Here is the post everyone has been waiting for, right ? Photos and talks of food in Tokyo. Here we go.
As a person who suffers from gluten sensitivity, I thought I would be relatively safe in Japan. Alas, if rice is abundantly served at every meal, the Japanese are also very fond of gluten, in the form of wheat used in pastries. But desserts are not really offered with your meal, and if you are craving for something sweet, you have to go to a specialized store, which there are plenty of. And since the Japanese have developed a fondness for French food, « boulangeries » abound in Tokyo ! As it was early January, they even sold the traditional « galette des rois », I just couldn’t believe it. They also seem to enjoy stinky French cheese : look what I found in a food store…
Fruit is also not a common thing to eat, being extremely expensive, more of a treat or a gift to make.
Getting back to gluten, it is also found in their « tempura » dishes, where meat (pork being a favorite) is covered in a batter and then deep-fried. I had such a tasty dish on two occasions, the first time was digested fine… but not so the second !
The food always comes with a small side dish of pickled vegetables as well as very thinly shredded raw cabbage, to be drizzled with yuzu dressing. Yuzu is a citrus fruit, something between orange and lime. It imparts a slightly sweet flavor to the dressing and makes the cabbage taste very good. A bowl of miso soup is also served with the meal; its taste varies from one restaurant to the next. The fun part is fighting to grab the tiny tiny clams with your chopsticks at the bottom of the bowl!!!
Now look at the next (fuzzy) photo – now this was my best meal !
This is « unagi », the famous eel dish ! The eel is grilled and placed on a bed of rice. I have already mentioned it, I know, but let me tell you, rice in Japan is really, really good ! Nothing can compare. And the eel just melts in your mouth. Am I starting to sound a little biased? Sorry !
As for some of the other delicious things we ate, one time we had an interesting warm savory custard with shiitake mushroom, which I would love to recreate. We also had some beef, not the famous Kobe meat, but still incredibly tender. It was served basically rare and already sliced. All we had to do was pick up the slices with our chopsticks – by the way, I have been practicing every week since we came back : a promise I made my daughter-in-law’s mom ! Do you know they sell « training chopsticks » for little kids, and even adults ? They come with rings where you place your fingers so they don’t move !
I discovered an interesting condiment. Because of its green color, at first I thought it was matcha tea. Not so. It is called « sansho pepper », and has a very pleasant smell to it.
Green tea is systematically served as you wait for the meal, and your cup gets refilled by the waiter as you eat. This is when you get to practice saying « arigato gosaimas », not forgetting the sight bow of the head !
We didn’t have any sake, but we did see some sake barrels at the entrance of a shrine, gifts from the sake distilleries. Colorful and pretty, aren’t they ?
However, I got to try something called « amazake », also made from fermented rice, but without any alcohol and drunk hot : it tasted like baby porridge with very soft rice grains, and honey sweet… To be enjoyed on a cold winter’s day outside a shrine!
We also picnicked in our hotel room a couple of evenings, buying our food at the basement level of a « depato » (department store) :
On the left, some fried shrimp in a batter. On the right, a salad. The octopus you see was probably steamed ; in any event it was very tender and we wished they had put more in the salad ! It’s funny, because when I pointed to it for the clerk to give me, he looked at me inquisitively, and said in English «octopus ?». I guess he wanted to make sure we knew what we were getting! « Hai, hai ! » I replied, smiling, and nodding…
Even with this type of food, you could tell everything was super fresh… No preservatives, no allergies !
I am sorry I didn’t take more pictures of what we ate, but on a couple of occasions we were with other people and I didn’t know if it would be rude to get my camera out.
Well, dear neighbors, let me conclude this post on eating out in Tokyo with a few pictures taken in a museum, of ancient Japanese cookbooks.
I’ll be back soon with not-so-exciting, gluten-free recipes, but still with the same desire to share with you… So long !