jump to navigation

Nabe August 2, 2011

Posted by Dru in Food.
Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,
comments closed

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。

Advertisements

Ramen June 28, 2011

Posted by Dru in Food.
Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,
comments closed

Author’s Note:  Dru’s Misadventures has moved to HinoMaple.  Please venture on over there to read “Ramen” complete with photos and videos.  http://wp.me/s2liAm-ramen

Ramen can be considered one of Japan’s national dishes.  Ramen was originally from China, but over time, the old Chinese dish was transformed into what it is today, a very uniquely Japanese dish.  Essentially, ramen is just a bowl of noodles in a tasty, salty broth.  In reality, it’s much more than that.  Ramen is very intricate, where the broth is cooked slowly for days using basic ingredients to make each shop unique.  No two shops create the same broth, and no two visits will ever be the same.  I have been to the same ramen shop over several years and over time, the staff changes and the taste of the ramen changes.  It’s impossible to create the same broth over the years, especially when the chef changes.  You can keep the same ingredients, but the portions and the methods always changes.

There are four basic types of ramen, and two basic methods to eat it.  The major component of any ramen is the soup.  The base is usually the same, but there can be two different bases depending on the shop.  From the base, they alter the taste in four basic ways.  The lightest is “shio” or salt ramen.  It’s a very basic soup where they just lightly flavour it with salt.  The best version of shio ramen is to filter it to remove any solid matter.  The next level would be shoyu, or soy sauce based, ramen.  The main difference here is that they tend to add soy sauce rather than salt as a major flavouring agent.  One of the greasiest and unhealthy is the tonkotsu ramen, which translates into pork bone ramen.  This tends to be heartier than the other two due to the ingredients.  Shio ramen and tonkotsu ramen are almost the same, with the cooking time being the main exception.  Tonkotsu tends to be better as a hearty meal rather than a nice light lunch as shio ramen.  The last type would be miso ramen.  This is one of the fattiest types of ramen.  When you order this, they traditionally serve it with various sprouts and vegetables, but the amount of oil is extremely visible.  Sometimes you can see two or three millimeters of oil and fat on top of the actual ramen.  It makes it very delicious, but you can regret ordering it after you finish.  The two basic ways to eat ramen is either as “ramen”, where the soup, noodles, and vegetables are all together.  The other, a fairly new method of eating ramen is to have tsukemen.  This is where the soup is presented in one bowl, and the noodles are on the side along with the vegetables.  It’s great in the summer as it doesn’t feel as heavy, and it’s not as hot either.  Either way you eat ramen, it’s delicious.

When eating ramen, there are several types of sauces that can be served with it.  The most basic “sauce” would be the ichimi, or shichimi.  These are types of peppers, similar to black pepper.  Ichimi is just one type of hot pepper, while shichimi combines seven types of spices and peppers together.  There is a distinct difference in taste.  Neither of these is very spicy, but they do add a new character to any ramen dish.  You can also add ryu, which is spicy chili oil.  It’s similar to a Chinese version, but rather than including dried chili inside the oil itself, usually ryu is a clear red liquid.  Black pepper is another basic condiment that is available to add to ramen.  While I prefer to avoid this myself, it’s still okay to use it.  If you venture into a ramen shop, you may also get a few bonus condiments.  These are special condiments that are not available in every shop.  You can get things from fried garlic, minced garlic, spicy chili paste, sesame seeds, and many other things.  Do be aware that not all of the sauces are for ramen.  Vinegar and soy sauce are generally not added to ramen.

It is very common to order gyoza with ramen.  This is another Chinese dish that has been molded into Japanese cuisine.  It is very similar to the Chinese dish of potstickers, but very different.  There tends to be more garlic within it, and the sauce itself is slightly different.  They tend to mix vinegar, soy sauce, and ryu.  All of this together makes a perfect side dish to ramen.  Some shops will also offer bowls of rice as an after meal side dish.  After you eat ramen, some people have a lot of soup left.  A bowl of rice is a good way to make use of this soup.  Just ladle it in and you have a good rice soup to finish off your meal.  This can be a real challenge for many people as a typical bowl of ramen is more than enough for one person.  There are countless other types of side dishes that are available, but they aren’t very common.

When looking for a place for ramen, it’s very easy to look in the shopping malls for a shop, but the best thing to do is look around the stations.  There is always a small shop within a few minutes of any entrance to a train station.  Just pick a direction and find a nice looking hole in the wall.  Usually there are only several seats, but no tables.  It can be very difficult to order as menus typically come in only Japanese.  If you do try to venture into one, don’t worry too much.  Just do your best and with a little time, you will get a nice meal.

Ramen Information:

Ramen (Wikipedia):  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ramen
Ramen (Japan Guide):  http://www.japan-guide.com/e/e2042.html

Yokohama Ramen Museum (English):  http://www.raumen.co.jp/ramen/

Yokohama Ramen Museum (Japanese):  http://www.raumen.co.jp/home/

Ramen Shop Information (Japanese):  http://ramendb.supleks.jp/

Ramen Restaurants [Note:  All sites are in Japanese]:

FooMoo by Hot Pepper:  http://www.hotpepper.jp/A_11100/smd0_svcSA11_grcG013_grf1.html

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。

Top 10 Foods to Eat in Japan June 21, 2011

Posted by Dru in Food.
Tags: , , , , , , , , , , ,
comments closed

Author’s Note:  Dru’s Misadventures has moved to HinoMaple.  Please venture on over there to read “Top 10 Foods to Eat in Japan” complete with links to the Top 10 Foods.  http://wp.me/p2liAm-qX

Starting next week and over the next 10 weeks, I will be writing about the various foods you can eat while in Japan.  If you think that Japanese food is all sushi and teriyaki chicken, you will be surprised.  Japanese food can be extremely varied with very subtle differences between each dish.  There are regional specialties for each type of food creating a lot of variety for the same dishes.  They utilize similar ingredients, but combine them in very unique ways.  In recent times, you can even find East-West fusion for some of these foods.  It is impossible to truly showcase everything that is possible to be eaten in Japan, but I will showcase ten things that I think you should do your best to try at least once.  Each of these ten things may not easily be lumped into one thing.  You can spend a single week eating ramen and still never try everything possible.  If you try each one, just once, you should be capable to understanding the basics of Japanese cuisine and be capable of trying new things when you return home.

Restaurant Information:

Please note that these pages are mainly in Japanese.  The Tokyo Food Page, while they have nice restaurants, does not often show the “regular” Japanese restaurants.  They tend to show the higher priced restaurants that still offer good food.

Foo Moo by Hot Pepper:  http://www.hotpepper.jp/A_30300/svcSA11.html
Gournavi (Japanese):  http://www.gnavi.co.jp/

Gournavi (English):  http://www.gnavi.co.jp/en/
Tokyo Food Page (English):  http://www.bento.com/tokyofood.html

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。

Tokyo (Akihabara – For the Eccentric) April 27, 2010

Posted by Dru in Japan, Kanto, Tokyo, Travel.
Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,
comments closed

Author’s Note:  Dru’s Misadventures has moved to HinoMaple.  Please venture on over there to read “Tokyo (Akihabara – For the Eccentric)” complete with photos.  http://wp.me/p2liAm-nb

Akihabara is an area that is being transformed from a small centre with hundreds of small or tiny shops into a place that has tall buildings with large corporations controlling the area.  While it is true that things are changing, you can still see some of the craziness and the strangeness of this area if you know where to look.

For those wanting to see anime, anime figures, manga, and toys, heading to the northern area, near Suehirocho Station is your best bet.  There are several shops in the area that sell these goods.  There are also several located throughout the Akihabara area.  The most famous style of shop is the “glass” shop.  This shop can range in size.  It can be as small as a single room, to one occupying an entire building.  When you enter the shop, you will be met with various glass boxes.  Inside each box, there are various figures on display.  You can buy anything that is located within theses boxes, unless they are for display only.  The key is to find out which box the stuff you want is in, and ask one of the staff to help you.  The interesting part of this is that while you might think of this as a stand alone shop, it isn’t.  Each glass box is usually a different shop.  Many people will rent out one of the boxes to either display their goods, or to sell their goods.  It can range from internet companies needing a physical location for some of their items, to regular people wanting to make a few bucks with the stuff they have collected over the years.  It is a very different concept to the traditional shop that is common in almost every other area of the world.

Another thing to look for in Akihabara is the vending machines.  Due to the nature of the area, vending machines are very prevalent.  In every corner, on every street, you will be able to find a vending machine.  While this is also true of most areas of Tokyo, it is special in Akihabara.  They specialize in unique vending machines.  The standard machines that sell drinks of all types are, of course, common, but they also have machines that sell food.  You can buy hot noodles in a can.  These can be very popular, and it even comes with its own plastic fork.  You could also purchase Oden, which is various vegetables in a broth.  I would liken it to a stew, but it’s very different in taste.  Oden is typically found in convenience stores, but there are restaurants that specialize in it as well.  Meat is not typically found, aside from sausages.  While less common, spaghetti can be found, and it is very possible to find anime drinks.  These tend to be your average drink, but with an anime character on the cover.  Do be aware that prices can be jacked up, depending on where you are and what you buy.

Maids are an Akihabara specialty.  When you exit the station on the east side, and all along Chuo-dori, you are more than likely to run into several maids, especially on the weekend.  If you venture to the east side of Chuo-dori, you will find a lot of different maids looking to take you to their shop.  This is a relatively recent trend that has changed since I first visited.  When I first came, maid cafes were starting to become very popular.  You would see various Japanese women, sometimes European as well, dressed in a French style maid outfit.  They would almost cry to get you into their café.  It was all part of their act.  Today, you can find the strangest fetishes regarding maids.  The typical maid café charges a sitting fee on top of a mandatory drink.  One drink is usually good for about 1 hour.  This may change depending on the café.  You are then treated to a dose of acting from all of the maids in the café.  They tend to talk to you as if you are their master, at all times.  They act very cutesy and they play games with you.  Sometimes, there is a stage where they will play games with the entire café.  If you want to have a picture with one of the maids, or play a private game at your table, you will have to pay extra.  You can even buy one of the maid outfits if you really wanted to.  The man target for this is the men, not the women.  Today, they have added a plethora of different theme cafes.  This can range from a maid café where men dress as maids, but it’s relatively the same thing.  You can also see cafes where the girls are dressed more like a school girl, or even a moody school girl that will treat you like dirt, but cry and apologize when you leave.  I have seen various maid style cafes on TV, but I have never personally been to one.  I have seen their prices and can’t imagine entering one based on the prices.  If you really want to check it out, go ahead, but be sure you know how much it costs.  It could be as much as 4000 Yen for just one hour.  The safest place to visit a maid café might be on top of Don Quijote.

When I first came to Japan, Akihabara was only half as busy, but twice as strange.  In the last few years, the Mayor of Taito-ku, the name of the district Akihabara lies in, decided to clamp down on the strange people.  Several new buildings have popped up to act as an IT hub for Tokyo, and the police have done everything in their power to stop any performance that is done on the street.  While there is a good reason for this, they have decided that Akihabara’s original character of craziness has to go, and that it’s better to be a boring town like every other district of Tokyo.  On the weekends, you might be able to see a couple of “crazy” performers.  They tend to be men, and they tend to dress up as female anime characters.  Nowadays, they probably just walk around.  If they stop, the police will probably talk to them.  If they play loud music, the police will move them along.  If they dance to the music, the police will arrest them.  While this may seem strange and a little heavy handed, there is a main reason to this.  In the last couple years, some girls began to dress as maids, or other characters with a very short skirt; stand on a railing, and let people take pictures of them.  In essence, they let dirty men take photos up their skirts.  Thankfully, this has pretty much stopped, but the days when a tourist could walk along Chuo-dori, see someone dancing, take pictures, and say Tokyo is strange is long gone.  If you came to Akihabara looking for cheap electronics and hundreds of little shops, you will be disappointed.  If you came looking for a cool subculture, you will find something, but probably not exactly what you were looking for.  Either way, I still recommend visiting Akihabara.

The Akihabara series continues with Akihabara – For the Civilized and Akihabara – Redux.

Akihabara Information:

Wikipedia:  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Akihabara
Wikitravel:  http://wikitravel.org/en/Tokyo/Akihabara
Japan Guide:  http://www.japan-guide.com/e/e3003.html
Official Site (English): http://www.e-akihabara.jp/en/index.htm
Official Site (Japanese):  http://www.e-akihabara.jp/ja/index.htm
Free Akihabara Tours:  http://akihabara-tour.com/en/
Akihabara Map:  http://www.e-akihabara.jp/en/map.htm
Commercial Site:  http://www.akiba.or.jp/english/index.html

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。

Tokushima June 9, 2009

Posted by Dru in Japan, Shikoku, Travel.
Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,
comments closed

Author’s Note:  Dru’s Misadventures has moved to HinoMaple.  Please venture on over there to read “Tokushima” complete with pictures.  http://wp.me/p2liAm-bZ

Tokushima is situated in the north-eastern region of Shikoku.  It is the major gateway to the island from Kansai.  It is connected via Awaji Island to Kobe.   Unfortunately, this city is very small and easily visited within a day or two.  You can easily get out of Tokushima city and head to Naruto in the north; Iya Valley in the west; and towards Muroto in the south.

Tokushima is primarily known for one thing, and only one thing, the Awa Odori.  It is a summer festival held in August.  It is one of the most distinct and unique festivals in Japan.  The Awa Odori is literally a traditional dance of the region.  People dress up in the regions unique festival clothing and the dance can be heard for blocks.  It is very difficult to describe the dance and it is something that must be seen in video to truly understand how complex, active, and interesting it really is.  All over Tokushima city, you’ll be able to see statues, banners, art, and videos of the Awa Odori.  You can even take a dance class at the base of Mt. Bizan.  While the Awa Odori is the most famous thing about Tokushima, sudachi is the most famous gift from Tokushima.  It is a small green citrus fruit that is similar to limes and lemons.  It has a slightly stronger taste, but very refreshing.  Beware that buying any sudachi sweets can be dangerous.  They last a long time, but once opened, they “could” expire within a day or two.  I would recommend buying sudachi alcohol and drinks, which are very popular.

There are only a few things to do in Tokushima itself.  The most famous thing to do is to head up Mt. Bizan.  There is a gondola that will take you from the base to the peak, but it runs every 15 minutes.  You can also get a discount if you go in the evening.  The top of the mountain is very beautiful and gives you a great view of the city.  Heading up in the evening is worth the price, however heading up at full price may not be worth it for those on a budget.  You can also hike up the mountain, and the peak offers various hiking paths.  If you are an avid hiker, this is a great place to get started for a short day hike.  Routes tend to be well marked and wind their way around the mountain.  In May, you will also be greeted with beautiful flowers blooming around the peak station.  If you are lucky, Mt. Bizan has over 1000 cherry trees, so the cherry blossom season is supposed to be extremely beautiful.

After Mt. Bizan, Tokushima Central Park is the next best place to visit.  It is located on a hill behind the station.  It can be a little difficult to reach as the station has only one entrance, to the south.  The park is located north of the station.  Once you find the park, it is a very nice place to visit.  The entire park is the site of the ruins of Tokushima Castle.  There are two routes to the top of the hill.  While both routes are equally difficult, be aware that the main route may have some school kids running up as part of their training exercises.  In all honesty, this park is better served to the locals.  There isn’t too much to see.  The view from the top of the hill, while nice, isn’t that great.  It’s difficult to see much of the city as there are large trees surrounding the old courtyard.  However, it is a good way to enjoy an afternoon in Tokushima.

Finally, walking along the Shinmachi River, south of the station, is a lot of fun.  The parks along the river are very beautiful, and there is a lot of outdoor art to enjoy.  You can even take a boat cruise around the city for only 100 yen.  It takes about one hour to go around the city.  You can also take a 4 hour cruise up to Naruto.  The river is also conveniently located near the main shopping area.  Shopping in Tokushima is sparse, to say the least.  It is probably the smallest major city in Shikoku, so finding any major name brands would be very difficult.  If you are looking for something to eat, I would recommend ramen.  It is a local specialty and the local food maps, available in most hotels, show the locations of famous ramen shops.  While it isn’t very different from other ramen shops in Japan, they tend to add slices of meat, and the soup base tends to be a little thinner and saltier, in my opinion.

Overall, I couldn’t say there is a lot to do in Tokushima city itself.  However, there is enough to make it a good weekend trip.  If you are just backpacking around Japan, timing a visit to coincide with the Awa Odori is the best way to go; otherwise it’s best to skip this city.  I would definitely like to return someday.

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。

%d bloggers like this: