This is the FOOD post that accompanies my Asian adventure travel post from the other day. It didn't turn out quite as exciting as I think I made it out to be, but I hope you enjoy the photos and bits of information about the food we ate in Japan, Hong Kong and the Philippines. I'm going to mention the food on our trip in reverse order, starting with Japan and ending with the Philippines because I want to make sure the best part--the Japanese cooking class in Kyoto-- is at the top of this post.
As many of you know, I love food! Who doesn't? I love trying new foods and my favorite food next to treats and desserts is Indian and Thai. I really didn't know much about Japanese food before our trip other than the sushi, yakatori and yaki udon we typically order at local NJ sushi restaurants. I honestly just haven't put much thought or exploration into the cuisine before. Needless to say when my husband suggested a Japanese cooking class as part of our itinerary while in Japan, I jumped at the chance (He found it through TripAdvisor). I'm so glad I did, too, because The Haru Cooking class that we attended was absolutely the highlight of my culinary experience on our recent trip to Japan. The Haru Cooking class is hosted by a Japanese husband and wife team who have put together a small group cooking class right in their Kyoto home. The class size is limited to six people, so our group consisted of our family of four plus a couple also from the US.
Our host, Taro-san emailed us detailed instructions on which bus to take from Kyoto station and which stop to get off the bus. Taro-san met us at the bus stop at a predetermined time and we walked with him to his home from there. It was very easy. His adorable little daughter accompanied him and she immediately stole our hearts. Not only is she very cute and gregarious but I have to admit little girls speaking Japanese is one of the sweetest sounds! Honestly.
Once at Taro-san's house, we met his lovely wife who welcomed us into their home and served us cool drinks and snacks. The cold tea we were served was fire roasted tea. It had a fairly strong smokey scent, so the girls didn't like it so much, but Gabe and I found it appealing.
We spoke for a little while to get to know each other and then we promptly began learning about every day Japanese foods and cooking techniques, including Kobe beef which is extremely exclusive to a specific region of Japan and only very, very recently exported to a very, very small number of restaurants. I think only two in the US and only in the last 8 months. So basically if you think you've been served Kobe beef in the US, you weren't.
Taro-san also answered any questions we had about Japan and Japanese culture in general. Taro and his family were so lovely.. warm, welcoming and patient. And of course, the food was wonderful! I can't wait to try some of the recipes at home!
Here are some photos from our cooking class:
|Taro-san showing us how to make dashi|
(Japanese broth used in everyday cooking)
|Haruko inspecting the cooking students' work|
|Haruko looking up to Maria|
|Haruko playing ball with her friend.|
|Plating up the food!|
|Our beautiful table! "itadakimasu.."|
[translation: "I gratefully receive.."]
|Hosting a cooking class is hard work! |
I loved the cooking class experience. Not just learning some basic Japanese cooking, but also the experience of meeting and dining with a Japanese family in their home. Just lovely.
Our other food experiences in Japan mostly include ramen, sushi, pastries and ice cream.
When we were in our cooking class, I asked Taro-san what the average Japanese person eats for breakfast. I was curious about this because the only places we found serving food at breakfast time were coffee shops serving a few pastries and convenience stores. Taro-san explained that most Japanese eat a simple meal of seasoned rice for breakfast, a bit of fermented vegetables (similar to kimchi) and on a good day, breakfast will include a little bit of cooked fish. We ended up frequenting a small coffee shop near our hotel for iced coffee, bagels and pastries, grabbing a yogurt at the convenience store a few times. I must admit that I think I ate a sweet red bean bun with coffee for breakfast every morning in Japan.
|My standard Japanese breakfast:|
red bean bun and coffee
|Green tea ice cream! yum|
|goma dango (yummy!)|
sweet glutinous rice ball with sesame seed and honey paste
I only learned exactly what they were a couple of months ago myself, but it was fun seeing the real thing. They are hanami dango or sweet glutinous rice dumplings. The green are flavored with green tea powder, the white are either plain, almond or vanilla flavored and the pink is either flavored with rose water essence or sakura, which is cherry blossom flavor. I really regret not buying a box! [740 ¥ is about $7.40 US]
One evening, my husband and I went to a sushi restaurant recommended by the couple with whom we took the Haru-Cooking class. It was one of those conveyor belt sushi restaurants - have you heard of those? The sushi chefs are in the middle of the room making different kinds sushi and they set them on little plates that go around a conveyor belt. When a plate comes by your table that you'd like, you just take it! You can also ask the chef to make something specific for you. Each plate costs 137 ¥ or around $1.37 or so and the end of the meal, the waitress counts up your plates and you pay. So easy! Except it was also easy to eat something you thought was raw fish and was really something else like I did. Oy. Anyway, I thought the sushi was just okay. Very plain. Next time we're in Japan we'll do some research ahead of time and try a different sushi restaurant with good recommendations.
Previously in Tokyo, we ate many of the same foods as in Kyoto.. lots of ramen, pastries and ice cream. On our first day in Tokyo we sampled some yummy food near the popular Sensoji shrine. my first snack food was a ningyo yaki (a pancake filled with sweetened red bean paste), which is popular in the street of vendors leading up to the Sensoji Shrine in Tokyo.
|ningyo yaki in shape of bird|
|The inside of a lantern shaped|
|We scream for ice cream!|
We grabbed a quick lunch at a small restaurant where we ordered dishes of dumplings and ramen. In this restaurant, there's a vending machine when you walk in the restaurant where you place your order. You put your money in the machine, then press the button to select what you want to order and a little receipt pops out of the machine. Then you sit at a table and give the receipt to the waitress who brings it to the kitchen. Within minutes we had our food! Oh and by the way, ramen in Japan is nothing like the instant ramen soup you can buy in cups at the grocery store. In Japan, ramen is a big bowl of flavorful broth with thick udon or ramen noodles and assorted Japanese additions such as seaweed, other greens such as spinach, pickled plums, hard boiled egg, maybe sliced pork or even tofu. Very delicious and filling.
|Oishi (delicious) Japanese Ramen!|
..with seaweed, egg, pork, spinach and fish ball with swirl
|Strawberry shortacke on a JiJi plate!|
[From the film "Kiki's Delivery Service"]
|Sponge cake with read bean filling|
on a Totoro plate!
[from the film "My Neighborhood Totoro"]
|Adorable Bakery at Mitaka Station, Japan|
|Spotted a pizzeria in Mitaka, Japan|
from the train platform..
|Beverage vending machines are EVERYWHERE|
The highlight of our very limited and very brief culinary experience in Hong Kong was probably our hotel's continental and asian style breakfast buffet. The buffet was a cross of American and English breakfast foods and some Hong Kong dim sum foods. It was a great start to a busy day walking around the city and up Victoria Peak.
|omelet and dim sum|
at the YMCA Hong Kong
|Cooling off with ube ice cream|
I also had my first taste of dragon fruit! Believe it or not, this was on the flight from Cebu City in the Philippines to Hong Kong. I loved it!
Have you ever had dragon fruit? I think it tasted like a softer, more mild kiwi fruit.
Would you agree?
|My first dragon fruit!|
Our first meal in Manila. Maria eating meat and rice for breakfast like a true Filipina! Would have been an even more authentic if she was using a fork and spoon. ;)
|meat and rice for breakfast|
|halo-halo by the pool|
Would you try sisig?
Again for dessert we had more halo-halo and some leche flan. Why not? We're on vacation, after all. Again, neither was as good as my late mother-in-law's!
|leche flan and more halo-halo|
|Lunch on the boat: grilled shrimp and chicken|
and local bananas
|A feast prepared for us!|
|This is casava suman. |
Bud bud kabog looks nearly identical.
Source:Wikipedia | Author: Obsidian_Soul
And so it appears I've wrapped up my post on our vacation food with a banana leaf!
Haha I'm so punny. ; )
Hope you enjoyed it! If you have any questions about the food or our trip, please ask.