Friday, November 16, 2007

Back from Japan!!

A couple of weeks ago my boyfriend and I returned from a 10-day trip to Tokyo, Kyoto, Nara, and Osaka in Japan. As for food.. where do I start?? I guess I'll start by saying that eating out isn't nearly as expensive as they say. There is a very wide range of restaurants to suit any budget. Sushi can be downright cheap. Easily available are sushi, noodles, and a variety of Tonkatsi (pork, beef or croquet cutlets coated in crunchy breadcrumbs). I loved the cold Soba buckwheat noodles and the dipping sauce that comes with them. I'm going to try to make them at home. These are the most popular and most affordable items but there are also plenty of shabu-shabu, curry, and Italian, French, etc restaurants. The real traditional and fancy restaurants are Kaiseki. These places serve 8-12 very small courses and is the most formal and traditional Japanese dining. We did eat at one of these places. The presentation of food was just beautiful (photo above).

We flew Singapore airlines and it was awesome! For each flight, we got two delicious, gourmet meals. I am talking delicately cooked flounder, seafood rice, eggs with hollandaise, and delicious Japanese vegetables. The flight attendants were beautiful and the safety record is one of the best in the industry, so I would definitely recommend flying with them. (Not to mention the fabulous personal entertainment system. You can play video games with anyone else on the plane! Our 2-player tetris certainly helped the eleven-hour flight go a little faster)

We visited the famous Tsukiji fish market in Tokyo. I didn't realize how HUGE tuna can be (check out the photo to the left). There is an auction at 5:30 in the morning for the best tuna. The rest of the market has so many kinds of fresh fish, they seem to go on forever.
There were a ton of restaurants and food shops everywhere. I was surprised at how many sweet shops and bakeries there were. I tried some of their traditional sweets, many of which are thin glutinous cakes with various fillings like red bean or green tea pastes. The locals snatch them up like hot cakes! Picture beautiful people dressed impeccably and strolling into stylish shops and purchasing beautifully packaged sweets all day long. That's what it's like. There are also many bakeries with more Western cakes and breads.

Oh, and the Bento boxes!! Ever since I received a book from my dad about the Bento boxes sold at train stations in Japan, I've wanted to experience them for myself. And I finally did! Each box is created using ingredients from the local area. Sometimes it's beef or eel or whatever the speciality might be.

We also splurged on a semi-private traditional tea ceremony at a very old town house in Kyoto. The very nice young lady who hosted us was dressed in a traditional kimono. She walked us through the ancient and very meaningful steps of the tea ceremony. I had no idea that virtually every part of it, from the height of the ceiling and doorway to the way you hold the cup is based on the four principles of harmony, respect, purity, and tranquility. It was a wonderful experience.

When we returned from the trip, I immediately took out all my cook books and started to plan my next trip to the Japanese market. I'd love to be able to recreate some of the items we tried. I'll let you know what comes out of it!