It’s been so warm these last couple of days in Calgary. Yesterday the temperature hit a high of 11 C. Plus 11 C in January is pretty amazing, but we are still in the winter. Let me talk about Japan’s winter cuisine, “Nabe (hot pot)” and warm you up to get through the winter.
One of the popular nabe is “Chanko Nabe”, a Japanese style stew or one-pot dish known as sumo wrestlers’ weight-gain diet. Chanko Nabe is actually very nutritious and balanced diet with protein sources (chicken, fish, tofu, beef, etc…) and lots of vegetables. Usually in sumo stables, wrestlers cook and eat Chanko Nabe with lots of rice after hard training and take a nap right away; that’s why they bulk up fast.
A great thing about Chanko Nabe is that there is no fixed recipe or ingredients, so you can easily cook it at home with whatever you want to add. You use chicken broth as base, but you can add miso (bean paste) or soy sauce to enjoy different taste. For ingredients, chicken, meatballs and Asian mushrooms (e.g. Shiitake, Enokitake) makes Chanko Nabe very tasty. But gain, you can use anything you like.
If you like to try authentic sumo wrestlers’ Chanko Nabe, there are many restaurants all over Japan owned by retired sumo wrestlers. Sumo wrestlers’ hot pot is becoming very popular these days. If you ever go to Japan, try one of the restaurants in Tokyo mentioned on the website: https://www.tsunagujapan.com/10-must-try-restaurants-in-tokyo-for-chanko-nabe-the-food-of-sumo-wrestlers/
Rice Burger is a good example to demonstrate how Japanese adopt something from different culture and put an interesting spin on it. Mos Burger, a Japanese fast-food restaurant chain, introduced the rice burger in 1987, and it has become popular in Japan and other East Asian countries. If I remember correctly, McDonald in Japan also had the rice burger around 2007. Among a few kinds of rice burger in Mos Burger, “Mos Rice Burger Yakiniku (Teriyaki BBQ beef)” was the most popular item. Due to Mad Cow Disease, it was taken off the menu in 2012, but because of many requests from customers, “Mos Rice Burger Yakiniku” will be back on the regular menu on February 9, 2016.
Literally, a rice burger uses a compressed rice cake — made of mixture of rice, barley and millet — instead of a hamburger bun. I tried it a couple of times when I was in Japan (long time ago). I was skeptical before eating, but it was actually tasty; Teriyaki BBQ beef goes well with the rice bun.
Mos Burger uses the method called “after order”that makes hamburgers when they are ordered. It takes more cooking time than any other fast food restaurants, but Mos Burger is famous for the taste and freshness. I can’t wait to taste the revived rice burger next time I go back to Japan.
A French small cream puff, chouquette, has come to the tallest tower in the world. A chouquette is a small puff pastry sprinkled with pearl sugar, a simple yet tasty petit chou. Since its open on December 6, 2015, “Chouquettes Tokyo”, a cafeteria at the basement level of Tokyo Skytree has introduced the French traditional dessert to Tokyo.
Incidentally, Tokyo Skytree is one of the most popular landmarks and tourist attractions in Tokyo. It is measured at 634 m (2,080 ft) and ranks as the tallest tower in the world, authorized by the Guinness World Records.
At Couquettes Tokyo, you can enjoy fresh baked chouquettes in two ways: sweet and salty. Chouquette Sucrée comes with fresh cream and salted caramel, bitter chocolate or strawberry sauce. A cheese-flavoured Chouquette Salée can go with wine. A pasty chef Tomomii Chiba who has extensive experience in Paris working with Alain Ducasse produces the recipes.
One of the things I enjoyed when I was in junior high was buying a snack and eating it with friends after school. My go-to snack in winter was “Nikuman”, pork filling steamed bun. At that time, only two kinds of steamed buns were sold at convenience stores: red bean bun (“Anman”) and my favourite, Nikuman. Later, more choices became available, such as curry bun and pizza bun. But my pick was always Nikuman.
There was a heated display case in a store to keep steamed buns hot. When you split it in half, the steam rises up from inside. The meat filling is so juicy and the bun is soft and fluffy. After eating one, you would feel like eating one more.
Nowadays, there are so many different fillings and colour of buns. You can compare tastes in each convenience store. Most buns are around 130 yen. It warms up your soul and it’s gentle on your wallet.
A sushi roll is usually cut into 6 pieces. You take one piece at a time, dip it in soy sauce and put it in your mouth. Some Japanese people eat sushi rolls in a little bit different way for “Setsubun”, February 3rd or 4th depending on the year.
The term Setsubun is originated from the old calendar and was thought of as a division between the winter and the spring. Although Japan doesn’t use the old calendar anymore, the idea of celebrating the beginning of spring has somewhat remained in our culture. One of the special rituals on the Setsubun day is throwing soybeans outside to drive away evil spirits. I remembered I did it with my parents when I was little.
The other ritual is biting into a sushi roll facing the year’s lucky direction. The lucky direction in 2016 is South-southeast. You take a whole sushi roll without cutting, face SSE and eat it up while making wishes. Do not speak until you finish, otherwise your wishes won’t come true. Would you try?
My hometown is Kanazawa, a small city with population of around 463,000. It is situated in the middle of Japan. Last March, “Shinkansen (bullet train)” connected Kanazawa with Tokyo and reduced travel time to 2.5 hours. As a result, Kanazawa became one of the popular destinations in Japan. Kanazawa is famous for fresh seafood and sushi, but also known for the birthplace of the B-class gourmet, “Hunton Rice”.
Hunton Rice was born in late 1960’s. The base of Hunton Rice is fried rice covered with thin omelette. Then, you put crispy fried fish on it and pour tartar sauce and ketchup over it. You can use fried shrimp as a topping and switch tartar sauce with brown sauce.
My favourite one is from “Grill Otsuka”. Their Hunton Rice is using both crispy fried marlin and small shrimps as toppings. I’d like to say this is one of Japanese soul foods from my hometown.
There have been Japanese sweets a lot in my posts, so today’s one is a meal.
“Ramen”, Japanese Soba Noodle, is one of Japan’s national dishes. As far as I know, everyone likes Ramen. It’s quick, delicious and it comforts the soul. There are so many Ramen restaurants all over Japan with different type of noodles, soup, ingredients and toppings.
Japanese Soba Noodles Tsuta in Tokyo is famous for its “Shoyu (Soy sauce) Ramen”. Made with fresh soy sauce, Italian truffle, seafood bouillon, and chicken oil, the soup is well balanced, rich and savory. Japanese Soba Noodles Tsuta has got listed in the Michelin guide Tokyo 2016 with one star. This is the first accomplishment in the history that a Ramen restaurant received one star. Congrats!