Friday, August 07, 2009

Japanese food adventures

Being that I love food and cooking and other such things, I have been eager to try out the flavors of my new home. Here's some of our adventures thus far...

Our first Sunday here, we had a meal after church. The particular church we visited (Sapporo International Church--not the one we will attend regularly) has a large population of Koreans and other foreigners. This particular meal was topped with a big scoop of kochujang, a spicy Korean bean paste (unfortunately the kochujang is not in the picture). Our response: "we're in heaven." Yep. We went right out and bought some of that stuff.

I insisted that we buy the "nice garlic." Keith wanted the mean garlic.

We were given a big bag of potatoes. We added a bit of garlic and leek and sauteed them until they were crispity crunchity. Then we added soy sauce, miso, mirin, and a little salt and pepper. Keith ate them straight out of the pan. We still have a bunch of potatoes left, so next time we'll try adding kochujang.

We went out with the other language school students to eat okonomiyaki. This is a savory cabbage-based pancake. You make it yourself at your table. Here Stephanie, one of our fellow students, is getting ready to flip one. It was delicious... and cheap! 700 yen (about $7) for a nice, filling meal!

I saw what appeared to be a cucumber with warts in the grocery store. I inquired, and found that it was called "goya" or "bitter melon." Despite the warnings, I had to have one. I discovered that goya are frequently found in Okinawan champuru (stir fry) dishes, so I set out to make one.

Here is the goya as I'm preparing it. Observe the beautiful, jewel-like skin.

I first stir fried some pork, then added onions, tofu, and finally goya. Then I seasoned it with mirin and soy sauce. The final addition was a couple of eggs.

Then I topped it with a drizzle of miso, mirin, and soy sauce and some bonito flakes...

...and the goya tasted like earwax. Have you ever scratched your ear and then licked your finger a few minutes later? It was like that... in big, beautiful green slices. So sad. Most of our poor goya went in the trash. The rest of the champuru was delicious, though... I think I'm going to explore that cuisine a bit more.

Today's breakfast: natto and brown rice. I'd describe the taste of natto as "coffee flavored cheese." It's famous for being rather vile, but for some reason I really like it. The strings stuck to my chin do get a bit annoying, though. One of our fellow students thinks my desire for natto must be a sign from God... otherwise there's no way I could possibly like it. We'll see. ;)

More on food later... and other stuff too.

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