Since arriving in Japan I’ve been eating out a lot! Every new friend I make seems to result in another lunch date or dinner date. Some of the girls in my printmaking class have even been making food for me, which has been absolutely lovely!
Most of these foods, however, I’ve already experienced to some degree in Australia, such as sushi, katsu curry, udon, etc… The basics of everyday Japanese cooking. But there are also the slightly stranger foods…
Here’s the beginning of my Japanese food Adventures:
1. Deep fried Chicken Gristle
Yep. You heard right. Gristle.
I had this out one night with a bunch of the other exchange students and 3 Japanese people from our school. They took us to this really cool bar just off Shijo-dori where the walls were covered in posters and drawings, and you had to take your shoes off to sit down (a fairly common occurrence in Japan). As the menu was entirely in Japanese, we let the 2 Japanese guys order for us. The first thing that comes out is some simple tofu with spring onion on top. Fresh and delicious – a nice start to the meal. Next came out this delicious looking plate of battered deep-fried morsels – looking somewhat like KFC’s popcorn chicken. I was correct in assuming it was chicken… but not a part I would’ve expected… When we asked the guys what it was they didn’t know the correct word, so they just kept saying “joints”, which made us first assume it was bone marrow of some kind. Then we ate it… It was very crunchy, but still with a slightly gummy texture (which made it very difficult to break down), and we very soon realized it was not marrow, but the actual joints at the end of the chicken bones – the slightly transparent white bit everyone throws away. In all honesty it wasn’t that bad. The flavor of the batter was great, but the gristle didn’t taste like much, and the texture was not exactly pleasant.
My rating: 4/10
Here’s the bar.
(I apologize for this terrible photograph. Didn’t have my good camera on me)
2. Uni (Sea Urchin Roe) sushi
Everyone I’ve talked to who has tried sea urchin has only ever had negative things to say about it, so when this was ordered for us at a sushi place and I finally realized what it was, I’ll admit even the iron-stomached Casey was a little apprehensive… And I began to suspect our two new Japanese friends were playing a bit of a practical joke on us. But having never been the kind of person to turn down a meal, Nea and I looked at each other… counted down from 3… and took a bite.
At first it seemed a little slimy – kind of like melted butter – and as I chewed I kept waiting for a hit of some strong flavor to invade my taste buds. But it never happened. Sea Urchin really does have a very subtle flavor, and is not fishy at all like I was expecting. Really I think it’s more of the texture that people here enjoy, the buttery creaminess of it, and of course the rarity of it. It’s definitely not for everyone, but if you are going to eat it I suggest making sure it’s as fresh as possible. From what I hear this is supposed to be incredibly important. The sushi place we went to was particularly good in my experience as well, so I’m assuming the uni I had was above average in quality.
My Rating: 7/10
Here’s a photo of our new friends at the sushi place. I wonder what they’re gonna make us eat next…
(Once again I apologize for the dodgy photo)
3. Yuzu Marmalade
This one has been on my bucket list for sometime now, and I’m very happy to say I can officially cross it off. For those of you who don’t know, Yuzu is a citrus fruit grown mainly in Eastern Asia, that tastes somewhat like a mixture of lemon, grapefruit and mandarin. It is practically impossible to find in Australia, as it doesn’t keep very well during travel, and as of yet there are only a couple of small growers in Australia that I can find. Pretty much if you want it in Aus you have to grow it yourself, or buy the tiny bottles of juice for exorbitant amounts of money.
How I came across this was last week we had a welcome party in my class for new students (me and two other students), so our classmates brought heaps of treats for us! My good friend Ririko made an amazing sweet-potato cheesecake (which I wish I got a photo of), and another girl made what they call “Dry Curry” – like a fried rice but with little bits of meat and curry absorbed into it. It was all very delicious! But sitting there quietly in a little jar was homemade yuzu marmalade, made by the mother of Atsuko, another friend from my class.
Now yuzu is quite bitter and sour, so instead of just eating it on its own, Atsuko suggested putting some chocolate spread (also made by her mum) on a biscuit, then placing a small amount of yuzu on top.
All I can say is it was a fantastic combination, and I was not the only one who thought so.
Atsuko was so happy to see how excited I was she gave me the rest of the jar! And the chocolate spread along with it! I wanted to cry I was so happy. Been snacking on it ever since. It is definitely my favourite food discovery so far. (Atsuko also told me how to make it into a drink. Will be trying that one next time)
My rating: 10/10
And now for a decent photo! FINALLY