready to awkwardly eat it. I was in the process of holding my chopsticks looking at the mound of food trying to figure out a plan of attack. Do I pick the whole thing up? Do I use the side of my chopstick to break it into smaller pieces?
Fortunately, the waitress must have known I was about to do something silly, as she came by and used the spatula to cut it into four, smashed the quarters down a bit and put some sauce over the top. She let it cook a bit more then cut it into bit sized chunks with the two spatulas (and the whole time I figured I was going to have to do surgery with the chopsticks!). It was pretty awesome though, a great low cost lunch.
I had a little stay in Kyoto and got to try yudofu, which is basically boiled tofu. It’s actually much better than it sounds. The tofu is boiled/simmered in a pot and presented with various dipping sauces. Admittedly, it wasn’t the most flavor packed meal I had, but it was strangely appealing.
The photo at the bottom right is from the menu of a bar called Awamori in Ginza, Tokyo. This place was actually quite hard to find. Ginza is a fairly well-to-do area and Awamori was basically a dive bar for the area. It was great. All the menus were hand drawn and peiced togeter. Their specialty drinks were awamori, of all things. My father and I were the only gaijin in the bar, but after a few rounds, we seemed right at home. Check out the rest of the photos of the menu on the flickr page. Great stuff.