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Fast Food Hamburgers (Japanese Style) August 23, 2011

Posted by Dru in Food.
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Author’s Note:  Dru’s Misadventures has moved to HinoMaple.  Please venture on over there to read “Fast Food Hamburgers (Japanese Style)” complete with photos.  http://wp.me/p2liAm-rZ

Finding a good burger in Japan can be difficult, but it can be a very tasty experience.  In Japan, fast food burgers congers up images of shrimp burgers or teriyaki burgers.  This is a very true assumption, but it is far from the truth of Japanese fast food burgers.  There are several chains, but by and far, MOS Burger is the cream of the crop.  Other major chains include Freshness Burger, Lotteria, and First Kitchen.  They all tend to be inferior compared to MOS, and even McDonald’s can’t live up to the quality of a fresh MOS Burger.  Whenever I have friends come to visit, we always go to MOS as I want them to try it.  Whether you like it or not will depend on your own personal palate.  I don’t necessarily recommend it to everyone, especially if you only want to eat traditional Japanese food.  If you are looking for a unique take on American food, this is one of the best ways to do it.

MOS Burger stands for Mountain, Ocean, Sun burger.  It is a take on the environment, and the CEO promotes an image of “healthy” food from healthy sources.  Whenever you order MOS Burger food, you can usually find advertising on their trays talking about how their products are made and where they obtain their basic ingredients.  The stores tend to be extremely clean, and the food isn’t made until you order it.  In fact, if you check out their corporate website, in Japanese, they give a lot of information on how they obtain their food and the basic preparation techniques.  The menu itself is somewhat pricey.  It’s not as cheap as McDonald’s, nor do they have as large a portion, but the quality of their ingredients generally makes up for this.  Their basic burgers are delicious and include options such as a Teriyaki Burger, Pork Burger, and my personal favourite, the basic MOS Burger.  The MOS Burger itself is similar to a basic hamburger with tomato meat sauce on top.  You can add cheese or jalapeno peppers on top as well.  I almost always add jalapeno peppers.  The entire menu can be doubled so that you have two meat patties instead of one. This might be necessary if you have a big appetite since the portions tend to be a little small.  The most unique item has to be the rice burgers.  There are three options that utilize a rice bun instead of a standard hamburger bun.  While I’m not a big fan of these burgers, they are popular and worth a try if you want something unique.  They also tend to be the only vegetarian option on the menu.  There are also hot dogs, desert, and other standard American fast food fare.  One of the better options is to get a set that includes a mixture of thick cut french fries with onion rings.  You can order this as a set with a burger which includes a drink.  I’d also recommend trying the soup.  The soup at MOS Burger is a great alternative to Coke and hopefully healthier.  They have three basic soups, corn, clam chowder, and minestrone.  Do be aware that some shops don’t have all flavours of soup at the same time, and you can substitute soup for a drink if you order a drink set.

While MOS Burger is the best place to get a Japanese version of American fast food, there are plenty of other shops that are available as well.  The most expensive, but delicious option, is Freshness Burger.  It’s a fairly small franchise that tastes almost as good as MOS Burger.  The biggest problem is that they tend to be extremely expensive compared to standard fast food joints, and there are no deals if you buy a set.  Their motto is “Organic and Natural” which is pretty true to the name.  Their old claim to fame was the fact that you could order mini burgers so that you could try more than one burger at a time.  I don’t believe they have this anymore as it would be a little too expensive.  For this chain, they have the Freshness Burger which is similar to a MOS Burger.  The major difference is that they add a huge slice of tomato into the burger.  The pictures on the menu don’t exaggerate the size at all.  It is truly a big slice of tomato.  Of the other menu items, the Teriyaki Burger is the only one I’d recommend, but it’s fun to try everything.  I’m not a big fan of this shop, and there are only a hand full compared to the other chains.  If you have money to burn, and want to eat something that is of cafe style quality, I’d recommend visiting this shop.  Otherwise, the other shops are cheaper and better than Freshness Burger.

Both of these shops are great and offer something that is fairly unique compared to the traditional American fast food chains in America.  While the burgers are more Japanese than other fast food outlets, they aren’t completely Japanese.  Fusion is a good way to put it, but there are other shops that create a fusion style burger as well, but not quite as unique as these.

Fast Food Information:

MOS Burger (Main Site – Japanese): http://www.mos.co.jp/index.php
MOS Burger (Menu – Japanese with some English menus): http://www.mos.co.jp/menu/
MOS Burger (English Corporate Site): http://www.mos.co.jp/english/
MOS Burger (Wikipedia): http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/MOS_Burger

Freshness Burger (Main Site – Japanese): http://www.freshnessburger.co.jp/
Freshness Burger (Menu -Japanses with some English information): http://www.freshnessburger.co.jp/menu/
Freshness Burger (Wikipedia – Very basic information): http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Freshness_Burger
このblogは英語のblog。もし私の英語は難しい、日本語のquestionは大丈夫。

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Tonkatsu August 16, 2011

Posted by Dru in Food.
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Author’s Note:  Dru’s Misadventures has moved to HinoMaple.  Please venture on over there to read “Tonkatsu” complete with photos.  http://wp.me/s2liAm-tonkatsu

Tonkatsu is a recent Japanese food that was “stolen” from Western cuisine.  It was introduced to Japan in the 1890s and was finalized as what it is today, around the 1930s.  Tonkatsu was originally a pork cutlet, a breaded and deep fried pork steak.  Today, it has changed in many ways that can genuinely make it a true Japanese dish.  If you are out and about in Tokyo, it’s actually quite easy to find a decent tonkatsu restaurant.  They aren’t very intimidating to enter and they can be found in almost every department store and shopping mall.  However, the question is of variety.  Tonkatsu, or any “katsu” can come in various shapes and forms.  It can be difficult to tell one from the other, aside from a large piece of meat that had been breaded and deep fried.

The “traditional” way to eat tonkatsu is to go to a tonkatsu restaurant.  When entering, you will get a variety of options.  There are two basic cuts of meat to choose from.  The first is the “hire” (hee-re), which is a fillet cut.  It is sometimes spelt “fire” (fee-re) to reference the type of cut.  This tends to be the more expensive option, but not necessarily the better option.  I prefer the rosu (row-su), sirloin cut, which is cheaper and generally more delicious.  In reality, you can’t go wrong with either cut.  They ultimately taste similar, but it’s the texture that changes between the two.  The next thing to think about is the type of pig.  There are several varieties of pig to choose from, but the majority of restaurants will not give you a choice, the choice lays in which restaurant you enter.  In the major chains, you will probably be given a standard type of pork.  Some smaller shops will offer black pigs, or rather, the Berkshire Pig.  It contains more fat within the meat which allows the meat to be juicier due to the long cooking process.  It can take 20 minutes to cook one piece of tonkatsu.  While I do recommend the basic tonkatsu for a first try, or only try, there are several variations on the basic tonkatsu.  Several varieties add cheese, shiso, or other fillings into the centre of the tonkatsu.  Personally, I find this degrading to the actual dish and I tend to order it as part of a set, rather than a full piece on its own.

Tonkatsu is always served with tonkatsu sauce.  It will always be at the table, ready for consumption.  There can be anywhere from one to three types of sauce.  Generally, there is the “regular” sauce, the spicier one, and sometimes a sweeter one.  Usually, I can’t tell the difference between them, but they are delicious.  You can put as little, or as much as you’d like on top of the tonkatsu.  A couple of restaurants will offer ground up sesame seeds to be added with the sauce.  Sometimes you can grind them up yourself, other times you just add it to a dish and mix with the sauce.  This is a great variation of the traditional sauce, and since I’m a big nut for sesame, I love it when they give me this option.  Do beware that, if you put too much sauce on the tonkatsu, it will obviously become too soggy and change the texture.  Do note that there is also a small dish of Japanese mustard.  Beware that this is very spicy, similar to wasabi.  You can also put as much, or as little of the mustard, on the tonkatsu as well.

After choosing which tonkatsu to get, you also get to see the basic side dishes that come with it.  Going to a tonkatsu restaurant will mean you get a set meal.  You will usually get a large tonkatsu, cabbage, rice, miso soup, and tsukemono (Japanese pickles).  The cabbage is sliced thinner than coleslaw and it comes with no dressing.  Generally, the dressing is on the side, or at the table.  The most common way to eat it is to squeeze out a bunch of Japanese mayonnaise; or add a western style salad dressing; or add the tonkatsu sauce.  Adding either of these three sauces are fine, but they do come with various side effects, such as a larger waistline.  If you do go to a large chain, you should be aware that the rice and miso soup are usually free.  If you want more, you just have to ask your server.  It’s pretty simple to do so, but it might be difficult at times if the restaurant is busy.  If you are thinking that a big piece of pork is not a good meal, tonkatsu shops tend to offer a variety of foods.  Many shops will offer some deep fried vegetables, chicken or beef instead of pork, or seafood such as shrimp.  Often, they have mix and match plates that include a taste of the major foods, but I generally prefer the basic roast cuts.

Tonkatsu itself can be a little expensive.  Generally, it starts from around 800 Yen per meal.  You can easily get a katsu sandwich, which is a tonkatsu stuffed between two slices of bread.  There is also the katsu curry.  This is often served in curry houses, but the quality of the tonkatsu is usually not very good.  It tends to be a little thinner than a traditional tonkatsu restaurant and it does get soggy.  Often, they put the tonkatsu next to the sauce, instead of covering it with sauce, as a happy medium.  For those on a budget, katsudon is a donburi style of tonkatsu with a slightly cooked scrambled egg on top.  This is a good quick and cheap dish that is often served in bento shops.  If you are ever in Nagoya, they serve a misokatsu, which is tonkatsu with a miso based sauce on top.  I would liken it to the Chinese hoisin sauce, if you have ever tried that.  If you aren’t visiting Nagoya, you will be hard pressed to find it.  There are several other variations of tonkatsu, such as ramen with tonkatsu, but they tend to be less popular than the previous ones.

The biggest question is where to go.  Tonkatsu is everywhere and every city has at least one tonkatsu shop.  The department stores are the safest option, along with the shopping malls.  For the average tourist, these are the best places to go as you can get a variety of tastes on the same plate, for a reasonable price.  For those who live in Japan, it’s a good idea to try out a few of the smaller shops.  While I don’t like the small hole in the wall shops, some of the smaller café sized shops do have excellent food.  If you see a shop with a lot of wood, and seats for about 10 or less people, this might be a good place to stop for a meal.  You could be lucky enough to enjoy watching the chef prepare and cook the tonkatsu in front of you.  It’s a fun experience to watch, especially if it’s an old man, as you can see him take care of the pork.  The breading process and frying processes are simple, but the care and the technique are amazing.  It can feel like you are watching an artist.  The chef must tend to the cut of pork for most of the time as each side should be browned at roughly the same colour.  If you head to a larger chain, the process is done behind a wall, and I’m sure they have automated the system somewhat by now.  If you can’t find a nice small shop to enjoy it, don’t worry too much.  Generally, the tastes are the same, at least for me.

Tonkatsu Video:

Typical smaller style Tonkatsu Shop:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bDmsK_qX4RU

Commercial for a shop:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5YSX2-ifGf0

Tonkatsu Information:

Tonkatsu (Wikipedia):  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tonkatsu
Tonkatsu (Wall Street Journal):  http://online.wsj.com/article/SB125134699586862865.html

Berkshire Pork (Wikipedia):  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Berkshire_(pig)

Tonkatsu Restaurants [Note that all sites are in Japanese]:

Foo Moo by Hot Pepper:  http://www.hotpepper.jp/CSP/psh020/doFree?SA=SA11&GR=G004&SK=4&FSF=1&FWT=とんかつ

このblogは英語のblog。もし私の英語は難しい、日本語のquestionは大丈夫。

Teishoku August 9, 2011

Posted by Dru in Food.
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Author’s Note:  Dru’s Misadventures has moved to HinoMaple.  Please venture on over there to read “Teishoku” complete with photos. http://wp.me/s2liAm-teishoku

Teishoku is about as Japanese as you can get for Japanese food.  It’s a very traditional style of food that is simple, yet flavourful.  It’s reasonable and fills you up.  Essentially, teishoku is a set meal that is not unlike a “bento box”.  A bento is actually something that can be thought of as an entirely different beast, akin to comparing the European and Asian pears.  They may be of the same name, similar in many respects, but completely different when you eat them.  A bento is similar to a packed lunch that you bring from home.  They tend to have a small box of rice, and another box stuffed with various food items, such as meat, vegetables, and tofu.  A grocery store or convenience store will sell bento, which is basically a take out version of teishoku.

The basic definition of teishoku would be a set menu item.  Generally, you get a bowl of rice, a main meat dish, which can be meat or fish, a bowl of soup, and one to two side dishes.  The side dishes tend to be either tofu or some sort of pickled vegetable, usually tsukemono.  Depending on the shop, the food is usually served on a tray from which you can enjoy everything.  There are a variety of sauces that go on each dish, or you can eat things simply as is.  The most common type of teishoku would be a basic grilled or broiled fish.  This may not sound that delicious, but it is.  It’s very simple, but the natural flavours of the fish are brought out during the grilling process, so there is no need to add anything.  Usually, there is a small dish of grated daikon, from which you add a little soy sauce and eat it with the fish as a type of “sauce”.  Other than that, there isn’t much to do.

Thankfully, teishoku is not an expensive meal.  There are a few places to eat teishoku, but the most famous chain would have to be Ootoya.  It’s a large relaxed style restaurant where you order more like a cafeteria.  Generally, you order first then get a seat.  Once seated, the food will come out sooner or later.  There are several shops like this, and ordering at these shops can be a little difficult.  Thankfully, most of them have signs where you can point and choose.  Some shops will even offer free rice and soup as a service.  When you order, you may think that the food itself is a little small and sparse.  This can be further from the truth.  I often end up stuffed with no room to spare for desert.  If there is anything I recommend, I’d recommend avoiding any raw fish items.  These shops generally don’t have the freshest fish in Tokyo.  If you want raw fish, you should go to a sushi shop or a sushi donburi shop that specializes in raw fish.  Getting tonkatsu, or other cooked foods is an excellent idea.

If you are in an entertainment district during lunch, you can sometimes see an izakaya that has converted itself into a lunch time teishoku shop.  These shops can be very interesting.  You generally see office workers rushing in and out at all times.  It’s not for the weak of heart as you need to be a little strong to understand how things work.  Usually, everything is for a set price.  You pay at the front then you can choose what you want to eat.  They usually have a counter where you can pick one of the main items, then two of the side dishes.  Water, rice, and soup are all self serve, but you can get as much as you want.  The quality of the food tends to be good, but the quality of the rice will depend on the shop.  Major izakaya chains probably won’t offer this service, and this service is usually open for just one or two hours a day.  After the service has ended, the shop closes, cleans, and finishes preparing for the after work drinking crowd.  It’s an amazing event to see and something I recommend trying if you aren’t afraid.  Do be warned that the shop’s staffs tends to speak only Japanese, so getting help in understanding what to do can be very difficult.  Just do your best.

There really isn’t much to say about teishoku.  It’s a very simple meal that exemplifies Japanese cuisine.  It’s simple, yet delicious.  If you are in Japan, this is probably the easiest type of dinner you can get every night.  You can visit these shops daily and find new and interesting foods to eat for up to two weeks.  It’s easy to get tired of it after a few days, at least for me, but changing the shop and changing the food will make it bearable.

Teishoku Information:

Simple blog post about Teishoku:  http://ilovejapancul.blogspot.com/2008/08/teishoku.html
Blog Post:  http://www.almostjapanese.com/a-perfect-meal-the-teishoku-set

このblogは英語のblog。もし私の英語は難しい、日本語のquestionは大丈夫。

Nabe August 2, 2011

Posted by Dru in Food.
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Author’s Note:  Dru’s Misadventures has moved to HinoMaple.  Please venture on over there to read “Nabe” complete with photos.  http://wp.me/s2liAm-nabe

Nabe is a very simple dish that is translated, simply as, pot.  A better translation of nabe is Japanese hot pot.  If you ever had Chinese or Korean style hot pot, you will understand the basics of this dish.  If you ever had shabu shabu, you will know this dish.  Nabe is a broad definition for meat and vegetables boiled in a pot.  It is one of the simplest dishes you could make, yet there are hundreds of different flavours to enjoy.  The simplest and most basic version is just a plain water nabe.  Making this can be very simple, but at the same time, like many types of Japanese food, it can also be very complex.  The dish starts off by placing the vegetables in the proper section.  Usually, harder vegetables go on the bottom.  Then, they add the thinner vegetables, noodles, mushrooms, tofu, and meat.  If you go to a restaurant, they tend to put everything together and bring the pot out on a burner.  Once it is boiling, you can dig in and eat.  Usually, there are various sauces to dip the food into.  Usually, you will get a ponzu.  This is a tart dipping sauce that goes well with vegetables.  They also provide a sesame dipping sauce which tends to go well with meat.  Unlike Chinese hot pot, where they mix a lot of sauces, including hot sauce, Japanese nabe avoids using too much sauce.

While the basic nabe is just meat and vegetables in water, you can have a variety of soups available to you as well.  The most typical is the Chanko Nabe.  This is a hearty soup that was originally created for sumo wrestlers.  Since it was made for sumo wrestlers, you must be a little careful as it was designed for people to gain weight.  Today, you can also make your own with pre-made soup packs.  Other popular flavours include miso, kimchi, and sesame.  Generally, when you eat these styles of nabe, you don’t use any dipping sauces.  It will generally taste good on its own.  After you have finished the meat and vegetables, it’s common to add udon, soba, or ramen into the pot to make use of the soup.  This is delicious as the meat and vegetable juice creates a wonderful broth for noodles.  The only down side is that people generally get stuffed from the meat and vegetables alone and usually there isn’t any room left for noodles at the end.  The only exception is the clear cellophane noodles.  They use a variety of styles that vary in thickness and length.  These noodles are generally eaten along with the meat and vegetables.  In the end, you can’t really go wrong with whatever soup you order.  If you make it at home, don’t worry too much about what type of meat and vegetables to add to the soup.  It doesn’t matter too much, but if you want to enjoy the soup along with the food, it’s best to pair the food with the soup based on the packaging.  Beef tends to go well with kimchi soup, and pork is better with a Chanko Nabe.  Don’t be afraid to mix things up if you want to.

Nabe itself is used to describe boiling food in a pot.  Shabu shabu and sukiyaki are variations of nabe, but not always considered nabe itself.  It can be similar to thinking about omelettes and eggs.  When we say eggs, do we think of omelettes as the first food to be made with eggs?  Probably not, but they are part of the same dish.  Shabu shabu is closer to Chinese hot pot than nabe.  The name shabu shabu is now synonymous with the sound of moving thinly cut meat or vegetables around in boiling water.  Traditionally, you grab a piece of meat or vegetable and place it into the put with your chopsticks.  Then, you wave it around so that it boils evenly.  Once the meat is brown, still slightly red, you can take it out and put it into the dipping sauces.  The dipping sauces are the same as a plain nabe with just water.  The major difference between this and plain nabe is that the meat will come out softer and almost fluffy due to the cooking method.  It will also taste lighter, yet hearty.  If you prefer sweet food, sukiyaki is a better dish.  This is similar to nabe in the fact that you just boil meat and vegetables in a soup.  The difference here is that the soup is much sweeter and darker.  They tend to use a shallow heavy pot rather than a deep pot to allow an even cooking temperature.  This dish tends to be heartier, in my opinion, even though it is sweeter.  The shocking part for most westerners is the dipping sauce.  One raw egg is used to dip the meat or vegetables just before eating.  In Japanese cuisine, it’s common to use raw egg for various dishes and for dipping.  The use of the egg helps to mute the sweetness and add a unique texture to the food itself.  If you don’t like raw eggs, you don’t have to use it.  It’s still delicious to eat sukiyaki without a raw egg, but for myself, I prefer it with a raw egg.

When looking for a restaurant in Tokyo, there are many places you can visit for nabe.  One recommendation for tourists would be to visit Amataro.  This is a large chain restaurant that serves both shabu shabu and yaki niku.  Yaki niku is Japan’s take on Korean BBQ.  This shop tends to be very busy and slow to bring orders, but due to their large size, they tend to have good English menus.  The quality is okay, but when you eat   so much, you won’t worry too much about the quality.  The second is Nabezo.  This is a middle class nabe restaurant.  They serve all types and they will be somewhat friendly to foreigners.  They do have English menus, but there won’t be many pictures on the English side.  It will always be best to go with someone who can at least read or speak some Japanese as this will help you find the best foods to eat.  Generally, both restaurants offer all you can eat, and all you can drink sets.  You can eat and drink as much as you want for up to an hour and a half.  It may not be the cheapest meal you will get, but if you can eat and drink, it’s well worth it.  Heading there in the summertime will be easier than winter as nabe tends to be a winter dish.  Do your best and hopefully you can enjoy great nabe.

Nabe Videos:

Shabu Shabu:

http://www.youtube.com/v/TSSYKTrD8ho&hl=en_US&fs=1&

Sukiyaki:

http://www.youtube.com/v/aVWPH0C_17c&hl=en_US&fs=1&

Nabe Information:

Nabe (Wikipedia):  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nabemono

Shabu Shabu (Wikipedia):  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shabu_shabu

Sukiyaki (Wikipedia):  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sukiyaki

Chanko Nabe (Wikipedia):  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chankonabe

Amataro (Nabe restaurant):  http://www.amataro.jp/

Nabezou (Another Nabe Restaurant):  http://www.wondertable.com/app/tenpo/tenpo?code=Nabezou

Nabe Restaurants [Note that all sites are in Japanese]:

Foo Moo by Hot Pepper (Note that not all shops are dedicated to Nabe):  http://www.hotpepper.jp/CSP/psh020/doFree?SA=SA11&GR=G004&SK=4&FSF=1&FWT=なべ

Gournavi:  http://sp.gnavi.co.jp/search/theme/z-AREA110/t-SPG110200/p-1/s-new/c-1/

このblogは英語のblog。もし私の英語は難しい、日本語のquestionは大丈夫。

Tofu July 26, 2011

Posted by Dru in Food.
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Author’s Note:  Dru’s Misadventures has moved to HinoMaple.  Please venture on over there to read “Tofu” complete with photos.  http://wp.me/s2liAm-tofu

Tofu can easily be considered one of Japan’s national foods.  While tofu isn’t originally from Japan, it has grown by leaps and bounds to become something unique.  Many people will look at tofu and think that it’s nothing special.  In China, tofu is something that is added to various sauces to make it more flavourful.  In Japan, the tofu has been created with such care and attention that it often doesn’t require a lot to make it taste good.  Many people who think tofu is nothing more than healthy filler tend to enjoy tofu a lot more when they visit Japan.  You cannot easily get the same quality of tofu in any other part of the world.  While in the simplest terms, tofu is nothing more than a cheese made from soy milk.  In reality, it is much more, and yet, completely different.  There is no one way to describe tofu, and there is no one way to see it.  It can come in various shapes and forms.  Depending on the type of tofu, it can either be soft or hard, deep fried, or steamed.  It’s up to your imagination to decide how to prepare or eat it.

In Japan, fresh tofu is by far the best.  A plain type of tofu is generally very soft.  It is so soft that it will melt in your mouth as you eat it.  You often need a spoon, or very good chopstick skills to eat it nicely.  Otherwise, you will end up shovelling it in pieces into your mouth.  Either way, it’s very delicious.  Tofu is often made in specific regions to utilize specific sources of water that can add new characteristics to the tofu.  The natural water contains various combinations of minerals which create subtle changes in the tofu’s taste and texture.  For most people, this won’t matter.  It’s difficult to taste the very subtle differences between different types of tofu unless you are a professional or grew up eating tofu every day.  One of the most common ways to see soft tofu in Japan is to have it served on a bamboo plate with a side of katsuoboshi (bonito flakes), green onion, grated ginger, and soy sauce.  It’s a very simple and lovely combination that enhances the natural flavours of the tofu.  You can find this sort of tofu in many restaurants.  It’s common in izakaya and many teishoku restaurants will serve this as part of their set meals.  It is also often eaten for breakfast as a quick and healthy meal.  If you feel adventurous enough to make it yourself, in Japan, it’s very easy.  Department stores often have the best tofu, grocery stores have a decent selection, and convenience stores have the basics.  Even the basics can taste better than tofu sold in America, which tends to be more Chinese.  Soft tofu also has small variations where they add black sesame, or other subtle things to change the characteristics of the tofu.  Sometimes you can get a spicy variety, but this will inevitably overpower the taste of the tofu.

One traditional way to eat tofu is to make Yuba Tofu.  It’s similar to bean curd in Chinese cuisine, yet extremely different.  Generally, Yuba is the coagulated tofu skin that forms as you heat and cool soy milk.  There isn’t much taste to this, and it’s mainly used in traditional Japanese cooking.  It’s easy to find in Kyoto and Nikko if you visit these places.  If you visit Kyoto, they traditionally serve it cooled on a plate.  It’s not for everyone as even many Japanese people don’t enjoy it as much as regular soft tofu.  If you are lucky enough to visit during the winter months, a visit to Nikko can provide a nice experience.  Some shops offer you the chance to eat fresh yuba.  Usually, yuba is made fresh everyday for restaurants, but in Nikko, some shops allow you to eat yuba from the “pot”.  Yuba is usually made inside a square wooden “pot”.  You are essentially given a long toothpick from which you are expected to skim the top of the simmering soy milk, pick up the yuba, and eat it.  I’m sure this will taste much better than eating it in Kyoto, but unfortunately, I haven’t had much experience with yuba.  I have eaten it in its cold form in Nikko, and it wasn’t as good as regular soft tofu.

Fried tofu is another method of enjoy tofu. Aburage, fried tofu, is a very common topping on Japanese soba.  It has a slight soy taste to it, and makes a good combination with soba or udon.  There is no need to add any meat or tempura as the abuage itself is more than enough.  Aburage itself is linked with foxes with legend stating that the god, whose image is a fox, loves to eat aburage.  How this started is unknown to me, but many of the dishes that use abuage have references to the fox.  Inarizushi is one such dish.  This is taking the fried tofu and wrapping it around a ball of rice making it into a piece of sushi.  It’s a delicious combination that is nearly limitless.  The basic style is to put plain rice inside the aburage, but you can easily add more to the rice.  Common rice mixtures include sesame seeds, burdock, and or mushrooms.  I would highly recommend trying inarizushi as it’s cheap and delicious.  It also makes for a quick, healthy, and cheap snack.

These are some of the more basic ways to eat tofu in Japan.  Of course, there are more ways that are inherent in Japanese cooking.  You will find various types of tofu within miso soup, nabe, and other soup dishes.  You can see it in Japanese-Chinese cooking.  It’s hard to go a day in Japan without eating tofu or at least seeing it on the menu.  Even if you don’t like tofu, I would still recommend trying it at least once while you are in Japan.  It’s just too good to pass up.

Tofu Videos:

Yuba Tofu:
http://www.youtube.com/v/enm-4Of9h8c&hl=en_US&fs=1&color1=0x2b405b&color2=0x6b8ab6

Tofu Information:

Tofu: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tofu
Aburage: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Aburaage
Yuba: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Yuba_%28food%29

このblogは英語のblog。もし私の英語は難しい、日本語のquestionは大丈夫。

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