Sunday, March 29, 2009

11/9/08: Day 10 in Japan - Food of Kansai

Kansai region in western Japan is very famous for their food culture. Recently, horumon has been a big hit in Osaka. Although this is parts of animals that may be considered less than desirable, its high collagen content makes it popular among women.

Western Japan is famous for "kona mono," or "powder food" which refer to food made from flour. Ramen is one such food, and one can have pretty heated debate about this particular subject matter. This particular ramen was the Dan Dan Ramen I had at a Chinese restaurant in Kyoto.

I believe that there is some sort of unwritten law that if one orders ramen, it must be accompanied by pork gyoza.

When one thinks of mecca of Kansai food culture, it is Dotonbori in Namba. The big crab is one of the landmarks of Dotonbori.

We stopped by Creoru, and proceeded to have yakisoba for appetizer...

...and okonomiyaki. Okonomiyaki means "cooked the way you like it," and it's like a cross between pizza and omelet.

Following Creoru, we went to Tako Masa for their famous tako yaki, which is a hot cooked flour ball stuffed with piece of octopus. It actually tastes much better than it sounds. Nothing is better than a smoldering hot tako yaki and ice cold beer.

Of course, there is nothing better than a well-made saké. This is a bottle of Hakuro Suishu I received from Aisawa-san. Nothing is better than a light, fresh nama after all that food!

Saturday, March 14, 2009

11/9/08: Day 10 in Japan - Kobé Shushinkan

When in Hyogo, I always visit Kobé Shushinkan for their hand-made soba and freshly brewed namazaké. Incidentally, Shushikan produces saké under "Fukuju" label.

Inside Shushinkan is Sakabayashi restaurant. On this day, their garden was full of lush, fresh vegetables.

I had their Junmai Ginjo "Hiyaoroshi" Nama.

The hard Miyamizu water of Nada is clearly expressed through clean and intense flavor.

For the appetizer, we had their home-made tofu with yuba tofu skin. The soft texture of the tofu was a great contrast to the lively body of the saké.

The main dish was tempura soba.

There is nothing like tempura in Japan.

Because I was going to Osaka in the afternoon, my time at Shushinkan was very limited. That is not to say that I didn't savor every strand of soba...

Wednesday, March 04, 2009

11/8/08: Day 9 in Japan Part II - Kiyomizu-dera

Each time I am in Kyoto, I feel compelled to visit Kiyomizu Temple because of the magnificence of the temple itself and fun atmosphere surrounding the temple.

Kiyomizu Temple is established in 798 AD, and its current buildings were constructed in 1633. The construction process is reknowned for not using nails.

The main hall has a veranda at the height of 13 meters (40 feet), and there was a tradition during the Edo Era that one can have their wish come true by jumping from the stage and surviving. (My wish would be to survive the jump.)

My visit coincided with the rare opening of a hall that houses rare statues, but unfortunately, photography was prohibited. One of the areas we visited was situated underneath the temple, and it was the darkest room I have ever been. We were supposed to navigate our way through the winding corridors following the guardrail, but I kept bumping into a wall. At the end was a lighted golden statue that appeared like a hologram.

After visiting the temple, we made our rounds of the store down the hill and admired the beautiful buildings that feature lot of traditional elements. While there were many eateries, Kiyomizu area is famous for their pottery.

It has been my tradition to make my own Kiyomizu-yaki, and I've made a rice bowl and medium-sized plate during my prior visits. This time, I was looking to make a serving bowl.

The place to go is Kashogama.

It takes 15~20 minutes to shape your ware, and after that, you choose the color.

Once everything is set, it takes few weeks for the pottery to dry, colored, baked in the kiln, and shipped. (Shipping fee is flat rate of 1,000 yen which is roughly $9.70).

Here is my 2008 creation. The total cost was 4,000 yen, or $38.80.

Believe me, all my cooking seem to taste a lot better now!