experiences / Japan

Eating and Cooking in Japan

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I have found food in Japan has a very different flavor than foods I have tried in other places, and it particularly has quite a unique over all flavor. It isn’t really a salty or a sweet or a spicy flavor, but some combination that I have only experienced in Japan. Don’t get me wrong, I like (most) of the food I have tried here so far, but it is honestly too strange to try to explain. Instead, I will share some photos and recipes I have tried while living in Hiroshima or when visiting Kyoto/Tokyo.

The Bento

The unavoidable bento...

The unavoidable bento…

Bentos are convenient and easy to carry in bulk – explaining why TGS has consumed so many over the last six months. I think at first we did not mind the bento, but now some are quite tired of it and are beginning to despise Monday and Thursday lunch (bento box day.)

The average bento includes rice, random veggies, and meat or tofu. Some are good, some not so much. I feel as though it is kind of luck of the drawl when it comes down to it.

Bentos are easy to make or buy at your local CoCo.

Mochi

Mochi

Mochi

Mochi is a small, dough-like treat. In other countries it is often known as an ice cream, but in Japan it is more common to find it in a dough form with stuff inside. Bean-paste is a specialty of Hiroshima, so that is often inside the mochi.

It also comes in various flavors: plain, chocolate, strawberry, matcha, etc. Give it a try if you are in Japan!

Okonomiyaki

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Advisory Dinner near Alice Garden (night we showed up an hour late…)

I learned how to make Okonomiyaki while staying with a host family in Tokyo and the closest thing I can relate it to is a pancaked, omelet-like style of batter, veggies, and (if you try it in Hiroshima) noodles.

Depending where you go, someone will cook it in front of you or you will be given a bowl of “stuff” to grill yourself; personally I enjoyed cooking it more than watching.

In this bowl there is the base: a wheat batter. This is mixed with veggies/meat/cheese/mochi, cooked just like a pancake.

Once flipped to the other side, a thick sauce is added, fishy flakes are sprinkled, and seasons dashed on top. (Some people like it with mayo as well.)

Do I like it? Yeah I thought it tasted pretty good, but not something I would eat regularly by any means. Over the past six months I have had it two or three times, which I think is plenty. However, if you come to Japan give it a try! Or try to make it at home.

Matcha Tea

Traditionally used in the Tea Ceremony, but tastes like healthy foam.

Traditionally used in the Tea Ceremony, but tastes like healthy foam.

This is specifically used for the Tea Ceremony, especially in this manner (served in a decorated bowl.) Matcha is quite bitter, so when doing a tea ceremony sweet cakes accompany the tea.

A watered down version of Matcha can be found in vending machines everywhere if you are a fan of iced tea. This drink is definitely something you are a fan of or not at all – I like it, but I also enjoy most teas. (Very different from Indian tea, though! No sugar, no milk, no chai and not the delicious apple cinnamon tea in Kashmir… it’s own branch of tea you can decipher as Japanese.)

Udon vs. Ramen

THIS is Udon...

THIS is Udon…

These two are commonly confused, so I am going to try my best to differentiate them.

Udon has thicker noodles in more of a soup-like liquid. I have had it with seafood, seaweed, and tofu before.

Ramen has thin noodles in a thick sauce. Minced and compressed fish (like the white bit with a pink swirl) always

...and this is ramen!

…and this is ramen!

seem to be included.

Personally, I like Udon better. However, many of my classmates are a Ramen fan.

Tempura

From the Noodle House down the road

I think the picture tells it all – fried veggies. For someone who is not big on fried/oily foods, tempura is not my favorite, but I have tried a few good lotus roots in tempura form.

Most often it is served with noodles!

Sushi

I can make sushi, I just can't cut it...

I can make sushi, I just murder it when I cut it though…

Excitingly, I have had a couple opportunities to make sushi myself: in Kyoto and with a host family in Tokyo. Sushi is interesting looking and cooking/assembling it is quite fun! In Kyoto Southland made sushi and we spent most the time laughing at how difficult it actually is: egg folding, layering the rice and fish, and even cutting the roll (as you can see above…)

One thing good about sushi is you can see exactly what you are eating, and when I cooked sushi I made it with seaweed, white rice, egg, fish, and wasabi. More fun to make than to eat, but also delicious.

Sushi train restaurants are interesting as well, see the gif below…

8bp0nCAUTION: The ice cream is fake, you must ask for it. Hilariously, this was discovered by Yodsel being millimeters away from taking a bite of this plastic delicacy.

P.S. I wish I would have done blogs about food and other cultural aspects throughout the last year while traveling, but I suppose these details began to be apart of my daily route/exposure to the location it slipped my mind amongst weXplores or class projects.

Let me know what you think of posts like this; I am planning on continuing these in the future! I would love to hear some feedback if you have any comments about Train Case Travels or Syd’s Tip del Día!

-Syd

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