August 24, 2015

Ukai-Toriyama, a traditional Japanese meal

My dear friend Kayoko, invited us to Ukai-Toriyama for lunch a few weeks ago. The restaurant is located in a beautiful, mountainous area of Japan, not too far from our home.

The grounds were exceptionally beautiful, of course. One of the many things I love about Japan.

Love the vermillion bridges, too!

The restaurant consisted of many different private cottages for dining. These cottages were all traditional Japanese buildings relocated here from around the country.

You always take off yours shoes.

The inside of the cottage was beautiful. Luckily for me though, the floor around the table was cut out so there was a place to put your legs. It's hard for us American's to sit on the floor for very long!

Right outside of our cottage, we could here the delightful sound of this small waterfall. It was such a relaxing environment.

It is very common to find a scroll and a flower arrangement depicting the season in a traditional Japanese room.

This restaurant served kaiseki, or a traditional Japanese meal, consisting of several courses over several hours. Seasonal ingredients are always used, and you order the meal as a set. 

The girls had a kids meal, which looked great! Fried karage (chicken nuggets), baked potato, omelette, and fruit.

Balance and presentation are a big part of Japanese cuisine. 

Several soups are usually included, this was a wonderful duck soup. The nice thing about ordering the set is that it forces me to try things I wouldn't normally order.

In the meantime, they were heating some coals right on our table for the main course, the yakitori, or grilled chicken.

I thought the initial kids meal was plenty of food, but then they brought out an additional basket of food to grill. There were chicken skewers, meatballs and quail eggs and the girls loved all of it.

For the adults, a lovely platter of chicken, and veggies to grill.

I just love Kayoko to pieces. She is not only a great friend, but also our dance teacher. She teaches us so much about Japanese culture.

After grilling the chicken, we dipped it in a fabulous sauce and let it continue grilling a few more minutes.

The chicken was out of this world! Absolutely fabulous!

I was feeling very full, at this point, but out came our next course. Miso soup is always a given, as is rice and some sort of pickled veggie. The rice had a paste made out of dashi (fish stock) and sweet potato on top, this wasn't my favorite. 

The ladies serving us were amazing. They knelt down with the trays to serve, then gathered the dishes and stood back up from a crouched position. Such a workout!

The beauty of a Japanese garden cannot be described.

And last but not least, dessert. This was almost like a fruity sorbet, about the size of a golf ball. Just a touch of something sweet after the meal.

After the meal we wandered the gardens a bit.

Thank you Kayoko-san, for a wonderful afternoon!

August 2, 2015

Japanese street food

 In Japanese culture, it is considered rude to "eat on the go". You always eat at the restaurant or eat at your destination, never while walking around (yes, this includes your coffee). For this reason, street food in Japan is pretty much nonexistent, except during a festival. So, in honor of festival season, here are some street food favorites.

Grilled squid on a stick. Nope, haven't tried this one.

Also, roasted fish on a stick, generously salted. You're supposed eat everything, head to tail. I wasn't brave enough to do that, but the meat of the fish was fabulous!

Potatoes in all forms are very common. This man is serving them boiled with butter, or fried. The entire potato was battered then fried, I really wanted to try that one.

And don't forget the french fries. These are roasted Japanese sweet potato wedges, which are quite sweet.

My girls love the roasted corn on a stick. As you can see, almost everything comes on a stick to make it easier to walk around and eat.

You'll always find many stalls of various yakiniku, or grilled meat. The cuts have a lot more fat on them than what I usually prefer, though.

Beef, chicken, and eel seem to be the most popular choices.

Not only is there grilled meat, but also fried. This is karage, or fried chicken, and is a favorite!

Takoyaki, or, octopus balls, consist of a pancake-like batter containing octopus, and any other ingredients you would like.

 Okonomiyaki  is a Japanese pancake with many ingredients added to the batter, such as, vegetables, meats and seafood. Fried, or raw, eggs are a very typical topping on many Japanese dishes.

Yakisoba, or grilled noodles, is a favorite of the girls. Cabbage is usually added to the yakisoba, as well.

I don't usually see American style hamburgers, but this festival was in the same town as our Air Base, so maybe they were capitalizing on the large number of American's. And judging by the size of the line, they were very good! (Notice the uncooked bacon? That's very normal here.)

You will always find dango, which is a Japanese dumpling made of rice mochi (paste). They usually have a soy sauce marinade on them, but can also be made sweet.

I don't really know the name for these, but they are little pancake balls. Pancake batter cooked in the special pan. The girls really love them.

And this pancake mold was especially kawaii!

Fruit on a stick is normal fare, and expensive! The skewer of 2 strawberries cost about $3, but they are absolute perfection. 

A personal favorite of mine is the Japanese cucumber on a stick. Japanese cucumbers are much more crisp than the American version. They also smear a little miso paste on the side, which adds a nice salty flavor.

A festival isn't complete without several fully stocked bars!

We never skip the opportunity for a chocolate covered banana!

Also, ice cream and shaved ice are regulars, to beat the heat of summer.

Festival season is HOT and humid, but I love the lovely yukata worn by the ladies, the festive and colorful decorations, and the FOOD!