Ahh, The FOOD We Ate!Our first Japanese snack was "dango" - rice dumplings covered with some kind of sauce on a stick. They were really good ... and we learned that the rice balls we could buy in convenience stores were super tasty and an excellent snack while we were on-the-go. (We also learned that it is rude to eat and walk at the same time!)
Katie had to work one day while we were there, so Ma and I did a little exploring on our own. When it was time to head back to the apartment, we picked up a few things from a convenience store to take home for lunch. What we thought was rice balls on a stick turned out to be quail eggs and chunks of hot dogs on a stick ... and it was good!
Our first Japanese meal was at Katie's favorite eating spot in Nishin. Nishin is the town she has lived in while in Japan and the restaurant is Enya. We cooked slices of beef at our table and I ate a slice of raw salmon (quite the adventuress, huh?). We had salad, french fries, and soy beans roasted in the pod. You pop them out of the pod and into your mouth - really good! My mom and I tried our best with the chopsticks, but it was pretty hopeless.
Breakfast usually consisted of a can of hot coffee from a vending machine and pastries left over from the night before. These nifty vending machines were everywhere and you could get hot or cold coffee, water, beer, and I don't know what all. I was only interested in the hot coffee :-)
Our one "real" breakfast was in Kyoto in a little cafe called "Cafe." How's that for creative?! I don't know if it was because we were starving after exploring Fushimi Inari Shrine, but the breakfast was fantastic!! We had a traditional soft-boiled egg , a salad, big fat toast (like Texas toast), and a cup of fresh coffee. Doesn't get much better than that!
Speaking of pastries: we shopped at a German bakery, a French bakery, and bakeries in train stations and grocery stores, but they each carried the exact same kinds of things. I guess the name had nothing to do with the type of goodies made and sold. And, no, we didn't eat all of these at one sitting. We stood up for a while, walked around the room, and came back for more a few minutes later!
One of my absolute favorite treats was green tea ice cream in a waffle cone.
My least favorite "treat" was "nattoo" - fermented soy beans. Katie's roommate has started eating this, uh, stuff for breakfast a few times a week and she thought we might like to give it a try. After pulling the cellophane cover off the container, you stir in a special sauce. Stir stir stir until it is very slimy. Stir stir stir a little more!! Okay, now try to get it in your mouth. Katie took a hilarious video of us trying to eat this stuff. It didn't really taste bad, but it was WAY slimy!!!! I don't know why anyone would want to ruin a perfectly good meal by including this.
One night we bought "bentoo" boxes in the Kyoto train station and took them back to our hotel room. Bentoo boxes are pre-made boxed lunches and can include cooked meat or fish or sushi, rice (with or without beans), and veggies. Very tasty. We had to buy some bread to round out the meal of course.
In Uchinda (on the coast of the Sea of Japan), we had a fun experience at a restaurant called "A Shooby-Doobie Garlic Dining." Really! That was its name! We usually tried to find restaurants that had pictures on their menus :-) but we didn't have much choice in this part of Uchinda. The menus were in Japanese , the waitress spoke Japanese, and we looked to Katie for help! Ma and I got a lovely bowl of spaghetti with shrimp in a creamy garlic sauce . Katie didn't want shrimp, so she ordered hers plain, or so she thought. She was pleasantly surprised to find that hers came with crab. Well, something was missing. We needed bread! With a few Japanese and English words repeated many times, lots of hand motions, and many laughs, we finally got some delicious chunks of bread. Ahh, the simple pleasures!
Another truly unique dining experience was at To-Fu Cafe in Kyoto. Along with some Japanese veggies and rice, we had tofu soup, tofu squares, tofu ?? Help, Katie! I don't know what we were eating!! But it was different and good!
One of my favorite meals wasn't very Japanese, but it sure was delicious and elegant. We were in one of the two Nagoya Towers. We had gone up as high as we could go (51st floor), but the restaurant up there looked pretty snooty and busy, so we went back to the 11th floor to Portager. I ordered a Bacon & Cheese & Burdock Salad Sandwich on waffles. Well, I thought it would be one sandwich, but it was 2 sandwiches (one bacon & cheese, the other burdock salad)! Talk about scrumptious!! And to drink, iced raspberry coffee; and for dessert, strawberry trifle cake. I don't know how we managed to push ourselves away from the table and get back to our sightseeing/shopping, but we did!
After returning home, my contribution to Easter Sunday dinner at Weldon's mom's was a tray of Japanese sweets. The pretty little candies (middle & lower left and lower right) are from Kanazawa, an area known for making beautifully decorated sweets. Also included in the lower left corner are some green tea chocolates. Mmmm! The yatsuhashi (center below the purple stuff) are made of raw cookie dough (made with rice flour) and filled with various fillings. The 4 types shown are banana w/chocolate, black sesame, green tea w/red beans, and strawberry. They are a treat exclusive to Kyoto. On the right you can see what looks like the face of a fox - rice crackers from Fushimi Inari (the Fox Shrine in Kyoto). The purple papers in the center are wrapping individual soft candies that had a nutty, almost peanut buttery taste. I think they were my favorite. I got them and the pretty "serving papers" (top right) at the Local Products Shop in Kanazawa. Just to the left of the serving papers is a pouch of multi-vitamin gel. To get your daily requirement of vitamins, you are supposed to drink the whole thing. Katie had been sick and a friend brought her two of these. Katie didn't dare drink them, so she gave one to Ma and one to me. Believe it or not, we passed the pouch around and everyone tried it. It really didn't taste bad! Weldon drank what was left and has not been the same since! The paper napkins on the right came from the Nishijin Textile Museum in Kyoto and I found My Nuts in Frante Grocery in Nishin :-)