I set off for my first visit to Japan convinced that I would be losing weight as I expected to eat salmon sushi, soba and not much else. Sadly the weight loss never happened as I also said I wouldn’t be a wuss and would at least try a bite of everything and, surprise surprise, it was almost all so delicious that a bite became a bowl, became another bowl……
I don’t want this blog to turn into a list of everything I ate (it would be awfully long), but I do want to share just a few highlights:
Having hated ginger most of my life I finally discovered it a few years ago so couldn’t resist this enormous piece (it was about 15cm long!). It was a stronger taste than I expected but still deliciously gingery. I don’t think adding batter improved it, although smaller morsels might have been better.
I don’t know how common this is across Japan as many foods seem to be localised but it was certainly popular in Hida-Takayama and is a very good reason to go there. It’s served on a dried magnolia leaf and heated on a small stove with the addition of a few spring onions and mushrooms. With a bowl of rice it makes a warming and filling breakfast and it’s sweet saltiness is so delicious.
A very staple lunch dish with a bowl of miso soup. This one was in a small local cafe with space for a max of six customers, not a place that tourists would generally find, we were taken by a local Japanese friend…. just as well as the owner didn’t speak any English. This was my first experience of octopus and I really enjoyed it.
ICE CREAM PARFAIT
I know it doesn’t look great does it but I opted for the green tea, red bean paste and rice cake version rather than the western style chocolate, strawberry, banana, brownie combos. So glad I did, it was perfectly yummy and I discovered little rice balls in it which I always thought looked gross but they were really good and I ate them everywhere after that.
I could have ended on a number of more exotic dishes, including the vast kaiseki set dinners that we had in ryokans, but instead i’m opting for what is one of my favourite meals, a common dish of cold soba noodles with ebi tempura. The noodles are first dipped into the sauce and then a bit teapot of the soba cooking water is served which you add to the dregs of the sauce to make a scrumptious broth. Simple but perfect.
We ate on trains (the huge selection of bento boxes at some stations is bewildering), in department stores (they have to be on every tourist’s top 10 sights list), on the street (yakitori, rice cakes and unmentionable little octopus things) and in most types of restaurant, as well as sampling hundreds of pickles, sweets, sakes, cookies etc. I didn’t try everything (baby octopus, sea urchin and innards are not for me) but I did step outside my comfort zone food wise and discover some wonderful new tastes but at the end of all that I am still happy with a super fresh piece of salmon on top of moulded piece of rice.