Friday, August 12, 2005

Mad about Japanese food feature

Photos of seasonal Namagashi

December - camellia


March - cherry blossom



April - magnolia





* photos from Watashi to Tokyo

I have come to the conclusion that I was possibly a sumo wrestler in one of my last births, just because I could eat a lot of Japanese food every day and drink some good Oroku sake or maybe a beer but most times tea. Somehow I seem to love most things Japanese. Anytime I get to choose a restaurant, you can bet it will be a Japanese one. Yes, I have become that predictable. Also, I happen to love their teas and seasonal pastries (they do not make me feel fat like I do when I eat a French pastry). All that is left is for me to discover where I lived in my previous birth.

My favourite dish is Unagi Kabayaki. Vegetarians please do not bother to click below.

http://www.pi-at.com/megu/joysoccer/unagi.htm

I also love variations offered each day at my regular haunts with sashimi, grilled fish, pickled veggies and rice.

In the afternoon, if I feel I deserve a treat I now choose a seasonal wagashi. Yes I am bored with macaroons.

Favourite teas from the great country that I enjoy are Gyokuro and Hojicha.

Gyokuro is considered to be one of the best best Japanese green teas. It is a lovely green tea with a slightly seeweed like taste which is absolutely refreshing and delicious. You may love it or hate it.

Hojicha tea is a clear, light reddish-brown tint and a robust, roasted fragrance and flavor. Hojicha tea is made by roasting regular sencha and bancha leaves until they turn brown. The roasting gives the tea a delicate smoky fragrance and flavor.

Wagashi are traditional sweets that developed into delicate art forms in the ancient kingdom of Kyoto. Wagashi indulge all the five senses and are worth enjoying with some time - the names sound poetic, they smell delicate, texture is soft, taste (mainly from beans and grains) is natural and they look beautiful as they are often inspired by Japanese literature, textiles and art. They truly are a feast to the eyes...

There are various types of Wagashi like Monaka (filling made of azuki bean filling sandwiched between two rice wafers), Namagashi (seasonal cakes), Yokan (evolved during the Edo period - a thick jellied sweet) and many others.
Seasonal themes include:
Spring: plum, cherry blossom etc.
Summer: water, etc.
Fall: Chinese bellflower, autumn leaves
Winter: camellia, daffodil, snow

*(Photos above and the above list of seasonal namagashi from Watashi to Tokyo)

http://japanesefood.about.com/cs/dessertssnacks/a/japanesesweet.htm

My other love for most things Japanese include exquisite art from some Japanese masters including Hishikawa Moronobu, Suzuki Harunobu, Kitagawa Utamaro, Tôshûsai Sharaku, Katsushika Hokusaï and Utagawa Hiroshige. The latter two artists possibly have a wider appeal. There was a fantastic exhibition with all the above artists in the Musee Guimet. I enjoyed it thoroughly.

http://www.ukiyoe-ota-muse.jp/dis0505eng.html

I now need to learn the language, learn to wrestle and head to Japan. This is a possible dream.....

Comments:
I haven't eaten a lot of Japanese food other than the Japanese snacks which in my opinion are the best snacks in the world - well the sweet ones that is. The salty ones are too much for me!
 
Hi dear N! Hope you are very well.
I love japanese food, too.
My favourites are soba noodles (hot or cold) and onigiri. I also love umeboshi and some pickled veggis, too. Wagashi are generally too sweet for my taste, but I sometimes enjoy monaka or mochi since I love the taste of adzuki beans. Their wagashi are really beautiful as well as tasty.
I adore japanese art, too!

Thanks for the wonderful post!
 
Oh I forgot to mantion the wasabi peas I adore. Thank you for reminding me dear S!
 
Darling S! So happy to see you. Hope you are well. Have been thinking of you.
Please let me know your news when you can.

Hugs,
N
 
Neela, this post was so fun to read. You need to go to Japan! Then blog all about it. :-)

I love those little nori rolls esp yellowtail. Also like that seaweed salad and wasabi peas are yum. And some warm sake.

I love the delicacy of the Japanese esthetic and the concept of "wabi-sabi", or imperfect beauty.
 
Kate - I totally agree with your last sentence. Also love seaweed salad and wasabe peas. Some great sake too. Come over and we will have a blast!

xoxo
 
Lovely post N. I too love Japanese cuisine and am lucky enough to have a kind and gentle Japanese chef as my guide. His father is an artist whose work hangs in the restaurant - truly astonishing in its simplicity and beauty. My favorite things to eat at Ike's restaurant include monkfish liver, nato with tuna (which I could eat for breakfast), uni and grilled blowfish. It is a culture and cuisine I long to learn more about throughout my life. I hope one day to be able to introduce you to Ike - he would be enchanted. As for your wrestling lessons - do let me know how you progress :)
 
Dear F! I would love to meet Ike.
Glad to know that you are a Japan addict too. About wrestling - I hope to be a champion in Paris if I have to wrestle with stick insects - LOL! (ay ay ay - meanie me! ;D)

Mwah!
 
I love Japanese food, Japanese film, architecture, and several Japanese mystery novels, but not the desserts. For me, the French are peerless in that regard. My ideal meal would probably be a totally bizarre combination of sushi, Italian pasta and French pastry for dessert. After that, however, I would probably stop by the ER with that kind of heartburn that makes you think you're having a cardiac.
 
Hi F! Thanks for stopping by! I think it really depends on your taste. Yes some French desserts are nice but then I actually like any desserts in very small doses. I am bored with French pastry/puddings etc. Just as well bacause the first time I lived here in the mid-nineties - I ate way too many macaroons. Also love Japanese films btw!
 
So interesting. I must admit I don't share your love of Japanese food or film ... but I am fascinated by geisha culture and the "floating world." A woman's role in Japan, historically and in contemporary time, seems to be a study in contradiction -- I would very much like to learn more about that. And the tea! (thank you for those descriptions!) xoxo
 
Dear M - I am also fascinated by the "floating world" and have seen some fab exhibitions over the years (and have a beautiful silk scarf with that theme). From my reading and understanding of a woman's role in Japan- yes it is rather unique especially tolerant of male chauvinism. I am sure there are exceptions but there are many things there that I could not deal with. Glad I am convinced that I was a wrestler. ;D

xoxo
 
I love all things Japanese. When I was twelve, I had the great fortune to travel to Japan with my family and a group of friends.

Did you read Chandler Burr's article about the Japanese and perfume? I think it was printed earlier in the year in the NY Times Magazine section. He talked about their attitudes about perfume and mentioned some Shiseido perfumes that sounded absolutely ravishing (as were the price tags!). I would love to return to Japan if only to sniff and test some of the fragrances he described in that piece.

Hugs!
 
Lucky lucky you darling R! Thanks for your description and I did not read the article - would love to get hold of it.

Have a super weekend.

xoxo
 
Mireille: If you love geisha culture, you should definitely check out the films of Mizoguchi, especially "Osaka Elegy" and "A Geisha." :)
 
Great article, as always N! Love almost all Asian food -- Japanese, Thai, Korean, Vietnamese, Chinese. Am perhaps more partial to Thai as I spent some time in Thailand.

Love Japanese tea and would love to see a real matcha tea ceremony some day. I drink mostly sencha, gyokuro and genmai-cha.

Have a great weekend, N!
 
Hi F! I love Mizoguchi's films. They are great for understanding women in Japan.
I liked Ugetsu and The life of Oharu.

These films are memorable.
 
Hello and thank you dear R - I love Thai food too. I find it very aromatic and delicate.
You must have had a wonderful experience living there. Would love to hear about it. Hope you have a fab weekend.

xoxo
 
PS - a word of warning though - some of the Mizoguchi's films though brilliant can be rather depressing. :(
 
I once knew a wonderful Japanese couple, who were very traditional in their outlook. They were in the UK for 1 year while he studied.
I had the good fortune, along with some others to be invited to what can be described as a banquet of Japanese food, cunningly disguised as a dinner invite.
The food was delicately presented, all with great care and ceremony, carefully balanced colours and textures, neat little bundles of fish eggs tied into a little parcel with seaweed....it was an absolute delight!
The couple both wore traditional dress, but unfortunately, she ate her meal seperately in another room, separate from her husband and guests, which was such a shame.
Some of the guests were a little unsure of eating some of the delicacies presented, still don`t understand that..everything was just so beautifully presented, I just had to try everything offered, and I am so glad I did!
I was the lucky one...because I loved the food so much, as I was leaving, I was given a parcel of food goodies to enjoy later!!
Absolute heaven!!
 
Hi Z! Thanks for sharing your dinner invitation experience to a Japanese household - which sounded wonderful except the bit where the woman ate in a separate room. Absolutely fascinating!
 
Dear N, what a super article! I love Japanese food and cinema. I like wagashi very much. In fact, there is a wonderful Japanese pastry shop in Manhattan (5th Avenue and 49th, I think) and London. I cannot remember the name. Another excellent place is Toraya at 71st Street near Madison Avenue. Their wagashi are a work of art.

I also loved the restaurant in Paris, where we went together.
Have a great weekend, darling!
xoxo
 
Darling V! I am glad to know that you love wagashi too.
Yes there are a few good places in London and here too.
Hope you have a great weekend too.


xoxo
 
I had a friend in high school whose parents were from two very dissimilar backgrounds: dad was part Hawaiian and part Japanese, and mom was really really Irish. (I loved going to her house for supper because the craziest combinations of these cultures would occur on their supper table.)

One Japanese food that got served frequently there was a oyakodon dish, which always made me think of a kind of savory porridge. Her dad made it with rice and egg, with peas and chicken. Well, sometimes he made this pork version of that, but all the kids seemed to prefer chicken. Pickled ginger was something he served that I never could wrap my brain around. Even the smell of it makes me cringe. But boy did he eat it a lot. I'm keen on dressed up tofu dishes, which is thankfully easy to find at the more traditional family-style restaraunts (but which are vanishing in this day and age of corporate brand chain eateries in the US.) And miso. Mmmmmm, that is my biggest comfort food. Any soup made from red or darker misos is inarguably delicious.
 
Hello K! That must have been fun. I am actually not crazy about the dish you described.
Love tofu too and Miso!

:)
 
Yum, Japanese food and tea. And Unagi! I could eat broiled eel over rice every day for weeks. In fact, once I did. I expected to get sick of it. Nope.

I love hojicha, and I especially love genmaicha, the green tea with the toasted rice in it. Such a comfort drink, a pleasing earthy warm flavor, almost like broth instead of tea.

There was a great article in a recent Gourmet magazine too about the Japanese pottery tradition. They sure do have a fantastic aesthetic sense.

Will and I were just talking the other day about how odd it is that Japanese and Chinese foods are so different. Japan seems to be the only place in East Asia that has been largely unaffected by Chinese cuisine. In fact, the Chinese tend to view eating raw foods as utterly barbaric. They'll wince at a rare steak, let alone a platter of entirely raw flesh! Thank goodness, I have overcome that taboo.
 
Hi T - I am so glad you love Japanese cuisine, tea, pottery etc. too. I agree with Will and you, Chinese cuisine is indeed different but I really love that too. About raw foods - I think one can actually get addicted. When I first tasted sashimi over a decade and a half ago - I thought i would really dislike it but it was love at first bite!

:))
 
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