It should be no surprise that Japan is filled with wonderful food. It should also be no surprise that I enjoy eating AND photographing this food. Being a dietitian I often find that getting the chance to live overseas and shop in what equates to an '"international market" regularly is like going to Disney World. That's right, I get excited and YES, I will go to food markets, food stores and mall food courts, just to observe, which in turn helps me to learn. I have learned so much so far about Japanese food and nutrition, and I can't wait to share this with you in the near future.
So this post is filled with some of the yummy eats we have had over the week, that will show you some of the different kinds of foods you can get to eat in Japan, particularly in the rural area where we live.
This first meal is from Delhi, which is an Indian restaurant near by, and also located in Towada. They always serve a pepper soup to start, but they make it different each day, so I always have to ask about the broth. Sometimes it is vegetarian and sometimes it is not. Vegetarian in Japan usually means to the Japanese that you don't see any meat in it, so it is a little more difficult to get a clear answer about sauces and soups. At least with the Indian restaurant they have a good understanding of vegetarian, as this is common in Indian, so I find that I can get "safe" answers.
I also took it upon myself to enjoy an Indian beer. Yum!
Ryan and I always share two vegetarian dishes. Boy am I lucky my husband likes vegetables and is willing to do vegetarian meals. Here we had a curry dish (looks like channa, or chick peas) and a dish with paneer, which is cheese.
Japan has some really good Indian food, which Ameena can attest to.
Also really good is the Chinese food. I'm not talking about Americanized Chinese food (yes, this is not a myth, it true in a sense). I am talking about authentic Chinese food, using ingredients that that are traditional to China and can be found in Japan. Sometimes it is tough in the US because you can't get all the traditional ingredients.
Ryan is not a huge Chinese fan, but he was willing to try out Karinba with me.
He ordered a set meal, so this started off with pickled veggies and a pasta salad.
His entree was pork and sweet potato, which is also a popular combo in Okinawan cuisine. Okinawa is an island region to the south of the main islands of Japan, and they are close to China, and have their own traditional dishes that combine Japanese and Chinese cooking styles. Ryan really enjoyed this dish, so it is safe to say we will be going back.
Rice! No meal is complete without rice. The Japanese word for cooked rice is gohan, and in ancient times rice was used like money. Warriors could be paid in rice. It is that important in Japanese culture.
Ryan enjoyed some egg drop soup.
We split these vegetable based egg rolls.
I ordered the tofu and crab. It was so good! Traditional Chinese food contains thickened broth like sauces, I believe thickened using cornstarch or similar. I never researched this, but it has always been my impression, and I am almost certain when I was in China, this is how it was described to me. Either way, it's tasty and I will order this again.
Since Ryan ordered a set meal, he was served some ice cream after the meal.
One night I stopped off by a bakery not too far from where we live. Yes, there is a French bakery in rural Japan. This is probably because there are French bakeries ALL over Japan. As I mentioned in my last post, the baked goods are not overly sweet, and you develop an appreciation for the ingredients themselves and the work that went in to baked the items.
I really just wanted to get some macarons, which I fell in love with when we were in Paris. I will definitely be going back to this bakery again...and again...and again!
We go out for sushi often, but this particular time I found a few new kinds that I had not tried before. This is cuttlefish tempura sushi. Cuttlefish is similar to squid as it is in the same family. This was not my first time trying cuttlefish, which is one reason why I did not have any reservations about giving it a try. Plus, come on, it's prepared as tempura, which is a lightly breaded and then deep fried Japanese method of cooking. Shrimp and veggies are often served this way.
This is salmon, but it is cooked and not raw.
I also tried sea bream (I think, I can't 100% recall right now), which is a white fish. In this case it was served raw as nigiri. If you are not fluent in sushi, nigiri is the sushi that is made by placing sashimi (raw fish slices) on top of a small mound of rice.
Next up is some Thai food. Ryan enjoyed it the last time, so we made sure to go back again. Strangely, they changed the menu in those few weeks since we had last been, but most everything was the same. The spring rolls did change, but they were able to make them vegetarian for us.
Ryan ordered the chicken pad Thai (not pictured) and I ordered a veggie mixed seafood dish, which had scallops, shrimp and crab. I was just pleased to see all of the pretty colors in this dish.
Next up is *gasp* McDonald's. In Japan it is a little different, and I think most shocking for Americans would be the portion sizes you are served. We stopped in one day and Ryan wanted to try the shaka shaka chicken. Have you ever seen this before?
Here are the instructions. Similar to shake and bake, but the baking happens before the shaking. And it is more like frying, not baking. It comes in a few flavors, so Ryan tried the black pepper. You dump the seasoning in (yes, this is high in sodium) and give it a shake.
Here is the chicken in the bag.
Then you tear the bag off and can eat the chicken without having to hold it in your hands, which can be messy.
Next up is the crepe I ordered one night from the mall food court. Yes, that's right, our mall has a crepe place in the food court, and there are tons of crepes to choose from.
I picked kiwi with fresh whipped cream. I actually do not like whip cream, but I thought I would give it a try because I could tell it was different from the kind I have tried in the US.
Mmmm, look at that!
Not too bad in size. It was really good, whipped cream and all. I'll be getting this again.
Ryan on the other hand ordered this fruit drink with the tapioca balls, and he was not a fan. So, he will probably be getting a crepe next time too.
Next up is a pizzeria. Not just any pizzeria, but one with a wood burning oven for cooking pizzas.
Ryan ordered a regular margarita pizza with some basil.
I went with an eggplant pizza. Delicious!
Last up is another bakery. This place was too cute to pass by.
Once inside the employee brought us some tea cake samples and some hot tea. After looking around, we picked up a few treats, which was good because we were headed to the movies, so it provided us with some fun treats while there.
I picked this, and mostly it was because of the color. Apples are really a big deal up here because Aomori prefecture is the number 1 producer of apples in all of Japan, and Japan produces some of the best apples.
I wish I could give a good explanation of this, but that would be tough. I have never had anything quite like this. It was soft and squishy, like a glutinous rice cake (known as mochi), but it was not. It was squishy and tough, and in the end I wonder if it actually had gelatin in it since it may have been a little like a marshmallow. I think I will need to ask about this one in the future to see about the ingredients. Ryan also had some yummy apple baked goods to try out.
There you have a little insight into what we, and locals, might eat in rural Japan. There are many options and lots of good, healthy choices, mixed in with some fried items, but of course, here portion sizes are smaller, and you will find that it is easier to balance a healthy diet.
QUESTIONS: Have you ever tried authentic Chinese food? Have you tried any traditional Japanese foods other than sushi (and if so, which ones)? If you could pick any one of the dishes I posted above to try, which one would it be?