Japan – Ju
August 29, 2007
When: August 27th
Where: Nara / Hiroshima
Oh my, okonomiyaki.
Yoshie went back to their other home in Kobe today, while we toured more temples. Kenji took us grocery shopping, and when we returned to the house, he busted out the most awesome bachelor food I’ve ever had: okonomiyaki. Basically, a fist sized pile of cabbage and sprouts doused in pancake batter, cooked at the table on a hot plate, and topped with pork, ginger, mayonnaise, and mysterious brown “sauce.” Wow. Super easy to prepare, delicious, and filling.
Generally speaking, the food here is awesome. I love Japanese cuisine, in all of it’s weirdness (and, sometimes, because of it’s weirdness). For example, they pickle everything, and it’s delicious. We visited a store that was famous for pickling, and browsed the cases of glossy carrots, wrinkly radishes, bloated mushrooms, and diced … well … something yummy. Each meal is served with some pickled vegis of some sort. Cucumber here, eggplant there, and of course the ubiquitous sliced ginger.
I also experienced the joys of nato — fermented soy beans. When you’re done mixing in a little soy sauce and mustard, it has the consistency of chunky brown snot, and sticks to absolutely everything. It’s impossible to eat without getting sticky little stringers all of your chin and shirt. Eating nato is an exercise in patience and dexterity, and that’s if you can stand the smell of it. The taste is supposedly 100% revolting for pretty much anyone who wasn’t raised on it, but I didn’t think it was too bad. I’m not exactly eager to wolf down a big serving, but it’s not as terrible as everyone warned me.
One of the most surprising dishes on this trip was had while trying to beat the heat in a little cafe. Kenji ordered a dish for me, knowing that I get pretty excited about unusual food. It came in a bowl, filled with a sweet brown sauce, semi-opaque blobs of something resembling a jellyfish, and topped with a considerable amount of tan powder. Texture and presentation aside, it tasted almost exactly like a bowl of raisin bran, but a little sweeter, a little lighter, and perhaps a little malty. Really nice, on a blisteringly hot day. If anyone can help me identify this delicious dish, I’ll buy you a beer.
Anyhow. Okonomiyaki, with an ice cold Kirin beer, is the definitive meal of the trip, so I’m pretty darned sure we’re going to be hosting some okonomiyaki parties in the near future.