Making umeshu, or plum liquor, is a highly orchestrated and seasonal activity in Japan. Walk into any supermarket at the end of May and you are bound to see a display of glass or plastic jugs, plums, rock sugar and cartons of mysterious alcohol that you can use to brew your own batch of this sweet yet sour beverage. It's the perfect umeshu kit just waiting for you.
If you are anything like me, the winter months you've spent in hibernation have not only bestowed upon you a healthy plumpness, but also a strong addiction to unhealthy foods which have helped you cope with Japan's harshest season and the dreaded "STAGE-2" feels. To help wean myself off my glutinous rituals I've found making healthy substitutes to be the best bet. This way I can have my broccoli and eat pizza too!
The other day, after a fellow ALT and I bought her Studio Ghibli tickets, we thought, “Why not, let’s get some dinner while we’re at it.” We opted for okonomiyaki, Hiroshima’s crowning glory, at a previously visited restaurant near the train station. As we vaguely knew that it was in an alleyway near Caspa, we ended up on a rather dark and deserted street. I was all for turning around, but my friend spotted a dimly lit okonomiyaki lantern banner. Next to it was a menu with seemingly overpriced items. The wall had remnants of graffiti. “How about this place?” Kelly asked.
Julia creates a fun cheese soup, with some beer on the side.
Last weekend I ate dolphin. Wait! Where are you going? Let me explain. I did not set out to eat dolphin. I went to an international exchange barbecue hosted by my friend in Osaka. The participants came from Japan, America and Australia. We all brought food and drinks for one another, and learned how to play cricket. We fired up the grill and started throwing on what we brought, and one of the Australians said, “I have a bit of dolphin in the cooler if you want to try.”
Julia gives us the insight into making some rockin lasagana for a hungry group of 4!
I am addicted to pickled rakkyo. Half small onion and half garlic tsukemono, rakkyo is a crunchy delight that you can prepare easily at home. The end of May is the official rakkyo pickling season, so let's get pickling!
I somehow became a certified udon maker after spending an hour and a half at Udon School in Takamatsu on Shikoku Island. Freshly made Sanuki udon is a real delight and I am happy to share with my fellow JETs this cheaply acquired knowledge. Making udon from scratch is easy and I have done so in two schools in less than two hours (this includes the preparation, cooking time, eating and cleaning). I hope you will have fun trying this almost fool-proof recipe with your students. Ganbatte!
The first vegetable to be featured in the “Seasonal Eating in Japan” series is goya. Also known as bitter gourd or bitter melon, goya comes into season in summer. It is grown all over Asia and is a staple food of Okinawa. This warty green vegetable resembles a cucumber with some kind of skin disease, and eaten raw its taste isn’t much better that its looks; it is probably one of the most bitter vegetables in the world. Goya needs to be cooked to be edible, and some people say it’s an acquired taste. Judge for yourself with this easy recipe for goya chanpuru, a stir-fried dish that is a specialty of Okinawa.
I’ve had my share of Spanish/Mexican food in Japan. From Hiroshima’s Cusco Café and Tinto’s Restaurant to the do-it-yourself ingredients sold at Jupiter to the Visitor’s Day at the Iwakuni Airbase (which I went to solely to taste the delights of the on-base Taco Bell).